Episode 338

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 338 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

The Slip Arc's twisted tale of dueling idol units enters its second chapter as Galaxy Kingdom Bitches begins its all-out assault on Booger Diamonds 48. With the battle lines drawn, Otsu must now overcome an even bigger hurdle than Gintoki's terrible management if she wishes to remain Edo's top idol. In true Gintama fashion, the latest arc's sophomore outing cranks the absurdity up to eleven and crams a staggering number of gags into its 24-minute runtime.

As we learn early in the episode, Galaxy Kingdom Bitches is comprised of “the top of the top” idols from across the galaxy, and they delight in bringing down various planets' most popular idols. Having set their sights on Otsu, the group quickly begins corralling her fans through one-on-one meet-and-greets and sexual favors. They also use their considerable media clout to perpetuate fake news stories about Otsu and the Odd Jobs gang. (Kagura only compounds this problem by making easily-misinterpreted comments about the nature of her relationship with Gintoki.) Going in for the kill, Bitchie, the group's leader, challenges Booger Diamonds 48 to a contest at the Oedo Dome, where both groups will hold meet-and-greets—and the group that attracts fewer fans will retire from the entertainment biz. Otsu is too crestfallen to answer Bitchie's challenge, but the Odd Jobs trio and the girls of Diamond Vacuum show up on her behalf. Although Otae's team is initially able to draw some fans away from GKB, things hit a snag when Gintoki promises the attendees that the girls will provide them with porta-potty hand-jobs and is subsequently clobbered for it (even by Sacchan).

Like this arc's first installment, episode 338's actual story is fairly unimportant and primarily meant to provide paper-thin narrative context for all the wackiness that unfolds. In fact, Otsu herself does very little this week, though it's safe to assume she'll eventually show up to steal the show. Fortunately, since the humor is as sharp as ever, placing the focus almost entirely on the jokes doesn't present much of an issue. The concept of an idol unit that provides all of its fans with sexual favors is a good example of Gintama's propensity for straddling the line between “genuinely clever” and “appalling low-brow,” with the pixel-heavy Taka-chin sequence serving as one of this week's funniest bits.

Although Otsu is sidelined this time around, episode 338 makes effective use of some of the show's other supporting characters. Kyubei and Tsukuyo, neither of whom have appeared since the show entered endgame mode, have a number of funny moments during the sexually-charged meet-and-greet. (Tsukuyo's continued ignorance of what a bass guitar actually does is a great running gag.) Similarly, Taka-chin is given more lines than he's had in years. This episode also delves even further into Gintoki's sleazy side, which has been notably absent in recent arcs. In addition to exploiting Kagura for financial gain, he has no qualms about prostituting his female acquaintances, who he refers to as “sluts.” In light of all the heroics he's displayed, it's easy to forget that Gin is often a lowlife, albeit a consistently hilarious one.

While it's worth noting that both music and the show's go-to idol character have largely been absent from a story centered on an idol competition, it's easy to see this being rectified in the forthcoming finale. Still, since this arc is essentially an extended riff on the Japanese idol scene, the focus on fan interaction over actual performance makes a lot of sense. Here's hoping Otsu finds a suitably funny way to reclaim her title as Edo's top idol and send GKB 48 packing next week. (Since this is presumably the last arc in which she'll play a prominent role, a tender scene with Shinpachi is also somewhat overdue.)

Rating: A-

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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