Gintama Collection 01 -

DVD Review

Mania Grade: C

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  • 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: 39.98
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gintama

Gintama Collection 01

Gintama Collection 01 Review

By Chris Beveridge     April 14, 2010
Release Date: April 27, 2010

Gintama Collection 01
© Sentai Filmworks

When aliens change the world back in the days of the samurai, one man takes on odd jobs to survive in this action comedy series.

What They Say

Life isn't easy in feudal Japan... especially since the aliens landed and conquered everything! Oh sure, the new health care is great, but the public ban on the use of swords has left a lot of defeated samurai with a difficult career choice! This is especially true if they're not particularly inclined towards holding a day job, which is why Gintoki Sakata's opted for the freelance route, taking any job that's offered to him as long as the money's right.

Unfortunately, in a brave new world filled with stray bug-eyed montsters, upwardly mobile Yakuza, and overly ambitious E.T. entrepreneurs, those jobs usually don't pay as well as they should for the pain, suffering, and indignities endured!

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review!

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.
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.
While it may not be the most awesome cover ever, I really do like this one 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 main shot of Gin does make this look more like an action show, which it does have but in comedic form mostly, so it's not highly representative of what the show is about. The back cover gives you a better idea of what the show will be like with shots of Kagura and Shin that definitely push the comedy side more. 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.
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 three main characters on each menu. The first has a nice shot of them standing there in their usual outfits while the second has them moving along on their scooter. 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.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Hideaki Sorachi, which is at thirty two volumes at the time of release of this collection, Gin Tama is a very lengthy series with over two hundred episodes. Like a lot of comedies, it’s easy to get that number out there since it’s dealing with episodic gags and an ever growing cast of characters from which to build. The manga has done very well both in Japan and abroad and the series has seen itself being streamed on Crunchyroll, which is where the subtitles for this release appear to come from as we only see credits for subtitle formatting, not translation.
Comedies are often the more difficult shows to release and Gin Tama is no exception. I hadn’t seen or read anything on the show prior to this but I like the initial setup while finding that the overall execution left me doing anything but laughing. Toward the end of the Edo period of Japan, the world is invaded by aliens called the Amanto who essentially co-opt the world as they take it over. People now live side by side with all manner of creatures and their absurd natures while also having a lot of high technology – and bathrooms – thrust at them. Focusing on Edo, as we don’t get to see how the rest of the world adapted to this change, the city is an interesting mix of old and new with run down slums, basic houses and high tech high rises along with up to date red light districts with full on karaoke. It’s not really high tech future material, though we do get some flying ships here and there, but the technology level generally represents what we have in society today.
The series actually starts off with an hour long/two episode special that goes right for the kind of humor we’re going to see. Gin Tama, which means silver soul, also sounds too close to the word kintama which means testicles. So we’re getting lots of jokes of that nature, some bawdy material at times and plenty of slapstick action comedy material. The show revolves around Gin Sakata, a man who basically does odd jobs as a jack of all trades under the name of Odd Jobs Gin. Gin’s a handsome devil with naturally wavy silver hair who wields a wooden sword even in the age of the Sword Ban. In the last year he’s gotten a couple of people to work for him that invariably help out on the job, though not always for the better, with Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura. Shin’s a teen whose father owned a dojo before he died. With the sword ban, samurai aren’t what they once were and Shin longs to be able to follow in his father’s footsteps. Kagura’s an amusing young girl who is actually an alien of the Yato race, a race that’s all about being mercenaries. She ended up doing that work on Earth but it didn’t feel right so she’s trying to find a better way to channel her abilities.
These three are set against the backdrop of a confused Edo where there are the aliens walking along, the salaryman just trying to get by and the usual throng of characters we’ve seen from shows from this original time period. The visual design of the show can get chaotic at times as it tries to blend the old and the new. It’s fun in a lot of ways, as you have the old geisha houses that also have a karaoke section or a disco floor for dancing. The various high tech cars flitting along in the backgrounds contrasted with the poor as dirt looking people walking through the classic traditional stalls getting their food. The weapon side of the show is just as erratic as most people don’t have swords while the few that do tend to use wooden swords, though we do see a few serious swords along the way. But there are also some high tech weapons, including an energy bazooka that makes an appearance. 
Gin Tama has a pretty standard approach to things. Taking the first two part special as an example, the odd jobs that the gang gets into are things like finding a lost cat. But in searching for that cat they end up going into a factory whose owner wants those secrets to be protected. That turns into a chase scene where the gang hasn’t a clue why they’re being chased. Another has them looking for a young alien girl who has disappeared and she’s caught up in some drug scheme with a number of unruly types and Gin has to help her out. Most of the stories tend to be of this nature, though they seem to have a preference for lost animal stories as there’s another with a space octopus pet that gets lost. That one is amusing at times as Gin keeps confusing some local woman for the octopus which frustrates her and her frustration is so palpable that you can’t help but laugh.
The humor in this series largely falls flat for me, though there are the occasional chuckles to be had here and there. Gin’s your usual lazy guy who does invariably do good acts as time goes on as he’s got himself an eager if frustrated young man helping him out and a powerful woman who is more interested in eating than anything else. One area that comes up a few times, and it’s one that I’ll wholly admit I burned out on some time ago, is that they do bring the Shinsengumi into the picture pretty often. Serving as the local police in this series, all the usual characters are there with plenty of variations from other incarnations in terms of appearance, though not entirely different in personality. Kondo is aloof and out of the way, but he takes to pursuing women very easily and with gusto. Hijikata is out there doing the most work as the crack down on the anti-exclusionist faction, but he’s often thwarted by Okita who is intent on killing him but keeps failing at even the most elementary of ways. The Shinsengumi run around pretty often in the show, though I will admit that I liked the episode they largely had to themselves which was done in a televised Cops fashion.
The visual design for Gin Tama is pretty straight forward as it’s done with a real world approach but taken to odd turns because of the clashing of the time periods. The characters are all nicely animated but kept simple while doing the thing I hate in a show like this by keeping them all in the same outfits. I don’t mind that for military shows or school based shows since it makes sense, but ones like this annoy me since Kagura should not be wearing that same red Chinese dress over and over and over. The background designs of the show are alright as they do the blending of the two time periods but they lack anything really unique. It tends to go for more of a gee whiz look at that kind of feel when it does the blending but nothing that really stands out badly. It just lacks any sort of really unified approach to it, instead opting to go with whatever makes sense for that episode, which works for comedies.
In Summary:
With the first thirteen episodes of Gin Tama, I’m rather unsure of where I stand on the series. I like the general concept but it doesn’t feel like it was executed well. With something like twenty years from the arrival of the Amanto to where the show takes place, there’s too much modernization in thought from the characters that it doesn’t jibe well. Then again, I’m probably looking for too much from a simple comedy show that just wants to have fun. The core characters haven’t been defined well yet, though there are some good nods toward Gin having a darker past, and the comedy has largely fallen flat. The opening special two parter didn’t wow me but when it back tracked a year to tell the story it started to flow better. Still, it may just be marathoning it isn’t the best idea (something you can say for many comedies) and it may play better when watched irregularly. The show didn’t bore me to tears but it rarely made me laugh and it doesn’t leave me looking forward to the next set.
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.



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