By Hideaki Sorachi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.
The last volume of Gin Tama took a situation that appeared to be very serious - Hasegawa's marriage troubles and his arrest and trial - and played it completely for laughs. So it's no surprise that this volume takes the utterly stupid premise of Hijikata getting a possessed sword that turns him into a raging otaku and taking it deadly serious. So serious that the plot takes up the entirely of the volume, and won't be finished till 20 comes out.
The reason for this, of course, is that Hijikata going on about 2D versus 3D and taping old sentai anime is funny, but Hijikata being terrified of violence and crawling on the ground pleading for his life is grounds for treason, especially in the Shinsengumi. As you may expect, he was completely set up, but that doesn't make the scenes of him when he's under the sword's control any easier to read about.
As for the others, things happen exactly as you'd expect. There's a new Shinsengumi returned from negotiating with the government for more money in the budget, and he's exactly as suspicious as you'd expect. There's Yamazaki, finding out the truth long before anyone else and them getting murdered, in the best ninja tradition. (If Yamazaki is genuinely dead, I'll show more sorrow next review, but I seriously doubt that he is.) Okita is acting like a giant jerk and convincing the enemy he's on their side... when of course he's entirely on his own side. And Kondo once again appears to be blissfully ignorant of everything, but reminds us once more why he's Captain.
Into all of this is added our three heroes, who are used more as a spice than anything else. Gin's reaction to Hijikata being possessed by the sword is really underplayed, as you can almost feel the disgust at the sword's possession roiling through him. Shinpachi and Kagura don't do much except panic (him) and become a giant blunt instrument of violence (her), but their reaction are fun to see, and prevent this from being too serious.
As for our villains, turns out they're both affiliated with Takasugi, who we hadn't seen in a while. The main villain I found rather dull (the one weak point of the book), as his was a very standard shonen (if I get power, I will gain acceptance and stop being so lonely) plot. The assassin, however, is another too cool for his own good character (that's him on the cover), and you knew he'd be the one to fight Gin the moment you saw him.
All of this ends in a giant melee battle, the results of which we will not see for another volume. But Gin Tama remains one of the most perfect shonen titles out there, balancing truly stupid comedic hijinx with a serious look at friendship, community, and what it means to carry a sword. Highly recommended.