Gintama: A live-action adaptation that should have remained anime

Kagura, Shinpachi and Gintoki review their latest client.
Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Stars: Shun Oguri, Kanna Hashimoto, Masaki Suda, and Tsuyoshi Domoto
Rating: ★★½


What makes Gintama good? Not much. Japanese cinema’s latest attempt to adapt a beloved anime comedy to live-action is flawed and tonally bizarre. 

This film is a tough sell even among those who like seeing live-action versions of their favourite animated characters.

The world of Gintama is inherently suited to an anime approach, as it features outlandish alien creatures in a period setting and physical comedy and action that is translated best for a TV series.

However, the movie is faithful to the source material, for better or worse, and does its best to adapt all the comedic, action, and plot points. This means the inclusion of overly dramatic punches, yelling, and physical comedy with cartoonish violence.

Tonally, the film is a bit of a mess, as it shifts from serious to funny, exciting swordplay to cartoonish violence, and CG that doesn’t quite convince.

The same can be said for the plot as the film’s narrative largely revolves around Gintoki (Shun Aguriand his team in pursuit of a serial murderer who is under the employment of a shadowy figure, and their subsequent side quests along the way. If this sounds uninspiring, it’s because the film itself spreads this single plot thread for the entire duration of the film.

Elizabeth and Shinpachi get into a fight, showcasing how outlandish the film is.

This shadowy figure’s acting and portrayal is less villainous than the film makes him out to be and there are too many unnecessary layers to the villain’s motivations.

What the film does get right, in terms of characterisation, are Gintoki and his sidekick Shinpachi (Masaki Suda). They are faithful renditions from the original lore and acted well, the two’s interplay providing much of the comedy for the film. Done less well is Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto), Gintoki’s other sidekick and the main villain’s henchman. Most of the side characters lack characterisation, meaning one has to rely on prior knowledge of the series to fully appreciate them.

Overall, Gintama proves to be a better comedy than action film.

The swordplay lacks the drama and punch required, and many of the scenes are average at best. Its comedic side is its redeeming quality, along with all of the references to other, popular manga/anime series.

If you are a fan of the series, perhaps there is something in the film’s comedy for you, but if you want a proper live-action adaptation jidaigeki (period film set in Japan) action film, check out the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy instead.