Gin Tama (銀魂 Gintama?, lit. "Silver Soul") is a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Hideaki Sorachi and serialized, beginning in December 8, 2003, in Shueisha's Weekly Shōnen Jump. Set in an Edo which has been conquered by aliens named Amanto, the plot follows life from the point of view of samurai Gintoki Sakata, who works as a freelancer alongside his friends Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura in order to pay the monthly rent. Sorachi added the science fiction setting to develop characters to his liking after his editor suggested doing a historical series.
The manga has been licensed by Viz Media in North America. In addition to publishing the individual volumes of the series, Viz serialized its first chapters in their Shonen Jump manga anthology. It debuted in the January 2007 issue, and was serialized at a rate of one chapter a month. An original video animation (OVA) of Gin Tama by Sunrise was featured at Jump Festa 2006 Anime Tour in 2005. This was followed by a full anime series which debuted on April 4, 2006 in TV Tokyo and finished on March 25, 2010. An animated film premiered in Japan in April 2010. The website Crunchyroll is streaming the series on its site, while Sentai Filmworks licensed the series, with distribution from Section23 Films on DVDs. Besides the anime series, there have been various light novels and video games based on Gin Tama.
In Japan, the Gin Tama manga has been popular, commonly ranking within the Top Ten of best seller series. The anime and its DVDs have also been featured, at various time, in Top Ten of their respective media, while TV Tokyo has announced that the Gin Tama anime was responsible for high sales overseas along with the anime adaptation from Naruto. Publications for manga, anime and others have commented on the Gin Tama manga. Positive response have focused on the comedy and characters from the series, while negative responses concern the manga's artwork.
The story of Gin Tama takes place in Edo (known today as Tokyo because of its name change in 1868), Japan, which was conquered by aliens called Amanto in the late Edo period. The samurai of Japan fought the aliens, but after their defeat the Amanto placed a ban on carrying swords in public. The plot is focused on an eccentric samurai, Gintoki Sakata who helps a teenager named Shinpachi Shimura save his sister Tae from a group of aliens who want to make her part of a brothel. Impressed with Gintoki, Shinpachi becomes his apprentice and works with him as a freelancer in order to pay the monthly rent where Gintoki lives, as well as to know more about him. The two of them rescue a teenage alien girl named Kagura from a group of Yakuza who wanted to use her superhuman strength to kill people. Kagura joins Shinpachi and Gintoki to work as freelancers and the three become known as "Odd Jobs Gin". While doing their job they encounter the police force Shinsengumi several times, who normally ally with Odd Jobs Gin in their work since they commonly involve dangerous criminals. They also come to meet Gintoki's former comrades during the Amanto's invasion, including the terrorist Kotaro Katsura who maintains a friendly relationship with them despite his ambitions to destroy the bakufu. On the other hand, Shinsuke Takasugi acts as a major antagonist throughout the series, as he wants to destroy the bakufu in a more violent way than does Katsura.
Themes and style
Hideaki Sorachi's main focus in Gin Tama is the use of gags; during the manga's second year of serialization he started to add more drama to the story while still keeping the comedy. Various jokes from the manga are comments regarding clichés from other shōnen series. For example, in the first chapter after Gintoki fights a group of aliens to protect Shinpachi and Tae, Shinpachi complains that he only fought for "one page" and Gintoki replies, "Shut up! One page is a long time for a manga artist!" Gintoki's exaggerated desire to read the Weekly Shōnen Jump (which causes him to fight other readers in order to get it) also makes fun of shōnen, since during those parts characters quote them. Other types of comic situations are more general, so that the reader must know about Japanese culture to understand them. The humour is described by publications as being "bizarre" and "weird". It is also described as being divided between two categories: "sci-fi comedy" and a "samurai comedy" with the former referring to the aliens. It tends to point out "an irritating foible about modern society" including celebrations days or famous mythical figures. Additionally, there are references to several historical figures with a few characters from the story being based on them. Besides the series' comedy, the aliens' invasion in Japan bring several social issues between them and the humans with the most recurring one being the lack of social equality.
