Review: 'Gintama' is a sterling example for all anime adaptations to follow

Marcus Goh
Contributor

 

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Secret ending? Sort of.

Running time: 131 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

“Gintama” is a Japanese action comedy in Japanese that’s based on the anime and manga series of the same name.

The film revolves around the adventure of Gintoki, a samurai for hire in a world where aliens exist and samurai are no longer respected. Gintoki soon comes upon a case dealing with haunted swords, and finds that there is a much more sinister plot afoot in Japan.

The film is directed and written by Yuichi Fukuda. It stars Shun Oguri (Gintoki Sakata), Masaki Suda (Shinpachi Shimura), Kanna Hashimoto (Kagura), Yuya Yagira (Toshiro Hijikata), HIrofumi Arai (Nizo Okada), Ryo Yoshizawa (Sougo Okita), Akari Hayami (Tetsuko Murata), Tsuyoshi Muro (Gengai Hiraga), Masami Nagasawa (Tae Shimura), Masaki Okada (Kotaro Katsura), and Takayuki Yamada as the voice of Elizabeth.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

I’m only a casual fan of “Gintama” but I was highly surprised to see how much the film recreated the feel of the anime. Due to obvious physical constraints, it’s often difficult for live-action adaptations of anime/manga to do justice to the source material. Sometimes elements have to be adapted differently, or the more fantastical elements are omitted altogether. But “Gintama” manages to adapt as much as the running time of the film allows, and what follows is a film that shows us how faithful anime adaptations can be.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Highlights

Like anime come to life

The treatment of “Gintama” looks and feels like it was done by fans. Given that the writer-director, Yuichi Fukuda, also directed “HK2: The Abnormal Crisis”, it’s likely that this was the case. It’s not all just about the special effects, but the tone and treatment are spot on. It’s outlandish and funny without going overboard, and the creators clearly respect and understand anime.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Sprawling cast of characters

The huge number of supporting characters means that Gintoki feels like he’s in a living, breathing world. This helps with the world building, since we know that regardless of Gintoki’s fate, the rest of the world will still carry on. Of course, the film still firmly shines the spotlight on the title character, but the large cast helps to make it feel more real.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Fast-paced

“Gintama” moves along at a chipper pace. Despite the long run time, the rapidly developing plot means that you never feel that it’s stalling for time, and the numerous action scenes and set pieces create the visual spectacle that makes the film so interesting to watch. Don’t let the run time fool you – “Gintama” never gets draggy.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

All sorts of humour

Unlike other anime adaptations which sometimes ramp up the physical comedy (in the mistaken assumption that it’s targetted at a younger audience, which isn’t always the case), “Gintama” includes cleverer comedy that’s still accessible even if you don’t speak Japanese. There are smart, subtle jokes, as well as character-driven ones, which means that the film has a good handle on comedy.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Fun and lively effects

The special effects have to be lauded. While they’re not cutting edge, they’re artfully done, with a mix of practical effects and digital effects that recreate the world of “Gintama”. It also doesn’t look like it was done on an exorbitant budget either, proving that you can create an anime-esque film without using too much CGI.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

Letdowns

Plot is confusing and convoluted

If there’s one flaw with “Gintama”, it’s that the plot moves so rapidly that it’s difficult to follow. If it’s your first encounter with the franchise, then you might also be hard-pressed to keep up with all the characters that pop up as well. A little more exposition would have helped make the sequence of events clearer.

“Gintama”. (Encore Films)

“Gintama” is a sterling example for all anime adaptations to follow. It shows us that today’s filmmaking technology is at a level where it can believably create anime worlds, and bring life to our favourite characters who thus far only existed on the page and the small screen. After “Gintama”, live-action film adaptations of anime/manga stories have no reasonable excuse to omit the fantastical elements anymore.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this more than once? No.

Score: 4.0/5

“Gintama” opens in cinemas:
– 3 August, 2017 (Singapore)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Police & Thief”, “Incredible Tales”, “Crimewatch”, and “Point of Entry”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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