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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?
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“It galled me to do everything that young punk said…but you can’t judge a person by their age. There are young kids who’ve lived and felt more in their short lives than I have in all of mine.”
You ever had one of those moments where you talk to someone younger than you and felt like that person was actually making sense? What if someone older talking to you felt the same? Don’t worry, you’re not the only ones.
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“True, your luster may not have been as bright as gold…You only shined on occasion. You were always arguing and fighting. You had wavy hair. You were lazy. You were the king of sexual harassment. You never paid the rent. You paid your people late. Still, you were brighter than the fake glint of gold plating. When you were angry, your entire soul was enraged. When you laughed, you laughed with all your heart. Your silver was much more beautiful.”
In a world where things are taken completely at face value, perhaps we need to re-evaluate what is of true value. The beginning of Gintama Season 6 adapted a highly-touted arc from Volume 43 of the manga and highlighted a world where gold captivated it. Despite its amazing allure and beauty, the gold portrayed was tainted and corrupt. The battle between Gintoki Sakata (silver) and Kintoki Sakata (gold) reflects society’s obsessions with perfectionism and how being first place in one area doesn’t always translate well to other aspects of life that are far more important.
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“It’s all right. You did well. You’re…a fine man. You’ve grown strong. Don’t look back. You made your decision. This is the path you chose. Don’t apologize. Don’t cry. You did what you set out to do. I felt proud watching you go. You’re blunt, belligerent, and bungling…but you’re kind. I love you guys. I was…very lucky…to know men like you…and to have a brother…like you…Sogo. I’m proud of you.”
In many anime/manga series, there are certain characters that resonate in our hearts. Yet they end up dead in a shocking twist and makes us go “Noooo! Why!?”. With that said, a recent poll conducted by MyNavi focused on which anime/manga characters fans wished did not die. While some of the choices were not surprising to many (i.e. Ace’s death in One Piece and Tomoe’s death in Madoka), there was one character who I was happy to see made the list and hit top 10. Look at number 8. It’s none other than Mitsuba Okita, the older sister of Gintama’s favorite sadist, Sogo Okita. She was a somewhat minor character but the fact that she was a well-refined girl with a terminal illness and had close ties to three major characters spoke greatly to many fans. Her brief time is a lesson that nothing should be taken for granted.
Mitsuba first appears in Chapter 129/Volume 15 and was presented as someone who raised Sogo all by herself. She was childhood friends with the other two main Shinsengumi members (Kondo Isao and Toshiro Hijikata) though they and Sogo left her in the countryside to move to Edo. Mitsuba immediately warmed fans’ hearts by showing off her addiction to a variety of spicy food. She has a chronic lung ailment which has affected Sogo emotionally. While Mitsuba travels to Edo to tell the Shinsengumi about her marriage to a merchant, she runs into Hijikata and faints. It is revealed that she was in love with him once. Hijikata rejected her because he didn’t want her to suffer by being with him. That moment led to the development of Sogo’s love/hate relationship with Hijikata. She is then taken to the hospital as her health begins to deteriorate even further. We then find out that her fiance is actually a terrorist and that he is using Mitsuba to take over the Shinsengumi from the inside. Hijikata confronts him (and smoothly says “I just want the woman I love to be happy”, a line that fans rank highly as one of the top moments/lines in Gintama) while Mitsuba is dying in the hospital. Sadly, there is no happy ending as Mitsuba dies in Chapter 132/Volume 16 and we’re left with sadness in a series known for humor.
When you think about Mitsuba, your life’s problems are pretty much tame compared to her’s. Her approach to life might be different. I think there are some important lessons to learn from her.
1.) Build a network of support.
Sogo said that in life, some people don’t ever make real friends. Even Mitsuba commented that Sogo never had a true friend (though she notices that Kondo, Hijikata, and even Gintoki Sakata are his closest friends). She remained tied to the Shinsengumi by sending them spicy crackers from time-to-time while Sogo sent her money to cover her healthcare costs. Even though you might be suffering, having a wide variety of helpful people in your life makes things much more bearable and will make you feel better about yourself.