In 2003, Hideaki Sorachi was an up-and-coming mangaka who had already created two one-shots for the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. Although he was preparing to write his first serialized series, his editor suggested he create a manga series based on the Shinsengumi, mostly inspired by an upcoming TV-drama about the 1860s troupe as depicted by idol actors. Sorachi attempted to create this series since he admitted to liking the Shinsengumi, but ultimately failed to get anything off the ground. Instead of abandoning the idea completely, he remained focused on the historical Japanese era but began to create his own story, adding in elements of science fiction and fictionalizing many of the figures from the era to create a story more to his own liking. The original title of the series was meant to be "Yorozuya Gin-san" (万事屋銀さん?, lit. "General Merchant Gin-san"), but it did not have any impact on Sorachi. After great debate, he decided to go with the name Gin Tama after discussing it with his family, deciding on a name that sounded close to the edge without being completely off it. Although Sorachi considered the one-shot "Samuraider" to be very poor, the setting of such one-shot served as the base for Gin Tama such as the addition of alien characters. Sorachi had little hope on the manga's popularity, as he noted that people used to tell him the manga would not surpass the number of two tankōbon volumes. However, once the third volume was released, Sorachi found that he did not have "any fresh material to use".
The main character of the series was originally meant to be Toshiro Hijikata as Sorachi was a fan of the Shinsengumi, most notably from Hijikata Toshizō (the Shinsengumi who was the base for the one of Gin Tama), after he saw the film Burn! Sword!. When Sorachi could not "shake off" Hijikata's initial design, he decided not to use him as the lead character, but added him along with the Shinsengumi to the story. The pilot chapter from the series had a different plot to the one from the serialization: Shinpachi already met Gintoki in the story and there were more Shinsengumi to the story such as one based on Harada Sanosuke. As all these new Shinsengumi were older than most of the recurring characters from the series, Sorachi removed them thinking they were not entertaining. When asked by a fan, Sorachi mentioned that most characters from the series are based on real-life Edo citizens while Gintoki's character is roughly based on the folk hero Sakata Kintoki.
During the first year of the series, Sorachi believed that the source of the popularity of Gin Tama was partially connected to the Shinsengumi drama. While the drama ran during the first year of the series, when the manga was mostly shorter stories that established the characters and the world, he felt uncomfortable of making things related to the drama. By the second year and beyond, he became more daring in his stories and concepts, creating longer storylines that included more drama while keeping his sense of humor and satirization of modern Japan by way of his fictionalized past. When working in the chapters Sorachi commonly has problems to finish the manuscript, leaving his supervisor to take it before he could revise it. He figures on what to write by staying in his room or by going for a walk. Although he commented that some of his ideas are "random", he focuses on the fact that they are related to the manga. However, when he has problems to figure out what ideas, Sorachi is normally helped by his editor. Thinking of Gin Tama as a "non-sense manga", before creating a chapter, Sorachi think whether the chapter should be a comedy or a drama. When writing lines in the series, Sorachi commonly uses a felt-tip pen, a fountain pen, a brush-tip pen and a multiliner. For the major lines of characters he only uses a felt-tip pen and a fountain pen, while for the outlines a multiliner-0.8.
The manga chapters of Gin Tama are written and illustrated by Hideaki Sorachi. They have been serialized for the manga anthology book Weekly Shōnen Jump from Shueisha since December 8, 2003. Over two-hundred chapters identified as a "Lesson" have been serialized. Shueisha is also publishing the first chapters of Gin Tama online on their Weekly Shōnen Jump official website. Viz Media licensed Gin Tama for publication in North America. A 55-page preview from the series was first featured in the January 2006 Shonen Jump issue. Viz acquired the license to publish chapters from the series in the Shonen Jump during the San Diego Comic-Con International from 2006. The chapters were serialized in Shonen Jump from January to May 2007 at a rate of one chapter a month.
Shueisha has been collecting the chapters in tankōbon volumes with the first being published on April 2, 2004. As of April 30, 2010[update], thirty-four volumes have been released in Japan. In North America tankōbon are published under Viz's "Shonen Jump Advanced" imprint. The first volume was published on July 3, 2007, while currently, nineteen volumes have been released.
Original video animations
Two original video animations (OVA) of Gin Tama were developed by Sunrise for the Jump Festa Anime Tour so far. The first one, having the same title and being shown in Jump Festa 2005, is composed of various autoconclusive stories meant to introduce the characters from the series. The second OVA named Shiroyasha Kotan (白夜叉降誕?, lit. "White Demon's Birth"), was shown in Jump Festa 2008. It is initially set in the war between aliens and samurais and it is later revealed to be a hoax. On September 30, 2009, a DVD named Gintama Jump Anime Tour 2008 & 2005 was published by Aniplex. It contains the 2005 and 2008 OVAs and an audio commentary.
