Gintama Episode 332
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 332 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?
The latest chapter of the Slip Arc concludes Ikumatsu's story in a touching and surprisingly humor-lite manner. When last week's preview promised big surprises, it wasn't kidding. Few shows can effectively bring back supporting characters the audience hasn't seen in years and make viewers feel emotionally invested in their happy endings, and Gintama. has gone above and beyond the call of duty in this regard. In light of what transpired throughout this storyline, it will be pretty difficult to view either Ikumatsu or Musashi in the same light.
Early in the episode, we learn that Musashi is none other than Nishiki Matsugoro, Ikumatsu's supposedly deceased father. As it turns out, Matsugoro didn't willfully abandon his family. After saving a young boy from drowning, Matsugoro was washed away with the current and presumed dead. However, some time later, Ikumatsu's mother spotted him walking the streets of Edo with another woman. She later discovered that her husband had suffered memory loss as a result of his ordeal and was unable to remember his previous life—but chose to keep this from her daughter. As his memory loss worsened, Matsugoro soon found himself homeless and living in a park, where he was eventually found by Ikumatsu's late husband Daigo, who was the boy he had saved 20 years prior. Despite being fully aware of the man's cognitive problems, Daigo insisted that Matsugoro (now Musashi) visit their restaurant and see his daughter. As Hasegawa reveals, Musashi has now slipped into senility, and his memory problems have become so severe that he's no longer able to remember things day-to-day—which is why he forgot about his New Year's tradition at Hokuto Shinken Ramen.
Upon learning the truth, Katsura rushes Musashi to the restaurant while Gintoki and Hasegawa fend off Daigo's evil brother and his Armed Cardboard Gang cronies. Similarly, after being briefed on the situation, Ikumatsu rushes off to meet with her father but falls off a bridge and into a raging current after being attacked by an ACG flunkie. Although Musashi is able to save her, he once again finds himself taken away by the current. Though the old man is presumed dead, he reappears at his daughter's restaurant the following New Year's Eve. It turns out Zura had made one more request for Odd Jobs Gin-chan: reuniting the Nishiki family.
Although episode 332 contains fewer jokes than the first half of this arc, the dramatic elements hit all the right notes despite the prevalence of unlikely coincidences. Aesthetically, the show makes an interesting artistic decision by obscuring Musashi's face in the final scene, but there can be no reasonable doubt that he's the wheelchair-bound man who enters Hokuto Shinken. While the track has been used continuously for over a decade, the series' go-to dramatic piece of music is powerful during the Nishiki family's reunion when paired with Katsura's promise to always be there for Ikumatsu.
It's unlikely that we'll ever know if Hideaki Sorachi had this development planned from the start, but Musashi's transition from quirky background character to genuinely sympathetic figure seems surprisingly organic. Learning that his various eccentricities are the result of severe psychological impairments puts a damper on his previous appearances, but the rest of the cast manages to remain funny in spite of similarly tragic backstories, so it's not hard to picture him re-adopting his usual schtick the next time he appears. Leave it to Gintama. to turn a character who essentially functioned as a one-note prop into a fully-realized person.
Since the main story doesn't quite eat up the entire episode, the final few minutes begin the first of the two stories being covered next week. While preparing to throw himself off a building, Hasegawa has his attempted suicide interrupted by an assassin who's preparing to snipe his latest target. Despite earning a living through taking lives, the man insists that life is something to be cherished, quickly giving way to an argument between Hasegawa and his unlikely savior. Ending the episode on this note helps add some levity to an installment that was otherwise fairly light on jokes. It also feels like a natural continuation of Hasegawa's character arc from the latest storyline. (Seeing as Hasegawa hasn't shown up in any of the endgame arcs that have been animated thus far, it seems fitting for him to appear in two successive stories.)
Funny, surprising, and tightly-plotted, this season's latest storyline is a Gintama. dramedy done right. It's unclear if Katsura's pseudo-relationship with Ikumatsu has undergone an evolution or if their feelings for one another have simply been reconfirmed, but given the infrequency of Ikumatsu's appearances, this isn't really a problem. Since the show's comedy-focused storylines typically show off the cast at their most self-serving, it's refreshing to occasionally see a story where the central players put forth their best efforts without expecting anything in return.
Gintama. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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