For this review, I will not review this season alone, but the whole franchise up until the end of this season. This will be spoiler-free, unbiased and mostly objective, and instead of straight-up discussing the series, but mostly point out what makes Gintama unique while keeping the structure MAL suggests. Here we go
Other factors: 9/10
Many Gintama watchers may notice something from the beginning of the story, something many end up disliking. That is the fact that "Gintama has no plot". The thing is that it doesn't.... But it does.... But doesn't. Without spoiling anything, Gintama is a mostly comedic series, only
driven by the characters' actions and development. People will often refer to that as the story itself, which I disagree with. The plot is actually existent within the series, but we can say it happens "off screen", since the main cast is often not involved with it. The author does however throw out certain plot points and foreshadowing here and there, which later turn into an actual plot. Fans will often refer to the series' "serious arcs" as the plot, which is valid, since they do tie in with the plot itself. But shortly said: Even though Gintama has almost no plot, watchers still stay for the rest of the content, until the plot actually begins at (surprise, surprise) not episode 1. They way Gintama does it, is brilliant, since even though the plot is to be looked forward to, there is so much else before it that is both appealing and worth watching. Something the plot alone will never justify.
The characters of this series are clearly the strongest points of the series' quality. Not because the rest is bad (look at my rating), but because they are just so well established. I've heard many fans state that "Gintama's cast will be the most lovable cast of characters you will experience", and even though many may argue with that, I agree with the statement, since it does make a point. Gintama has a huge cast, with maybe 20+ cast members that you will often see throughout the series, including the three protagonists: Gintoki, Shinpachi and Kagura. Aside from them, you will experience that almost all of the characters will get their own depth and quality, which make them unique and memorable characters. Almost everyone has their own quirks and problems, as well as backstories, experiences and later development. You will often watch them as you laugh at them and with them, as well as cry with them. Each one of them is lovable in their own way, not because you are guaranteed to relate to them, but because how much the author respects and loves them to write them the way they are. I could sit here and ramble on how deep and lovable the main character Gintoki is for instance, and how much his past experiences and present connect to each other to make a good character, but nothing I say any more, can do the characters' quality justice. If you feel like you don't like even one of the characters, then I do not know how to defend myself.
This is finally something to complain a little about. The animation in this series has never been particularly good, nor has it ever been horrible. A very episodic series like this has no need for extraordinary or consistently stunning animation like the Fate-series or Violet Evergarden. In comedic and "calm" episodes, the animation is not the main point, since it is the comedy and the short-term storytelling that matters. You can say that intense scenes like battles, duels or chases require good animation for better experience, and that is exactly what Gintama has. Whenever a fight or an intense scene occurs, the animation will always step up (a lot) to make the scene great, but you cannot expect all of the 350+ episodes to have animation like that. Why I did not give the animation higher than 8/10, is because it would be to generous, but I do not complain too much either, since I do not require better animation than I need. If this is a problem to you, I will excuse myself, since this paragraph may have been useless in that case.
I will try to make my points shorter here, so that the paragraph won't be super long. MUSIC is an important part in a story, but for Gintama, it is not exceptionally good (but not bad at all). The "beautiful" soundtracks do not match with for instance Naruto's, and the motivational/intense tracks do not match with One Piece's. However, what Gintama does great, is creating few tracks that are associated with a certain scene or a character. There are a few songs you will hear maybe 2-3 times in the whole series, which you will associate with one powerful scene, which will make a good experience.
THE COLLECTION OF GENRES, is also an important factor that makes Gintama, in my opinion fantastic. It is mostly known for being a comedy series (which it excels in of course), but there is much more to it. You will see many other genres or elements from other genres all the time, since it can go from lung-paining comedy, to touching and calm Slice of Life, to (sometimes) deep and emotional romance, bombastic and exciting action and, not least: Tear jerking and painful drama. All these genres get switched between all the time, and it is made in a way that is not absolutely messy or not understandable, but instead very structured and well-made. That is something many pieces of fiction have a hard time with.
Since Gintama is very episodic, we are bound to enjoy some arcs and episodes more than others. Even though there has never been an episode or arc that I really hated, some episodes end up being a little weaker in both quality and enjoyment. Another complaint is that since the cast is so large, some characters will be a little less developed and more flat. And as said before, as there are characters you will most likely relate to, there are some you will not care about so much, and that is difficult to avoid. But these complaints compared to the rest of the praise do not push the series to a 9/10 for me at all, so the series is still pretty much perfect in my eyes (sorry for being a little biased there).
If you want to start/continue with Gintama, there are things you must remember. This series requires patience, so do not expect it to become a masterpiece right away, but please know that as you go on, you will be rewarded with better and better stuff along the journey. When you finally reach the end, you may think "This series was long, but it was absolutely worth the time". But to be more straight forward, think of it like this:
The first serious/plot heavy arc (around 5 eps long) arrives somewhere between episode 50 and 60, where many watchers learn what Gintama can be and WILL be except just comedy. But if you still hate the show after episode 87, then I do not know how to defend myself lol. You will se more arcs like these of course, especially in the last 50 episodes. One more thing: since most of the comedy is based around parodies and references from other anime, it will be better if the watcher has some experience with anime and manga beforehand. Having watched between 5 and 10 animes is enough, I feel, so the comedy will become better. If this review helped, I greatly recommend this series, as it is the best anime (in quality) I have ever seen. I wish you a happy journey, and I hope you will enjoy this greatness of a series.
