|Gin Tama character|
Gintoki Sakata by Hideaki Sorachi
|First appearance||Gin Tama Lesson 1: Nobody with Natural Wavy Hair Can Be That Bad|
|Created by||Hideaki Sorachi|
|Voiced by||Tomokazu Sugita (Japanese)
Haruka Tomatsu (Japanese, genderswapped)
Kazuya Nakai (Japanese, bodyswapped)
Christopher Patton (English)
|Portrayed by||Shun Oguri.|
Gintoki Sakata (Japanese: 坂田 銀時 Hepburn: Sakata Gintoki?) is a fictional character in the manga and anime franchise Gin Tama created by Hideaki Sorachi. Gintoki is the protagonist of the series and his name serves as the basis of the series' title. He is introduced as a former rebel samurai who lives in a fictionalized version of 1860s Japan after being invaded and transformed by aliens. Gintoki once fought the alien invaders until he realized the lack of sense in doing so, leading to him choosing to instead make a living as a freelancer for hire in Edo alongside his friends Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura in order to pay the monthly rent.
Gintoki's character has received critical response from various reviewers and publications for manga, anime and other media. Gintoki has also remained highly popular with Gin Tama fans, ranking first in all of the popularity polls. As the main character, Gintoki has appeared in most of the episodes of the anime series Gintama and Gintama', as well as in other media related to the franchise, including the film and all of the spin-off video games and original video animations. Merchandise based on Gintoki has also been released, including figurines.
In Gin Tama
Gintoki Sakata is a freelancer former samurai living in an era where aliens known as the Amanto have come to Earth after the Joi War, a battle in which the latter defeated the former. As a child, he was taught by Shoyo Yoshida, with his classmates being two of his future Joi allies, Kotaro Katsura and Shinsuke Takasugi. Shoyo was unjustly accused of trying to raise an army, which resulted in his execution and Gintoki joining the Joi War against the government. During that period, he was known as the "White Demon" (白夜叉 Shiroyasha?, "White Knight" in English dub) due to his silver hair and white coat he wore in battle, which, combined with his impressive capabilities as a swordsman, made him famous among his comrades and struck fear into Amanto. During a Joui War when he, Katsura and Takasugi were captured by Tendosho, under order by Sada Sada, Gintoki was forced to execute his master without any choice before his master's final bidding to him right in front of his comrades' eyes. It is noted, that in the present, very few people know that Gintoki is the famed White Demon (even the Shinsengumi didn't know until he revealed himself in episode 246).
After his group's defeat Gintoki chose to open a freelance business where he could handle matters his own way, while continuing to live by his own samurai code. In his job, he gets two employees, the samurai apprentice Shinpachi Shimura and the alien girl Kagura and comes to have a close relationship with both of them. The group often have problems to pay the monthly rent for Otose, Gintoki's landlady whom he swore to protect after eating the food offerings meant to her husband's grave.
Despite his age, Gintoki often shows various childish behaviour, the most noticeable is his insatiable sweet tooth. However, Gintoki has been warned by his doctor to control his sugar intake. He is also obsessed with reading the manga anthology magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump. Additionally, he is extremely afraid of ghosts, but will usually deny their existence so he doesn't look like a coward. His fear for the supernatural is shared by Toshiro Hijikata, and usually resulting in quite a few comedic interactions between the two. In episode 5, he stated that his naturally permed silver hair is the reason for his lack of girlfriends. Though several female characters have shown an interest in Gintoki, he usually does not show any response back and merely puts up with them as annoyances. However, he does have a huge crush on the weather girl, Ketsuno Ana, and once stated he wished to marry her (possibly because of the kind personality he sees on TV.) While Gintoki doesn't seem to care for any of the women he knows, he still gets excited when he sees random beautiful women. This was proven during episode 217, when he was spying on the women in the pool with binoculars and hot super excited, until he found out the woman he had taken a liking to was Tsukuyo. After realizing this, he lost all interest, commenting on how she is a "drunk terminator". He also got super excited when he saw a girl with "big jugs", not realizing the girl was actually Kyuubei.  Gintoki has a great amount of pride for his samurai code. He takes it upon himself to rescue or avenge not only his comrades and friends but also people he barely knows. Despite being a dangerous combatant with superior sword skills, he acts like a coward most of the time to avoid needless bloodshed because of the trauma of suffering the loss of most of his friends and allies during the Joui war.  Although he controls himself, he has shown a dark side in which he wants to slay those who were related in the death of his teacher.
