Episode 339

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 339 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

Episode 339 wraps up the Slip Arc's latest storyline in a thoroughly chaotic, perfectly Gintama-ish fashion. As is customary with this show's comedy-focused stories, things grow more irreverent by the second, jokes are hurled at the audience one after another, and Japanese pop culture references are served up in abundance. After last week's madcap free-for-all, it didn't seem like the HDZ 48 arc could get any crazier, but as usual, Gintama manages to up the ante in the humor department and leave audiences wondering, “What the heck did I just watch?”

With Otsu still nowhere to be found, the no-holds-barred meet-and-greet continues to go off the rails. Despite managing to draw a fair number of attendees away from Galaxy Kingdom Bitches, Diamond Vacuum quickly squanders all the newfound fan interest through petty in-fighting and Kyubei's fear of touching men. Wishing to re-energize the wayward members of Otsu's fan club, Shinpachi exposes GKB's true intentions when he rips off one of Bitchie's antennae. It turns out the girls of GKB 48 have been using their antennae to brainwash fans and show them exactly what they want to see. (It's also implied that the men only thought they had been serviced sexually when stepping behind the curtains.) In the absence of their antennae, the girls are revealed to be far less attractive than they initially appeared, with Bitchie revealing her true form to be a Go Nagai-esque monster. While Kagura fights the transformed Bitchie, the girls of Diamond Vacuum cancel out GKB's mind control waves with their eardrum-shattering music, and Shinpachi leads the un-brainwashed fan club in pro-Otsu-chants. As Gintoki points out, whereas GKB 48 peddled illusions, Otsu represents the dream to crawl toward one's ideal.

Moved by everyone's efforts on her behalf, Otsu eventually arrives at the Oedo Dome and performs a new song—one that's surprisingly lacking in bleeped profanity. As she watches the Odd Jobs trio exit the scene, a thoroughly defeated Bitchie informs Otsu's mother/manager that Kagura is a talent that could surpass even her daughter. Kagura, however, decides to retire from the entertainment biz and return to her favorite idol unit: Odd Jobs Gin-chan.

Kagura's objective in joining Boogers Diamond 48 was never entirely clear, but true to character, she simply went with the flow without becoming too emotionally invested in the whole affair. However, when she chooses not to join Otsu on stage at the end, it's strongly hinted that her aim all along had been to boost Otsu's confidence, even though the two of them have never been close or shared any extended interactions. While this certainly helps add some context to the insanity, it almost feels perfunctory. A deeper connection between Kagura and Otsu helps imbue the narrative with a bit of heart—and Gintama is highly adept at blending mean-spirited comedy with genuine feelings—but this time, the schmaltz didn't really add anything to the story.

Like the previous two installments, episode 339 holds nothing back when it comes to humor, particularly throughout the first half. Revisiting the Otae/Sacchan rivalry (which has evolved into an uneasy friendship) is a fun nod to Gintama's earlier days, as is Kyubei's aversion to shaking hands with male fans. (Speaking of which, Kyubei becoming enamored by Tsukuyo is a great gag; these two should be paired up more often.) While the plethora of Dragon Quest references will likely mean more to fans of the game series, the context helps ensure that that they're not completely lost on non-fans. Otae and Sacchan making various DQ characters appear out of thin air nicely illustrates that anything is possible in this show's elastic reality.

While not exactly the highlight of the season, the HDZ 48 arc consistently amused and rarely disappointed. More often than not, the narrative was more focused on gags than an overarching theme, but that's hardly uncommon in Gintama, nor does it work to the story's detriment. For the most part, episode 339 succeeds in its aim: giving Otsu a fond farewell and keeping the audience laughing the whole time.

Rating: B+

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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