Before I dive into reviewing what is possibly one of the best arcs of Gintama, I’d like to warn you that you are in for some major spoilers if you haven’t watched it yet so beware.
Like I said, the Shogun Assassination Arc is one of the best arcs of Gintama and there is just no denying that. Gintama has always been known for its comedy so seeing it go serious for a change was a nice surprise and the way the action fiesta was handled, it only made me love the series even more.
As the name suggests, the entire arc is about Shogun’s intended death and all throughout it, you’re left wondering if he is really dead. The whole plot has been so cleverly written that the drama keeps you on the edge and at no point can you predict if Shigeshige has really been assassinated by Zenzou or the ninja tribes or any other bully out for his blood.
The twists and turns are especially riveting. From Zenzou’s apparent betrayal to Kamui’s smacking of the enemy behind Kagura etc are very well handled and proves that Hideaki can do much more than just comedy.
The major draw of the arc, however, is the action and mind you, it is top notch. The advantage of watching shounen fights is that the action sequences are always very well executed. The writers always seem to understand the nuances of what makes a fight nail-biting and Hideaki Sorachi is not far behind. Every fight, be it Gintoki vs Takasugi, Kagura vs Kamui, the Gintoki parade vs the Yato clan or Zenzou vs Kiheitai, is dynamic and very fascinating to watch.
The action takes off with Okita facing Kamui. Both are insanely strong and coincidentally both revel in violence. No wonder it makes for a gripping match. To top it, the solid animation and the sadist personality of Okita up the excitement ante.
I would specially like to mention the part when Okita bluffs Kamui into believing he had lost his arm when in reality he uses the deception to severely injure Kamui’s hand.
We also unravel a new side to Kagura in her sibling spat with Kamui. We have so far known her as a super strong, gluttonous girl but with Kamui around, she is mature. She talks about bringing him back and about Yorozuya being her family. It is heart-warming to see her lecture her brother in that cute, childish voice of hers.
The sibling spat is closely followed by the most anticipated fight of all, Takasugi vs Gintoki and gladly, it doesn’t disappoint. The fight is gruelling, raw and savage. We see the resentment that was bottled up in Takasugi due to Shoyo’s death finally bubble up to the surface in the form of incessant punches.
I love how Gintoki talks about saving Takasugi ‘s soul and faces the brunt of his anger head on. We also, for a flitting moment, foresee redemption for Takasugi.
Another exciting fight was between the Yato clan and Shogun, Gintoki gang, Hijikata and Kondo. I love how they are far outmatched in sheer numbers by the Yato, yet they outperform the enemy with combo attacks and watching each other’s back.
The plot is augmented by the flashbacks and past sequences of the bond forged between Shigeshige and the ninja tribes when they were kids. The part especially talks about Zenzou’s friendship with Shigeshige and how he wants to fight alongside his friends for the peace of his country.
In addition, laced with Gintoki and Takasugi’s fight are the flashbacks of how all three of them, Gintoki, Takasugi and Katsura came to know Shoyo and what was it about him that compels the three so much to pursue their respective agendas. We also get to see the chemistry between the three friends and why they play such important roles in each other’s lives.
But the most heart wrenching was Gintoki’s story. It wrecks me to think he as a kid ate on the battlefield field with dead bodies lying around until he was found by Shoyo. Then to make it worse, he is forced to either save his friends or his sensei who practically brought him up. Of course, Shoyo wanted gintoki to save Takasugi and Katsura and gintoki knew it well. It is tragic to see how powerless Gintoki chops his beloved sensei’s head as Takasugi in the background screams for him to not. This puts in a lot of things in perspective and we finally understand why Takasugi us obsessed with power and the reason behind the equation he shares with Gintoki.
Despite of it being more of a serious and mature arc than what usually Gintama caters, there were enough comedic moments to keep the laughter kicking. It is hilarious to watch Gintoki pretend to be Shogun’s double. Then there is the revelation of Momochi’s real identity which tickles the funny bones. There are enough moments to provide that much needed comedic relief.
In conclusion, I loved this shift in content genre that Gintama had. This arc was incredible for it was full of action, comedy as well as emotions. I loved watching Takasugi reflect on his decision to turn evil and the fight with Gintoki was, needless to say, awesome. Everything about this arc was perfect. And in the end I just want to say, Shigeshige you were the only Shogun for us and we will miss you. We love you. Sayonara!