Gintama Collection 02 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

If ever there was a show that belonged on Adult Swim, it's Gin Tama.

What They Say
Let's face it; a 'typical day' in alien occupied feudal Japan is still going to be strange by any normal standards, but at Gintoki's Odd Jobs agency, the freelancers have learned to expect the weirdest of the weird when it comes to assignments. Of course, when your company specializes in doing the oddest of odd jobs, the odds are that that oddness is bound to rub off on you, but the really bad part about the job is that it pays so little for the near-terminal risk to life and limb that almost every mission inevitably ends up entailing. Unfortunately for our favorite group of Freelance Oddballs, they're usually underemployed, which besides making them UFOs, means that they have to take just about every job they can find. Escorting a runaway princess? Check. Driving a cab. Check. Cross-dressing samurai bar? Swallow the pride and check. If you thought the first collection of Japan's mega-hit series seemed like the bizarre love child of Akira Kurosawa and Monty Python, you won't believe the insanity that ensues in GINTAMA '" The Second Collection!

The Review!

Audio:
Considering the length of this series and its fairly niche appeal overseas, it's little surprise that this show is only presented in its original Japanese stereo mix encoded at 224kbps. The show has a pretty basic comedy mix to it with a good full feeling that has some minor moments of directionality when needed. Placement is pretty good overall but often it's just the single character talking on screen and more often than not they're the primary focus in the center of the screen. The music makes out the best with a more full feeling but it's not anything that really stands out either. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
 
Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The collection has thirteen episodes spread across two discs in the now seemingly standard Sentai format of six/seven. The show has the look you get with a lot of comedies in that it's bright and with a lot of colors to help make everything stand out. The show has a fairly average bit rate that works well for the amount of large areas of the same color we often get, or the scenes with lots of close-ups and solid color backgrounds. The show generally looks good in that it doesn't have any seriously distracting noise moments or cross coloration. There's very little in the way of line noise in the panning sequences as well, though often the pan goes by so fast you'd be hard pressed to tell.
 
Packaging:
Similar to the first volume in its overall design, I really do like this layout as it has a good striking feel to it with the red and white background. The white space draws the eye nicely to the logo and the character artwork while the red adds that extra bit of flair. The character artwork for this installment has Kagura doing her silly walk with the umbrella in hand while Shinpachi is sitting with a cup of tea in hand. The back cover gives you a better idea of what the show will be like with shots of Gin that looks pretty good but doesn't nudge you in the comedy direction. The top half has a solid red background where we get the premise of the show and an idea of the basic gags. The bottom half, slightly askew, has several shots from the show and a solid technical grid that lays it all out clearly, as well as a good mention of the episode count for the series. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
 
Menu:
The menus for Gin Tama are pretty basic but fit in with the style of the show rather well. The menus have a similar feel tot he back cover with the reds, yellows and whites making up the primary colors for the background and borders while providing a shot of the  main characters on each menu. There aren't any real submenus here outside of the special features, though I don't consider trailers and credits a special feature. The second has a couple and there's no language options here since it defaults to subtitles being on. It's a decent menu that works for a comedy series pretty well with individual top level episode access.
 
Extras:
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, though the closing is only of the first one that's used in most of the episodes on this disc.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gin Tama runs through another thirteen episodes with this set that brings us up to the first twenty six, or roughly the first eighth of what's aired overall for it. The first set did a good job of bringing us up to speed on Gin and those in his Odd Jobs business and the various people that populate his life. It also covered the strange and unusual nature of the world when the aliens arrived and essentially took everything over back about a hundred and fifty years ago or so. It's left Japan in a situation where they've mixed the days of old with modern technology and style along with a few nods toward the future with space ships and flying cars.
 
The first set was fairly fun to talk about because it introduced those characters and setting and you get to figure out how it all fits together. With the second set, with it all fairly familiar now, you get to work with the nuts and bolts of it. And with a comedy like this, there aren't any over reaching arcs to deal with for the most part, though there are subplots. What Gin Tama does is to throw a whole lot of strangeness at the screen and sees where it lands. It has a very familiar feeling to me to a lot of the US created Adult Swim shows where it does a lot of word play, cultural  and pop culture gags and just basic weirdness. And with comedy series, it can most definitely work and work well, but I still find you have to really be open to it or in the right mindset for it.
 
With Gin Tama, after watching twenty-six episodes of it, I'm really finding that it's really not for me. The style of comedy is decent, though it's one that I wonder if it would work better with Vid-Notes or something more detailed to connect the dots on various gags. There are some notes to be had throughout the show, but they are few and far betwee. When it comes to the stories, they are pretty varied as you have Gin taking on various jobs that cause him problems while also just living his life. Walking Sadaharu is an exercise in patience as the giant cat is obviously giant and it wants nothing to do with what Gin wants it to do. This leads to a meeting with Katsura who has a giant bird of his own and suddenly the two “owners” are in deep competition with their respective pets where it goes all game show oriented.
 
Another episode revolves around the ever fun sport of hot pot with the three principle characters all sitting around together. It runs through the basics you'd expect as they come up with all sorts of ways to con the others out of the meat but it invariably turns epic when the landlady and her friend arrive and show them all just how amateur they are at eating hot pot. This is symbolic of a lot of episodes in the series so far in that they're doing standard gags we see continually but with nothing to really separate it from the rest. While you could cite the the setting with it being a cross of cultures, this kind of comedy goes back at least as far as Urusei Yatsura with alien cultures mixing with primitive cultures. So much of the comedy just falls flat or has that thrown at a wall kind of feeling.
 
One area where I think this set did work well is with the character of Hasegawa. After getting booted out of the Immigration Bureau in the previous set, he's spending his time trying to find himself a new job but failing pretty hard. He ends up in a number of jobs over the course of this set, but it kicks off with an episode early on that has him spending all that time trying to figure out what it is he really wants to do with his life now that he's been displaced. His taxi driving job is pretty amusing and he has a brief bit of fun toward the end where he takes over a convenience store as a manager for awhile but makes the foolish mistake of asking the Odd Jobs crew to watch the place for him temporarily and they're beyond horrible at it. Bad in a way that's actually not even that amusing because it just makes them look thick in the head.
 
In Summary:
Gin Tama doesn't deviate from the first set of episodes we got and for fans of it that's definitely a good thing. I was on the fence at best with that first batch of episodes but this set really confirms that unless something is very different later on,t his isn't a show that I'm going to find terribly appealing, especially when taken at thirteen episodes at a whack. Perhaps it's one that does work better watching it just an episode at a time. I get a strong similar vibe to Hayate the Combat Butler with this in its approach and attempts to just do weird and wacky comedy that often has little sense of real meaning to it. There's humor to be had, but much of it fell flat to me throughout.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gintama