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Gintama is a fantastically creative work with an endless appeal; as consistent, funny and compelling now as it was five years ago.
The story - for the most part - is told in a rather episodic fashion, with each chapter presenting a different plot. These chapters are largely comedic and follow the huge cast finding themselves in all sorts of hilarious situations. Hideaki Sorachi - the author - makes use of many ingenious gags and plot devices to avoid repetition, and also explores a variety of story arcs which add a sense of heightened drama to an otherwise predominantly humourous series. The story arcs expand on the characters in a way the stand-alone chapters cannot, and add more variety and narrative to the series. Certain chapters are better than others, but Sorachi rarely falters - he keeps up the momentum after all these years and still manages to present consistently brilliant stories, ideas, characters and concepts.
Sorachi rarely uses any sketchy effects in his artwork, nor does he display much shading. His lines are very bold and he almost never makes use of double page spreads. Gintama, however, does not require such extravagance. It is a fairly dialogue-heavy manga and while it does contain action, it is a predominantly comedic series. Sorachi pays close attention to panel placement and timing to best communicate his comedy to the reader. Artwork is half that communication, however, and Sorachi never misses the mark. His artwork has steadily improved since the series' inception and his character designs are a real stand-out element.
Over the years, Sorachi has built up a phenomenally large supporting cast, along with three unforgettable main characters. Some supporting members have almost become as integral as the main cast itself, with Sorachi making sure no-one goes amiss; he frequently uses his supporting characters no matter how minor to the story they may be. Certain characters are more well-rounded than others, but such is the nature of a gag-based series; Gintama's characters needn't be intricate, complex beings. The story arcs greatly expand on the cast, however, adding background and a soul to characters otherwise present solely for comedic relief, all the while opening up new directors and opportunities for them to take.
The comedy in Gintama has a fantastic range; from toilet humour to meticulously executed gags to parodies of popular culture, both Japanese and Western. The series displays a rich assortment of genres and a full embrace of its fanatical setting; creativity and imagination run wild. Despite being a predominantly comedic series, Gintama has so much more to offer; in its characters, its setting, its sheer originality and inventiveness - it's a manga that keeps on giving and one not to be missed.