Overview:

Gintama: The Very Final returns to its ultimate evil, Utsuro, as the driving force for the end of everything. It’s a properly cataclysmic event that brings the Odd Job crew and everyone else back together. Utsuro strives to end the entire universe as the only way to finally give his immortal soul rest. Despite the painful history that Gintoki, Katsura, and Takasugi share with Utsuro’s past self, they must finally face this fear, once and for all, to not just provide peace to their souls, but the entire universe.

Our Take:

There are a lot of anime out there that like to break the rules and lampoon the medium, but Gintama is in a class all of its own. It operates with an extra level of masterful self-awareness where nothing is off limits and it truly reaches Godly satirical heights. It’s as if somehow the strongest and smartest elements of South Park, The Simpsons, BoJack Horseman, and Rick and Morty all came together in a show that somehow only grows funnier, smarter, and more confident over the course of its 350+ episode run. 

There have been installments told with mannequins, biting commentary on character popularity polls, brilliant bottle episodes set inside bathroom stalls or around a hot pot, and multiple “fake endings” that mock the very concept of a series needing to say goodbye. There are things that are done in Gintama that have never been done before in any other anime series, let alone any animation in general. In that sense, Gintama: The Very Final is a bittersweet prospect since it does mark the end of a groundbreaking phenomenon, but it’s at least a rewarding finish that’s able to showcase the anime’s strengths and why it’s such a classic.

This movie really hits the ground running and it’s in its best nature that it really simplifies its plot into something that can just feature constant battles and reflective character moments. The final fight against Utsoro is the crux of Gintama: The Very Final, but it’s a distant goal that lets the characters work their way through hordes of enemies before they finally face the Big Bad who’s at the end of it all. The movie breaks itself up into distinct chapters in a manner that emphasizes the weight and themes of this final installment in the series.

Gintama: The Very Final is perhaps not expecting to draw in any viewers who are complete newcomers to the series, but the movie brilliantly summarizes the lengthy events of more than 350 episodes of Gintama in a way that makes this movie extremely accessible to Gintama outsiders. This primer on the series’ past is presented through a manga style sequence that’s not much longer than five minutes and is brilliantly filtered through the lens of Dragon Ball and Akira Toriyama, right down to the use of Cha-La Head Cha-La over the series’ past events. 

Each of the Gintama movies have been tremendously satisfying and funny, but they’re also never sharper when it comes to their meta tendencies, especially in the second feature film. Gintama: The Very Final’s Dragon Ball drenched introductory sequence immediately sets the tone and eases the audience into a comforting place where they can rest assured that this concluding chapter in the series will not disappoint. 

Gintama has acquired a truly gargantuan cast over the years and it’s quite impressive how Gintama: The Very Final provides a satisfying reintroduction and farewell to every single character from the series. It’s such a passionate and loving conclusion to this glorious world and it’s pretty difficult to not be satisfied with the events of this movie and where it decides to end. The movie allows its focus to roam, but the trio of Gintoki, Katsura, and Takasugi becomes a vital pillar to the story. These samurai are finally able to work together as a team as they rise together against their former master. It’s very fulfilling to watch them all fight in perfect precision. The comedic undertones are ever present in all of their battles together and the way in which these pained characters process years of trauma becomes emblematic of the movie’s ability to effectively balance Gintama’s extremely contrasting comedic and dramatic sensibilities.

The humor isn’t in short display, but the action in Gintama: The Very Final is especially fantastic. There are so many disposable bodies to take out that there are copious sequences where the entire supporting cast engage in wild battle royales with robots, guards, and more where they all show off their unique fighting styles and assets. The music knows how to compliment these busy moments and the movie also does a good job with how these group mob sequences are able to shift the focus on which of the many heroes get to lead the pack in their enemy takedowns. 

Gintama: The Very Final effectively strings one action sequence to the next, without them feeling repetitive or exhausting, while also justifying their presence for the most part. They also know exactly when to wrap things up, which is vital in a movie that’s filled with fight scenes. Endless battles can seriously drag things down when they’re improperly done. It’s also surprising and refreshing that some genuine horror elements are added to these showdowns. Many of the movie’s visuals and fight components are evocative of zombies, mummies, and other horror-centric creatures, yet with sci-fi subversions.

