by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 365 of
Gintama (TV 7/2018) ?
After three consecutive episodes of classic Gintama hijinks, the series once again puts on its serious face as the real final battle's stakes are laid out. Now reunited with Takasugi, Gintoki reveals what he's been up to the past two years. Never convinced that Utsuro was truly gone, the silver-haired samurai searched for signs of him at every Altana gate in Japan. While visiting a seaside Golden Dragon shrine, the head priest revealed the existence of an infant version of Yoshida Shoyo, who had gradually materialized in the gate the shrine worshipped. For a period of months, Gintoki traveled with the child as he rapidly aged into a mute young boy. When the duo was ambushed by a group of Naraku, the boy spoke and revealed that he remembered Gintoki from his previous life before being captured and entrusting Gin with his heart.
Gintoki isn't the only one with important info to share. As Takasugi reveals, in the closing moments of the war, he'd attempted to finish off the deformed, undying remnant of the Tendoshu before being mortally wounded by some Liberation Army remnants who quickly made off with the Tendoshu's remains. In order to survive, Shinsuke stabbed himself through the heart with a sword laced with Oboro's ashes, thus imbuing himself with the latter's healing abilities. However, as was the case with Oboro, said abilities are gradually weakening, and Takasugi is slowly dying.
Back in Edo, Shijaku briefs Donald Zarump on the Tendoshu's master plan. In the years following the war, the Tendoshu have been experimenting with Utsuro's immortal blood in the hope of finding the key to immortality. Taking advantage of the countless people who lost loved ones during Utsuro's initial Terminal attacks, the Tendoshu have founded a new religion that uses a phoenix as its symbol and promises its followers eternal life. The terrorist incidents occurring across the galaxy can all be tied back to this religion, and large amounts of Altana have been stolen during each attack. With an attack on Edo imminent, Gintoki and Takasugi arrive in the city and proceed to meet up with some old friends.
Much like The Battle on Rakuyo's opening chapter, this week's installment is essentially an episode-length info dump, albeit a consistently fascinating one. With so many game-changing revelations packed into a single episode, it's sometimes difficult to keep all the pertinent details together. Viewers are given virtually no time to process each new development before several more pop up, which has been a problem at various points throughout the show's endgame stage. Since the edge-of-your-seat battle against Utsuro was billed as a “series climax,” it's strange to see the show's original Big Bads reemerge as a legitimate threat, but their grand plan is interesting enough to justify further examination, and this storyline may provide Utsuro/Shoyo with a chance at redemption. Also, this appears to be opening the door for at least a cour's worth of new material, though it's unlikely to be produced in the near future in light of the manga's run being extended.
Episode 365 is also a prime example of Gintama's propensity for switching gears at the drop of a hat. As recently as last week, it felt like we were watching the Gintama of old, but this latest offering is a somber affair from beginning to end. (There were only two jokes.) Although there are likely many more laughs on the horizon, episodes like this are a stark reminder of the effects the events of the past few arcs have had on the show's world and its inhabitants. Losing Shoyo and growing apart from Takasugi have always factored heavily into Gintoki's character arc, and the fact that he's on the verge of losing them both for good has got be weighing on him. Although Gin has always been rather sullen and deadpan (usually for comedic purposes), he wrestles with a wave of conflicting emotions while traveling with Kid Shoyo. Shortly after being entrusted with the child, he strongly considers killing him—and comes perilously close to doing so. Behind all the wackiness, Gintoki has always been at war with himself for killing Shoyo, and the emergence of Utsuro compounded those feelings exponentially. Gin and Takasugi embarking on another quest to rescue their adoptive father is a great way to bring the overarching plot full-circle and possibly assuage Gintoki's deep-seated guilt. Shinpachi hits the nail on the head when he opines that he doesn't know what he'd do if someone he loved became the entire world's enemy—but he knows he'd want to see him again.
A reflective, emotional, somewhat overcrowded installment, episode 365 sets the stage for Gintama's true climax. Although our heroes put everything on the line to defeat Utsuro and the Altana Liberation Army, another battle with galactic implications is right around the corner. Once again, the time has come for the Kabuki District's finest to suit up and defend their home planet.
Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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