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"One was trying to protect Shoyo’s legacy. The other was trying to destroy Shoyo’s legacy. But they had one thing in common. They both had such sorrow in their eyes."
Another emotional roller coaster in Gintama was recently built to bring us through more loops and turns in the form of the "Ikkoku Keisei" (Courtesan of a Nation) arc. What started off as a simple love story became a tense emotional look at the pasts of two men walking opposite paths, Gintoki Sakata and Shinsuke Takasugi. How much sorrow is enough to drive one to keep on living?
The storyline (featured in Volumes 44-45, Episodes 257-261) started off simple enough: Gintoki and friends were on a quest to reunite a Yoshiwara courtesan named Suzuran and a former client of hers. Next thing you know, the former Shogun, Tokugawa Sadasada, is involved and was revealed to be a scheming politician who used Suzuran to kill his rivals. Gin takes the fight to him and learns that his opponent orchestrated the death of his master, Shoyo Yoshida. He battles Sadasada’s bodyguard and an enemy from his past, Oboro, in a fight to the death. Sadasada was later arrested by the authorities for his past crimes and taken to prison, where he is swiftly assassinated by Takasugi, another former student of Shoyo’s. Both men left these final words to their rivals, "Say hello to Sensei for me."
Even though sorrow is technically a “bad” emotion, it can lead to wonderful things. If you’re able to express sorrow, you cleanse yourself in some ways. Joy can be sorrow unmasked. Despite the loss of his teacher, Gin would eventually have to move on from Shoyo even if he still lived. Maybe that’s why he was able to see perspectives from all kinds of angles. You can say that Gin turned out alright as he is able to “live life beautifully”.
Yet for Takasugi, he is on the other side of the spectrum. He is “a beast who has nothing to protect”. Sorrow has made him really resentful of the people who took away the one person he loved. Perhaps Takasugi feels that he should have done more for Shoyo. He appears to have chronic sorrow as he treated Shoyo’s loss as if it was a life-threatening disease. Though you can argue that he’s living some sense of joy with the likes of the Kiheitai.
In today’s world, sorrow can be treated with disdain. We’re supposed to be happy all the time. However, real life doesn’t always work that way. The huge plot twist in Ikkoku Keisei signifies something that people need to remember: sorrow is persistent and will make multiple appearances throughout your life. How you handle its impact is up to you. But do know that sorrow does make you learn about life and realize certain things about yourself, like it has for both Gin and Takasugi.
Put it this way. If you haven’t been sad at one point, then you haven’t really lived at all.