2.) Do what you love.
Mitsuba loves spicy foods and is usually warned not to eat them because of her health. Yet she still does it anyway to a huge degree. Just do what you want to do without regrets. Life is short for everyone and you might as well make it enjoyable for yourself as best you can.
3.) Don’t be led and driven by fear.
This is probably the most-important lesson. We’re all victims of fear when we hear and face bad news. We all want to cry and grieve, but what good does that really do us in the end? Mitsuba continued to face things head-on and was prepared for the inevitable. She didn’t let fear stop her from enjoying life and wanting to be happy. Mitsuba also wanted to make sure to leave something behind and that was to make Sogo a strong person. She let herself be driven by her sense of self. We need to learn how to better control our negative emotions and not let them lead us astray.
I would like to say that I’m glad many anime/manga fans recognized the importance of Mitsuba Okita’s death as one that affected them greatly. I remember seeing this story arc in the Gintama anime (Episodes 86-87) first before reading it in the manga. The ending with Mitsuba’s speech to Sogo had me literally in tears. It makes me realize that my problems pale in comparison to certain individuals who have it a hundred times worse. Some of them are staying positive while I just sit there and complain. How many of you Gintama fans out there have also felt greatly impacted by what transpired with our fallen sister?
If you ever meet/know someone who has a terminal illness, please learn from those folks and you will gain newfound or renewed strength that will go a long way. I think we all need to encounter a Mitsuba Okita at least once in our lives.
To reword a certain idiom for Mitsuba, spice is the variety of life.
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As most people will tell you, pets are awesome to have. They teach you how to be responsible and also provide some great stress relief. This may sound funny to most of you, but have you ever named your pet or associated it with notable anime/manga characters?
Case in point: here’s an example involving pets that I own. I have three red/orange blood parrot cichlids of different sizes as pets. Normally, I did not care about them until earlier this year when I started to feed them. I’ve grown to like them over time. I actually thought of those three fish as the Yorozuya from Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama. Whenever I’m about to give them food, all three of them rush up in great speed to the top of the tank like poor, hungry folk fighting over a hotpot (which greatly reminds of Gin, Kagura, and Shinpachi).
The Big Fish
I call this one Gin because he reminds me of his “Boss of the Kids” look in Volume 16/Episode 88 of Gintama. The big dude is always going around picking on the other two fish. He gobbles rocks and shoots them when he’s bored. The “leader” is also the one who takes up all the food. A funny thing is he actually will lightly jump out of the water if you try to stick anything near him.
This fish also has great fighting spirit. My mother tried to move rocks in the fish tank around with a stick once and the big fish actually attacked the stick with determination. Gin-san also bit her hand in another incident. He’s an aquatic Shiroyasha.
The Medium-Size Fish
Kagura-chan! While Kagura is a girl’s name, she acts pretty tomboyish to the point that you can consider her a guy at times. This one likes to follow Gin-san around just for the hell of it. He gobbles rocks and shoots them as well. He picks on the smallest fish alongside Gin-san. Gin-san picks on Kagura-chan sometimes.
Of course, this Kagura could be Kaguura Jusant, her Monkey Hunter avatar.
The Semi-Medium Fish
Poor Shinpachi. All he does is go into a corner somewhere and stays there. The two other fish ALMOST ALWAYS pick on him. Shinpachi also struggles to get food from the other two sometimes. A funny note is that he seems to pay attention to food and nothing else.
Sometimes, I wonder if Shinpachi is actually a healthy fish since he seems to be somewhat lackadaisical. Does he drift off by himself to listen to Otsu-chan in his head?
Anthropomorphism, with regards to naming pets, is pretty popular and I think more people seem to be experiencing this feeling. You have to wonder if there are certain anime/manga characters that have moved fans to the point that they want to bring them to life through animals and feed their inner desire to nurture. Though you can also say the same for other fictional characters. I would love to hear any stories you guys have about pets that own whose names reflect certain character personalities.
Finally, here’s a photo that reflects the nature of Shinpachi’s treatment throughout Gintama, which greatly describes how wacky my case of anthropomorphism is.
