Gintama
Episode 340

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 340 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

As the season nears its climax, the Slip Arc gets meta and serves up an extra-large helping of wackiness. The second dual-segmented episode of the season not only gives viewers a distinctly Gintama-ish riff on popular gaming genres, it also begins arguably the Slip Arc's most off-the-rails story yet. With the anime adaptation of the final arc set to begin in less than a month, Gintama is making a mad dash to get as much comedy out of its system as possible—and the results are truly a sight to behold.

Episode 340's first segment is practically an anti-advertisement for the upcoming action game Gintama Rumble. Unhappy with what he's hearing about the game, Gintoki breaks into Bandai Namco's development offices and enlists Tama's aid in changing the game to his specifications. Unsurprisingly, Gin is completely out of touch with gaming trends and winds up turning Gintama Rumble into an unplayable mishmash of old school RPG, survival horror, and his own bizarre ramblings. In the end, it's revealed that the entire segment was actually a video presentation being shown to Bamco's president, who subsequently shoots the corporate lackey who brought it before him with a bazooka.

In addition to offering up an amusing deluge of gaming references (the vast majority of which should make sense to Western viewers), this segment effectively utilizes the time-tested Gintama trope of excessive escalation. Turning a fast-paced action game into a traditional RPG (overseen by Gintoki, no less) is a great premise on its own, but as usual, Gintama goes the extra mile to take the joke as far as possible and cram in an insane number of gags in the process. True to character, Gintoki puts his epic hubris on display as he decides he can make a better game than the professionals. After Gin has finished working his unique brand of fail magic, the finished product no longer resembles an actual video game in the slightest. The series has a solid track record when it comes to video game parodies, and this segment makes a worthy addition to its impressive library of gaming send-ups.

In this week's second story, Shinpachi visits Zoff's Eyewear, a spooky-looking glasses shop, to obtain some replacement specs. (Not sure if the actual Zoff Eyewear in Japan appreciates the endorsement.) After the mysterious owner sells him on a pair of bone-rimmed glasses (“Curr Sedd” glasses, which the owner describes as “rock star”), the young man is horrified to discover that he can now see ghosts on the backs of every Edo citizen. These entities are identified as guardian spirits, whose primary purpose is to follow people around and protect them. However, as Shinpachi soon discovers, not all of these spirits are serious about protecting their marks. Asuraman, Gintoki's enormous and intimidating guardian spirit, screws with Gin in various ways as a manifestation of the malice felt by six vending machine erasers he discarded as a child. Similarly, Kagura's guardian spirit Alchu is a bumbling alcoholic in a blue Pikachu costume that came into being after an inebriated Gintoki vomited on a Pokémon plush. Unclear as to what Shinpachi is freaking out about, the gang heads to the Kabukicho sports meet. However, while everyone else sees a friendly competition between yakuza, hosts, and drag queens, Shinpachi sees a bloody battle between supernatural entities, setting the stage for an epic hilarious finale next week.

The Curr Sedd glasses help reveal some funny truths behind Gintoki and Kagura's behavior, though some of these revelations are better viewed as throwaway jokes than strictly canon. For example, Kagura ended all her sentences with “aru” before she even knew Gintoki. (The existence of the TP Knight does explain how Sadaharu is cared for, however.) The frightening-looking Asuraman being a low-level trickster is a pitch-perfect subversion of expectations, and the very concept of Alchu is perplexingly bizarre yet perfectly suited to Sorachi's twisted vision. Although Shinpachi's tsukkomi skills have been underused in recent arcs, the character makes a true return to form as he shrieks about the insanity unfolding all around him. Judging from the preview, it looks like we'll be introduced to more characters' guardian spirits next week, and I can only imagine what kinds of ghosts have latched onto such a crazy bunch.

The Gintama Rumble segment is fourth-wall-breaking at its finest, and the Guardian Spirits arc has begun on a very promising note. With everyone's favorite Kabukicho residents—and their respective guardian spirits—set to compete in a sports meet next week, all signs point to the Slip Arc going out with a bang.

Rating: A+

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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


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