Gintama is a tough show to recommend to newcomers (or even fully review). There are hundreds of episodes, the humor might be too Japanese and the show doesn’t even get half as good as it is now until like 50 episodes in. It takes commitment, time and patience to fully enjoy everything Gintama has to offer.
But because the show meant (means) a lot to me, I knew that I had to get my friends to watch it somehow. And the only way I was able to successfully do this was to get them to watch selected episodes, not necessarily the best of the series, but some of the greatest material it has in terms of both comedy and drama.
I know that it’s cheating, but I figured if I can get my friends to see Gintama’s potential, they could go watch the rest of it by themselves… and 9 times out of 10, they do. So, here’s a list of some of the best episodes and story-arcs that would make for perfect gateways into the series.
I feel like a drug pusher…
I know I just said that Gintama doesn’t reach its potential until like fifty episodes in, but as an entry point to the series, I think episode three is still one of the bests there is. It introduces us to the world, to Shinpachi and of course to the main protagonist, Gintoki. It gives viewers a taste of the show’s humor and gives a subtle hint that maybe Gintoki is more of a badass than a goofball.
Episode 47 gives us a simple Gintama premise: Our protagonists, the Yorozuya, have to do something simple, they overthink the situation and then comedy happens. In episode 47 Gintoki, Shinpachi and Kagura are ordered to hand a circulating notice to their new neighbor Hedero.
And uh… Hedero looks like this.
Because of his appearance, Gintoki and the others automatically assume that Hedero is an evil villain who wishes to take over the Earth—and despite having fought actual evil villains before his demonic appearance scares the heck out of them and as they attempt to give Hedero the notice, the deeper into their paranoia they get. It’s a great episode and opens with one of my favorite bits in the series.
Here we tackle one of our first story-arcs, this one being the “Fuyo Arc”. The Fuyo Arc introduces Tama, an android made to serve humans and one of the more prominent side characters the protagonists will often run into over the course of the series. This one here’s a great story arc to watch as it really shows Gintama being hilarious and at the same time dramatic and intense.
Another great story-arc that doesn’t really need a lot of past experience with the show (sort of) is the “Yagyu Arc”. You might probably need to know in advance who the Shinsengumi trio are, but the arc itself does a pretty good job of showing off just what kind of people Kondo, Sougo and Hijikata are—or at least how they are in this show. Not only that, despite not being a core story arc that involves the villainous Takasugi and the Harasume, this one still has some of the best fighting the show has to offer—also, it has the four-way bathroom duel.
What’s the four-way bathroom duel? Imagine running out of toilet paper after pooping in the toilet. And now imagine the people on the stall next to you being two of your enemies and one of your uneasy allies. Now imagine all of you not having any toilet paper to wipe your butt with… Now imagine everyone being stupid. That’s the four-way bathroom duel.
The Shinsengumi are hilarious, so here’s a two-parter that pits them against the Yorozuya. In the episodes 98-99, Gintoki and friends are tasked with standing in line for the midnight release of the Owee gaming system… It’s a stupid two-parter episode and an awesome treat for all gamers out there.
Episode 110 and maybe 225-226
Katsura Kotarou was a prodigy, a genius tactician and feared swordsman that lived through the war against the Amanto… And he’s one of the stupidest characters in the whole series. In episode 110, a convict plans to make an escape at a high security island prison—problem is, Katsura becomes his new neighbor… And fearing that Katsura might sell him out, the convict stays… Vying his time and plotting of ways on how to kill Katsura… which obviously doesn’t work because Gintama is Gintama.
225-226 brings back a great character from episode 110—the insecure murderer. I forgot his name, but I love how Katsura initially called him out for his tacky sense of fashion.
Kagura can’t go to sleep. Gintoki wants to go to sleep. Kagura bothers Gintoki. It’s one of my favorites.
This one might not be the best episode to jump into for newcomers, but the fact that it features pretty much all of the show’s recurring cast members and that it’s absolutely insane warrants a watch. It does a good job at showing viewers just how insane Gintama can be, and it might be a good episode that introduces every recurring character and their quirks.
Episode 266-267 (Episode 1 of the 2015 series)
This one’s another episode that features a majority of the main recurring cast. Gintoki wakes up and realizes that everyone in the world has been frozen in time except for him, Kagura and Shinpachi. It’s an episode where three idiots try to fix a futuristic alien device and an episode that yet again shows just how insane Gintama can be. Check it out.
You might not find this one in Crunchyroll, but you can definitely find an English dubbed DVD of this one. The Benizakura Movie is a retelling of the Benizakura arc from the show. Other than for its glossier and sexier animation there’s really not much of a difference from its episode 58-61 counterparts. If you can, watch the movie over the episodes simply because it’s just prettier and has more of a budget to it.
Speaking of English dubs… Gintama doesn’t have one. So if you’re a dub only watcher then chances are this might not be the show for you. There are also plenty of cultural walls to overcome and references that might fly over people’s heads. So again, it’s a hard show to get into—but as a fan and friend of fans, I know for a fact that it’s worth the watch.
From the hilarious comedic episodes to its more somber and intense story-arcs, Gintama is definitely one of the best shows out there so I suggest that all anime fans go give it a shot.