This special is a set of short comedy stories involving Gintoki and his equally-broke sidekicks Shinpachi and Kagura. One day, Gintoki and his comrades are out viewing the spring flowers when suddenly the Shinsengumi appear, arguing that Gintoki has taken their flower-viewing spot. Gintoki's team and the Shinsengumi must then battle for the right to sit in that spot by using a violent version of rock paper scissors.
The first inception of the Gintama anime was this very special, produced by Sunrise for Jump Festa '05. At that point, the Gintama manga had been running for almost two years and the author was understandably over the moon about the news. The special was received very favourably, with Sunrise later adapting the manga into a mainstay series in 2006.
There appears to have been much deliberation over which chapter of the manga to adapt to the screen; the result is one of the few stand-alone chapters that is able to utilise the vast supporting cast - so big it's often hard to portray in a
single chapter alone - as well as the main characters. It's a carefully chosen, carefully adapted plot, with the anime staff thinking very meticulously how to best demonstrate Gintama's appeal in only thirty minutes. The outcome is an episode that could easily slot somewhere into the middle of the anime series, but just as easily serve as an introduction to the characters and the universe of Gintama. It's a fun, exciting, enthralling plot with hordes of characters fans of the series have long since fallen in love with.
The animation is fluid and consistent, with the character designs complementing Sorachi's early Gintama artwork, thus differing slightly from the anime series. The art itself is appealing, vibrant and ever so colourful, flawlessly capturing the allure of flower viewing. The music - on the other hand - isn't especially outstanding, but simply does its job, complementing Gintama's hyper characters are ridiculously entertaining plot.
In this special, the characters - a lively, humorous and exciting bunch - are introduced en masse. The amount of personalities on display may prove too much for some viewers unfamiliar with Gintama, who would rather have a more solid, linear establishment of the cast, but for those wanting to skip formalities, it's a lively, full-throttled introduction.
The characters are a witty ensemble there to entertain, to make you laugh; maybe even brighten up your day. The very first anime adaptation of Gintama is an inviting little romp in alternate-Edo, Gintama's crazed, imaginative setting, which is perhaps the only important element of the series not on prime display, but everything else is nailed to a tee. It's Gintama at its best and a lovely introduction to what the series has on offer.
This may seem like any other special you see for other Anime but for Gintama this was a whole new deal. This was a trial episode of the popular manga Gintama and to see if a viable anime adaptation could be possible or not, and obviously 12 years later we know it did do it's job perfectly. Thanks to many reasons you could consider this the first ever episode of Gintama as well since this was released in 2005, a year before the green-lit superhit Gintama TV show entered it's first season in 2006.
The story was divided into two unequal parts, the first just
being a small introduction of the characters (sadly our China Girl didn't get much of one, blame Patsuan), and the second main part, which was basically the Gintama gang at the annual 'flower viewing' event in Japan. It was classic Gintama, tongue-in-cheek jokes and jabs at the studios not to mention pure Gintama comedy for the masses. It didn't feel like a trial at all because usually in trials you expect a serious representation of the manga, but then this is Gintama and that's what made it a joy to watch. Another very important thing was you didn't need to watch this in a specific order. This could be watched whenever regardless of where you are in the Gintama series.
To my knowledge, Gintoki didn't have his signature hairstyle (read messed up hair with two strands at the sides) and just showed his hair in a messed up manner. The other characters as well felt washed out a bit along with the backgrounds as well. On the bright side, the color palette was as usual well chosen and perfectly suited it's time, 2005. The characters looked great regardless of the slightly washed out feeling and felt like a full on Gintama episode at best.
Since this was a trial a full fledged soundtrack wasn't made for the episode and some characters like Baka Ouji didn't sound at all like their later voice but the bottom line was Gintama used everything in it's grasp to appeal to the audience in terms of sound as well, also noticed by the "Your Mom is a XX!" song made for the anime. One of the downfalls of the episode was that due to the absence of a sound track you couldn't listen to the familiar Gintama background music that plays during the TV show episodes but still felt like classic Gintama thanks to the excellent work done by the VAs.
In just one trial/special they showed most of the cast and introduced them perfectly as well, it totally felt I was back to the world of Gintama and it was a lot of fun looking at the characters in their usual daily shenanigans moving about. They showed the Yorozuya, Shinsengumi and the Gintama women as well (Otae, Catherine, Otose). Although you can't expect character development in a special the characters were decently shown and their interactions were like I said pure fun.
I've said this many times and I will again, this episode felt so much like the actual Gintama episodes and I loved every bit of it. It totally didn't fail to leave a smile on my face after watching and it was interesting to note how Sunrise didn't deviate from this formula at all in Gintama 2006 and then Gintama 2011 as well. It was a brilliant job in my opinion and it made you think of the (not so) humble beginnings of the super-hit series.
Overall this episode can be described in a phrase I used many times in this review, "Classic Gintama". Hilarious, tongue-in-cheek, shameless and an absolute joy to watch. I totally recommend this to anyone wanting to get into the Gintama series but who are a bit taken aback by the huge episode number. If this appeals to you, then definitely the main series will too because it's quite tough to find out the difference between the core of this and the main show as well and retains it's quirky charm throughout. I hope you, like me give it a try and hopefully enter the Gintama series as well.