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Late last month, the Gintama twitter team had finally finished releasing photos of the whole cast, starting with Yorozuya in December and unsurprisingly ending with the ridiculously popular Shinsengumi team. The rumour mill is fairly quiet, unlike *cough* Marvel movies. Judging by the presence of the Murata siblings though, this is going to rehash the Benizakura arc once again, which is a real shame given how far Gintama has come and the other wonderful stories ripe for retelling - but, I suppose, it's the first big serious arc of the series and a good way to introduce the characters.

Fans of the series will recall that the Shinsengumi actually play a negligible role in the Benizakura arc, which was the first proper hint at the complex love-hate/respect-disdain relationships between Gintoki, Takasugi and Katsura. One of the recently released set photos shows what looks like the Yorozuya trio hunting for crickets, which I suppose would be the quickest way to involve the Shinsengumi.

Glaring omissions from the photos so far include Sadaharu (not surprised, and the amount of money they can save by not doing CG for the mascot they can spend on other effects), Otose (it would be nice even if she had a cameo) and Yamazaki (how can you have the Shinsengumi without jimi Yamazaki?)

Before I start discussing the live action cast, I just wanted to say briefly that Gintama anime has been blessed with some amazing casting and after so long in their roles, their voices have become so much of the experience - the joys and sadness and reflective scenes the viewers live through with them every week, so the live action cast will always have that tremendous hurdle to climb over.

Gintama live action 2017 - Shinpachi, Gintoki, Kagura, Katsura, Otae, Gengai
Click for full size



Sakata Gintoki
Anime: Sugita Tomokazu / Movie: Oguri Shun (Hana yori dango, Crows Zero, Nobunaga Concerto)
Even though I'm not a fan of Sugita's voice, per se, it's a very distinctive voice and through his acting he's been able to really make Gintoki his own. The slightly thick voice that he uses fits with the image of Gintoki as a somewhat tall and (often) brawny presence, and can also manage to sound lazy and bored or shifty and untrustworthy or heroic and cool.

Oguri Shun comes with an impressive CV of manga adaptations that have largely succeeded with audiences - from the romantic Hana Yori Dango (from which manga also came the famous Meteor Garden of yonder days) and Hanazakari Kimitachi he, to the hot-blooded Gokusen and Crows Zero, to the gangland suspense Ouroboros and more recently a time-skipping historical fiction Nobunaga Concerto. I have no doubt in his acting ability to pull off Gintoki, whether it's his funny side (just watch him fool around like a dumb high school kid in Nobunaga Concerto) or his ass-kicking side (see him command the camera in his most recent drama CRISIS).

As much as I respect Oguri Shun (and I adore his voice), my only slight misgiving is that he doesn't exactly fit the physical image of Gintoki. Oguri's characters are often more cerebral, and he has the slim tall physique that really suits those kind of characters (as rubbish as Ouroboros was plot-wise, Oguri Shun owned the camera as a coldly intelligent crime boss). Similarly with his voice, he has an amazing smooth tenor (the number of girls who lost their breath when he sing-songs "Ma~ki~no~~" was proof) and though he does change his voice to suit his characters (he used a much lower voice in Ouroboros for example), his whole natural aura is a lot more poised and gentlemanly than I'd expect of Gintoki.

In all, I think he'll be able to do a fine job within the limits of the script (so it better be a damn good script!) and I think I'm more worried about Gintama ruining my impressions of him than the other way around.

Mah~ Isn't that what Gintama has been doing to respectable voice actors for years now? LOL

Shimura Shinpachi
Anime: Sakaguchi Daisuke / Movie: Suda Masaki (Kamen Rider, Assassination Classroom, Death Note 2016)
It's easy to overlook Shinpachi and that's often the butt of the joke surrounding this very ordinary character in a swarm of weird and crazy pants that inhabit the Gintama universe. Shinpachi is the voice of the audience, and Sakaguchi's well-timed tsukkomi (retorts) in character or out of character during Gintama events is one of the reasons why the show is so funny.

The only thing I've seen Suda Masaki in is Jimi ni Sugoi where he's not supposed to be (but managed to be) the "jimi" (plain) person, but he managed to turn what was a rather bland character by a poor adaptive script into someone who was likable enough. I also watched bits of Tamiou where he pulled off acting as an extroverted 50 year old man trapped inside a 20 year old's body. He was somewhat prone to over-acting in the comedic scenes, but it had been a while ago and his mannerisms are a lot more natural in Jimi ni Sugoi He's been very prolific in the last 2 years and judging by that, he's an up and coming item in the entertainment world. If he can find the right comic timing for Shinpachi's tsukkomi, I think the rest will be a piece of cake for him.

