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"Gintama is probably the hotpot of seriousness and comedy. I don’t really think about it. I’m just a punk who does anything he wants." - Hideaki Sorachi from an interview with Quick Japan in 2009.
It’s arguably the most unique hotpot in manga, right?
Although not as big as the holy trinity of Shonen Jump, Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama recently hit the 50th volume milestone. This is a big deal considering the fact that the series is generally very episodic and a gag manga at heart. Yet with the help of the anime adaptation, Gintama has spawned a wide variety of fans from all over the world to talk dirty, make fun of people’s glasses, pick noses and believe in the power of sugar. Sorachi once mentioned that he wanted to end the series at Volume 30, but has pressed on to create even more insane moments over the past 20 volumes. Yet you have to think about Gintama’s appeal and why some folks still find it hard to appreciate a series such as this one.
A while back, Gintama was voted as a series that girls love, but guys didn’t like. I had a Twitter conversation with a friend and we spoke about this. This is a snippet.
First off, there are men who do like Gintama. If I like it, then there are other men that have liked it at some point. Though at the same time, there are also women who may not like the series. Sorachi had this to say about his mood swings.
"Because I get tired of the same things easily. Besides, I never really treated Gintama as a gag manga. Creators of gag manga are those tough guys who’ll laugh and cry no matter how painful things are, like Usuta Kyosuke-sensei or Ooishi Kouji-sensei. I’m just a punk manga artist who draws whatever nonsense he feels like.”
I’ll admit that the series isn’t for everyone. Gintama can be very in-your-face, especially in the humor department. When you have your main heroine make comments about male genitalia, you’re bound to freak someone out. The three principles of Shonen Jump (friendship, effort and victory) also do not always apply to Gintama. Let’s also not forget the series is notorious for obscure jokes, some of which you will not always get.
So why do Gintama fans find this series one hell of a drug? Because the series builds up over time to a big payoff (usually an arc like the Benizakura Arc). Think of it this way. It’s like when cream in milk rises to the top. Of course, you have to invest in Gintama just like you would invest in a savings account. It’s not grand at first, but the more time you put into it, the more it becomes beautiful in the long-run. Think about how you tried new things you wanted to do and felt uncomfortable at first, but you decided to keep at it and feel heavily rewarded by your effort.
(You can click on the image for the full version.)
The buildup is usually attributed to the crazy cast of characters that appear in the series. I remember reading an early fan review of the series and it said that the characters are basically people in real life. Ever think about how most of the Gintama characters tend to treat each other as “acquaintances”? There are people we don’t want to see, but we try to get along with them for the mutual benefit of everyone else. Life is full of those moments.
You can jokingly say to yourself, "At least my life isn’t filled with sadists, wacky terrorists, homeless men, mayonnaise addicts, stalkers and an ill-tempered Chinese girl with the strength of a gorilla!" Or maybe you do know people like that and you can joke about them….carefully.
Gintama can hit a bit too close to home for some people because it is a series about the struggle of daily life. There are many folks living out there in places similar to the Gintama version of Kabukicho and living tough lives. Yet as Gintama tries to teach readers/viewers, life isn’t so bad if you can laugh about it.
Once you’re able to laugh at how absurd life can be, you can put things in a new perspective. Humor is known to create a stronger mindset and builds character. It also makes you very attractive to people, in the case of the appeal of Gintoki Sakata to many female anime fans worldwide.
In short, Gintama is basically a look at the psychology of different types of people in the real world and how laughter binds them altogether. Wouldn’t you say the world needs more of that laughter? A smile supposedly beats cancer, right?
Keep on punking harder than Ashton Kutcher, Sorachi.