The Sound of a Beam Can Pierce Every Heart
Liqour and Gasoline, Smiles and Tears
No rest in the big arcs, no sirree. So without further adieu, her comes Obi Hajime; the Poochie of the “Shimura trio”.
There’s something about this arc that rubs me the wrong way. There’s something about it that just feels very… obvious. Simple and straightforward, but not in the same fashion how Okita and Mitsuba worked. And it’s not as if there aren’t good elements to this arc, since it does hit the right note at times. Heck, the wide grinned smiles make me hella happy on their own. So it naturally bugs me how I don’t enjoy this as much as I feel I should. Maybe… maybe it’s like Shinpachi. Decent character with a few surprises and compliments the rest of the cast nicely, but simply does not stand on his own. Um. Let’s see if I can’t delve into my feelings on this through some writing.
Everything starts off nice enough, at least. Because the entire Otae remembering the very purpose of her character gag is hysterical. Sorachi must’ve read the first volume again. But as Otae visits her father’s grave, here comes the newcomer, Obi Hajime. And with him, some pretty silly Star Wars references. Maybe they feel a little lazy after something full blown like the Renho arc, there isn’t too much to them. All in good fun though. Obi Hajime introduces himself as a former member of the Shimura dojo; an older brother figure to Shinpachi as well as first love of Otae. It’s kinda sudden, but it’s played off with laughs and better yet, Kondo and Kyubei. You two wonderful creatures, uniting in the face of the enemy.
And an enemy Hajime is. It doesn’t take very long to reveal that as he was heavily injured when he left Earth, a strange group of Yoda-like aliens saved him with robotic parts. Now as a cyborg, he’s partially under their control. And it turns out they’re now targeting Earth, using Hajime as a live bomb of sorts. That’s still fine and dandy, but my problem comes with how hackneyed Shinpachi manages to be. He’s the type of character who does make horribly cheesy statements. Yet they’re normally accompanied by either the total denouement of said statement for a joke, or they’re not the most central emotional core, there’s some more interesting aspect at play. But as Shinpachi is the character in focus, we’re basically told exactly how we’re meant to feel about all of this by the guy.
Seeing as the Mitsuba arc is the most similar to this, in the sense that a tragic relative of an established characters comes by to say hello and then DIE, I can’t help but compare the two. In that Mitsuba was shockingly effective, and this is leaving me a little empty. Comparing the two, it may be because Obi Hajime is a lot more explicit than Mitsuba. Everything related to the theme, for example smiling to recover from sadness, is said aloud, even repeated extensively. Both Hajime’s signature little snippet, and the entire “brother” thing which I couldn’t get into. The Mitsuba arc incorporates all of that into the dialog without force feeding, a lot of the reactions are more understated, sometimes simply visual, making the whole arc feel more genuine.
Still, for my misgivings, I still found myself caring. A little. Some sporadic moments made me feel some sort of emotion. Such as the parallel between Otae bowing to Gin in order to save Hajime some time and Gin bowing to the police force in order to bring back Hajime before it’s too late. The sappy soundtrack makes itself known in Gintama fashion as well, and dammit, it always works. And there is a certain satisfaction in having the spotlight on Shinpachi, the oft forgotten middle man. Having someone other than Gintoki deliver the finishing blow is almost unprecedented, so it’s a welcome change.
It all ends on a high note too, after Hajime’s sacrifice. Beautiful sunny Waihaa, and this arc’s edition of spicy chips, macadamia nuts. Good gags, beautiful gags, much better than the middle portion of the arc. Yes, bring along the homeless people, mention how the animation studio has only done long during this season, it’s all welcome. I understand exaggerated gags don’t typically work as well during the drama itself, finding itself much more comfortable either before or after, but the story here didn’t carry itself very well. And unlike most serious portions, we even lacked comedy in it’s other forms as well, clever dialog and subtle jabs between the characters. Unlike the Kintoki arc, we don’t have the ingenious concept to play with the entire arc, and unlike Courtesan of a Nation, we don’t have the same sense of scale or meaning. We’re left with something simple played incredibly straight, while overselling itself all the while.
You win some, you lose some.