Monday, November 8, 2010

Gin Tama Volume 20

By Hideaki Sorachi. Released in Japan by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz.

Poor Gin Tama. Not only does it not do well in the North American sales charts compared to its other Jump brethren, but it doesn't even get respect among those who illegally scanlate the latest chapters from Japan! Determined to put out such titles as SWOT or Medaka Box as soon as the raws become available, uncaring scanlators leave Gin Tama alone for months at a time, only coming back when there's a big battle.

Luckily, there is an answer! You can buy the manga from Viz, thus supporting the artist and publisher! And as your reward, Kyoko Shapiro and Lance Caselman will translate all the difficult puns that give you headaches whenever you look at them! It's win-win! (I also note that Kyoko Shapiro, late of Aurora Press and now translating for Viz, has one of my favorite names ever.)

Meanwhile, back in Gin Tama, this volume starts out by quickly resolving the cursed sword arc that took up the majority of Volume 19. The traitor has been ferreted out, and the hired gun sent by Takasugi turns out to be no match for Gin's pure stubborn awesomeness. Gin is almost the perfect shonen hero, bellowing out that he's never fought any battles for a country or its people, but only to protect his friends, so nothing has changed.

Speaking of shonen awesomeness, I've noted the tendency Gin Tama has to sometimes kill people off, something usually avoided by other Jump titles. And here we have a traitor to the Shinsengumi, one who tried to have their captain killed. He can't be allowed to live, even if he has seen the error of his ways and realized how foolish he was. So they give him a sword, and let him die honorably in battle, cut down by Hijitaka. It's a beautiful thing.

The rest of this volume is, naturally, far more comedic and lighthearted, as Gin Tama returns to its gag manga roots. Whether it be mocking Jump artists' tendency to imitate Dragon Ball Z, having Yamazaki (who, surprise, isn't dead - see my review of Vol. 19) take an exam to see if he is fit to infiltrate the exclusionist rebels, or have everyone get shipwrecked while on a journey to the Dragon Palace, it's loud, brash, and very, very funny. Again, if you can't tolerate a manga whipsawing between low comedy and epic shonen drama, be wary of Gin Tama. Even a 2-part 'serious' story starring Kagura's father turns out to have been a setup for one giant punch line.

My favorite chapter was one focusing on Kagura, who is generally cast as the role of comedic bruiser so often that we forget she's also a teenage girl. She's noticing the females around town have very girly umbrellas, and decides to trade in her superpowered one for a frilly model. Of course, these frilly umbrellas are not much use in typhoons. What follows is a quiet but heartfelt chapter that emphasizes Kagura's good heart and tendency towards loneliness and self-doubt, something she's usually very good at covering up.

Gin Tama is the most diverse manga currently running in Shonen Jump, offering something for almost everyone. Not as full of itself as Bleach, nor as completely loopy as Bobobobo-Bobobo, Gin Tama strikes a nice balance that I admire, and continually makes me wonder what will happen next. This volumes ends on another cliffhanger, with Gin and Katsura transformed into old, decrepit men! What can possibly happen next? The preview seems to suggest it will involve a lot of dressing up as giant turtles...

2 comments:

  1. Scanlators don't want to scanlate it because Gintama is nothing but walls of text (which is true, sometimes). :P

    I loved the anime very much and I find it just freaking hilarious. I agree that the manga can appeal to just about anyone. Hell, regarding the latest volume in Japan (Vol.36), the cover references a J-Pop song that was played a lot over the summer in Japan (Kaela Kimura's "Ring-A-Ding-Dong").

    I consider One Piece & Gintama to be the crown jewels of Shonen Jump.

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  2. Love Gin Tama, and my favorite character is Kagura, for exactly the reasons you state--under all that superpowered armor, she's still a young teenaged girl, and her vulnerability and self conciousness, as well as her abilities to be both profound and wise as well as immature and silly are all-dare I say it?-realistically portrayed.

    I can easily imagine Kagura as a younger version of myself or an annoying younger sister. There are very few female shounen manga characters who are as relatable as Kagura. They are usually idealized in some way as love interests, invulnerable superheroines or damsels in distress, or even a mix of the three! (Male characters are often over idealized too, to be fair). Kagura was the first female character in Shonen Jump to throw up "on screen." She will back-talk her elders and then ask them for advice (which she will promptly ignore). She idealizes Otae (Shinpachi's older sister) and acts like one of the guys, but gets upset if people forget that she's a girl. She rarely needs saving, but she rarely takes charge--she's not old enough or mature enough to be in charge, and she knows it. When I compare her to other Shonen Jump heroines like Sakura in Naruto or Rukia and Orihime in Bleach, she's a breath of fresh air.

    As is the whole of Gin Tama as a manga and anime, with its combination of humor, parody, shtick and dark-themed character backrounds and arcs. Thanks for the review, and keep spreading the love!

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