As a former samurai, Gintoki is an extremely powerful swordsman with virtually unmatched skills. His swordsmanship is rough, but far from unrefined. He tends to wield even full-length katanas one-handed, with fairly wide but quick chops. His level of skill has been noted by several esteemed swordsmen, such as Yagyuu Binbokusai (known as the strongest swordsman in the Yagyuu family) who noted that Gintoki's style is something not taught, but developed by Gintoki himself. Gintoki is incredibly nimble, on par with the renowned ninja Hattori Zenzou. In addition, his reflexes (while often downplayed for comedic purposes) are great, and he is capable of dodging, deflecting, or in some instances, throwing back knives, arrows and similar projectiles. One of his defining traits is his very high level of physical endurance. Gintoki fights without consideration his own life a majority of the time, and while this gives him the ability to fight without limits, is also a testament to how Gintoki values his own life. Coupled with his incredible pain tolerance, this makes him an incredibly fearsome fighter.
When Gintoki is particularly enraged, his speed and reflexes reach absurd heights, allowing him to perform impossible feats such as shattering a sword mid-swing with his teeth or closing meters of distance between himself and his target in the fraction of a second.
As part of his brawler-like fighting style, Gintoki regularly uses his fists and legs in combat. As such, he is far less bothered by being caught unarmed than most other swordsmen in the series. He is also noticeably skilled in terms of battlefield tactics, likely due to his extensive experience, capable of developing adaptive strategies as he fights, and knows exactly what to look for in his opponent's fighting style to create openings for himself. While he vastly prefers to make use of his incredible swordplay in combat, he is well-versed in other weapons as well, ranging from kunai to naginata. Likely due to his training as a samurai and time spent on the battlefield, he is able to incorporate the use of almost anything he finds in a fight, and frequently catches his opponents off-guard. Putting this all together, this makes him the most powerful swordsman seen so far in the series, not having lost a match before meeting Shouyou and even fighting on equal grounds against the evil persona of his master, Utsuro. His weapon of choice is a bokuto with the words "Lake Touya" inscribed on it. The bokuto he wields is a Hoshikudaki (星砕 lit. star destroyer?), which he purchases through a TV shopping program, whenever one is broken. Using this sword, he is often seen cutting, smashing and basically destroying all kinds of strong objects such as a metal cannon. Occasionally, though, Gin has used other swords, including real ones such as katana, in combat when he needs it due to a tougher encounter. Although Gintoki is more than capable of defeating powerful Amanto warriors and various other samurai, he will not hesitate to use tricks and manipulation if it means a quick and easy victory.
In other media
Though also part of the Gin Tama franchise, Gintoki is also the lead character of the spinoff stories "3-Z Ginpachi-Sensei", where he is a high school teacher putting up with the idiocies of all of the other characters who are his students at the school. The two OVAs of the series also feature Gintoki with the first featuring multiple sidestories and the latter Gintoki's time in the war against the aliens. Gintoki has been the leading character in the two movies the series had. The first film, Gintama: A New Retelling Benizakura Arc, has Gintoki reprising his role from the Benizakura Arc where he goes in the search of his friend Kotaro Katsura as well as the mysterious sword Benizakura. The second film, Gintama: The Movie: The Final Chapter: Be Forever Yorozuya has Gintoki travelling to a future where Edo has been destroyed and has to stop the threat that ruined the city.