An anime adaptation by Sunrise debuted on TV Tokyo on April 4, 2006. The first ninety-nine episodes were initially directed by Shinji Takamatsu. Episodes 100 to 105 were directed by Takamatsu and Yoichi Fujita, while the following episodes are being directed only by Fujita. The subtitle for the Gin Tama anime could be loosely translated as "The starting point is the utmost importance for anything, so trying to outdo oneself is just about right." During January 2009, Fujita mentioned he was not going to work in the fourth season of the series starting in such year. However, in February 2009, it was confirmed that the anime would continue for a fourth year, once again directed by Fujita. Although the series ended on March 25, 2010 with a total of 201 episodes, Fujita hinted the anime will continue once the staff get enough material to work on it. Takamatsu claimed the TV series "is absolutely not over. It hasn't even begun yet! It will definitely return." In December 2010, Shueisha stated that the Gin Tama anime would resume.
On April 5, 2010, TV Tokyo stations began airing high-definition reruns of older episodes of Gin Tama under the title Yorinuki Gin Tama-san (よりぬき銀魂さん?, literally "The Very Best of Gin Tama"), the title being a parody of the "best of" reruns of the anime Sazae-san. In addition to being broadcast in HD, new opening and ending animations and themes have been made. The opening and ending for episodes 1-9 are Does's "Bakuchi Dancer" (バクチ・ダンサー Bakuchi Dansā?, lit. "Gambling Dancer") and "Bokutachi no Kisetsu" (僕たちの季節?, lit. "Our Season"). Starting with episode 10 and going to 26, the opening was changed to Joe Inoue's "Kaze no Gotoku" (風のごとく?, lit. "Like the Wind") and the ending was changed to Vijandeux's "WAVE". Starting with episode 27, the opening changed to Chiaki Kuriyama's "Kanōsei Girl" (可能性ガール Kanōsei Gāru?, "Probable Girl") and the ending changed to Azu's "IN MY LIFE".
In Japan, Aniplex distributes the anime in DVD format. A total of thirteen volumes were released for the first season, between July 26, 2006 and June 26, 2007. The second season was released over another set of thirteen volumes between July 25, 2007 and July 23, 2008. Season 3 was also released in thirteen volumes from August 27, 2008 to August 26, 2009. The fourth season was collected released in thirteen DVD volumes from October 28, 2009 to October 27, 2010.
In November 2008, an agreement was reached between TV Tokyo and the streaming video service Crunchyroll. Crunchyroll would stream English-subtitled episodes for free one week after they had aired in Japan. Paying subscribers can watch new episodes an hour after they air in Japan. On January 8, 2009, Crunchyroll uploaded their first episode (episode 129) to the service. Alongside new episodes each week, Crunchyroll also uploads episodes from the beginning of the series. The anime is licensed by Sentai Filmworks, with distribution from Section23 Films. Section23 Films' Chris Oarr commented that only the first two seasons were licensed, with an option on the rest. The first collection containing thirteen English-subtitled episodes was released on DVD, April 27, 2010.
In October 2009, Warner Bros. registered the Internet domain name "Gintama-movie.com" although they did not confirm the making of a film. In the 2009's 58th issue of Weekly Shōnen Jump, released later that month, it was confirmed the development of such film giving also the tagline "Gintama Wasshoi Matsuri!!" with "Wasshoi" being a shout commonly done in Japanese festivals. Titled Gintama: Shinyaku Benizakura-Hen (銀魂 新訳紅桜篇?, lit. "Gintama: A New Retelling Benizakura Arc"), the film's plot is a retelling of the story arc from Gin Tama in which Kotaro Katsura is attacked by a member of the army Kiheitai, and Odd Jobs Gin start searching for him. One of the TV commercials of the film teases that the "true last scene" of the anime is in the film. Does provided the musical theme "Bakuchi Dancer" (バクチダンサー?) for the film. It premiered on April 24, 2010, picking up US$2.118.342 on 90 screens during its first days. The film was released in DVD in both regular and limited releases on December 15, 2010, the latter including a bonus CD.
