Episodes 329-330

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 329 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

How would you rate episode 330 of
Gintama Season 4 (TV 6/2017) ?

Hot on the heels of last summer's hugely successful live-action film, Gintama returns for its second round in 2017. Although the show has already begun adapting the quadrilogy of endgame arcs and is well past the point of no return, the staff seems hesitant to start tackling the final storyline until Hideaki Sorachi officially wraps things up. To make up for that, we finally get to see the small smattering of pre-Shogun Assassination stories the anime elected to skip during the 2015-2016 season. So for the next few months, Gintama will get a reprieve from being a sci-fi action drama with comic interludes and return to being an irreverent gag comedy.

Aptly titled the “Kagura's Boyfriend Arc,” the latest storyline finds Umibozu visiting Earth just in time to see his daughter receive her first love letter. Upon learning that Kagura has decided to date the letter's author, Gintoki and Umibozu clash on the subject of how to handle this development, giving way to an amusing “dueling dads” scenario. After begrudgingly coming to terms with the fact that their little girl is growing up, the two decide to give Dai-chan, Kagura's new beau, a fair shake, only to discover that he's a kaiju-sized amanto and the prince of Planet Titan. (Cue the Attack on Titan references.) To make matters worse, Dai's crude, boorish, and openly demeaning towards Kagura.

Because of her powerful Yato genes, Dai-chan is intent on marrying Kagura and siring strong children with her (somehow...) However, when she refuses his proposal, the prince takes her by force and unleashes his army on Edo. Per ancient Titan customs, the home planets of royal brides are destroyed to give the Titans a monopoly on good genes. (Never mind that Earth isn't actually Kagura's home planet.) Fueled by pure dad rage, Gintoki and Umibozu obliterate the Titan army and deliver a well-deserved beat-down to Dai-chan. Not only does this experience teach the prince some manners and prompt him to do away with the aforementioned custom, it helps him view “fathers” in a whole new light. Likewise, Kagura decides to put her love life on hold because she already has her hands full with three well-intentioned manchildren.

Since the previous arc (which is set after this story) put the more tragic aspects of the Kanko/Kouka family on full display, it seems fitting for this season to open with a tale that showcases the lighter side of Umibozu. Despite all the physical and emotional torment he was put through last season, he's generally been a comedic presence, and these episodes help remind us of this. Although he's one of the series' most elusive supporting characters (he even has Sakamoto beat), he became an even more rounded character throughout The Battle on Rakuyo's latter half, and getting some insight into his history helps add weight to his actions, even if Sorachi didn't have the family's backstory hammered out when this story was written.

This story continues Gintama's long tradition of subverting time-tested comedy tropes—in this case, parents meeting their daughter's first boyfriend. Although the first half of the arc is fairly down-to-earth by Gintama standards, the latter portion turns a standard sitcom story into a chaotic battle for the planet—awash with Attack on Titan-themed puns, no less. This show has never shied away from taking things to extremes, and this arc (particularly the latter half) does a great job of constantly stepping things up in the humor department. In true Gintama fashion, the situation just keeps getting more and more absurd.

Another interesting facet to this arc is that it touches on the idea of Gintoki as Kagura's adoptive parent instead of a cool older brother figure. While he may technically be an adult, Gin is among the most immature members of the main cast (and with this series, that says something), so it's easy to forget that he's Kagura's guardian—and not just her employer/surrogate brother. Although he provides Kagura with room, board, and intermittent paychecks, it's difficult to view Gintoki as a parental figure in light of his perpetual avoidance of responsibility and refusal to grow up. Granted, this doesn't receive a great deal of focus, and the whole “Gintoki as an overprotective father” angle is only utilized because it fits the story, but an episode that explored this issue in depth could be pretty entertaining.

As pleased as many (including me) are by Gintama's temporary return to form, it's hard not to wonder “Why now?” Does the show want to ride the wave of popularity generated by the aforementioned movie? If the manga's final arc had been completed by this point, would these storylines have remained unadapted? After all, the show had given no prior indication that it would take on this material. Is promotion for the upcoming video game a factor? Still, at the end of the day, the factors that guided this decision don't really matter. Gintama is getting the complete adaptation it deserves, and that's pretty awesome.

Rating: A-

Gintama is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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

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