Anyone who is close to me knows that if there is a list, Gintoki is most certainly at the top of it. He is a character that I'm immensely fond of, my absolute favorite that I've spent so many hours (and dollars T_T) on. His fanlisting was my first anime fanlisting and is, to this day, my most treasured. Gintoki is the embodiment of an anime that is incredibly close to my heart, as well as a culmination of everything I've ever loved about complex fictional characters: sarcastic, riddled with imperfections, hilariously human, but ultimately kind and wonderful underneath all of that.
Gintoki first caught my eye when I saw his character on the cover of Gintama, Volume 1: dead fish eyes, furry mop of hair, a lazy looking guy but strangely enigmatic. (He was so much cuter and rounder back then compared to his more handsome look today, it's amazing to see how Sorachi's art has evolved!) I picked up Gintama because I was really interested in the guy on the cover. From there it was all downhill. Prior to Gintama I hadn't been into anime for quite a few years, but I went spiraling back into the fandom almost instantly. Gintoki won my heart with both his crude but honest nature and his sincere monologues.
"The country? The sky? I’ll give that to you guys. It’s hard enough for me to protect what I want to protect. I don’t know how many times I have failed to protect what I wanted to… I don’t have anything anymore but, if there’s something on the floor, I’ll pick it up. What’s important to the customer is important to me. I’ll do anything to protect that!"
I think many people who only know Gintama at the surface/episodic level will never truly understand the appeal of someone who has sat with it for years. Like most long-running series, I think it's one of those things where experiencing it for so many years is like becoming part of an (absolutely insane) family. People know Gintama for its humor, but the people who love it, love it for its honesty and hilarious & heartbreaking depiction of what it is to be a human being. Don't get me wrong. It is, in fact, all those memes that you see on Tumblr. But it is also, so, so, so much more and in my opinion this is largely because of its main character. He's crude, poor, has almost zero redeemable qualities. There's nothing really extraordinary about him. He doesn't go Super Saiyan or have a Bankai: he's a samurai in a world that no longer needs him.
But Gintoki has more heart and soul than any character you can imagine. He reminds us that at the end of the day, those silly things that make us human don't matter; what matters is that we never forget the importance of stretching out our hand to another person in need, no matter who that person may be. That even the smallest gestures make the cruel world around us a better place. Despite having so little and having lost so much, Gintoki does everything in his power to help others—be it friends or complete strangers, human, or alien. That's why even though Gin-san is comically referred to as a failure of a Jump hero, he's really just as much of a hero as Luffy or Naruto. Sorachi has an art for storytelling that is really unlike any other: Gintama is the type of story that will have you crying from both laughter and overwhelming emotion. It's deeply sentimental and even the most hilarious episodes will claw at the most human parts inside of you. Gintama is real life: and that's the beauty of it.
I'm sure everyone was expecting at least one dirty joke in here, but in all honesty, it's not the "strawberry milk" speech, or the "Dragon BleaPiece" jokes, or even the fact that his testicles literally came off and bounced around for a chapter. Those things are funny and unforgettable, but not what makes Gintoki such an amazing character. Certainly, Sorachi has a knack for referential humor and being culturally relevant. But it's the fact that in the midst of all the hilarity and toilet humor, and all the mistakes that we make as humans, Gintoki is brave, honest, good, and trying to make the world a better place with even the smallest of deeds. Despite all his past mistakes, despite all his flaws, despite the way the world has turned his back on him and deemed him "unneeded", he's never once turned his back on the world. In contrast to his former comrades, who have gone as far as terrorism in response to being discarded: Gintoki never once raised a blade at someone who didn't deserve it, but instead, extended his hand.
And sure, yeah, he's literally a walking penis joke. What's not to love about a good penis joke? :^) 8===|)