Gintama is a comedy story that takes place twenty years after aliens invade Japan at the end of the Edo period. Wait, what? Don’t ask. The premise is nuts and the show is nuts. And after three seasons and a movie, as the opening of the latest season shows, it’s still nuts.
[Note: This article contains spoilers for the first episode of Gintama season 4.]
Twenty years after the alien invasion, the government has become a puppet for the alien overlords. But while the show does have serious moments, but has mostly gained fame and popularity for its comedy.
As a comedy show, Gintama has had a reputation for being rather cutting-edge with its humor. The opening prologue for the previous season was famously a parody of a real press conference in which a Japanese politician broke down crying while apologizing for charges of alleged misuse of public funds. The topical and sensitive nature of parodying a recent ongoing criminal investigation supposedly made things at the Shueisha offices–the publisher of the Gintama manga–very awkward when it aired.
Attempting to top that wackiness, the prologue for the latest season begins with the main characters, Gintoki Sakata, Shinpachi Shimura, and Kagura entering a large empty space with giant words written on the floor. For those who don’t understand, the three characters are standing on a giant newspaper TV listings page. The latest season of Gintama is the first time the series has been aired in a late night slot (1:35 AM in Japan).
Gintoki welcomes his compatriots to the light night slot, to which Kagura complains that it smells dusty. She then picks up a small object. Gintoki notes that it’s probably something the previous occupants of the time slot forgot. The object in question is one of the control antennae from the head of Kusuo Saiki, the protagonist of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. If you are wondering, yes, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. previously aired in the slot that Gintama currently inhabits.
Gintoki then remarks to Shinpachi that now that they’re in a late night slot, a proper greeting is in order. The three protagonists stand and face the screen and tell their viewers who are staying up late that the newest season of Gintama is beginning. Gintoki closes off with a wink and a cutsey, “Gilga-mesh!” This is another meta reference. The catch phrase is from an old Japanese variety show, Gilgamesh Night, that aired on late night TV from 1991 to 1998. Talk about your old-school references…
Topical or obscure, wacky comedy has always been Gintama’s M.O.–“Modus Operandi,” not “Magnetic Optical,” of course. While the series does have its dark or serious arcs, it never forgets to have fun and the prologue for the latest season proves that it’s still got The Touch.
Gintama can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.