By religiously recreating the tone and feel of the manga and anime, Gintama (2017) ends up being a weird and nonsensical watch. Fortunately, it redeems itself by openly acknowledging its many flaws.
Gintama (2017) Synopsis
Gintama (2017) is a live-action remake of the 2010 animated feature, Gintama: Shin’yaku Benizakura-Hen. Katsura Kotaro is attacked by a mysterious serial killer and the next morning, his body is found by Bafuku officials. While Shinpachi and Kagura search for Katsura, on behest of Elizabeth, Gintoki is tasked by a pair of swordsmith siblings to recover a missing family heirloom. After he is brutally attacked by the same serial killer, Gintoki learns that the heirloom, the cursed sword Benizakura, was stolen by the killer to incite revolt against the Bafuku. Soon, he also discovers that what he encountered is but the surface of the plot. At the heart of it lies his former comrade and arch-nemesis, the vicious Kiheitai leader Takasugi Shinsuke.
I assure you I’m not alone in this. I’ve long concluded that live-action renditions of popular manga and anime series tend to suck. Big time.
There are just so many problems with such efforts. What’s comedic in print or animation tends to be unbearable in real-life. What’s oshare and cool also feels disturbing when repeated on an actual person. It’s like watching a cosplay parade at its worst and weirdest.
And though most of us wouldn’t actively notice it, our minds fill in a lot of blanks when reading manga or watching anime. In turn, we form deep perceptions of beloved characters from doing so. The slightest deviation, we immediately feel the character is wrong. So completely misinterpreted.
Gintama (2017) suffers from every one of these issues. In some cases, badly. What lifts it, on the other hand, is how it openly, even gleefully, embraces its flaws. Five minutes into the movie, the main trio pops up in a crudely animated sequence, acknowledging these shortcomings and indirectly begging the audience to be forgiving. (They also declare outright they KNOW die-hard Gintama fans would diss the movie) This makes a difference, though it doesn’t necessarily improve the viewing experience. During the most awkward scenes, I found myself remembering this exhortation and as a result, much more inclined to forgive. Unlike how I would be with other movies, I also didn’t mind (that much) that the amanto were all wearing ridiculously cheap-looking masks and costumes. Even the badly rendered flying vessels didn’t feel that awful after a while.
In short, I’d say that while I didn’t end up loving Gintama (2017), neither did I step out of the cinema hating it. This is the result of the movie’s honesty, and I suspect some die-hard fans would feel as I did. In a way, I think it’s also hard to hate the movie, in spite of its many flaws and stumbles. Overall, it exudes such a strong determination to celebrate the source material. This determination pleases, even if the end result ultimately doesn’t.
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