Director: Yuichi Fukuda
Cast: Shun Oguri, Masaki Suda, Kanna Hashimoto, Masaki Okada, Masami Nagasawa, Tsuyoshi Domoto, Hirofumi Arai, Jiro Sato, Nanao, Kankuro Nakamura, Yuya Yagira, Ryo Yoshizawa, Ken Yasuda, Akari Hayami, Murotsuyoshi
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence)
Released By: Encore Films & Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 3 August 2017
Synopsis: After the aliens, known as the Amanto, invaded and conquered Edo Japan, a ban on swords is enforced and the samurai are treated with disdain. Gintoki Sakata (Shun Oguri), a former samurai once feared as the “White Demon” in battle, now operates a yorozuya (odd jobs house) with his friends Shinpachi Shimura (Masaki Suda) and Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto). One day, Gintoki receives a job request from a swordsmith to find a cursed sword known as the Benizakura. During his search, Gintoki traces the cursed sword to a notorious killer, Nizo “The Butcher” Okada (Hirofumi Aran). He discovers that Nizo is affiliated to his old comrade, Shinsuke Takasugi (Tsuyoshi Domoto), who is leading the extremist group Kiheitai to plot a coup d'etat in the shadows. Will Gintoki and his band of unlikely heroes be able to stop Takasugi and restore peace to their home?
Let’s face it, if you are not already an established fan of the manga series, there’s no need to spend your hard-earned money on this long, laborious affair otherwise known as the first live-action movie of Gintama.
Based on the long-running manga series published in Weekly Shonen Jump, Gintama tells the quirky exploit of former samurai Gintoki Sakata (Shun Oguri) and his friends, Shinpachi Shimura (Masaki Suda) and Kagura (Kanna Hashimoto) who makes a living running an odd job house. When Gintoki is tasked by a swordsmith to find a missing cursed sword, he discovers a serial killer is involved. In addition, an ex-comrade has turned to a dark side and hunting down his best friend, Kotaro Katsura (Masaki Okada) as well.
Gintama for the uninitiated is set in an alternate universe in long ago, Edo era. It’s not a plain period action thriller but one that has Aliens in it as well. You see, Edo has been invaded and conquered by Amanto (aliens or sky people as mentioned in the movie) and samurais are no longer allowed to bear any arms. In fact, they are resorted to holding mundane jobs for a living like being a waiter for example. It gets weirder and weirder and there’s an unusual pet alien character, Elizabeth which looks like a cross between a penguin and a duck, but actually it’s just a man in a white suit. There’s also a gigantic CGI white-furred dog named Sadaharu.
The flick has so much going on that it will take ages trying to make sense out of it. This is definitely a movie that imagination knows no boundaries if you are looking at the upside of things. It’s the Japanese version of a mo-lei-tau movie perhaps even ten times more nonsensical than a typical Stephen Chow movie. For instance, the movie opens shortly with an absolutely redundant scene of the lead characters going on a prolonged silly beetle hunt and later we encounter a character who breaks into gibberish while attempting to read a Dragonball manga (notice reading a manga not a book) to an injured Gintoki.
Shun Oguri (Lupin the Third, Museum) at the age of 34 seems to be a bit too old to be playing the man-child samurai who has the habit of constantly digging his nose. But I guess he is cast because he does look pretty similar to his manga counterpart. Tsuyoshi Domoto, one half of pop group Kinki Kids, turned up in the end for the talkiest climax ever for an action movie. Apparently there’s no need to guess further which role he is playing. Veteran Jiro Sato stood out among the numerous actors and actresses with his perfect comic timing as a perverted villain who fancied Kagura, the gung-go girl with a strange bottomless appetite.
Gintama has no qualms parodying anything under the sun and that includes mocking fun of itself such as the man in the suit gag and a karaoke music video that stars Gintoki Sakata. Fans of Japanese pop culture will be tickled at all the obvious references to Gundam, One Piece and even a Studio Ghibli classic is not spared. We heard there’s more to it but given the limitation of our knowledge, we better leave them to Gintama fans out there. We are not expecting a Hollywood blockbuster budget but there’s more work that needs to be done to the CGI effects and various CGI background which looks way too crappy on the big screen. We can’t even decide if the humour is intended for alien characters to be dressed in cheap plain animal heads or some figures are seriously missing in the budget department. The rest of the costumes are generally well designed and detailed though cosplayers are catching up. The action choreography is messy and also marred by shoddy effects and slow-mo.
Despite being all silly and inconsequential, it’s hard to recommend Gintama to the casual audiences with all the rojak elements of a sci-fi and samurai actioner. Fans of the manga will probably find this a gem. The rest of the old-school crowd who love Akira Kurosawa and Yoji Yamada, this is not that long-awaited samurai flick for you.
(Strictly for fans of Gintama. We mean it.)
Review by Linus Tee