Gintama Shinyaku Benizakura-hen Movie
What this is about: Watching all of the anime shows so you don’t have to! While I have already finished off my year-end review of 2010 anime shows, there are a handful of shows that have become available in the past few months. For more information about me and my reviews, click here.
Movie Premise: Gintama: Shinyaku Benizakura-hen, or “Gintama: A Retelling of the Benizakura Arc” is a feature-length movie that appeared in theaters in Japan on April 24, 2010. The movie is a re-telling of one of the main storylines from the long-running Gintama series. Set in an alternate timeline, the story follows the samurai Gintoku and his two younger associates as they take up various odd jobs to pay the rent. In the nineteenth century, aliens invaded and conquered Japan, leading to an unusual mix of Japanese culture and alien technology. In this movie, Gintoki investigates the disappearance of the legendary Benizakura sword while Kagura and Shinpachi investigate the disappearance of one of their friends. Both trails lead to the same place as they discover a terrible new weapon is being developed.
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ep. tl;dr review: Old television episodes warmed over; Nothing new here for existing fans, coonfusing mess for non-fans.
Spoiler-Free Set-Up: Welcome to Edo, Japan…but this is not the Japan you are used to. Back in the nineteenth century, aliens conquered the country; they outlawed samurai swords, but they also brought with them all sorts of advanced technology. Fast-forward to the present, where Gintoki is a wayward samurai just trying to make a living. Together with his younger accomplices, Shinpachi and Kagura, they take all sorts of odd jobs to pay the rent. One of these jobs is to find out what has happened to the legendary Benizakura sword, which has gone missing. Gintoki would rather be out looking for his friend, Katsura, who has also gone missing, but instead Shinpachi and Kagura are on the case. It’s no surprise as their paths cross, as they come across a man named Nizou, who has become mad with power as he wields a deadly blade powered by alien technology and intelligence. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as it all leads to a plot to overthrow the government with an awesomely powerful weapon. With Gintoki almost-mortally wounded and Kagura captured, how will they save the day?
My Reaction: Before proceeding any further, I must disclose that I am *not* a Gintama fan, and have not watched the series or read any of the manga. Everything I know about it comes from reading some reviews online, and from watching one episode (the start of the new 2011 season) a few days earlier. In that review, I basically panned the show as a confusing mish-mash of fourth-wall and inside jokes that just aren’t funny, and concluding that I didn’t like it but would really have to check out earlier episodes to get a better feel for the show so I could judge it more accurately.
And, rather fortuitously, this movie came along.
I watched it cold, not knowing anything about the movie before watching. But reading reviews later, I learned it is essentially a re-telling of the “Benizakura arc” of the television series, episodes #58 through #61 to be precise. Furthermore, many fans consider this among the best that Gintama has to offer. Hey, it’s like they read my mind, score!
But if this is considered “the best of Gintama”, then I have to wonder just how awful the rest of the show is, because this movie was not exactly a masterpiece of adventure/comedy. If anything, the movie convinced me that Gintama is definitely NOT worth wasting any time on. On one hand there were far fewer of the tiresome, annoying self-referential jokes in the movie compared to the episode #202 I had watched earlier (thankfully), but instead they just seemed to pile on a ridiculous amount of fighting until it just became absurd…as in one man taking down an entire flying fortress with a single swing of a sword blade.
There was one major plotline running through the entire movie involving the Benizakura sword, and the story did focus a handful of main characters. But since the story was lifted directly from the television episodes (essentially whole-cloth), there were other side characters and hints at other side-stories that left me scratching my head in confusion. I’m sure it all made sense to the seasoned Gintama fan, but it all seemed so pointless to me. I guess I could go on with nit-picking all sorts of plot holes and such nonsense, but frankly I don’t really care enough for that. I think I’m through with Gintama.
FINAL GRADE: C- – Every feature-length movie that I review gets a “letter grade”, and this one falls on the lower end of the scale. I’m having some trouble understand who exactly this movie is aimed at, to be honest. With the exception of a couple minutes tacked on to the beginning and end of the movie, a couple of extra (extraneous?) scenes and some minor twiddling, it is nothing more than 4 episodes of the television series mashed together. If I was a hardcore Gintama fan, I would be pissed off beyond belief — what’s the point? (Then again, I’ve learned from reading online forums that the Gintama fanbase is rabidly loyal, almost as bad as the Narutards and Bleach-heads, happily willing to eat a big pile of shit without realizing that it really is shit. So, the fact that the movie is 90% old stuff probably doesn’t faze them a bit.) For the non-fan (like myself), it’s all loud and confusing and quite a mess — this movie hardly serves as a good introduction the the world of Gintama.
- Videos and Previews:
- Additional Info Resources:
- Official United States Licensing Information:
- Episodes available on Crunchyroll, but the movie is not yet available in the United States (but it was produced by Warner Brothers, so I would expect it to be available in the future)
- The Blog-Roll of Reviews:
- “It is a good thing that I am familiar with the Gintama series. If you are too, prepare to be let down. I dislike recap movies to begin with, but this is one of the laziest recap movies I’ve ever seen. Grade: D+.” – Japan Cinema
- “In contrast, Gintama just feels lazy. It’s practically lifeless, even, aimless doodles in a scrapbook that don’t mean anything to anyone bar exceptionally undemanding audiences or those fans who’ve committed the print volumes and the animated series to memory already. At no point do you lose yourself in the story or the setting – it’s a fight scene followed by a gag, then another gag, then a meta reference, then a set piece, then another brief flurry of action and on and on until you realise that was it, and the credits are rolling.” – Twitch Film
- “So yeah, this movie is pointless. It gets some points for being a good story with nice action and voice acting, but all of that was just completely copied from the TV-series. Grade: 65/100.” – Star Crossed Anime Blog
- “The Benizakura arc is awesome and watching it again never gets old. Those, who haven’t seen the series, can still watch the movie and enjoy it. Grade: 10/10.” – My Anime List Reviews
Odds ‘n’ Ends to Review Left Over from 2010: Colorful Movie, Pokemon Zoroark: Master of Illusions Movie, Gunpla Builders, Naruto: The Lost Tower Movie, The Borrowers Movie, Votoms: Case Irvine, Votoms: Finder, Heartcatch Precure Movie, You Are Umasou Movie