the arc of all arcs is the anti-arc!!!!!

Rest assured, I have no idea what my title means, but I had to put in a plug for my favorite show’s come back and I know that I’m not the only fan, so…

If you haven’t watched the first arc of the new season of Gintama, watch it. NAU!

This show always manages to topple my conviction that I can’t possibly love it more than I already do. By surprising me with elements that make me reel with anticipation at studying it 10 years down the line when I might be able to sit down with industry people and have them chuckle fondly about what kind of problems the show faced with broadcasting and reception.

Yes, this show makes me imagine my future. Because, well, it is the future.

That’s deep y’all, sit on that.

Season 6 begins with Sakata Gintoki returning to Kabuki-cho after some time (his absence presumably echoing the show’s hiatus), only to find that his position as main character has been completely usurped by one Sakata Kintoki, a hero with the kind of personality you find in most RL conceptions of anime win. That is, in this imagination, straight silky golden blond locks, straight-shooting charisma, and impeccable hygiene.

Click here or for the OP/ED of Gintama‘s anti-world.

60 DVD volumes of memories with his friends, appropriately edited, reprogrammed, ps-d to oblivion.

Who is the culprit? How did this happen? Which Sakata of Kabuki-cho — gin or kin, silver or gold — will prevail?

In the usual manner of Gintama, you have meta upon meta and a structure that sucker punches you after every heart-stringing moment.

Season 5 ended on a rather strange note, with Sorachi gorilla (俺) appearing with a public statement about the circumstances of the show ending, with all sorts of oblique suggestions of TV code violations and the way the show is thought to be inappropriate (one too many censored penis, huh, Sora-papa?).

This arc can therefore be read as a kind of meta-rendition of the showdown between the kind of show Gintama is and the kind of show that perhaps typical Shonen-Jump audiences would have it be.

It’s a fan manifesto written for itself. An exegesis of why it can’t be anything but what it is.

Yes, and phallic imagery abounds. As does sadism and abjection. (As usual, though, Shinsengumi is left quite out of Kabuki-cho centric storylines.)

On the other hand…it gets you with the screwy friendships and plot developments (because by god this series storytells). It has trained us to read the subtext of violent language and wtf as the affections of a warped, but stronger-than-steel bondedness.

As such, tears are never cathartic in Gintama. They are a cue for Sorachi to come in with his meta-hammer and shatter the illusion of made-for-TV dramatics, never leaving us with a sense of being robbed, however…but, as in all well-executed gag, trashing the established (as by centuries of realist convention) border between their world and ours (with no more than a passive smile at modernist angst) so that we can wholly recognize it and claim it as our own.

I’ve only begun to follow this fandom in non-western contexts…but it is truly exceptional in the way it evokes and guides fans to inhabit its narrative world. In no other fandom do I see people riding such a linguistically, thematically, and generally unruly series with such intimate and instinctive, it seems, understanding of how it works.

Unlike the lip-service paid by most shonen heroics, Gintama is truly capacious enough for its fans and its enemies. It doesn’t surreptitiously distract you with careful, well-measured injections of fan-service (it wears its fan-service on its diegetic-commentary sleeve) nor does it blindside you with plothole-correcting speeches (*cough, cough* Bleach *cough*). Friend or foe, it takes you head-on with the full and unapologetic can’t stop won’t stop power of just the way it is.
And flat out dares you not to come along for the ride.