by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 357 of
Gintama (TV 7/2018) ?
The battle against Prince Ensho and the Altana Liberation Army reaches its hard-fought conclusion this week. After Takasugi manages to take out the Flame of Kagutsuchi's control unit with nothing but his sword, Katsura, Sakamoto, and Nobunobu's group arrives in the control room and engages Ensho in battle. Armed with dual beam sabers, the prince proves to be a formidable opponent and deals considerable damage to Mutsu, Zura, Sakamoto, and Dragonia/Elizabeth. With some timely help from Shokaku and Takechi (both of whom survived last week's purge), an injured Takasugi is able to rejoin his friends, deal the finishing blow to the Gunpowder Prince, and prove himself the hero his generals believe him to be. However, with the Heavenly Bird now on a collision course with Earth, the gang's work isn't quite finished.
In addition to the usual edge-of-your-seat action, episode 357 is notable for giving the audience some additional insight into Ensho's backstory. At the beginning of the arc, it seemed like the prince was primarily motivated by his fridged wife and child, but as it turns out, there's more to the story than that. Much to the prince's chagrin, Ensho's wife was originally married to his older brother. Driven by his love for her, Ensho refused to provide his brother with reinforcements when the latter had fallen into an enemy trap, fully aware that this would result in his death. The fact that he was willing to leave his brother to die illustrates that Ensho isn't merely a man lost in grief—darkness has always been a part of him. All of Ensho's subsequent military conquests have served as a way for the prince to run away from the guilt caused by turning his back on his brother and lying to the woman he loves—and with his wife and child killed in Burei's terminal explosion, battle is the only thing he has left.
While not quite as deep and intricate as other villain backstories, the brief look into Ensho's past helps shed light on his motivations and makes him more three-dimensional. Given the relatively short length of time he's been part of the series, this is about as much exploration as his personal history warrants. Assuming he survived the battle with Takasugi, recent history suggests that he may receive his own redemption arc, and if so, it'll be interesting to see what that looks like.
Because of his incredible combat prowess and unwavering focus on his ultimate goal, taking down Ensho proves be to a harrowing team effort. Not only do Zura and Sakamoto (two of the show's strongest fighters) incur a number of serious injuries, their respective second-in-commands (Elizabeth and Mutsu) are almost instantly taken out of commission by the prince's beam sabers. Everyone has to fight their hardest just to make a dent in Ensho's defenses, and their grit and struggle is as palpable as ever. The overreliance on still shots puts a small damper on the action, but the audience can truly feel the weight of the battle, as well as a genuine sense of relief and accomplishment when Ensho is finally taken out.
The second humor-free episode in a row, Silver Soul's latest installment features exciting action and puts a slightly more human face on the most recent addition to Gintama's rogues' gallery. With Ensho and the ALA nearly out of the picture, this frees the show up to focus on the forthcoming fight against the seemingly invincible Utsuro. Also, with the reemergence of Ane and Mone, some much-needed comedy may also be in the cards.
Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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