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{G} The White Demon.

11th card in the {G} series.
Fitting together the puzzle pieces of Gintoki's mysterious past.
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Though most people will recognize Gintoki by his silly perm and disgusting nose-picking habits, behind his nonchalant and seemingly lazy attitude lies a darker, unknown past that has yet to be spoken of in depth. Much of what we currently know about where Gintoki came from has been displayed in short, 2-3 minute flashbacks, mentions from characters who have known him long before the series started, or in spoof trailers made by the trolls at Sunrise which tease fans with titles like The Birth of Shiroyasha.
Gintoki's story is being pieced together at a snail's pace, but I think that part of what makes his character so intriguing is that his past is shrouded in mystery. Gintoki himself speaks little of his past. Even when shit goes down Edo most of the talk of Shiroyasha is done by those who knew Gintoki back then or have at least heard the rumors. Though he'll normally roll his eyes or pick his nose when stories about Shiroyasha come up, these memories are ones that haunt Gintoki. He appears to have reoccurring nightmares about things that have taken place back then: Zura brings it up once after Gintoki awakens from a dream, and he also dreams of his former life as Shiroyasha during the Benizakura arc.
That being said, Gintoki seems to have some secrets about himself that he isn't willing to reveal quite yet, even to his closest friends.
"Crushing aliens like the devil...feared among enemies and allies...Sakata Gintoki, let us fight against those aliens once again."
--Katsura Kotarou, Chapter 6
However, ask anyone familiar with the heroes of the Joui War and the name Shiroyasha or White Demon, as it translates to in English, will inevitably come up. He was a feared swordsman: silver hair stained with the blood of his enemies, dressed in all white, with swordsmanship and combat skills that went unrivaled amongst both his enemies and friends.
That's right. That lollipop-sucking, nose-picking, Jump-reading Gintoki was once actually pretty serious business about getting rid of those alien scum and fought valiantly alongside his comrades: Takasugi Shinsuke, Katsura Kotarou and Sakamoto Tatsuma. Or at least, that's what we're led to believe. Where Gintoki's willpower or reason to fight stems from has not actually been determined, as most battle flashbacks from the Joui War are void of any kind of dialog regarding the matter.
However, just by witnessing the flashbacks of Gintoki beheading and ripping through the insides of Amanto soldiers, one can easily see that he comes off as a completely different person from the Gintoki that we all know and love today. As a matter of fact, seeing Gintoki revert back to his former self when he gets super-riled up during battle (good examples of this being his fight against Jiraia or Jirochou) is almost a little bit frightening, and enough to send chills down any Gintama fan's spine.
Some of the dialog Gintoki shares with his war pals, on the other hand, paints a slightly different picture of the fearsome Shiroyasha. While he certainly may have been a different person in initiative and battle, Gintoki has never changed in fighting according to his own code. When the war against the Amanto was starting to look grim his comrade Zura was willing to die in the more traditional sense of the bushido: die honorably before the enemy gets to you first. Gintoki on the other hand, places his life as something more valuable than simply fighting for the honor his comrades hoped to achieve as victors of the war.
"If you have time to fantasize about your beautiful death, then why not use that to live beautifully until the end?"
--Sakata Gintoki, Chapter 6
Even in the current chapters of Gintama, many characters state that they don't understand Gintoki's reasoning and question his logic and way of living. It's highly likely that one of the reasons Gintoki values his life and fights to protect his soul is because of the values he learned from his teacher, Yoshida Shouyou. Gintoki continuing to fight during the war (even if the samurais' odds were at an all time low) and then also continuing to later accept his life post-Joui War are both likely because Gintoki refuses to simply throw away the life that Shouyou-sensei granted him as a young boy. The experiences and ideals that Gintoki has as Shiroyasha are values that he still holds deeply up until now, and shape the character that he hides behind his lazy facade.
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