Gintama: Reaper Arc (Episodes 279-281)

So the preview at the end of episode 278 states that the incidents which occur during this arc are linked to Gintoki's past, and it will be the story's turning point. It starts with a series of killings of drunkards in the Kabuki district. All victims were cut through the neck, leaving only a tiny bit of flesh attached. Rumours begin to spread that these were the works of a Reaper. Gintoki and co are mixed up in all this when he walks home drunk and meets a Reaper who wants to commit suicide (if they're already dead, how does that work?).

Just by the word Reaper in the Arc title, you can tell that there will be references to Bleach before things get serious. And there are quite a few, including a DBZ reference to Krillin (I don't understand it). But the serious bits come in when we learn of how this Reaper is pulling off these killings when Shinsengumi members Sogo and Hijikata investigate the latest death. Apparently Sogo is capable of pulling off this skill, but he's able to give himself an alibi when he tells Hijikata he was attempting to kill him. Anyway, Hijikata brings in a member of the family assigned to be the Shinsengumi's executioner, known as Ikeda Yaemon. He tells us how this skill is pulled off and who is able to do it: him and one other person. The latter is the girl who was wearing the Reaper mask.

As the Arc progresses, we learn the link to Gintoki's past: he was a target of the previous Yaemon due to a crime he committed. This makes him a target for the current Ikeda Yaemon, who seems to have a dark secret also. This is the main part of the Arc, where all the serious parts come into play. The comedy comes in the form of Kagura and Shinpachi when they wonder about the crime he committed, and Hijikata when him and Sogo try to find Asaemon in a room full of corpses.

The current Yaemon's dark secret comes to light via his backstory which becomes clearer throughout the Arc, which links in with Asaemon. Also Gintoki's crime comes to light, along with the significance of Asaemon's past with the previous Yaemon, the current Yaemon and Gintoki (both directly and indirectly with him).  Asaemon's past is the saddest one out of them, as it continues to haunt her and even more so when Yaemon contributes to it. The way in which these are shown is really nice, and fits in with the atmosphere that surrounds her past.

But just when you think you know everything, another group of people are introduced: the Hitotsubashi. They're linked with the Yaemon family somehow, and they're mentioned more than they are seen. If you don't concentrate whilst watching you may not remember how they're a part of the story, but you will be aware of their "alliance" with a certain character at the end of the Arc. This is followed by a really nice ending in which Asaemon is no longer haunted by her past, and the quote which both Gintoki and Asaemon know makes more sense at this point. It gives her a fresh start in life and you could say that it also allows Gintoki to move on from what he did. Until something happens to him (you'll get what I mean).

Overall the Reaper Arc is probably the darkest Arc so far, but does have a nice ending to it for Asaemon and a dark one featuring that character and the Hitotsubashi. How they will be implemented into future Gintama episodes is unknown, but that doesn't matter: Gintama never ceases to amaze in quality even when it gets serious.

Gintoki and co find themselves teaming up with a Reaper wanting to commit suicide, only to find themselves in deeper waters as the Reaper is linked to Gintoki's past
Anything else?: That moment when Hijikata sees Gintoki in a barrel