Gintama
Episode 343

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 343 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

Leave it to Gintama to turn an exercise in interplanetary diplomacy into an episode-length poop joke. Despite the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance and the stakes being higher than ever, Gintama simply can't stop being Gintama. In addition to moving the overarching plot along, episode 343 also serves as a consistently hilarious standalone installment. If you're a fan of the show's extended forays into scatological humor, Silver Soul's second chapter is sure to be right up your alley.

Wishing to help save the planet and atone for his sins, Nobunobu volunteers to engage in talks with the Altana Liberation Army's top brass. Despite being fully aware of his status as an “empty” shogun, the young noble believes that the ALA will take the resistance more seriously if they believe their efforts represent the will of Japan's ruler. With Katsura and Sakamoto serving as his retainers, Nobunobu boards the ALA's mothership to begin negotiations, only to be continuously hindered by intense gastric distress brought on by eating two horrendously overseasoned croquettes. Strangely, this actually works to his advantage, as Admiral Shijaku, one of the ALA's key figures, interprets Nobunobu's pained facial expressions, body language, and oddly-phrased requests for restroom breaks as a sign that he has a nuclear-powered weapon planted in his belly. In a last-ditch attempt to tap into his enemy's psyche, Shijaku mimics Nobunobu's movements and ultimately winds up crapping himself—as does Nobunobu. In the end, both men agree to keep each other's secrets, and Shijaku promises that the ALA's ground troops will be more disciplined moving forward, thus bringing the riots in Edo to a peaceful end.

A good chunk of the episode relies on Nobunobu's explosive diarrhea being confused for a hidden nuke, and if you can get over the central conceit's inherent grossness—something long-time Gintama fans should have no problem doing by this point—you'll find a lot to laugh at. Thanks to a series of perfectly phrased miscommunications, the idea of tummy trouble turning the tide of an intergalactic military conflict doesn't seem quite as ridiculous as one might think. Even when he occupied a more antagonistic role in the series, Nobunobu was seldom able to keep his composure and act like a proper politician, and the unfortunate doofus still appears to be afflicted with the same curse. Fortunately, now that we're supposed to be rooting for him, he's a little easier to laugh at. Since they're two of the biggest buffoons in the show, having Katsura and Sakamoto step back and offer dry reactions to the insanity as it unfolds is slightly jarring, but they're reasonably effective tsukkomi nonetheless. (This may be the first time Zura has commented on someone else's lack of common sense.)

Despite being a relatively new addition to the show's enormous supporting cast, Nobunobu emerges as this week's MVP. Although he was introduced to us as a fairly generic antagonist, he's experienced an impressive amount of emotional growth since The Battle on Rakuyo. He stops short of offering any apologies for his role in Shigeshige's demise, but he now seems fully aware of his failures as both a ruler and a person, and he wants to make amends as best he can. Having been used his entire life, he used others in turn to fulfill personal ambitions, but for the first time ever, he's now acting on behalf of his country—and indeed, his planet.

While toilet humor is the episode's primary focus, there's still character growth and plot progression sprinkled into the wackiness. Whereas previous endgame arcs often treated comedy as an afterthought, Silver Soul has thus far aimed to keep the zaniness front and center. However, with Utsuro set to return next week, this may not be the case for much longer.

Rating: B+

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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


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