Gintama
Episode 336

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 336 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

This week, the Slip Arc concludes Kusanagi's tale in a characteristically humorous and surprisingly heartwarming fashion. After two installments that were primarily built around shock humor and gross-out gags, episode 336 adds a bit of depth to the proceedings, casting the wayward Excaliburlings in a more sympathetic light. It also delivers a top-notch action sequence in the form of Gintoki vs. Sogo/Maganagi, which is arguably the season's coolest fight sequence yet. With comedy, action, and just the right amount of drama, episode 336 is another win in a consistently strong season.

Having taken control of Sogo, Maganagi informs Kusanagi that the scabbard he's fighting to save isn't Scabberina; it's Scarlett, a daughter Scabberina was pregnant with when the couple became separated. It turns out Maganagi had located and subsequently consumed Scabberina some time ago. Shortly before dying, Scabberina implored Maganagi to reunite the remaining members of her family—which he intends to do “in his belly.” In order to help Kusanagi regain his strength for the final battle, Gintoki plunges the sword back into his anus and encourages it to suck as much blood as it needs. Sogo, having overtaken Maganagi and regained control of his body, allows the cursed sword to take some of his own blood in an effort to make the fight fair. With Gin's help, Kusanagi is able to defeat his enemy, but the intensity of the fight proves too much for an Excaliburling of his advanced age, and like Maganagi, he soon turns to iron dust. Not wanting Scarlett to mourn the loss of a father she never knew, he decides against saying goodbye. Unwilling to accept this outcome, Tetsuko and the Odd Jobs trio gather every speck of Kusanagi dust and forge it into a new sword for Scarlett to house.

Things get melodramatic toward the end, but the show does an effective job of getting us to care about an alien sword that sucks blood from its wielder's anus—a feat that no series besides Gintama could likely accomplish. It would be easy to play the “butt sword as a tragic hero” angle purely for laughs, but Kusanagi's self-sacrifice and dedication to his family come off as genuinely touching. (A moment where a bewildered Testuko wonders aloud how Excaliburlings reproduce is a great way to break up some of the drama.) While the general tone is decidedly less wacky than this arc's first two installments, episode 336 is adept at balancing comedy, plot progression, and fast-paced action.

While Okita is by no means the star, this episode—and this arc—shows off his seldom-seen softer side. For starters, he chose to strike Senbe with a non-lethal blow after figuring out that Maganagi was the mastermind behind the recent string of murders. Although this would have been a no-brainer for Hijikata or Kondo, Sogo has never made any bones about killing perceived enemies, and while he may not have been a serial killer, Senbe was a prominent Joi rebel. Secondly, he seemed genuinely intent on reuniting Kusanagi and Scarlett, suggesting that even the series' biggest sadist was moved by the family's story. Within the course of this short arc, Sogo is portrayed as menacing enough to overtake a cursed sword and compassionate enough to want a happy ending for the family that this sword broke apart—and it feels perfectly organic.

The latest storyline also makes effective use of Tetsuko, whose appearances have been few and far between since her introduction in the Benizakura arc. Although she's occasionally popped up to offer advice on sword-related matters, this is one of the few times she's played a direct role in resolving the central conflict. Furthermore, she's able to rattle off some funny lines instead of simply serving as a sounding board for the Odd Jobs crew's antics. If this ultimately proves to be her last hurrah, it's an effective send-off for an underused character.

The episode closes on an unrelated skit built around young Hijikata and Sogo in their pre-Shinsengumi days. Bothered by the lack of respect her brother shows to the older Hijikata, Mitsuba attempts to set him straight, and she's ultimately pleased with Okita's empty, sarcastic attempt to show deference to his senpai. There isn't much to say about this humorous aside, but it's a fun little piece of fluff that sheds some light on the early days of the Hijikata/Sogo feud. Since they were absent for the entirety of the previous season, anything Shinsengumi-related is very much welcome in the Slip Arc.

As the conclusion to this season's longest arc yet, this week's installment manages to successfully inject some emotion into a story rife with physical comedy and gross-out humor. While far from the most memorable story Gintama has given us, the Slip Arc's latest offering effectively utilizes all of the series' strengths.

Rating: A-

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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


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