Welcome, weebs and authors alike, to The Aniwriter
As many have already stated, the spring of 2018 is likely to go down in anime history as one of the best seasons of all time. There was so much quality and diversity in the shows that were airing that for many it was astounding. From shonen favorite like the third season of My Hero Academia starting its run, to brand new instant comedy classics like Hinamatsuri bursting onto the scene, there was a lot to love.
One show that seemed to remain ever so slightly under the radar was Golden Kamuy. While newer IPs like the aforementioned Hinamatsuri and Megalo Box were receiving heaps of praise from fans, Studio Geno’s adaptation of Noda Satoru’s acclaimed manga seemed to go largely ignored. However, despite its relative obscurity during last season, Golden Kamuy is absolutely worth a watch.
The show’s story follows Sugimoto, a Russo-Japanese war veteran who, after leaving the army and finding his late best friend’s wife helpless as she faces a disease that threatens to leave her blind, goes out in search of fast cash. Upon hearing the story the tattooed prisoners and the stash of hidden Ainu gold, Sugimoto rushes to start his journey. Quickly he runs into an Ainu girl named Asirpa, who coincidentally happens to be the daughter of the former Ainu chief. After telling Asirpa his plans, she agrees to assist him in order to find out more about her father, and in exchange, she promises to let him have a small portion of the gold.
Undoubtedly one of the best parts of the series is its large cast of characters who all have the same goal of finding the valuable stash of gold. Aside from the two main characters, there is also Lt. Tsurumi, who leads a faction of former Russo-Japanese soldiers known as the 7th Division, and whose ultimate goal is to create a separate country, independent of Japan. Tsurumi very much comes across as a ruthless tyrant, even while claiming to care about the men in his division. There is also Toshizo Hijikata, a former samurai who wants to establish his own Shogunate like kingdom where he can relive his glory days.
However, the show would be absolutely nothing without its two leads, Asirpa and Sugimoto. The chemistry between these two can really only be described as genuine, as there bond is apparent even from the first episode. Sugimoto’s backstory, in particular, rang as extremely harsh, especially given the historical period the show is based in. Given that the show happens almost immediately after the Russo-Japanese War, this means that the events are happening around 1905-1906, a time when the world was only beginning to opens its borders to foreign trade. Japan especially was very hostile to the idea, and as a result getting the medical treatment that his wife needed was extremely difficult.
As the two continue on their journey to collect the tattoos of the 24 prisoners that will reveal the location of the Ainu gold, they begin to learn more about each other. Sugimoto learns more about Ainu culture when they make periodic pitstops into Asirpa’s village, and Asirpa slowly learns more about Sugimoto’s past as they continue to travel. Over time the two pick up another ally in the form of Yoshitake Shiraishi, one of the tattooed prisoners, and one known as the escape king. Despite being also being allied with Hijikata, Shiraishi agrees to help Sugimoto in his quest to find the gold, even though Sugimoto really does not trust him.
Golden Kamuy’s setting in the northern mountain range in Hokkaido, while also being historically accurate, gives the show a narrative flow that a lot of other adventure stories don’t. Because the setting rarely changes from the mountainous environment, it makes the show much more immersive and can avoid a lot of awkward transitions.
The show’s animation is mostly passible. There are a few spots towards the beginning and end, but it is more than made up for by its beautiful set pieces and largely on point action scenes. The one area where it does fail almost completely is its CG. Granted, the CG alone is not enough to discredit the show as a whole, far from it. And it is also rarely in the show long enough to even be considered distracting. However, during the times that it is used, