Gin Tama, a shonen manga (boys’ comics) by Hideaki Sorachi, is a sci-fi comedy and samurai drama set on an alternate Earth where aliens have invaded and occupied Edo (Tokyo).
When the aliens, the Yato, came to Japan, they displaced the samurai by first taking their jobs and then taking their swords. Sakata “Gin” Gintoki wasn’t about to turn his back on bushido (“the way of the warrior” – a code of conduct). Carrying a wooden sword, Gin becomes a “yorozuya,” an expert at managing trouble and handling the oddest jobs. Joined by his quasi-apprentice, Shinpachi Shimura, and Kagura, an alien wild girl, Gin takes on any odd job to make ends meet, even it means losing his dignity.
In Gin Tama, Vol. 2, Gin helps Shinpachi’s sister, Otae, fight off an unwanted suitor and ends up badly beating a high-ranking policeman. When the cop’s loyal underlings arrive to avenge their boss’s injuries, Gin may have met his match. Later, Kagura makes a pet of a giant beastly dog left on their doorstep, while Gin reunites two lost lovers. Things turn ugly when Gin, Shinpachi, and Kagura take on a lost cause to find the drug-addicted daughter of a desperate father, and the trio faces off with the biggest crime syndicate in the galaxy, the Harusame Space Pirates, and they ain’t no joke.
THE LOWDOWN: By turning Edo into a port of entry for aliens arriving on earth, Hideaki Sorachi has made the setting for his manga, Gin Tama, into something akin to the Mos Eisley cantina scene from Star Wars (1977). Because Sorachi is both a solid draftsman and an imaginative cartoonist, he’s able to take full advantage of such a setting. His cast is a mélange of handsome humans, criminal ruffians, alien wastrels, otherworldly snobs, and assorted bizarre creatures. It’s hard for the reader to be bored when at least every few pages or so present some unusual and interesting visual.
Gin Tama is comic sci-fi, without being parody or satire. Its comedy is smooth and sharp like Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro and also rough and tumble like Joss Whedon’s Fox-betrayed TV series, “Firefly.”
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Gin Tama is part of VIZ Media’s “Shonen Jump Advanced” line, and the series’ tone and subtle humor lean toward mature readers in terms of comprehension, while the recurring innuendo and violence make the series appropriate for older teens and adults.
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