Episode 348

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 348 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

Taking a comedic detour from the action extravaganza, Silver Soul's latest installment delves into Prince Hata's backstory and reveals the true identity of Elizabeth. Although the prince was a prominent supporting presence in the show's earlier days, he pretty much faded away after the first few seasons. Fortunately, his reemergence onto the scene helps answer some big questions and serves as more than simple fanservice. Whether you're a fan of Hata or were happy to see him receive a reduced role in recent seasons, this week's Gintama is not to be missed.

Still trapped in Katsura's headlock, the semi-conscious Prince Hata slips into a dream about his youth on Planet Okoku. As it turns out, Hata is one of three princes and arguably the least qualified to hold the position of ruler. However, per the planet's customs, the size of one's Peerinitis (the antennae located in the center of Okokuians' heads, abbreviated as “Penis”) determines one's status. Although Hata's military-savvy brother Barkas (who is revealed to be Shijaku) was better-suited to lead, his Penis was too small. Additionally, eldest brother Dragonia's Penis was so massive that it got caught on a stray branch during a military conflict and sent the young warrior plummeting off a cliff. Believing that Okoku needed a kind ruler, Barkas abdicated the throne to Hata following their father's death and left the planet to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

Back in the present day, Dan, a royal retainer who's fiercely anti-Hata, attempts to take advantage of the prince's situation and start a coup. However, Shijaku, who's able to hear the chaos unfolding through Katsura's mic, attempts to talk Dan down. When this fails, Elizabeth, who just incurred a nasty bump on the head, reveals herself to be none other than the MIA Prince Dragonia. Although the heavily-pixelated prince is somewhat hazy on the specifics, (s)he's now become more Penis than person. With all three of Okoku's princes now reunited, our heroes have gained a valuable military ally against the Altana Liberation Army.

While exploring Hata's past this late in the game may seem like an odd turn for the story to take, this ultimately leads to several big payoffs. Since the Okoku army will defer to the prince with the biggest Penis, this may help turn the tide of battle in the good guys' favor and provide Zura with the cover he needs to infiltrate the ALA's headquarters. It's also interesting, if not wholly unexpected, to finally get a definitive answer regarding Elizabeth's identity. Throughout the years, the character has been given a number of potential origins, and by this point, many fans had accepted that the person under the suit would forever be shrouded in mystery. Heck, the character's lack of a solid backstory was among her most prominent quirks. Even the perpetually slow-on-the-uptake Katsura accepts that his constant companion is not who he thought, although he is understandably shocked by this revelation. It should be fun to see if their usual dynamic undergoes any big changes in light of what went down this week.

Though his role this week is fairly minimal, it's fitting that Hasegawa is present to play a part in the showdown, considering his history with Prince Hata. Taking a stand against the prince got him fired from several jobs (most notably his position with the Immigration Bureau), so it's satisfying to see him exact some revenge. Regardless of how short-lived his retribution is, it's good to see Hasegawa regain the confidence he displayed in this arc's introductory episode. However, seeing as Hata has rarely intentionally caused people harm, it makes sense that the show doesn't go overboard in giving him his comeuppance. At the end of the day, Hata is more good than bad, and when you get right down to it, he isn't that much more callous or self-interested than the rest of the cast—which may explain why his presence in the series feels so natural despite his prolonged absence.

Although it initially feels like a loosely-relevant aside, episode 348 emerges as one of the season's funniest and most game-changing episodes yet. The Penis jokes are overdone, but this series has never been shy about milking jokes for all they're worth. With the ALA's ground troops closing in on the Kabuki District and Gintoki nursing an unexpected head injury, it looks like another exciting battle is in store for next week.

Rating: A-

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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