The music for the Gin Tama anime is composed by Eiichi Kamagata. On September 27, 2006, Audio Highs published the first CD soundtrack for the series known as Gintama Original Soundtrack. It featured 36 tracks including the TV version from the first opening theme and the first two ending themes. The second CD soundtrack, Gintama Original Soundtrack 2, was released on November 11, 2007. It included 40 tracks but it did not have TV versions of the opening and ending themes from the series. The latest CD is Gintama Original Soundtrack 3 published on June 24, 2009. It features a total of 28 tracks including the theme "Dondake! Gintaman" (どんだけー! ギンタマン?) which was used as a gag in episode 100 from the series. Apart from soundtracks from the TV series, on March 25, 2009, it was published Gintama The Best which is composed of a CD and a DVD. The former includes the fullversions from the first five opening themes of the series and the first nine ending themes. The latter features the videos from the musical themes from the former but without credits.
A series of light novels based on the Gin Tama manga have been authored by Tomohito Ōsaki, illustrated by Hideaki Sorachi, and published by Shueisha. They feature the series characters transposed to a school setting with Gintoki acting as their teacher. It is running in Jump Square under the title 3-Nen Z-Gumi Ginpachi-sensei (3年Z組銀八先生?, lit. "Grade 3 Class Z Ginpachi-sensei"). The first novel was published on February 3, 2006, while as of April 4, 2009, four light novels have been published by Shueisha.
In Japan, a PlayStation 2 Gin Tama game, Gintama: Together with Gin! My Kabuki District Journal (銀魂 銀さんと一緒!ボクのかぶき町日記 Gintama Gin-san to Issho! Boku no Kabuki-chō Nikki?), was released on August 30, 2007, and a Wii game, Gintama: General Store Tube: Tsukkomi-able Cartoon (銀魂 万事屋ちゅ〜ぶ ツッコマブル動画 Gintama Yorozuya Chūbu Tsukkomaburu Dōga?), was released on October 25, 2007. A game for the Nintendo DS called Gintama: Silver Ball Quest: Gin's Job-Change to Save the World (銀魂 銀玉くえすと 銀さんが転職したり世界を救ったり Gintama Gintama Kuesuto Gin-san ga Tenshoku-shitari Sekai o Sukuttari?) was released on December 6, 2007. Other two games for the DS include Gintama Dee-Ess: Odd Jobs Grand Riot! (銀魂でぃ〜えす・万事屋大騒動! Gintama Dīesu Yorozuya Daisōdō!?) and Gintama: Gintoki vs. Hijikata!? The Huge Fight Over Silver Souls in the Kabuki District!! (銀魂 銀時vs土方!? かぶき町銀玉大争奪戦!! Gintama Gintoki vs Hijikata!? Kabuki-cho Gitama Daisōdatsusen!!?). Also, there have been two Nintendo DS games featuring Gin Tama characters so far: the Weekly Shōnen Jump crossover Jump Superstars and its sequel, Jump Ultimate Stars.
There have been three guidebooks for Gin Tama: two for the manga and one for the anime. The first guidebook for the manga is Gintama Official Character Book - Gin Channel! (銀魂公式キャラクターブック「銀ちゃんねる！」 Gintama Official Character Book - Gin Chaneru!?) released by Shueisha on April 4, 2006. It features characters files, an interview with Hideaki Sorachi and original character stickers. The second book is Gintama Official Character Book 2 - Fifth Grade (銀魂公式キャラクターブック2 「銀魂五年生」 Gintama Official Character Book 2 - Gonen-Sei?) which was published on May 5, 2009. Like the previous book, this one also has an interview with Sorachi and files for the new characters that have appeared in the series since the first guidebook's release. The guidebook for the anime is named Gintama Official Animation Guide "Gayagaya Box" (オフィシャルアニメーションガイド 銀魂あにめガヤガヤ箱?). It was published on April 4, 2008 to celebrate the airing of the anime's 100th episode. This guidebook features commentaries by the Japanese voice actors and the cast from the series.
