Directed by: Yuichi Fukuda
Starring: Shun Oguri (小栗旬), Masaki Suda (菅田将暉), Kanna Hashimoto (橋本環奈), Masaki Okada (岡田将生), Masami Nagasawa (長澤まさみ), Ken Yasuda (安田顕), Akari Hayami ( 早見あかり), Hirofumi Arai (新井浩文), Nanao (菜々緒), Tsuyoshi Domoto (堂本剛), Yuya Yagira (柳楽優弥), Jiro Sato (佐藤二朗)
The Film: Gintoki is a powerful warrior with silver hair who fights with a wooden sword. He is also infamously known as the World’s Laziest Samurai. His pals include his apprentice Shinpachi, a timid teenager samurai, and Kagura, a teenage alien girl with superhuman martial arts skills. They live in a world where alien invaders have occupied the government and the most popular sport is beetle-wrestling. When a powerful sword with mythical powers gets stolen, Gintoki is hired to investigate and secure its return. However, the sword proves to have power beyond all expectations and the three friends face their most difficult adventure yet.
Based on one of the most popular manga and anime series of the last decade, Gintama is a highly-anticipated live-action adaptation. Set in a parallel universe during the Edo period, an alien race known as the Amanto have invaded Earth and after a 10 year resistance war, the shogunate have accepted terms and now recognize the conquest of the invading force. With the Amanto in charge and a puppet shogunate in place, they outlaw the use of swords via the Samurai Abolishment Edict, rendering the samurai powerless as they fall into a decline. Gintoki (Shun Oguri), a famous resistance fighter from the warring years who prefers to sit around and pick his nose, makes his living doing odd-jobs that often take him on adventures with his friends. When he embarks on a mission to recover the stolen legendary sword known as the Benizakura, he discovers it has fallen into the hands of a serial-murderer with mysterious motives.
The crazy world that Gintama takes place in is more than a little overwhelming for new-comers to the series. Thankfully, the filmmakers are well aware of this and begin the film with a hilarious animated intro to bring everyone up to speed, with the main point being: “Don’t think too hard about the complexities of the backstory (we know it is ridiculous because that’s the point) and just know that these three main characters are working together now, so sit back and enjoy the ride.” This should quickly ease anyone’s initial anxiety of entering a world already so well established through its manga and animated series.
Gintama is very fast paced and a comedy-action film at heart. It is full of laugh-out-loud gags that poke fun at various other famous Japanese animations and manga series. The film’s characters are even self-aware of its live-action status and how that affects the portrayal of some of its odder characters like Elizabeth, the tubular shaped alien duck creature. One scene has Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto) and Shinpachi (Masaki Suda) pointing out how silly Elizabeth looks, and wondering if it is just someone in a costume. This could be very similar to how the characters speak in the manga as well, but it really helps the film make peace with some of its lower-grade special effects when they poke fun at different oddities in their world.
There are a ton of quirky and memorable characters that make up the world of Gintama that truly make for one of the best ensemble action adventures out there. With no throw-away characters, there is rarely a dull moment even as the main heroes can be off-screen for considerable stretches of time. Each character is finely crafted with their own peculiarities and hilarious traits. Whether it is the chain-smoking Vice Commander of the police force Toshiro (Yuya Yagira) and his addiction to mayonnaise; or the evil strategist Henpeita, (Jiro Sato) a self-proclaimed feminist who responds to accusations of having an obvious lolita-complex by saying he has a healthy attraction to young girls, the characters of Gintama are such extreme caricatures played with with conviction that you can’t help but laugh out loud at the silliness.
There is a lot of CGI work in Gintama that masterfully blends elements of cheese and awesomeness. This is a balance that was also perfectly done in The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, another recent manga adaptation film. The action at times can be very impressive, ranging from elaborate sword fights to death-defying gun battles while aboard flying pirate-styled airships.
For the genre, Gintama may be a bit long with a running time of 131 minutes, but I can say that each minute is packed with fun. One does not have to be familiar with the original series to appreciate what this film has to offer, although you may be inclined to dive right into the series after getting to know these unforgettable and quirky characters. This is absolutely the most fun I have had watching a film in a long time and I will be praying for future installments.
P.S. Being a Bandai Namco Pictures film and the nature of the unique characters, this would be an incredible Dynasty Warriors styled video game!
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