It’s a sad time for the manga and anime community; as in recent weeks, another Shonen Jump classic has said its goodbye and laid out its final chapter. Gintama is a long-running comedy series that had its first chapter in late 2003 and, soon enough, found an anime in 2006. It’s a series that persisted and found its way to the hearts of thousands of anime fans.
At the very least, this battle between samurais, aliens, and copyright laws has consistently found acclaim as one of the greatest anime comedies of all time; and in a world with the 2016 remake of Berserk, that’s saying a lot. As we say our goodbyes to the silver soul of Shonen Jump, let’s run down a few episodes (and arcs) of Gintama that truly defined anime comedy.
10 Episodes 98-99, The Owee Arc
Gintama is a celebration of the Japanese culture and fanaticism that feeds nerds everywhere, and “Life and Video Games are Full of Bugs” is a prime example of an episode dedicated to celebrating and lampooning just that. Around the real-world time that the Nintendo Wii was released, the copyright safe “Bentendo” Company decided to release their own Owee, and the citizen’s of Gintama’s Edo lined up to purchase it.
If that wasn’t enough, Episode 99 will overflow your mind with a flood of pop culture references and absurdity, as the characters enter a competition to win a Bentendo Owee (not trademarked). From there, be prepared for parodies of classic Japanese video games, dating sims, and, somehow, Dragon Quest. The episode even ends with the most hilarious JRPG battle that anyone may ever see this side of KonoSuba.
9 Episode 110, “People Are All Escapees of Their Own Inner Prisons”
If you’re looking for a good entryway to understanding Gintama’s eccentric terrorist, Katsura Kotarou, then look no further than “People Are All Escapees of Their Own Inner Prisons.” In it, Katsura is arrested and sent to jail, being placed in a cell opposite to a prisoner who was so close to escaping.
As the prisoner tries to get rid of Katsura, the adventure begins as Katsura uses his natural charm and leadership to take over the prison and inspire the prisoners. This episode is full of Zura’s classic charm, obliviousness, and patented secret to sleeping at night.
8 Episode 113, “Cleaning the Toilet Cleanses the Soul”
One cannot talk about Gintama without referencing their ever talented, ever irreverent policing force, the Shinsengumi. They are, of course, only a reference to the original Shinsengumi and should not be affiliated in any way to accuracy in Japanese history. Case in point, this episode showcases their ongoing battle with cleaning just their bathrooms, fighting off the filth in their toilets and their pants.
“Cleaning the Toiler Cleanses the Soul” is a great introduction to the character dynamics between the sadist Captain Okita Sougo, the “Demon Vice-Chief” Hijikata Toushirou, and their Gorilla commander (jokingly and literally), Kondo Isao. It also ends with an epic homage to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
7 Episode 120, “Japanese Restaurants Abroad Taste Pretty Much like School Cafeteria Lunches”/ “Once You’ve Chosen a Dish, You Can’t Give It Back”
Before Food Wars, Gintama was the anime that brought viewers tons of episodes dedicated to food and cooking. Unlike Food Wars, it’s not a pretty showing, as Episode 120 shows viewers how talented the Odd Jobs gang is at serving and preparing food. The punch line here is that they’re not very talented.
The first half provides a fun view of Katsura’s undercover work, as well as a fun taste (pun intended) of the trying Prince Hata, as they work together at an Amanto-only seafood shop. The second shows just one of the many disappointments of Hasegawa Madao, as he once again trusts Gintoki and Odd Jobs with his job.
6 Episode 156, “It Takes a Bit of Courage to Enter a Street Vendor’s Stand”
One of the most amazing aspects of this long-running series is that, unlike other comedy anime, it’s not a one-joke show. It’s a series with plenty of variety in humor, storytelling, and directing that proves that originality does exist beyond high school and harem anime.
“It Takes a Bit of Courage to Enter a Street Vendor’s Stand” starts us off with a black-and-white homage to classic television as Elizabeth tries and fails to find the Oedo Store. The rest of the episode is an incredible dialogue- and audio-driven series of hilarity, as the viewers’ only shot is of the lone street vendor. Everyone else is off-screen, showcasing jokes and painting an entire story with just their words.
5 Episodes 182-184, The Character Poll Arc
It’s hard for anything in existence to become more Fourth Wall-breaking than a story arc dedicated to the series’ character fighting over and against… character polls for the manga. If anyone ever wanted a good taste of Gintama alongside an efficient introduction to the various characters and their dynamics, then look to this series of episodes as the ultimate guide.
Its crux is the entire history and archetypal design of the main characters, as they either celebrate or mourn their rankings in the latest character poll. They later find that there’s not only a character trying to sabotage the rankings, but that they too could also increase their rank by sabotaging each other.
4 Episode 188, “An Observation Journal Should Be Seen Through to the Very End”
In this series of proper introduction points for main characters, this list brings you a fine example of who Hasegawa Madao is and why his character is so pitifully and inspiringly endearing. “An Observation Journal Should Be Seen Through to the Very End” is proof that Gintama can even make its fans cry, as Madao grows closer to a recently broken family, all while struggling with and overcoming his own shortcomings as a madao.
This episode is a rollercoaster, as at one moment Madao’s pitifulness is used to make jokes, while in another, his samurai stoicism inspires. This is a show that can make its fans smile in more ways than one.
3 Episodes 202-203, The Timeskip Arc
For those familiar with anime’s relationship with timeskips, they’ll know that it’s a series gateway to quick character progression and big reset/refresh button for the series as a whole. For Gintama, it’s more of a way of acknowledging that they’ve been on hiatus for a while, and that childhood friends just look different after a long summer break.
The concept of the timeskip is kicked up to 11, as each character drastically changes and grows in absurd ways, like characters getting married, Gintoki leveling up to Yamcha, and the giant dog’s wart becoming a man. This leaves poor Shinpachi behind, as he more or less just hung around the past few months and now struggles to catch up with his friends.
2 Episodes 253-256, The Kintama Arc
Continuing the series’ first-class ability to break the Fourth Wall, this arc’s main conflict is that, after disappearing for a few months on a drunk tirade, aka another series hiatus, Gintoki has become replaced as the show’s main character. It doesn’t get much funnier than an anime character fighting off his replacement with a collection of the anime’s own DVD sets.
When this episode premiered, Gin doesn’t even show up in the intro and outro, instead being replaced with the blonde-haired Kintoki. For all intents and purposes, the original opening and ending for this arc features Sakata Kintoki, not whoever the other guy is.
1 Episode 266-267, The Frozen Time Arc
As this list comes to a close, one would be remised without acknowledging the first couple of episodes of Gintama’s return to broadcasting. After their longest hiatus yet spanning a couple of years, the gang returns with the manga’s iconic “Frozen Time Arc,” somehow miraculously translating a joke where Otae marries a sound effect.
The episode even starts off with an absurd parody of a recent Japanese scandal involving a politician’s incredibly loud and weird apology. They even reference the fact that their last movie’s sales helped their comeback and thanked the fans for their support, showing love to fans in a way that only Gintama can. From there, the Odd Jobs gang continues business as usual, as they struggle to save the fabric of time… after they break it a couple of times.