Why Gintama Hasn't been dubbed yet will always remain a mystery to me, as the series has been a massive success, the volumes are top sellers, and 2 anime adaptations exist, and the manga has been shipped stateside and I've found it thouroughly enjoyable, here are my impressions.
Gintama means silver soul, and was created in 2003 by Sorachi Hideki and serialized in Weekly Jump, and has risen to be one of the pillars of Jump, and an example of how to create a successful gag manga
is an enigma in the manga and anime universe, in that it is a massively popular gag manga, when gag manga are typically just safe sellers, and after a couple readthroughs the reason is clear, Gintama
is like a Japanese Family Guy
. The series is set in an altered version of Meiji Japan, in where aliens have invaded, and culture has changed to the point where feudal Edo is littered with modern touches, and technology, while still maintaining the feudal image. When we first meet our heroes, the samurai have been conquered by the Bakufu, or aliens, and the samurai have been disarmed, this prompts Gintoki Sakata (the title character) to open an odd jobs company, dubbed the Yorozuya. The Yorozuya is comprised of Kagura; a superpowered alien girl, and Shinpachi, another former samurai, and the straight man in this series (we'll get to what a straight man is later); these characters, among others are primary strength of the show, as when they interact with other cast members, such as the revolutionary Katsura, or the reformed Shisengumi, the manga only gets wilder and wilder.
After Sorachi sets the stage, what follows is a steady stream of comedic chapters, followed by medium size arcs, followed by more comedy, which makes for a winning formula overall, as the arcs don't usually feel to long, and the comedy is often brilliant. Gintama
starts steadily parodying pop culture more and more as the series goes, from story arcs parodying Monster Hunter
, to otaku culture (which is constantly barraged), to the stream of references to other anime, nothing is safe from Gintama's
wrath, much like Family Guy
. The pop culture references play hand in hand with Sorachi's dirty mind, creating Gin-San's own signature blend of humor, as wordplay mixed with just over the top scenes, along with a dangerously unstable fourth wall, come together to create a hilarious mix. My favorite example, is the chapter where Shisengumi captain Hijakata Toshiro (a real person by the way) has to quit smoking, as it is steadily banned throughout Edo, prompting a Dragonball-esque, journey to space to aquire various kinds of balls, which devolves into penis jokes and more Dragonball references; Gintama is definately a bit dirty minded for a shounen magazine.
Its that kind of manga
Moving on, the overall plot is dominated by Gintama's
massive cast of characters, and isn't really a contiguous beast, and the series is mostly episodic in nature. That being said, the characters are brilliantly characterized, with Gin's apathy countering Kagura's hyperactivity, which both play in constant defiance to Shinpachi's realism, and longing for normalcy, and this theme of opposing viewpoints continues on for so many other characters.Gintama's instable fourth wall is also quite funny, as they reference stuff from our world constantly, along with their own awareness that they're in a manga, illustrated by the battle royale arc, which was initiated over popularity poll results, freakin funny. A small issue I had with reading the manga, is that the Japanese wordplay can create for some confusing situations, as many English speaking readers won't understand some of the jokes, luckily a good scanlating editor explains them in notes usually.
Not even his publishers are safe
In terms of art, Gintama
is fairly safe, the art is nothing special, however facial expressions, and character's appearances are often gags in themselves, which usually works out fine. I have more issues than I have praise for the art though; because with all the stuff going on in the page, the panels get confusing and cramped at times, and uses of ink and toner doesn't help it's case. Lastly, the manga's wordy nature doesn't help with the panel cramping, as panels are often more than half text, which isn't a major issue, as most of the humor is in the words.
Be ready to read
In closing, Gintama
is a well written, hilarious gag manga, with art that suits the story. However, the arcs are hit or miss at best, and the series' art and wordy nature sometimes clash with my brain. Also one final disclaimer, KNOW YOUR JAPANESE CULTURE IF YOU WANT TO READ GINTAMA, I'm not an expert or anything, but you at least need to know a little to understand the series.
I loved my time with Gintama
I laughed a lot, I loved the characters, and the flaws didn't detract from the experience in my opinion. If you know enough culture (read your Shounen Jump, and seen your Miyazaki movies, you're ready) and have a decent sense of humor, go read Gintama
Have you read Gintama?
Do you like it? Does it suck? Does my writing suck? Have a recommendation for my next weekly read? Drop me a comment and tell me!!
I think I'm going to sound off on why I hate To Love-Ru, but if someone has a recommendation, To Love-Ru might become an editorial.
Spoiler alert: I FUCKING HATE TO LOVE-RU
(it involves Kentaro Yabuki's potential as a mangaka after all, the series is just soo, average...)
Until next time!