by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 351 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?
This week, our heroes score a significant victory by driving the Altana Liberation Army's ground forces out of the Kabuki District. With the help of the Doromizu family and the Sewer Rats, the Odd Jobs crew is able to eliminate Sotatsu, which sends the rest of the Shinra packing. Unfortunately, Ougai isn't down for the count quite yet, and before the rest of the ALA ground troops can vacate the neighborhood, he orders them to resume their mission or face his club. However, the bad guys don't even get to restart their attack before they incur the wrath of Hedoro, who can't stand to see the Kabuki District's plant life being trampled. Before long, the eerily kindhearted Dakini florist grows enraged at the ALA's mistreatment of flowers, prompting him to effortlessly decimate the enemy forces—even Ougai. As we learn through flashback, Hedoro and Ougai are former comrades in arms—and the florist's good-natured demeanor is the result of Parappa Heaven, a parasitic alien virus that turns victims' minds into “a bed of flowers.” Meanwhile, the timely arrival of Ketsuno Ana, Douman, Seimei, and Gedomaru helps drive off any ALA stragglers. However, while fleeing the frightening-looking demons summoned by Gedomaru, Gintoki crashes into Hedoro and accidentally plucks the flower from his forehead, potentially opening yet another can of worms for our battle-weary heroes to deal with.
The assault on the Kabuki District followed a familiar pattern across the past several episodes. Just when all hope seems lost for Gin and the gang, one or more long-absent secondary characters arrive on the scene and help turn the tide of battle. This week brought not only Hedoro, but also the Ketsuno and Shirino clans and the various supernatural forces they command. While this formula grew a little predictable, it also enabled characters that viewers haven't checked in with for dozens—sometimes hundreds—of episodes to get their final hurrahs, which helps give the arc a full-circle feel. All of these reappearances help illustrate just how fluid a universe Hideaki Sorachi has created. For example, Jirocho and Pirako are both “normal” humans, Hedoro is a muscle-bound alien with a flower growing out of his head, and the members of the aforementioned clans are all powerful onmyouji. However, all of these seemingly disparate characters existing in the same world and appearing in the same story feels perfectly organic.
Despite being part of a “serious” arc, episode 351 contains a number of ruefully funny asides. Gintoki's meta commentary about Shonen Jump's battle rules and his insistence on moving Gintama to Shonen Sunday illustrates that no matter how dire things get, fourth-wall-breaking is always on the table in this series. The show also pokes fun at its own overuse of flashbacks when Jirocho, reasoning that Katsuo “doesn't need a flashback,” ends his right-hand man's backstory prematurely. In addition, Hedoro rendering the hulking Ougai a non-threat in mere seconds is a pitch-perfect subversion of expectations.
Although this portion of Silver Soul featured a sizable number of guest characters, the brisk pacing ensured that none of them overstayed their welcome. With plenty of action and an abundance of laughs, episode 351 brings the battle for the Kabuki District to a fun and energetic end. Going off the preview, it looks like a victory party is in store for next week, and it's hard to deny that Gin and company have earned it.
Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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