Gintoki's character appeared in various video games based on the Gin Tama series. Gintoki has also been featured as a playable fighter in two crossover Weekly Shonen Jump-based video games: Jump Super Stars and Jump Ultimate Stars, both times alongside Kagura. He also appears in J-Stars Victory Vs. Gintoki's costume is also featured in the video game God Eater 2 as an alternative skin.
Creation and development
While brainstorming on the name for a manga, Hideaki Sorachi's editor commented, "Do you think a silver samurai would be cool?" This inspired Sorachi to create the main character after deciding the series should be named Gin Tama. Sorachi's initial plan for his first major series was to center it around a fictionalized version of the Shinsengumi, mostly to ride off the hype for Shinsengumi!, a Japanese drama starring idol actors as the famous Japanese special police force. However, Sorachi's version was planned to be as unrealistic as possible; his force included both men and women possessing bizarre traits that were nothing like the original Shinsengumi, and that would seep into many of the characters that would be part of his eventual manga. One of the characters from this set was a silver-haired man who was to be the representation of prominent member Hijikata Toshizō. Sorachi particularly liked Hijikata and wanted this character to be the hero of his series despite the lack of similarities with the real Hijikata.
While Sorachi loved the design he created for his silver-haired Hijikata, he could not draw out his character or figure out what he would do in the series. He considered dropping the character and his editor nearly forced him to give up on him just as the original Shinsengumi concept was falling apart. Eventually it was decided that the silver-haired character would be an original lead character, while the Shinsengumi would be portrayed as comedic foils. Quickly giving him the nickname of "Gin-san", the original concept of the silver-haired Hijikata was shattered and Sorachi recreated the character from the ground up into the lazy-eyed freelancer he would be in the series. The concept behind Gintoki's character is that he is a strong person who does not belong to any organization and tends to disregard rules. Although Gintoki was roughly based on Sakata Kintoki, Sorachi did not intend Gintoki to be a descendant of Sakata. Unlike common heroes within manga series, Gintoki does not undergo character development. This is connected with the character's background as several things in his life changed due to the Amanto invasion and wishes some things not change.
For the anime series, Gintoki has been voiced by Tomokazu Sugita in Japanese. When learning he was selected to voice the Gin Tama's main character Sugita wanted to show off to fit the character. However, he later took a bigger view on Gintoki's character; understanding that Gintoki lives with a lot of people's support, Sugita changed his mindset when voicing the character.
Gintoki remains the most popular character in the series based on polls taken within Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. He has also been featured in various types of merchandise connected to the franchise. In the Newtype Japanese journal, Gintoki has commonly appeared within the top ten of best male characters between the 7th and 8th spot. In another Newtype poll from March 2010, Gintoki was voted as the eighth most popular male anime character from the 2000s. In the Anime Grand Prix polls, Gintoki was voted as one of the most popular male anime character. The Japanese music distributor Recochoku has made two annual surveys of which anime characters that people would like to marry. Gintoki ranked second, then first in the category "The Character I Want to Be My Groom." Another poll from Niconico had female fans voting Gintoki as the second most appealing male character in anime. Ike and Momiken from the Japanese rock band SPYAIR commented that Gintoki was their favorite character from the series as both of them found him cool.
Gintoki's character has also received critical response from various western publications for manga, anime and other media. While reviewing the fifth volume from the manga Carlo Santos from Anime News Network found Gintoki's personality as one of the sources of comedy in the series, remarking the way he talks as well as his actions through the chapters. In the chapters where Gintoki suffers from amnesia, Santos noted that Gintoki's different personality in such state makes him "decidedly not funny". On the other hand, About.com writer Deb Aoki found Gintoki's carefree attitude and his desire to protect people as a "tradition of other shonen anti-heroes." She also noted his "low-blood sugar moments" make him look cranky. Michael Aronson from mangalife.com criticized Gintoki's expression in the first volumes from the series as he mentions it does not reflect his dialogues. He also commented that series succeeds if it is about Gintoki's job, adding that some of his fights against other characters do not help increasing the series' popularity.
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