Gin Tama, also styled as Gintama, is a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Hideaki Sorachi and serialized, beginning on December 8, 2003, in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump. Set in Edo which has been conquered by aliens named Amanto, the plot follows life from the point of view of samurai Gintoki Sakata, who works as a freelancer alongside his friends Shinpachi Shimura and Kagura in order to pay the monthly rent. Sorachi added the science fiction setting to develop characters to his liking after his editor suggested doing a historical series.
The manga has been licensed by Viz Media in North America. In addition to publishing the individual volumes of the series, Viz serialized its first chapters in their Shonen Jump manga anthology. It debuted in the January 2007 issue, and was serialized at a rate of one chapter a month. Sentai Filmworks initially licensed the series. In Japan, the Gin Tama manga has been popular, selling over 50 million copies, making it one of the best-selling manga series.
Shueisha has been collecting the chapters in tankōbon volumes with the first being published on April 2, 2004. Sixty-eight volumes have been released in Japan. In North America tankōbon were published under Viz’s “Shonen Jump Advanced” imprint. The first volume was published on July 3, 2007, while on August 2, 2011 Viz published the twenty-third volume. Publication of the series by Viz Media ended with that volume with no reasons given.
In 2003, Hideaki Sorachi was an up-and-coming manga artist who had already created two one-shots for the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. Although he was preparing to write his first serialized series, his editor suggested he create a manga series based on the Shinsengumi, mostly inspired by an upcoming TV-drama about the 1860s troupe as depicted by idol actors. Sorachi attempted to create this series since he admitted to liking the Shinsengumi, but ultimately failed to get anything off the ground. Instead of abandoning the idea completely, he remained focused on the historical Japanese era but began to create his own story, adding in elements of science fiction and fictionalizing many of the figures from the era to create a story more to his own liking. The original title of the series was meant to be “Yorozuya Gin-san“, but it did not have any impact on Sorachi. After great debate, he decided to go with the name Gin Tama after discussing it with his family, deciding on a name that sounded close to the edge without being completely off it. Although Sorachi considered the one-shot “Samuraider” to be very poor, the setting of such one-shot served as the base for Gin Tama such as the addition of alien characters. Sorachi liked the Bakumatsu and Sengoku periods due to how both were eras of change and thus presented the positive and negative points of humanity. The series was then set in an alternate Bakumatsu to give a bigger significance to the characters’ bushido as in that time samurais were at the low point of their lives.
The main character of the series was originally meant to be Tshiro Hijikata as Sorachi was a fan of the Shinsengumi, most notably from Hijikata Toshizō (the Shinsengumi who was the base for the one of Gin Tama), after he saw the film Burn! Sword!. When Sorachi could not “shake off” Hijikata’s initial design, he decided not to use him as the lead character, but added him along with the Shinsengumi to the story. The pilot chapter from the series had a different plot to the one from the serialization: Shinpachi already met Gintoki in the story and there were more Shinsengumi to the story such as one based on Harada Sanosuke. As all these new Shinsengumi were older than most of the recurring characters from the series, Sorachi removed them thinking they were not entertaining. When asked by a fan, Sorachi mentioned that most characters from the series are based on real-life Edo citizens while Gintoki’s character is roughly based on the folk hero Sakata Kintoki.
When starting serialization the manga was unpopular and was close to being cancelled. Although Sorachi was pleased with the first tankōbon selling all of its copies, he later learned Shueisha was afraid of poor sales which resulted in the minimum printed. In order to increase its popularity, the author introduce new characters, the Shinsengumi, who felt memorable to his assistants. Sorachi had little hope on the manga’s popularity, as he noted that people used to tell him the manga would not surpass the number of two tankōbon volumes. However, once the third volume was released, Sorachi found that he did not have “any fresh material to use.” During the first year of the series, Sorachi believed that the source of the popularity of Gin Tama was partially connected to the Shinsengumi drama. While the drama ran during the first year of the series, when the manga was mostly shorter stories that established the characters and the world, he felt uncomfortable of making things related to the drama. By the second year and beyond, he became more daring in his stories and concepts, creating longer storylines that included more drama while keeping his sense of humor and satirization of modern Japan by way of his fictionalized past. Although Sorachi has already planned the series’ ending, he is not sure when the manga is going to reach that point due to the characters requiring development to behave the way he wants.
When working on a chapter of Gintama, Sorachi sometimes has problems finishing the manuscript, leaving his supervisor to take it before he can revise it. He figures out what to write by staying in his room or going for a walk. Although he commented that some of his ideas are “random,” he focuses on the fact that they are all related to the manga, and when he has problems coming up with ideas, Sorachi is often helped by his editor. Thinking of Gin Tama as a “non-sense manga,” before writing a chapter, Sorachi decides whether it should be a comedy or a drama. Sorachi defines Gin Tama as a “science fiction human drama pseudo-historical comedy.”
When Sorachi is illustrating Gin Tama, he usually uses a felt-tip pen, a fountain pen, a brush-tip pen, and a multiliner, but for the major characters he only uses a felt-tip pen and a fountain pen, and does their outlines with a multiliner-0.8.