I feel that I have to start with a disclaimer, as I am not a fan of Gintama, in manga or anime form. So this review is a reaction to the film itself. Whether it’s a good adaptation, I will have to let real fans decide.
Coming to the movie theatre, I have a few expectations on the film. Adapted from the manga by Hideaki Sorachi, Gintama is unique in its comedy because it parodies other franchises to borderline illegal. Take note that in Japan, fair use is a tricky issue. And Gintama’s ‘braveness’ for such stupidity is part of its comedic appeal. And it is for the sake of comedy that I am willing to forego the lack of story & character development one would expect in a film. It is for me, a sequence of comedic sketches done under the guise of an undeveloped plot and cack-handed storytelling. However, having said that, I find myself enjoying the quirkiness of the film.
The film sets the tone early on even before the opening credits by parodying its own opening credits with a karaoke-ish video of Gintoki Sakata (Shun Oguri) singing with clips of only himself. This was followed by the beetle-hunting sequence that introduces most of the cast – Gintoki’s Yorozuya friends, Shinpachi (Masaki Suda), and Kagura (Hanna Hashimoto) and the members of Bukufu police force, the Shinsengumi, Gintoki’s long-time friend, Katsura (Masaki Okada), and Shinpachi’s sister, Tae (Masami Nagasawa).
Following this pre-opening sequence is the real opening of the film. The adaptation centred on Gintama’s Benizakura arc, where sword-maker siblings, Tetsuya (Ken Yasuda) and Tetsuko (Akari Hayami) seek the help of Gintoki to retrieve the monster-like benizakura sword from its current owner, the assassin Nizo Okada (Hirofumi Arai). The search for the sword leads Gintoki to childhood friend and comrade Shinsuke Takasugi (Tsuyoshi Domoto) who has revived Kiheitai, a band of rebels out to destroy the world.
Given this story, the film could have explored more satisfying story and character arc but instead focused on its comedic sketches that feel misplaced in the film as a whole. The comedy was reduced to farce and slapstick. While it delivers some punches, viewers are left empty for its trite concoction. There is some level of enjoyment especially if one is to let go of all matters of character, story, or plot. But all these rob the film of its potentiality of being good. It may be a good adaptation of Gintama but it is not a good film.
The film’s action sequences also fell short. I expected better action sequences because after all, the main protagonist is a skilled samurai. The alien, amanto, looks like grown puppets and their fearsome nature was overshadowed.
To sum up, will Gintama make you laugh? Yes. Will the fight scenes satisfy you? Maybe. Gintama will give you a few laughs but its action scenes are wanting. But I believe fans will be satisfied with small details, including character habits, dialogues, and nuances, present all throughout the film. But for non-fans, these bear no meaning at all. We are left with a film that somehow entertains but leaves us a little confused as to what it all means. But nevertheless, as long as you came for a laugh, I’m sure you will be able to get it.