by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 335 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?
Kusanagi's story continues to unfold in the Slip Arc's lengthiest narrative yet. In addition to serving up a heaping helping of comedy, episode 335 organically ups the stakes, sheds additional light on Kusanagi's motives, and sets the stage for an exciting final battle. Although the first round of Gintoki vs. Sogo is played almost exclusively for laughs, the next phase of the fight is likely to prove considerably more perilous.
This week, we learn that Kusanagi's blade hasn't only dulled as a result of old age; he also incurred a serious injury in his younger years. It turns out the butt-dwelling alien sword and his wife came to Earth in order to hide from Scabberina's first husband, the cursed sword Maganagi. Unlike other Excaliburlings, Maganagi increases his strength by consuming other swords and possessing his various wielders—most recently Senbe. Recognizing the strength Sogo possesses, Maganagi soon ditches his latest host in favor of becoming Sogo's sword. Although Sogo agrees to this arrangement, he makes no bones about being the dominant party.
Despite all the Shinsengumi fanfare surrounding Gintoki and Sogo's duel, the main event immediately devolves into a literal dog-poop-chucking contest between the two combatants, with both fighters using their respective Excaliburlings as glorified pooper-scoopers. (As Shinpachi points out, the riverbank where the duel is taking place has an abnormal amount of canine droppings.) However, by the end of the episode, Maganagi succeeds in taking control of Sogo, signaling the beginning of a higher stakes battle.
Episode 335 features what is arguably this season's most effective use of fake-outs. Seeing Maganagi, who had been built up as a serious antagonist, turn into a cowering servant after coming into Sogo's possession is a particularly funny turn for the story to take. While it doesn't completely diminish him as a threat, it certainly helps bring him down to the other characters' level. In the same vein, the highly anticipated Gintoki/Sogo smackdown becoming a long-form exercise in scatological humor is another creative way to subvert audience expectations.
Kusanagi continues to be a reasonably interesting character—as far as alien butt swords go, anyway. Even though the story largely serves as a vehicle for sophomoric comedy, getting some insight into Kusanagi's personal history helps add a bit of weight to the proceedings. Few other shows could turn a talking sword that lodges itself in human anuses into a genuinely sympathetic figure. Thankfully, since the gag had started to wear thin last time, he doesn't spend much time up Gin's butt this week. (Gintoki showing up for the match with a sword large enough to be wielded by Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII or Guts from Berserk—implying that this was stuck up his sizable, manly colon—is a fun nod to the character's constant need to save face.)
This week's “fight sequence” is a testament to Gintama's propensity for taking jokes as far as possible. Instead of flinging a few stray dog turds at one another, Gintoki and Sogo inexplicably gain access to an endless supply of excrement, eventually covering Kondo, Kagura, Shinpachi, and other onlookers in colorful fecal matter. Speaking of which, depicting the dog droppings as multi-colored ice cream-like swirls helps make the entire sequence more palatable. The dog-walker casually making her way past Gin and Okita while the two are engaged in pre-fight pontificating is another funny, albeit far more subtle, joke that effectively sucks away any seriousness.
Though it's only just begun, the battle for Scabberina is off to a hilarious start. Whether Maganagi will present a genuine threat next week or once again find himself at Okita's beck and call is anyone's guess, but the next phase of the fight should prove entertaining either way.
Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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