[Review] Gintama (2017)

If you’re a big fan of Japanese manga titles, then chances are you’re no stranger to this quirky gag manga by the name of Gintama. This big title for Shonen Jump (the manga publisher for most big-name titles like Dragonball, One Piece, and the like) not only has a serial TV anime adaptation, it’s now on the big screen as a live-action movie. And it’s  achieved huge box office success in Japan.

While the movie is based on the Gintama manga, you don’t really need to know about the source material to enjoy the movie. In fact, it’s entertaining for different audiences for different reasons. If you’re a Gintama fan, then you’ll understand all the characters in the movie and all its inside jokes. If you don’t really know Gintama but love watching Japanese anime in general (and perhaps speak Japanese), then you’ll thoroughly be entertained by its many parodies of Japanese pop culture. If you’re not really into manga-based movies, then you may crack at its gag humour.

The plot for the movie is pretty simple: set in a post-Edo era Tokyo after its alien overlords put a prohibition on swords, former samurai – and now a basic idiot – Gintoki (Shun Oguri) operates as an odd jobs guy with his buds, Shinpachi (Masaki Suda) and Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto) – the latter is an alien whose special skill seems to be gluttony.

One day, Gintoki’s mission to locate a missing – and magical – sword called Benizakura leads him to finding a notorious killer and an old comrade with plans for a coup d’état in the shadows. Formerly a fierce samurai nicknamed ‘White Demon’, Gintoki now has to find a way to get the sword back before it kills more innocent people.

While this sounds like your average action flick plot – hero finds sword and returns it in an epic battle – what you won’t expect are the gagballs thrown into the mix.

For instance, the aforementioned ‘aliens’ that have conquered Edo are basically humans dressed in (bad) costumes… because it’s funnier: case in point, the oversized bird-like alien named Elizabeth. In a hilarious scene, Gintoki and Kagura sit across from a sullen Elizabeth who refuses to communicate with them, prompting Gintoki to proclaim that they’re trying to talk to a ‘dude wearing a badly-made costume’ – yes, the movie also breaks fourth walls. Hilariously.

If you love parodies, you’ll be in for a treat. The movie also cleverly uses fourth walls to insert parodies from other popular manga titles, like Dragonball and One Piece, flirting with copyright issues in a gag way. The movie also parodies Hayao Miyazaki’s movie “Nausicaa” – it definitely pushes copyright infringement boundaries, but even that is hilariously addressed within the movie.

Hilarity aside, the movie is chock-a-block with eye candy boys, with the likes of Shun Oguri, Ryo Yoshizawa, Yuya Yagira, and Masaki Suda – which may be the reason for its fangirl popularity (and squeals).

In short, Gintama is an action comedy about fourth walls, nose-picking and parodies. Throw in samurai sword action, a pervert with a Lolita complex and a cute animated dog, and you’ll have the recipe for a Japanese movie that simultaneously entertains and has you wondering what you just watched.