Katsura, Sakamoto, and Gintoki must face off against the most dangerous members of the Harusame, the 3 Mad Stars. First up, it is Katsura vs Shoukaku, along with the reveal of Katsura's past.
Katsura and Shoukaku strike, the commander’s strength such that the Joui leader was slightly driven into the ground. Shoukaku grew impressed with the samurai’s “art of war”, the strength to stop his hit as if by magic. Katsura insists it’s not magic but just using a single stick before pushing him away. The monkey agrees as they fight; he fought his way to the top only with his stick and exclaims that despite how advanced all the intelligent lifeforms became, they would rather fight each other on top of a pile of bodies. He knocks Katsura back before moving in for the kill, stating that all men were monkeys and wondering which one of them will be on top. Katsura throws a bomb to his face and Shokaku swallows it before it explodes as he brings his pole down to the ground. He survives the explosion only losing a tooth and complains how Katsura had used such a dirty trick. Katsura responds that a stick always has balls near it, revealing that he had dodged the strike, replacing himself with two bombs before throwing more bombs at him.
At the explosions, Katsura reaches Elizabeth and tells him and the faction to run. They do so under constant gunfire and Katsura uses more bombs as smokescreens. He asks them to continue running and not look back and Elizabeth responds that they’ve always done so with him and will always stay by his side. Katsura stops as the rest go on; he apologizes to his men that if he remains the “leader of an organization,” he can’t defeat the arriving and mostly unscathed Shoukaku. He had to fight for his own sake and he takes off his haori and the right side of his yukata then draws his sword. The monkey is surprised that “Runaway Kotarou” had decided to fight but the Joui leader admits that he wouldn’t have received that nickname if he didn’t know which people he can or can’t run away from. Shoukaku believes Katsura had accepted his fate but the human instead responds that it’s resolve; he won’t run away anymore. And the two fight.
Around a campfire at night, a group of soldiers argue who is the strongest, Gintoki for his brutal fighting style or Takasugi for his tactics. No one bothers to consider Sakamoto but do admit his loud obnoxiousness and monetary greed beats everyone’s. As for Katsura, the soldiers knew that he was the calming influence between Gintoki and Takasugi for years, the perfect leader material. But for his battle prowess, he was more known for defensive battles then offensive, barely attacking and falling for provocations, earning him the mocking nickname “Runaway Kotarou” by his enemies. They do see how his steadiness can be mistaken for cowardice. Sakamoto (who was there unnoticed the entire time and was also the one who offered his own name into the discussion) chastises them for thinking that Katsura was a coward due to not realizing his actual role in battles. Fighting losing battles are harder that winning battles and one must know when to retreat to regroup. Battles that focus on protecting allies instead of attacking enemies are what only people who understand war can do. It was thanks to Katsura that they were still in this fight. Sakamoto tells them they will see Katsura true strength when he sheds his “cowardly leader” mask and tells them about Katsura’s past.
His parents died due to illness, leading him to be raised by his grandmother. But their home was seized and the two became homeless for a while. His grandmother taught him about being the cautious general. Whether a leader is strong or smart, if he falls, the battle is lost as he won’t be around to protect anything. As such he must become the biggest coward in the battlefield. It doesn’t matter if he is weak or called a coward, as long as he survives, there will be those that know how great a general he is. His grandmother later dies, leaving the young Katsura as the only living head of his clan. While struggling to survive, he earned a reputation for his genius, even to the point of gaining an offer for adoption, though he refuses. While living alone, Katsura admits that wearing his “general” mask has made him hard-working but very lonely. He concludes that he must become stronger and more cowardly to protect himself and his comrades. Sakamoto finishes by stating that the moment when another general appears whom Katsura trusts enough to take his burden or when he encounters an enemy where the only way to win is to put everything on the line, Katsura will willingly shed his mask and reveal his true name, his true strength.
In the present, Katsura and Shoukaku continue their battle across the alleyways. Katsura strikes at the monkey who caught the sword with his teeth before the Amanto retaliates by shoving the human through a building into the air, then slamming him through the same building’s roof. Suddenly through a memory/dream in the Shouka Sonjuku dojo, young Katsura is asked by young Gintoki for a spar, calling him “Zura” due to laziness. Young Takasugi insists that Katsura will refuse due to his belief that a general shouldn’t be involved in personal battles, with said “general” agreeing. Gintoki instead responds that he will take Katsura’s place as the general so Katsura can do whatever he wants; when Gintoki’s around, Katsura can be himself and the same can be applied to when Takasugi being around. Gintoki and Takasugi begin to bicker, not helped when Takasugi berates Gintoki for not knowing what a general is despite his speech. A secretly grateful Katsura interrupts to insist that he spars with both boys to see if they were “general” material. Back in the present, Katsura smiles at the memory; Shoukaku states his regret that the Joui leader could have been an excellent commander of one of the Harusame divisions and tells Katsura goodbye. Suddenly his pole is grabbed by the still standing human who thrusts it into his chest, declaring that he wasn’t Katsura, but Zura.