And in the looks department, Shinpachi is definitely the one getting the most stamps of approval by the internet. All they had to get right was the glasses, right? =P

Kagura
Anime: Kugimiya Rie / Movie: Hashimoto Kanna
I don't know much about Kugimiya Rie outside of Gintama but she definitely has legions of male fans for her works in previous anime, apparently mainly playing "tsundere" type characters - which was a key point that the Gintama animated movie played on. She broke out of type for Kagura, but I think it's hard to imagine anyone else doing Kagura's sweet cutesy facade hiding some deep Do-S tendencies.

Out of the Yorozuya trio, Hashimoto Kanna is probably the biggest unknown coming into this. She debuted as an idol and shot to popularity when the internet dubbed her as "a thousand year beauty", but she has been only in a handful of acting gigs. Fortunately this movie won't be long enough to require her digging into Kagura's deeper traits and she can get away (somewhat) with just doing the usual Japanese cute girl thing, though I hope it won't come to that.

Katsura Kotarou
Anime: Ishida Akira / Movie: Okada Masaki
I'm sure a dozen other capable voice actors could have played Katsura, but because it's Ishida Akira, it will always have a special place in my heart. The difficulty with a character like this is that he is so straight that he's managed to twist himself into a circle - this is the guy that Sorachi would write as sprouting bushido virtues on the same page as serenading a traffic cone. Ishida, who had just recently come off doing Athrun Zala when he started the gig, manages to do all of Katsura's lines with straight-faced (?straight-voiced) conviction, making every crazy idea sound like a noble undertaking.

Perhaps it would be a relief to learn that the Benizakura arc is one of the few where Katsura manages to be relatively normal and actually cool - I mean, the next time he managed both of those things, it was in chapter 550+, just saying.

I have fond memories of Okada Masaki as the only bright speck of good-looking-ness in a field of potato-like side characters that populated Hanazakari Kimitachi he (yes, the one that Oguri Shun starred in). He was an unknown at the time but he's since grown to a leading man. Put it this way - and I seem to say this about a lot of Japanese actors of this age group - I've never been frustrated with his acting, nor have I ever been wowed.

The only thing is, like Oguri Shun, Okada's general "aura" is more "scholarly" and genteel, but in this case that would suit Katsura's character (part of why Ishida was cast as the voice actor too, I imagine). Except that long-haired wig really doesn't compliment his relatively angular face and prominent cheekbones.

Kiddo, I will acknowledge you as a full-fledged actor the day you can scream "ELIZABESUU~~~!!!!" with the same depth of emotion that Ishida does XDDDD

Shimura Tae
Anime: Yukino Satsuki / Movie: Nagasawa Masami (Sekai no Chuushin de Ai wo Sakebu, Proposal Daisakusen)
Masami was the go-to girl in the 2000's for rom-coms or rom-tragedies (is there such a thing?) Reportedly, she was on very bad terms with a contemporary, who once remarked dismissively of her, "She can only do the good girl types." Which, personally, I thought was very much on point.

In recent years she's mainly been concentrating on movies, so I see much less of her, and my last memory of her (apart from SPs) was in the painful Last Friends that brought some tough social issues to the fore and then couldn't chew it down.

How do I explain it? I think scene to scene, she can reach the emotions required, but there are some people who can take even a boring or an imperfect character and make you sympathise with or like them. She was not one of them.

All that said, I think in recent years she's tried hard (and probably succeeded) in breaking out of her good girl cast, and Otae's smiley nastiness would be a nice little exercise for her to get her teeth into. And she certainly looks the part in that pretty peach kimono.

Hiraga Gengai
Anime: Aono Takeshi / Movie: Muro Tsuyoshi
I remember him only because he was in Ouroboros along with Oguri Shun (and Ueno Juri and Ikuta Toma), and the boys had so much fun each week with behind-the-scenes shots and commentaries. He's been in a massive list of all different dramas playing bit parts. The casting came as a bit of a surprise because the guy is only 41 and I thought Gengai was a lot older, but the casting photo looks just right.
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