Image Source: アニメ銀魂 on Twitter
Gintama. can’t be pinned down by one genre; it’s filled with action, comedy, drama, romance, science fiction, historical fantasy, and more. But one of the things that has kept fans enthralled with the story of the series for nearly fifteen years is its ability to blend these elements together without making one or the other feel out of place. Gintama. proved itself once again in the latest episode of the fourth season, in which we learn how Kagura’s parents met, fell in love, and tragically parted.
Kagura’s father Umibozu retells the story of how he met her mother, Koka. At first, the story is solemn; he explains that the people of their race—the Yato—once lived on a planet before it was destroyed by invaders and infested by dangerous beasts, leaving the Yato no choice but to scatter and repopulate on other planets. The child he is telling the story to says that Umibozu is known as a hero for being the first Yato in hundreds of years to return to the planet and take it back.
“Took back our home? I just lost a bet with a friend. I said I’d go to our deserted home and hit on a woman if I lost a drinking battle.”
With such a stupid reason, Umibozu returns to the savage planet his people originated on. And there, he really does meet a woman: Koka. And, even leaving the details of his bet aside, he tries his best to hit on her, asking her to “tame the Orochi in his pants” and making other ridiculous pick-up lines (“How about going for some coffee?”).
Umibozu in the present also starts making dick jokes during his battle with the evil Utsuro, mentioning that he suddenly got… morning wood, let’s say. Usually, this would be a moment in which funny music would play and the tension would be lost. He even goes so far as to talk about his erection for about two minutes straight. But we find out that it’s not because he is aroused, but instead because somewhere deep inside of him while fighting this deadly opponent, he fears for his life, and his body is telling him to reproduce. In order to calm his body down and keep his mind clear, he goes so far as to crush one of his own testicles. In this scene, we learn that even Umibozu has something he is afraid of, and the lengths he will go to to retain his calm.
Despite these jokes—some even being vulgar—the comedy is used in such a way that it develops the relationship between the two as well as develops Umibozu as a character. A usually stern character, we see how much Umibozu is head-over-heels in love with Koka because of his hilarious reactions to seeing her (yes, even the dick jokes). Gintama. avoids focusing too long on one joke, and instead alternates between humor and serious character development.
Image Source: アニメ銀魂 on Twitter
The greatest strength of the humor, however, is its ability to make the tragedy hiding underneath the surface even stronger. The scene in which Umibozu bashfully stutters when he tries to propose to Koka is cute—until the moment in which we learn that Koka is dying from an illness because Umibozu took her away from her home planet.
But let’s look at it from an opposite viewpoint: Had Gintama.’s creator Hideaki Sorachi chosen to make all of the scenes featuring Umibozu and Koka in complete seriousness, there would be less to grasp onto emotionally because they would feel less human. The backstory of Kagura’s parents only lasts one episode, and this humor serves as a way to enhance their loving relationship in a short period of time. Through their comedic interactions, we are able to see just how much they care about each other, making both of them endearing characters in the span of less than thirty minutes.
This episode may have been filled with dick jokes, but it was filled with dick jokes that served a purpose. And that’s one of Gintama.’s greatest strengths: to have jokes that serve a purpose aside from just making the viewer laugh.
Gintama. can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.