Shoukaku grabs his pole back, shoving Katsura into a wall. As they trade blows, the 4th division commander notices that Katsura was fighting like a berserker, a wild beast that lost his sense of self. Yet it didn’t matter as Shoukaku was superior and he throws a punch at Katsura’s head. The human surprisingly blocks the hit with his left hand, causing said hand to be broken. Katsura uses Shoukaku’s arm as leverage to strike at Shoukaku’s head, forcing the monkey to use his other arm to block and resulting in losing said arm. Shoukaku throws Katsura off and shoves him into another building with his pole. As he watches Katsura breaking his weapon with a kick, the commander realizes that Katsura hasn’t lost his sense of self, he willingly discarded it and was sacrificing his life to kill him. Katsura slashes Shoukaku across the chest but the sword broke before cutting deeper into his shoulder. Stating that his respect for Katsura has risen, Shoukaku kicks Katsura through successive window awnings towards the ground. Katsura stabs Shoukaku in the stomach with his broken sword as they heavily landed and were thrown on the ground.
The duo slowly rise to their feet and walk towards the other. They both declare that they have one last trick before stopping. In the past, young Gintoki, Takasugi, and Katsura lay exhausted on the dojo floor. Katsura declares himself the winner, though Gintoki retorts that the only thing he wins is that his has the hardest head while Takasugi retorts that they both were unsuited. Katsura stands on his feet then pulls up Gintoki and Takasugi and thinks that even if they become great leaders of their own army, they will forever remain friends. In the present, the two fighters headbutt each other and Shoukaku collapses with Katsura admitting to have the hardest head. The pirates surround Katsura, aiming to shoot but the monkey tells his men to stand down, reminding them that the battle is lost if the general loses and admits defeat. He rises to sit before telling the surprised Katsura how he never liked working in a group or following the rules. But admits that the Harusame no longer had the rules to support themselves nor the freedom that they as pirates should have; the pirates became toys to Utsuro. He didn’t know what Utsuro’s plans were after trying to get rid of Katsura and his friends but knew that those plans can’t be stopped and that they were all puppets that will dance until broken. Katsura declares that they weren’t toys and Shoukoku agrees but adds that it’s time for his friends to get involved into another dance. His comrade was like Utsuro, having the ability to turn an entire battlefield and all troop within into his toys to play with.
In the air, the Kaientai shoots at a few Harusame ships before fleeing under Sakamoto’s orders. He tells Mutsu that his fleet was no match for the Harusame so their only plan is hit and run to make sure the enemy leave the battle. He will always move forward; suddenly the main ship Kaienmaru is attacked and worse, it was the rest of the Kaientai fleet who was behind it. In his room, Nobu Nobu overhears the Kaientai guards panic over the attack until they encounter someone and is attacked themselves, accidentally opening his door. He sees Hankai somehow turning the guards into slouching figures and immediately looks at him. In the control room, they receive a short transmission from one of the attacking ship pleading for Sakamoto to flee. Mutsu deduces that since their allies or enemies weren’t controlling the ship, it meant that someone had hacked into them and took over.
Hankai sends a video feed and introduces himself as the person responsible for controlling the ships. He then forces them to choose between shooting down their allies or allowing themselves to be shot down. But he adds that they must deal with something extra, the door opens and some of the crew attacks. The robot reveals that the so called only member of the 3rd division had an army; although too small to see, they can infiltrate machines and the brain and infect them, gaining complete control: his nanomachines. The group fight off the mind controlled crewmates and Sakamoto shoves them all out the room. He orders that they seal the door and don’t let anyone in and Mutsu does so, standing with the Kaientai Captain. He asks why she came with him; she answers that there was a third choice, to defeat Hankai and save the fleet. But if Sakamoto gets infected, she had to kill him. Sakamoto admits that he will be killed if he tried to defeat her if she’s infected. She responds that she was infected long before… by his stupidity as the two rush forward.
- Sakata Gintoki (flashback)
- Takasugi Shinsuke (flashback)
- Utsuro (cameo)
- Hitotsubashi Nobu Nobu