If one is to trust the ratings, then Gintama is amongst the top 3 anime ever made; maybe even the best. I mean we are talking here about a show that rivals the complexity of Legend of Galactic Heroes, the story of Full Metal Alchemist, the moeness of Suzumiya Haruhi and the dramatic romance of Clannad. What in blazes does it have that manages to pit against these colossi? … Idiocy; that’s what it has. It is so stupid, it got in epic levels. And since the majority of people are stupid, they like it too… this last part counts as compliment and hard fact. And in case you didn’t get it yet, this is an anti-hype review; if you are one of the myriads of blinded fanboys of the show, you may stop reading now because the following will butthurt you.
I will admit that the show is using its idiocy in a very smart way and as such one can say it makes a very good use of its main element. It is a farce and a parody of many stories, anime and movies, as well as your intelligence. It takes talent to do this right without feeling stupid in a bad way. That is why no super smart guy like myself can ever enjoy this show if he lacks the ability to switch of his thinking process; an ability I am glad I lack.
Let’s start with the easiest part to analyze; its non-existing story. There is no overall plot at all and everything is stand alone adventures and goofing around and thus it deserves a low mark. And I am not buying this whole “comedies don’t need to have a story” business. There are comedies that DO have a plot that actually heads somewhere, believe it or not. In fact, the very first anime I ever watched was such a comedy; Igano Kabamaru is the name in case you care. It is just a disgrace to this show and any other like it if you give this show a 10 in story when it doesn’t really have one.
At this point I must make it clear that self-contained arcs and adventures may count as a full mark in story for most but not for me, since we are talking about a bunch of simple stand alones next to a single, developed and thought-out scenario. It is not the same thing; is it now?
Yet the show actually has a premise and it does the essentially basics correct. There is a setting with a specific theme in mind and all stories usually revolve around it. You see, the premise is about aliens taking over Japan during feudal times and banning weapons and traditions, thus rapidly changing the shape of the country and causing many to be uncomfortable about it. And this is of course a direct parallel to the western countries taking over Japan in the real world, causing sympathy from all Japanese people, as well as westerners who hate America and England for all the terrible things they did to the samurais. Because the bloody Warring Era was so much cooler than the gay peace that followed with those who wrote the Bushido code. Anyways, the show’s complete lack of a story and seriousness hardly delves into its premise any further than the basics. This is not Rurouni Kenshin where you would constantly feel the drama over the sudden change of the world; it is all just an excuse for a problem generator with lots of mockery about everything relevant about it.
It is definitely a mistake to expect something serious in a parody show and the story is quite a minor issue actually. It is more important to like the type of humour it implements, which in effect is the entertainment factor. Well, I must say that the humour is for me hit or miss. Although it makes smart parodies out of everything (mostly Jump related works) it still is a very immature type of farce that does not work very well if you are not a fan of it. I particularly am not. Most of the humour has to do with the characters spelling out or pointing out the joke at you, like in American comedies when you are supposed to laugh when you hear the audience in the back laughing as well. Seriously, you don’t even need to look at the screen to get the jokes because they will describe them to you in detail. They also stretch it and repeat it for so long, it ceases to be funny in the first place. Many jokes also revolve farting, pissing, or other disgusting bodily functions that are again hard to be liked by many who are not into that.
What I am trying to say here is that its humour is not awesome as so many believe. It is quite stupid actually since it tells you when to laugh and even explains the joke in case you missed it. Anyone who prefers for the jokes to be indirect for him to figure them out himself, he will not find most of them good. Also, even the diehard fans admit that the first 50 episodes are not so good in humour, which in effect makes at least a quarter of the show not-that-funny.
Another thing that indirectly may annoy you is the obvious focus on Shonen Jump titles. The show is making constant references to them and thus anyone who is a fan of at least one of them will automatically like the show for mentioning them. That felt distasteful to me, since it is all an indirect product placement and a cheap appeal to the feelings you have about other shows. Other shows don’t do that by name and thus the jokes feel more original this way. Mahoujin Guruguru for example is an old JRPG parody but it never mentions names or shows images of its companies’ works. It just plays around the nameless and overused plot elements and thus allows you to laugh with the stereotypes and not with specific famous characters.
All the above are what prevent me from giving the enjoyment more than the base score. It is not my style, its first quarter is mediocre, many jokes are too juvenile or gross, and it is offending to see all this product placement. Also, it is never exactly offering any real social-political messages like other comedies such as Great Teacher Onizuka or Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei do; it is all just an excuse for random comedy. That prevents you from having something to think about beyond the show and it all ends up being retarded parody of other stories.
Now moving to the characters. They are all basically parodies of shonen archetypes as means to make further fun of them. As such they are very funny indeed; albeit three times more stupid and immature than typical shonen characters and for the same reason three times harder to like them if you are not into that. They also never develop and any immersion given to them is shallow and eventually useless. In fact, most fans of the show hate it when the scriptwriters try to show some drama around them and prefer when they are just fooling around. That prevents them from having depth or something to care about them beyond the parodies they do; something not impossible for comedic heroes. It wasn’t like that in the forefather of such comedies, the all-famous Urusei Yatsura. There are of course some short lived arcs where the plot is actually dramatic and even reveals a few parts about them yet if you don’t bite the premise you just won’t like the attempt in general, just in my case.
I will proceed with the production values, which are ok to good but never awesome for any given reason. The songs are not memorable for me, voice acting feels ok but not amazing, and the artwork is rather standard for its era. They just throw in some anachronisms here and there to make the world to look like a blend of various eras but I didn’t found it anything special; it is just random ideas without uniformity. They throw in lots of famous voice actors to tell the lines as silly as possible and it works but never in a great effect since they keep explaining the jokes.
As for value, ok I give it a high mark just for being considered THE BEST ANIME EVER MADE by so many people. It has a historical importance even if the next parody to succeed it gets the same title anyway. I personally hardly consider it that good to begin with since it requires from me to be a Narutard who is pleased with shallow characters, non-existent stories, explanatory jokes, and product placement of Naruto. Woe to the people who made Legend of Galactic Heroes; the masses prefer retarded parody over sophisticated stories and personal drama. Pity for the ones who bothered making Full Metal Alchemist; the story was so great yet didn’t appeal so much as a show that doesn’t even have one. Yet I understand it is a good way to spend your free time without thinking. Not as great as watching Futurama, South Part, or Family Guy though; even if those were also storyless parodies, they were telling some really big truths. And who can forget the Monty Python group after a few sketches from them? Gintama is unfortunately for the majority of people who just want NOT to think and make a joke out of everything, without ever going serious about it. Shame on the fandom. I leave you with this very fitting Disturbed song.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 2/10
Analysis: Premise 0/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 0/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 0/2
VALUE SECTION: 8/10
Analysis: Historical Value 3/3, Rewatchability 2/3, Memorability 3/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 0/3, Characters 1/4