Let's start with the comedy because that's the main reason Gintama is so horrible. Gintama is often called "a comedy series without any comedy", and that's very accurate. The "comedy" in Gintama consists of colorful bunch of jokes... at least if our color vision is limited to two as practically every joke is either a) a penis joke or b) IT'S a PRank BrO. Be it a gorilla mistaking someone's dick for a banana or 7 feet long sword ending up inside someone's anal cavity, Gintama has it all. But don't worry. It's all made with self-awareness and 4th wall
breaking so it's very funneh even after 700 chapters and 360 episodes. The parody side is really either a) an excuse to write something absolutely terrible and then claim it was made as a joke, or b) references that are so inaccurate and irrelevant that they could be used in E3's pressconference. The banter on the other hand is almost as hideous as seen in the movie Deadpool 2, but thank God not as meta. The comedy is so bad and badly timed that even during the more serious and decent moments, it comes there and completely ruins everything the series accomplishes by inserting some dude there who farts or does something equally lame.
The characters are something that could be decent -- to be frank, if the characters were a separate entity, they could all be said to be of respectable quality -- but the author practically never uses their personalities for their benefit. Almost every single reaction they show is ridiculously, even absurdly overreacted because the author doesn't trust that his characters' personalities alone could carry the content and the jokes he presents. The work is filled with moments where characters just yell some nonsense to each others because apparently, acting like overdramatic clowns is much better than actually creating comedy based to their characteristics. The sentence "it's so damn anime" is pretty much the perfect way to describe how Gintama's cast works. The only character who gets dealt with the respect they deserve, is Zura, and that's not enough.
The art is very clever. At least if we consider edgy 10 year old kids who are vandalizing the town by drawing pictures of genitals on every damn thing they see, clever. When it comes to Gintama, I don't think I have ever seen anyone put so much effort into making every goddamn background object resemble the shape of a penis. Perhaps my favorite part of the art is how often it focuses on puking and blood and assholes and dicks, yet every time these are censored and pixelated so its readers/viewers won't form a trauma because let's face it, most of them are also like 10 years old. It's beyond me how the main content is penis, farts and in generally, dirty jokes, yet they are presented pseudo and aimed for little kids. At least series like South Park went all out with their content and remained loyal to the idea to the very end. Gintama is just censorship aimed for people whose sense of humor was formed in elementary school toilets but never developed it more mature and over the top direction. Gintama is like a person who ages, but never grows up or matures.
As a conclusion: I laughed something like ~50 times during the entire run. Gintama is not a good series. It's characters are pretty much always used as comedy elements, the jokes get old in 50 episodes (starting from 80 because the first 80 don't even have any jokes), the writing is often ruined by stupid "gags" to a point that the good things become less good. Every cringe and downright awful piece of writing is justified by it being a parody. "So you're denying all the good things the show accomplished." Not really, I am just saying that even the worst of things have good sides in them and just like that, I won't be praising Gintama for its achievements.
When someone who doesn't know Gintama asks me to tell the synopsis, I can't explain it. I'm sure you can't either.
But on the other hand I can describe my different states: one second I start laughing and crying, the next I cling to my chair, the next I hold my breath, the next second I scream, the next I applaud, the next I want to cry so much because the emotion is so intense. In short, Gintama is a manga that does not leave anyone indifferent.
If Gintama has not lost her sense of humour, this season is barely
letting us breathe. When you think Gintama can't do better, a new twist appears!
The arc where everything makes sense!
Let's talk about this new arc. For me, it is the arc where everything makes sense. In 15 years, Hideaki Sorachi has introduced us to characters who are all more atypical and marginal than each other. This arc is an opportunity to see all of them again: the ones we love and the others we love a little less and where we always wondered what they could bring to the story (Prince Hata for example).
A new approach to the main character.
In a typical shōnen, we are used to the character being the one who fights the most fearsome antagonist of each arc. And yet! Gintoki may be charismatic and badass, but he will not solve every situation on his own. This arc is a good example of this as he faces the strongest antagonist of Gintama. EVERY character has a role to play and it is together with their strengths and weaknesses that they will succeed in overcoming the challenges. Friendship, common purpose, teamwork are the key words of this season.
Verdict after 15 years:
Gintama has proven over and over again that it belongs among the greatest mangas shōnen. The mangaka masters the art of intensity with sometimes short, very short arcs (less than 10 episodes). So I was afraid when I saw the manga lasted so many years (700 chapters) and embarked on much longer arches. Well, I have to say, I'm speechless. So many plot twists and all of this without pretension with a dose of humour that makes Gintama a unique shōnen.
I know, I know, Gintama is one of those anime that just always impresses. Great humor, action, suspense . . . well, normally. First off, don't go thinking I disliked this second half of the Silver Soul arc. But it's not without its flaws, but we'll get there.
The arc has a great story and some shocking scenes. There is truly some heart wrenching suspense that you haven't experienced before in Gintama. Passionate and emotional scenes are filled throughout. A fantastic final battle, but . . . things are cut short. Not to go into details, but there is an abrupt feel that changes
the mood entirely. It wasn't subtle and was disturbing. You're left thinking, "Wait . . . wait that was it?" Not at the end of the series of course, just part way through.
The series begins to take a good turn, but where it tries to slide back into the humor zone--I don't know. Yes, Gintama is known for this. But this time, it just didn't feel right. Most of this part is great, but there's that abruptness that greatly bothers me. This was not a strong finish to the series at all and I'm sad in saying that.