Episode 346

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 346 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

More old friends resurface as Gintoki and the gang mobilize against Ensho and the Altana Liberation Army. With nearly every major character now fighting to protect the Earth, the resistance forces are finally primed to launch a counterattack of epic proportions, and for the first time, the ALA has found itself on the defensive. Despite this week's heaping helping of action, episode 346 is also able to cram in an abundance of laughs while moving the plot along at a riveting pace.

Continuing from last week's truly insane third act, the beginning of the episode reveals that Yamazaki became the muscle-bound Zakiyama by shedding “the restraints that shackled him.” Unfortunately, those restraints are Yamazaki's actual body, which is now hanging unceremoniously from the anus of Zakiyama. Inspired, Kondo sheds his restraints and becomes a full-fledged gorilla—with a limp Kondo body hanging out of its ass. (Both men liken this to Goku of Dragon Ball Z fame shedding his weighted clothing after training under King Kai.) Although Kondo is able to undo his transformation off-screen, Yamazaki's old body (which also seems to house his soul) drifts away to parts unknown during an attack. In an effort to confuse the ALA forces, the Zenzo-led Oniwaban engulfs Edo in a powerful smokescreen and aids the rest of the gang in taking out the ground troops.

When Ensho's ship is able to blast through the smokescreen, Gengai arrives with Tama and Kintoki in tow and reveals a potentially game-changing secret weapon. It turns out the old tinkerer has been working on a secret weapon since the end of the Joi War: the phallic Neo Armstrong Cyclone Jet Armstrong Gengai Cannon. (This being the last hurrah, it makes sense to revisit this running gag.) This weapon is designed to fire a flurry of powerful nanomachines that will destroy the ALA's advanced weaponry, along with every other machine in Edo. However, since the cannon itself isn't immune to the nanomachines' effects, Tama and Kintoki will need to power it themselves once its operating system goes offline, which could potentially kill them. As ALA ships fall from the sky and every electronic device in the city breaks down, the Odd Jobs crew rushes towards the weapon, hoping to reach Gengai and company before it's too late.

The reverse of last week's installment, the latest episode starts off on a crazy note and concludes on a harrowing one—though not harrowing or serious enough to cause tonal whiplash. There's also quite a bit of plot packed into this one, so it would be a poor week to let your mind wander. From the tail-end of the Shinsengumi's return to the Oniwaban joining the fray to Gengai and his machines swooping in to save the day, episode 346 doesn't leave viewers with any time to catch their breath. For the most part, the rapid-fire pacing is nicely in sync with the chaotic humor, but it also doesn't give the show much time to unpack each new development.

On the returning character front, it's nice to see Zenzo acting like himself again, especially after the toll Shigeshige's death took on him. Even though the hemorrhoid-stricken ninja was depressed the last time we saw him, he's now returned to suffering anal tears in the name of comedy and proclaiming his love for Shonen Jump. On the robot side of things, despite Kintoki's lack of presence since his initial introduction and the fact that he was essentially conceived as a one-note gag character, it's hard not to be saddened by the prospect of his demise. Unlike Tama, he doesn't have much personal history with our heroes, but in some respects, that makes his potential sacrifice for them even nobler. Still, while previous endgame arcs have established that character deaths are on the table, it's hard to picture the bots and Gengai being taken out this early on. (Plus, assuming Gengai survives, he could probably rebuild the other two.)

The only notable black mark against episode 346 is its subpar animation and wonky visuals. Not only is the animation noticeably clunky during scenes that feature heavy movement, nearly every character is consistently off-model. (At one point near the beginning, Gintoki's mouth movements are almost comically out of sync with his dialog.) It's a given that every episode isn't going to be a feast for the eyes, but aesthetically this was a big disappointment—and probably the current season's worst-looking episode (including the Slip Arc portion).

Episode 346 concludes on one of Silver Soul's most powerful moments, although the importance of this development is somewhat weakened by bad visuals. The pacing is also a touch too fast, but not so much that the episode feels too condensed or confusing. With the fates of two beloved regulars and a semi-popular guest character up in the air, next Sunday can't come quickly enough.

Rating: B

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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