There have literally been hundreds of sword fights before, but it’s shocking how Gintama: The Very Final is still able to cultivate fresh content out of these traditional clashes. There’s a staggering fight between Gintoki and Utsoro that’s intercut with their clashes from their decades of history together (that’s honestly eerily reminiscent of a key final battle from out of this year’s Evangelion 3.0+1.0). This movie is full of powerful moments that successfully reflect the entire history of this series and draw moving parallels between the events of the movie and the past struggles and accomplishments of Gintoki and company. It’s a strategy that should be taken by more movies that have such a storied history behind them.

The final act of Gintama: The Very Final is its strongest and it adopts a really creative structure that allows the series’ classic slice of life and lighter tendencies to flourish after the emotionally taxing action sequences that compose the movie’s core. It’s a very well paced and constructed approach for this final story that highlights each of Gintama’s assets–parody, action, and absurdist slice of life comedy–through the movie’s respective chapters. Gintama: The Very Final also poignantly explores the idea of how sometimes a movie doesn’t need to justify its existence. 

The pure desire for characters to want to be around each other and to continue doing what they’re good at can be enough, whether it’s Odd Jobs or Gintama as a whole. Admittedly, that’s a bit of a mixed message for a series that’s ending, but it’s reassuring to picture these characters continuing on with their nonsense and still around each other, even if it’s not being depicted in a series. It’s the closure that they deserve as opposed to an ending that needlessly separates them and treats that like some sort of progress, just because it’s different. Gintama finds power in how it confidently embraces that it knows what it wants to be as it says goodbye.

This approach to the ending is somewhat rushed, but it finds an angle that justifies its frenetic nature as it catapults between plot points. It’s ultimately worth it in exchange for all of the material that the final act of the film is able to cover. It’s more effective to take this approach and keep the movie contained to under an hour and forty-five minutes, whereas a final goodbye to the series could easily be over indulgent and push two and half hours or worse. Gintama: The Very Final exhibits restraint in this angle for its conclusion, even if it does have its chocolate parfait and eat it too with some decisions, but it feels like a strong end that’s authentic to the series’ nature.

One of the few struggles that Gintama has faced is how to properly balance its comedic and action-heavy tendencies and there are likely subsets of the fandom who lean more to “Comedy Gintama” or “Action Gintama.” The heightened cinematic nature of Gintama: The Very Final lends itself more to action spectacles and the movie is likely to please more of this side of the fanbase, but there’s still some very strong comedy that bookends the film. That being said, there’s arguably nothing that’s as hilarious as the movie piracy sequence that begins the previous Gintama movie, 

This push towards action does take advantage of the film’s budget and the quality of animation, which is easily the best that the series has ever looked. Gintama is never a series that’s pushed for flashy energy attacks and Godly transformations, so the beauty of the animation in Gintama: The Very Final can sometimes be more subtle and confined to simple things like elegant, detailed character models. All of the action sequences are able to accomplish what they need to without looking cheap, which is really the most important thing here. It doesn’t go out of its way to create over the top spectacles (although explosions are in healthy supply), but it makes sure that all of the action-heavy moments properly deliver.

Gintama is a series that hasn’t received a lot of attention when it comes to English dubs, and what does exist is also not the best representation of the series. It’s appreciated that both fans and newcomers are able to experience this concluding chapter of the story in English and it’s thankfully a faithful production with the voice cast all pouring a lot into these iconic characters, even if they don’t have hundreds of episodes of experience in these roles. Michael Daingerfield, Jocelyne Loewen, and Cole Howard bring the Odd Jobs team to life, with Joe Daniels as Katsura, Kyle Colby Jones as Takasugi, and Adam Gibbs gives a very nuanced performance with the duality of Shoyo and Utsuro.

There is absolutely nothing else out there like Gintama and the anime world will be just a little bit darker now that this pivotal action-gag-genre breaking-whatever anime series has concluded. If Gintama: The Very Final is in fact the conclusion of this anime’s 15-year saga then it’s an extremely satisfying way for the series to go out. It reaches an incredibly moving conclusion that finds the perfect tone between its disparate sensibilities and the emotionally resonant moments never get too sappy or melodramatic. Gintoki, Kagura, Shinpachi, and the rest of the rabid characters that fill the Gintama universe have always played by their own rules and that’s exactly how Gintama: The Very Final decides to say goodbye. 

 

Daniel Kurland

Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.

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