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If you’re a Gintama fan & you haven’t watched/read this storyline, you should DEFINITELY experience the Renho arc (Episodes 232-236 in the anime, Volume 41 in the manga). There is so much blatant copyright infringement, it’s not even funny.
Though most importantly, the story features the return of Tatsuma Sakamoto, a merchant who was formerly a Joi patriot alongside Gintoki Sakata & Katsura Kotaro. Together, the three of them make up the “San Baka” (Three Stooges/Idiots).
Outside of the somewhat silly feel (i.e. everyone’s wearing duck costumes) of the arc, I wonder if the arc was made to represent a second chance for all three characters to protect what they cherish as a unit. In the past, our three idiots were warriors chosen to prevent an alien invasion by the Amanto. They failed in the end and went their separate paths. With the Renho situation escalating, Gin, Zura, & Sakamoto were reunited by fate. They couldn’t save their country from aliens, but the least they could do was save their planet from aliens.
What makes the three idiots even more interesting is their ability to draw crowds. They manage to shift the tense focus of battle to something more light-hearted (a game of UNO). While this makes them considered to be idiots, the Renho troops they managed to influence became drawn to them. Gin, Zura, & Sakamoto are all charismatic and you get to see their charisma to great effect. What makes them charismatic is their ability to make others feel important.
It makes me wonder what actually happened during the Amanto War. Was there little rapport among the Japanese? Was the lack of it the reason they lost? Were the Joi lacking in effective communication skills? Interesting stuff to think about until Hideaki Sorachi decides to cover the past to a huge degree. I also wonder if the whole “Amanto taking over Japan” theme represents Japanese society in general & how they need to stand up against inequality.
Lesson learned from the Gintama Joi trio: take a genuine interest in people if you want to be loved & appreciated. Yes, you might end up a fool, but a lovable one.
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You know you made it big if Gintama starts poking fun at your series. Look at how many moles Shinpachi has compared to Yukio!
This is from Gintama Chapter 372 or as Sorachi-sensei calls it: Kintama Lesson 1. You know what, let’s follow Gin’s suggestion and call it KIN NO EXORCIST/GOLD EXORCIST.
I seriously think Sorachi-sensei throws caution to the wind when it comes to blatantly parodying his fellow JUMP mangakas’ works. Yes/No/Maybe/Can’t respond, laughing too hard right now?
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FOR GREAT JUSTICE! I think the Patriot makes a great weapon for Kotetsu. XD
Also, more Ozaki win:
Yes, he signed my Patriot with Elizabeth!!!
The final photo:
I never expected Ozaki-san to sign my crappy weapon of destruction. But, now I probably can’t use it anymore for cosplay purposes. :(
More material from New York Comic-Con 2011 coming up soon!
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For those who’ve seen Gintama Episode 215 (or read Chapters 310-311, Volume 36 of the manga), you may have noticed that there was a little jab at the Tokyo Youth Ordinance Bill that went into full effect on July 1, 2011. What’s interesting was the commentary said by the character Takechi Henpeita.
“We oppose the Greater Edo Youth Ordinance Bill! Before you try to regulate free speech, you should learn to regulate your own heart! Pedophilia predates manga & anime! Is it not our goal to foster a culture of acceptance?!”
Although the character in question saying all this is a pedophile himself (or feminist as Takechi calls himself), it does make you wonder how power drives people to do things that they feel are right. This also is not the first time the mangaka, Hideaki Sorachi, has made a crack at the bill. He makes another reference to the bill being passed earlier this year in Chapter 337, Volume 39 of the manga. An English translation of the dialogue in that specific chapter can be read here.
It comes to show that even if you come into power with good intentions, chances are you can be swayed into doing things that are unpopular. Even though Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara made the bill, the Tokyo government could’ve prevented it from happening. But, they didn’t. There’s also the non-assertiveness that the Japanese culture tends to be fond of. As noted by John of the AnimeNation blog, Japanese people traditionally don’t like to say “No”. Another issue to address is how it is supposed to be alright to have real child pornography in Japan, but not animated/drawn depictions of child pornography. (Disgusting, right?)
