Typically, an anime series whose length edges towards 400 episodes would lie so beyond “casual” that the mere suggestion of such a thing would be casual. Yet with my experiences hopping into and out of Gintama, either from dropping in on certain arcs or through being shown some standout episodes, I would say it fits the bill.
Day 5 of the 12 Days of Anime 2018
What many of the notable long-running shows—the likes of One Piece, Naruto, Black Clover, and so on and so forth—have in common is that they all tell heavily serialized stories. When a show like that takes on an episode count which extends into the hundreds, that’s a recipe for a surefire hardcore commitment.
I’ve found, however, that Gintama has been considerably more approachable than its twelve-year broadcast history would suggest. Granted, I did have a lot of outside help; my fiancée, Sandra, just got majorly into it this year, and I could always turn to her to get the CliffsNotes on things of note and importance.
Thus, maybe it’s not so much purely casual in the grander scheme of things, but even then, consider this: Whereas jumping in on an anime right in the middle of its run often tends to rob it of much of its impact—serialized storytelling depending on the experience of going through past episodes to enrich what it’s doing and all that—I feel like I always get (close to) the full essence of what Gintama is going for, no matter how isolated the episode(s).
Unlike a whole bunch of its long-running brethren, Gintama‘s storytelling is a way more episodic—often comedically episodic at that. Even when it goes for longer form multiple-episode arcs, and even when said arcs get more serious, it’s as if each of those arcs represents an isolated “episode” in its own right instead of being another piece in the tapestry of a grander narrative. That makes it one of the rare anime which I’ve found is wholly enjoyable even when viewed in bits and pieces. In that sense, this show strikes me as a kind of anime Simpsons or South Park.
It definitely helps that it does some things consistently excellent, no matter when I drop in. It’s also genuinely hilarious when on its A-game. As might be evident from the choice of thumbnail, I have a special affinity for the snow sculpture episode that introduced the Neo Armstrong Jet Armstrong Cannon. Sandra has also been diligent in showing me the glory that ensues whenever the Shogun gets involved. Katsura’s antics are just the right amount of un-self-aware stupid, and I cannot get enough of it. And so on, and so forth.
Perhaps more fundamentally important, the characters are wonderful, and despite how irreverent Gintama frequently gets, it also does not lack in heart or affection. There’s always something to learn about Gintoki, Shinpachi, Kagura, the Shinsengumi, and the rest of the whole ensemble, regardless of whether the occasion is hilarity or serious.
In fact, I’ve found that all of the ultra-absurd comedy actually enhances the more serious moments. Getting to know and appreciate what everybody brings to the table during the funny episodes—seeing how they are as people and what they’re up to when “the plot” is standing still—tends to mean being so much more invested when shit gets real, since Gintama then has the advantage of working with extremely fleshed-out characters, which viewers will have grown to care about in the meantime.
One of my anime-loving coworkers was adamant that I needed to see this show for the longest time, but I always kept it squarely on the backburner. It looks like the last laugh is his for the taking, though; I had been severely missing out for way too long, as it turns out.