Episode 323

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 323 of
Gintama. (TV 5/2017) ?

With the Four Heavenly Kings reunited, The Battle on Rakuyo shifts the focus to Kagura's family. Since the past few installments have largely been devoted to individual battles, it's easy to forget that Umibozu and Kamui's longstanding father-son feud is what initially set this arc into motion. Although the opening, ending and next-episode preview promise that we'll soon be given the family's long-awaited backstory, episode 323 is primarily focused on delivering edge-of-your-seat action and setting up the stakes for the next phase of this lengthy arc.

Now that Takasugi and the Kiheitai have joined forces with Gin and company, the anti-Utsuro forces are practically unstoppable. Within minutes, the Four Heavenly Kings are able to make short work of a battalion of Naraku assassins and Harusame tanks. Although Gintoki and Takasugi claim that this is only a temporary truce, it's pretty clear that they're both happy to be fighting on the same side. Realizing that Gintoki still needs to bring his other family back together, Zura, Sakamoto, and Takasugi encourage him to track down Kagura with Shinpachi and Sadaharu. Before parting ways, Takasugi tasks Shinpachi with keeping Gintoki alive until he's able to take his head.

Meanwhile, Umibozu and Kamui finally meet up and begin their Rakuyo-shattering battle. Hoping to set things right between her father and brother, Kagura places herself in the middle of the skirmish, only to be beaten to a pulp by Kamui. However, when his little sister gets right back up and proceeds to fight him on equal footing, the overconfident Kamui gets more than he bargained for. Yet another wrench is thrown into the works when Utsuro arrives in his personal gunship and lops off Umibozu's robotic arm.

Tonally, episode 323 is this arc's most serious installment to date. The sole extended comic interlude takes place when Gintoki, Zura, and Takasugi use Sakamoto as an unwitting interpreter and wind up covering him in gobs of phlegm. If you've been missing this show's knack for cringe-worthy gross-out humor, this sequence is sure to elicit a few laughs. In classic Gintama fashion, the scene is both difficult to watch and even more difficult to look away from. It was also interesting to see Takasugi brought down to Gintoki and Katsura's level, since the once-enigmatic character is seldom associated with humor. As we've seen in flashbacks, Shinsuke shares more in common with his adoptive brothers than he'd care to admit.

Like the rest of this arc's big fights, this week's battles are fast-paced and to-the-point. I wouldn't have minded seeing Umibozu and Kamui duke it out for a little while longer, but I suppose there were only so many clever ways to showcase the superhuman strength of both combatants. Although Umibozu and Kamui are characters we've seen very little of throughout Gintama's run, it's hard not to become emotionally invested in their feud, and I hope their forthcoming backstories add a little more context to the proceedings.

Despite its breakneck pacing, The Battle on Rakuyo has consistently delivered on the quality front, and episode 323 may be this arc's most exciting chapter yet. Although Gintama's days as an irreverent chanbara-flavored sitcom are numbered, there are still traces of its comedic core, and the action sequences are stunning. The season would make a fantastic binge-watch—that is, if the temptation to watch each episode as it airs weren't impossible to resist.

Rating: A+

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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