Length: 104 minutes
Director: Chizuru Miyawaki
Cast: Tomokazu Sugita, Daisuke Sakaguchi, Rie Kugimiya, Akira Ishida, Takehito Koyasu, Susumu Chiba, Kazuya Nakai, Kenichi Suzumura, Kōichi Yamadera
Language: Japanese with subtitles
Release: 18 March 2021 in theatres
Score: 2 out of 5 stars
If you’re a fan of the manga and anime Gintama, Gintama: The Very Final would probably be a fitting tribute and the ultimate send-off for such a beloved comedic shounen series that has finally reached a conclusion, since its debut in 2003’s Weekly Shounen Jump magazine.
But if you’re like me, a pleb who was casually introduced to the series while studying in Japan more than a decade back, the movie was jarring and very confusing, Japanese humour notwithstanding. This is also taking into consideration that I do not religiously follow the series, and only watched the anime as a form of filler in between bigger shounen names like One Punch Man and Naruto.
Set in the fictional universe of the feudal Edo period, where aliens called the Amanto have conquered the ancient capital, Gintama follows the lives of the boot-wearing samurai, Gintoki Sakata (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita) and his bunch of misfit freelancers trying to do odd jobs to pay rent for their little shop.
The movie evidently picks up where the anime left off after two years, focusing on the trio Kotaro Katsura (Akira Ishida), Shinsuke Takasugi (Takehito Koyasu) and Gintoki.
To provide some background information, Katsura is a fugitive wanted by the Edo shogunate authorities, and a former member of the Shinsengumi, a special police force under the shogunate. Takasugi is an antagonist turned protagonist, and now fights alongside Gintoki.
Apparently, a spaceship has crashed into a tower where their former swords master, Yoshida Shouyo (now called Utsuro), has become the big bad antagonist and is being used by the Amanto's alien technology to revive him and use his heart to fuel their inter-galactic conquests.
The first 15 minutes is a bizarre recap of the last season of Gintama, where everything is themed in the art style of Dragonball Z, the themes, music and even animation replacing the usual Gintama style. That's not uncommon for Gintama, though, as the show frequently ‘borrows’ themes from other animes to enhance its slapstick, self-deprecating humour, which not everyone can appreciate.
The next half an hour or so is just fighting; Katsura throwing many, many bombs which he somehow managed to hide in his thin kimono, and Gintoki and Takasugi fighting enemies with their wooden and steel katanas respectively. Apart from the mindless fighting scenes and slapstick humour, there are many flashbacks to Katsura, Takasugi and Gintoki's past and childhood, when they were together and training under their master.
But it is mostly fighting, with the Amanto attacking them in droves and wounding them, although the trio don't seem to be hindered by their injuries at all. The movie's premise hinges on the trio reaching their master Utsuro, and proving to him that they have improved in both skill and growing as human beings.
In the battle for the heart, everything becomes a confusing mess. Suddenly, the Shinsengumi arrive at the scene and fight the Amanto as well, with Gintoki's fellow freelancers Kagura (Rie Kugimiya) and Shinpachi Shimura (Daisuke Sakaguchi) in tow.
Clones of Utsuro called Naraku attack Takasugi and hinder his advance, but he gets ahead of the group and eventually fights his former master and stabs him. Which leads to another confusing part; Takasugi turns into his former master because he has bits of his master's heart in him as well.
There are some hilarious scenes when towards the end, the series' mascot, Sadaharu the huge white dog, makes its appearance. Usually without fail, Sadahru would bite into Gintoki's head and cause him to bleed. This time, he eats Gintoki and spits him out, but he comes out of Sadaharu shorter. Two grizzled elders emerge from Sadaharu's rear end dressed in skimpy onsen towels and proceed to play Shougi with each other.
Gintoki is ultimately restored when the older men are forced back into Sadaharu's rear end together with the samurai and unleashed in a diarrhoeal torrent. I know, Japanese humour right?
Weird humour aside, the artwork was superb and the animation was smooth. The sword fighting scenes could not be faulted, unless you wish to compare them with traditional sword fighting animes like Samurai X or Afro Samurai.
The bottom line here is unless you're a hardcore Gintama fan, you're going to find the movie pretty confusing and hard to follow.