by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 367 of
Gintama (TV 7/2018) ?
This week, Gintama wraps up its latest season in the most Gintama-ish manner possible. After apprehending the disguised Gintoki, Tsukuyo and the other girls bring him to Yoshiwara (which has become a popular tourist attraction during Gin's two-year absence) and subject him to a “unique” form of torture designed to cure of him of his perceived lecherousness. (Since they believe their prisoner is actually Takasugi, they can't help but comment on far the series' original “last boss” has fallen.) Gin is eventually able to swap places with Yamazaki/Mobcop and escape their clutches. While wandering the city, the silver-haired samurai sees a woman thanking Shinpachi for completing an odd job but elects not to approach his former protégé. Moments later, Gintoki is approached by a group of plain-clothes assassins, prompting Shinpachi to cut in and announce his intentions to help. With an epic skirmish set to commence, Gintoki abruptly shouts “Cut!” as various stagehands take the set away, paving the way for the show's biggest fourth wall break in a good long while.
The principal cast then moves to a courtroom set, where Gintoki sits on the judge's bench and announces the beginning of the Gintama Ending Scam Trial. Throughout this segment, Gin acts as a mouthpiece for the anime staff and complains at length about the tribulations of producing an anime based on a concurrently serialized manga. As Gin tells it, the staff had been informed three years ago that the manga would soon be ending, which prompted them to plan the 2015-16 season as Gintama's grand finale. This, of course, didn't come to pass, and despite the anime's best efforts to accommodate Sorachi's schedule, the manga's end date is in a state of perpetual fluctuation. With the intent of sentencing his creator to death, Gintoki eventually orders Hideaki Sorachi himself to approach the bench, but after hearing his prepared statement, Judge Gin decides to issue him a full pardon before declaring the trial—and the season—over.
In true Gintama fashion, the pickle Gintoki finds himself in after being apprehended by Tsukuyo gets progressively more ridiculous as the bits wears on. Throughout the years, this series has given us an amusing assortment of conveyor belt gags, and Tsukuyo's sex drive-diminishing torture apparatus is a worthy addition to their ranks. The girls' comments on Takasugi shedding his last boss status are an amusing nod to how much the character has softened. Back when the show's overarching plot would only pop up once in a blue moon, Takasugi's presence indicated that things were about to get serious—and while Shinsuke remains one of the more serious members of the main cast, he's largely been brought down to everyone else's level by this point.
Despite the abundance of hijinks in the first half, the episode's latter portion is where things really go off the rails. The audience is invited to laugh and express frustration alongside the characters as the topsy-turvy history of the anime's BNP (Bandai Namco Pictures) years is brought fully to light. (A particular highlight is Shinpachi pointing out the Slip Arc's timing was weird as Gintoki tries to pass it off as organic.) It's been a long time since Gintama has obliterated the fourth wall so spectacularly, and it's a hilarious note for the season to go out on. However, while this would also function as a decidedly Gintama-ish series finale, it would be incredibly disappointing for the anime to end here. Furthermore, in stark contrast to seasons past, the show makes no explicit promise of a return. (Just as Sorachi makes no believable promises regarding the manga's end date anymore.) Heck, even the end card leaves this question up in the air. Still, Gintama has teased fans with fake endings in the past, and it's hard to believe BNP would come this far and not adapt the final handful of chapters.
With the anime staff running dangerously low on source material, Silver Soul's third act cuts out rather abruptly, but the episode's second half is funny enough to quell much of the disappointment. It's a strange place to wrap things up, but as the characters expressly spell out, the staff was simply out of options. Here's hoping that we'll one day reunite with the Odd Jobs crew for Gintama's true finale.
Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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