As the wind starts to pick up with the Check It Out Gang cheering in the background, Hijikata and Isaburo begin to face off with the latter reasoning that he just wants to do his job in the most efficient manner possible. Which Hijikata is now standing in his way of doing.
So with an opening strike from him, their duel begins with Hijikata referring to him as Rosy while he himself is thorny. And elsewhere at this point Kondo, Sougo, and Yamazaki are able to swiftly move through the building as Nobume slaughters every gang member that gets in her way with ease, however at the rate she’s going she’s likely to kill Tetsunosuke in the process, so Sougo, the one she acknowledges as being like her, intervenes to hold her at bay. Almost appearing to flirt with each other as they exchange blows. However compared to the grace of their fight the one between Hijikata and Isaburo is quite the opposite, with each executing attacks with what they have on hand and brutally countering each other’s attacks. With Hijikata taking the brunt of it, realising that Isaburo is leading him into his attacks before falling into yet another trap, followed through by a fatal strike.
But before the Mimawarigumi charges in, the leader of the Check It Out gang threatens to read the letter that Hijikata entrusted Tetsunosuke with, revealing that it was addressed to Isaburo and therefore must be an important encoded message. So interested to hear the contents, Isaburo halts his attack and allows him to continue, with the letter being revealed to be about Tetsunosuke instead. That he’s not the same lazy bumb he was before and that he’s well on his way to becoming strong, which he on behalf of the Shinsengumi swears to do. All he asks in return is that he acknowledges this and approves of who he is now, something all to late for him. Yet despite this heartfelt message Isaburo dismisses it with a single shot, and finds Hijikata once more in his way. This time charging at him head on and driving his blade through the barrel of his gun and into his shoulder.
However even after being dealt a blow like this Isaburo isn’t done just yet, going on to confront him on the selfishness of his actions, that their job it to carry out justice and nothing more, that he’s merely trying to redeem criminals including himself instead. Revealing that he had already sent a squad in during this, forcing Hijikata to race against time to save Tetsunosuke, but before the Mimawarigumi strike someone stops them in their tracks, Gintoki. Who calls Isaburo to confirm that his job is over, and as the Mimawarigumi plan to wipe everyone out at once, decides to side with the Check It Out gang just for the hell of it, after all cops piss him off, challenging them as the dreaded Shiroyasha.
So with nothing else to do, he and Hijikata begin to face off, the latter happily noting about how familiar they all are and that they can only try to prevent those like themselves from making the same mistakes, the former calling his bluff by throwing Tetsunosuke off the ledge. However this all turns out to have been part of Kondo’s plan, Yamazaki catching him just in time as he tells them to go wild.
Some things were a little far fetched, and in a way it feels as if this arc has been intentionally drawn out with Gintoki stepping back onto the stage, but this is still a good arc so far. The fights are excellent, Isaburo and the Mimawarigumi work well as villains, and the general approach to it all is great.
We’re learning new things about Hijikata that almost allow us to see him in a new light, the kid who pushed away and lost the only guy who didn’t shun him and now regrets that he didn’t, however while this may seem as if it could lead to a happy reunion between him and his brother that possibility was clearly ruled out. Making his feelings of regret all the more tragic. Other than that, Isaburo just works so well as a villain, he’s absolutely despicable in his methods and approach, but at the same time his overall goal isn’t exactly bad. As despicable as he seems, his way of doing things is probably the most effective. At the cost of Tetsunosuke the Check It Out gang would be eliminated, and there would be one less terrorist group endangering the people. Secondly the dynamic between Sougo and Nobume is also interesting as well, they’re quite similar but because of that they’re at each other’s throats, they’d make an interesting couple to say the least.
Aside from that, looking past a few parts, the fights in this episode were amazing. While Nobume and Sougo’s duel was about constant smooth attacks, where one wrong move could cost them their life, Isaburo and Hijikata’s fight was quite the opposite. With neither refusing to budge an inch, making use of their surroundings and what they had on hand (seeing Hijikata use barbed wire was fairly awesome given the thorny theme of it all), it was gritty to say the least. Isaburo may have emerged unscathed from it but no matter how many attacks Hijikata took he didn’t give up and kept on going. It almost seemed to serve as a reminder that while we don’t see them in every arc, when Gintama chooses to have serious fights it does them amazingly well. Not to mention that Hijikata himself is fairly high up as far as power levels go as well.
However despite all of that Gintoki’s rearrival on the scene was probably something that disappointed me about it all, he’s been in this arc since the start but up until this episode he had always been in the background. He was there but what he was doing didn’t hold much influence over the events of this arc as a whole, at the most you’d probably expect him to pull through and save Tetsunosuke while the Shinsengumi and the Mimawarigumi fought it out. But instead the moment he stepped up he seemed to just barge in and steal the spotlight away from Hijikata, who has easily been one of the most interesting parts about this arc. Not to mention I wouldn’t exactly say that Gintoki is as ‘thorny’ as Hijikata suggested him to be. That said though the role he almost sought to take was great, we usually see him as the hero who saves people on a whim and seeks to protect those around him, but he was portrayed almost in the reverse. For a moment it almost seemed as if he was going to chaotically side with the Check It Out gang, playing into that whimsical nature of his but reversing his role by having him act on the opposing side.