With 31 volumes released as of December 2009, the Gin Tama manga has sold 29 million units in Japan. In March 2007, Shueisha announced that sales of the first volume had passed one million copies. Following volumes from the manga have also had good sales, having appeared various times in the Japanese comic ranking. The 17th volume from the manga ranked as the 10th bestseller volume from Japan during 2007. During 2008, the manga ranked as the 10th bestseller series with over 2.3 million copies sold. It also hit number 5 in Japan in the most sold manga in the first half of 2009 list, selling over 2.7 million volumes through out November 17, 2008 to May 17, 2009. In 2008 Gin Tama was featured in two Oricon surveys; it ranked at the top as "funniest manga" and 5th in "most interesting manga". In another survey from 2009, it was listed as the sixth choice for what manga could adapted into a live-action film. In a poll from Zassosha's Puff Japanese manga magazine, Gin Tama was second in the category "Best Long Stories". Fuji News Network has cited Gin Tama as one of the responsibles for the wooden swords' popularity during 2008 as Hokkaido's retailers have experienced brisk sales in wooden swords to foreigners. In North America, Gin Tama has ranked as the best new shonen manga from 2007 in About.com's 2007 Readers Poll: Best New Shonen Manga. In the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation Award from 2008, Gin Tama was nominated for the category "Best Manga - Comedy", losing to Negima! Magister Negi Magi. English sales from the manga volumes have also been good with some of them having appeared in Diamond Comic Distributors's Top 300 Graphic Novels.
The first Gin Tama light novel became the top selling novel from Japan during 2006. The same achievement was made by the third novel during 2008. The anime adaptation has also been featured several times in the Japanese TV ranking, with the first two episodes having a rating of 5.6. DVD sales of the series have also been featured in the Japanese anime DVD ranking various times, while the third DVD of season 3 ranked ninth in the Japanese Amazon.com Top Ten of best sellers DVDs during 2008. In August 2008, TV Tokyo announced that Gin Tama and Naruto "contributed to robust sales of overseas rights in the last fiscal year which ended in March." In a poll from Puff, Gin Tama won in the category "Best Animation". In April 2010, it was listed as the 13th best anime between April 2009 and March 2010 by Animage. The DVD from the Gin Tama OVAs became the top-selling OVA in Japan during 2009, having sold 61,226 units after two weeks of being released. In the Oricon survey "2009's Top-Selling DVDs in Japan", the same DVD ranked at the top of the category "Animation/Special Effects DVDs" with a total of 76,000 units sold. The CD soundtrack Gintama The Best received the "Animation Album of the Year award" from the Kinema Junpo's DVD Navigator Japanese magazine.
Critical response to the Gin Tama manga has generally been positive. Carlo Santos from Anime News Network found the manga to be a "one-of-a-kind comedy" praising the characters' personalities and gags. On the other hand, the artwork was criticized for being "hard to follow" when there are fast scenes. Jokes regarding clichés from other shōnen series were also positively received by About.com writer Deb Aoki, who, like Santos, found the artwork to be "the only thing that distracts from the otherwise considerable pleasures of this loveable, goofy manga". However, characters' designs were praised for its variations including the ones from the aliens appearing in the series by Katherine Dacey from Pop Culture Shock who remarked that "These characters add visual interest and life to every panel, keeping the reader invested when the stories stall." Other negative comments regarding the manga have the few number of aliens appearing in the series as well as how some chapters are focused in fights such as Hijikata's fight against Gintoki. Michael Aronson from Manga Life concluded his review of the manga by saying that "The potential is there, but the execution is struggling" as still he liked the comedy from the story. Comics Village's Alex Hoffman mentioned that Gin Tama "can't truly be compared to those comics because of one thing: the jokes." He found the context from the series hilarious and like how there are new jokes in every chapter. Like other reviewers, Hoffman also disliked Sorachi's artwork, but still found the manga to be "a great comedy, or a great read." Comic Book Bin writer Leroy Douresseaux found that the large number of characters with different appearances in the series allow the reader to remain entertained with the series as "at least every few pages or so present some unusual and interesting visual."
The anime adaptation of Gin Tama has received positive and mix responses. The humor was noted to improved after the series' introduction although some jokes were hard to understand due to the fact some of them are references to Japanese culture and other series. The small amount of notes for the DVD releases was criticized in order to explain cultural jokes. Additionally, the humor's quality was found to be inconsistent within the first episodes due to the depth some bring, to the point that some viewers may abandon the series. The quality from the series was found to improve as the series continues as people would not be intimidated by its large amount of episodes. The characters' action were praised due to their knowledge that they are in a TV series, while the female characters were found appealing, something noted to be unusual for some other anime.
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- Official Gin Tama manga website (Japanese)
- Official TV Tokyo Gin Tama website (Japanese)
- Official Sunrise Gin Tama website (Japanese)
- Official Warner Brothers Gintama: Shinyaku Benizakura-Hen website (Japanese)
- Gin Tama (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Gin Tama (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia