Once upon a time, a friend told me to watch this anime called Gintama. He told me that it was the best anime he has seen, and no one else could compare to its main protagonist. I remember telling him he was crazy and thinking he might just be exaggerating.
Fast forward to the present, and I’m searching for a new anime I could binge on this summer. Then, out of the blue, I remembered the conversation I had with my friend and finally decided to see what he was talking about.
What I saw baffled me at first. But, as I watched more and more episodes, I’m beginning to understand my friend’s sentiments. Gintoki, the main character in Gintama, is the strongest character in anime. Strongest in the sense of his effect on my thoughts and emotions. I understand if you’re skeptical about this, but I’m optimistic that by the end of this article, you’ll see Gintoki as the strongest too.
If you’re not familiar with Gin or the Gintama anime, then let me give you a brief overview of its story. It revolves around the main protagonist, Gintoki Sakata, and his motley crew consisting of Kagura, a strong alien girl, and Shinpachi, a guy training to be a samurai. They do odd freelance jobs to pay their monthly rent, buy some booze, and save the day.
Not Your Typical Shonen
You might be wondering, what’s Gintoki’s end goal here? Well, unlike the typical shonen protagonist like Luffy or Naruto, Gintoki doesn’t have any ambition. All he wants is to drink alcohol, pay his rent, gamble, and occasionally indulge in some chocolate parfait and strawberry milk.
Another thing about Gintoki is that he doesn’t have any special moves. You may find that funny from a shonen protagonist, but it’s the truth. He doesn’t have a Rasengan or a Kamehameha wave, but you do see him practicing that last move because Gintama is essentially a parody. Even his sword is unremarkable. It doesn’t have any name or extraordinary power that’ll help him in times of need.
The differences don’t stop there. Gintoki is extremely lazy and has connections with both sides of the law, the police and the wanted terrorists. The usual heroes you see in shonen manga and anime are in their teens but Gintama starts with Gintoki as a man in his late twenties. Lastly, he’s not brave and has no appetite for adventure.
But, despite all of his bad habits and attitude, Gintoki is still a hero. You’ll see that he’s honorable in some ways and fights against injustices, even if it doesn’t concern him directly. He even wants to instill peace in his neighborhood when the four heads of the district wanted to fight for supremacy.
His hero side also comes out if the problems they face affect his found family and friends. For example, Gintoki has a familial relationship with his two sidekicks, Kagura and Shinpachi, and even his landlady. He would go out of his way to protect them and their loved ones.
Those short episode arcs where you see him being serious are the best. You can see the complexity of his personality and the reason why he’s still considered a shonen protagonist. He may seem like a loser and a misfit most of the time, but in those moments, Gintoki defies your expectations and proves that he is a hero you can depend on.
To Err Is Human
Now that you know most of Gintoki’s traits, did you notice something about them? Those are characteristics you can see in the real world. Out of all the main characters you’ve seen, Gintoki is on a tier of his own regarding relatable traits. You may see a bit of yourself in other protagonists like Ichigo or Goku, but, most of the time, they’re too big or extraordinary to be relatable. Not to mention they have powers strong enough to destroy a city.
But with Gintoki, he’s just an ordinary guy. He slacks on his job, craves delicious food, wants to have a good time and wants to get by in life as best as he can. He may have skills with the sword, but that’s because he started training to be a samurai when he was young, and he has experience in battle.
Just like us in the real world, Gintoki experiences happiness and hardships in life. He even has mundane problems like running out of money or getting yelled at for not paying the rent. These occurrences show that he is human, like us. He makes mistakes, makes terrible decisions, and finds joy in food. If that doesn’t prove he’s the most relatable, I don’t know what will.
Gintoki wouldn’t be who he is without his experiences in life. And like all shonen protagonists, he also had a tragic backstory. His life story could be summarized in a quote by author Paulo Coelho: The only thing that tragedy gives us is the opportunity to rebuild our life.
His story started when he was a young orphan that would scavenge battlefields for food and weapons. He would do this plenty of times to the point that the local villagers called him the corpse-eating demon. Then one day, he was found by a man that would later become his sensei. The man brought Gintoki to his school for orphans and provided him an education, swordsmanship, friends, and a home.
It was peaceful for a time, but then government assassins arrested Gintoki’s sensei because he defected from their group. While he was being detained, his sensei made Gintoki promise him that he would take care of the other students in his stead. The assassins then burned down the school and left.
Defeat and Guilt
Upon learning what transpired, the students then decided to join the war and sided with the opposing forces to try and free their sensei. Years passed, and the war was on its tail-end. After a fierce battle, everyone on their side has fallen except for Gintoki and his two friends and classmates, Kotarou and Shinsuke, who were captured.
The enemy then forced Gintoki to decide: either to kill both his friends or their sensei. But, remembering his promise to his sensei, Gintoki chose to execute their teacher despite the objections of his friends. Before he was beheaded, his sensei’s last words were thank you.
After the war, the trio was released, and they buried all of their comrades. The trio then split up because their goal can’t be attained anymore. Gintoki then wandered the streets and, at one point, even offered himself to be executed because of his guilt.
Joy Loves Company
Despite his past, Gintoki continues to persevere every day. He believes that he could change and shows it by not taking life too seriously. Furthermore, the anime’s theme of parodies, off-hand jokes, and random shenanigans also reminds us, the viewers, that we, too, should take it easy and live life beautifully.
You’ve reached the end. By now, you probably have a clue as to why I think the main protagonist of Gintama is the strongest character in anime. If you’re still not convinced, then go ahead and watch the show for yourself. But, if you disagree with my point of view, then you can try to prove me wrong.
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