I also believe that Sorachi’s commentary is not just a reflection of the issue of freedom of expression in manga/anime, but what’s happening around us. We have governments trying to ban Internet usage & ban streaming video on the Internet. People of power seem to fear what they don’t understand. Or are they afraid of regular folks gaining knowledge & possibly be smarter than them? Is it a play to protect their own interests per say?
You can argue the main issue lies with those who have reached a high status and are able to dictate things however they please. However, it’s more of the work environment. If the environment is insanely corrupt, then that person will be corrupted too because they will do what it takes to stay in a high position. This is possibly why people need to “regulate their hearts”. They have to face themselves & ponder what is it they really want.
Gintama is perhaps the only Shonen Jump title that could be targeted heavily by Bill 156 because of its constant dirty humor. However, it represents something that some Japanese people do not have: courage. Think about it. The title is a play off the word “Kintama” (Japanese for “testicles”). Hell, the pronunciation even comes off as that to some people! Sorachi has the balls (no pun intended) to create a title that pokes fun at many things in Japanese culture & promotes a feeling that you don’t need government to dictate how you should live.
Let’s hope the rest of Japan follows up on Sorachi’s words towards the Tokyo government.
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(The last thing we might see of the manga in America will be a scary black man who resembles Space Cobra & speaks Kansai-ben Japanese.)
Last week, I found an tweet stating that VIZ Media might be ending Hideaki Sorachi’s Gintama with Volume 23. Amazon has the book up for pre-order with a description saying “Final Volume!” This is a huge concern as I liked the VIZ translation (although they had some huge misses) & the manga is still ongoing in Japan. With the Gintama anime making its comeback & the series being somewhat popular around the world, you have to wonder how much Japanese cultural references a non-Japanese person can take.
So, what does North America like about Japanese culture? Mostly things that are pop-culture/entertainment-related to a huge degree. Even if people are interested in those things, they may not be fully interested in the Japanese lifestyle (which Gintama parodies frequently). Why are some Americans not interested in the overall life of other countries? There is also the fact that there’s TOO much focus on entertainment. People would rather hear about who’s dating who, etc. than keep up with more educational & enlightening matters. Can we blame mass media for controlling what people should hear? Also, some might think “How does learning about other cultures make me feel better?” In a sense, some Americans are taught to mostly care about themselves more so than others.
The market for manga in the U.S. is mostly teens & young adults. Teens seem to crave action, drama, easy-to-follow plotlines, & strong, attractive characters in their stories. Volume 1 of Gintama doesn’t start off that way unfortunately while the series is technically episodic in nature. Also, Gintoki Sakata isn’t the typical JUMP hero as he can be pretty lazy, greedy, selfish, & hypocritical at times. In all honesty, Gintama is a title that reflects the real life of adults living in Japan. Do most American teens even care about the life of a everyday adult in Japan in the first place? Not when they’re fed information on lots of anime & manga that look cool, but may not have much substance.
The recent minisode of the Gintama Podcast discussed the fate of the manga in America. Doc, the host, made an interesting point about how the anime joked frequently about being cancelled & ending prematurely. The VIZ descriptions can be a little wacky. Also, in the chapter (Episode 138 in the anime) containing the cover character of Vol. 23 (Kanemaru, the Black Dragon), there was a comment made by Shinpachi that an all-black Yorozuya group would never sell in Japan. However, it’s hard to imagine an American publishing company (humor book publishers might be a different case) make a joke about ending a book run. One final note is that the Japanese jokes & references get even more obscure in later volumes of Gintama. Granted we don’t know the actual sales numbers of the VIZ manga, is it worth it to continue translating Gintama to an audience that may never get the jokes?
Regardless, VIZ still gets a lot of props for localizing the greatness that is Gintama and publishing 20+ volumes. In any case, we’ll have to wait until this August to truly find out what will happen then. (UPDATE: The title is officially canceled).
We’ll just make due with the anime, right?
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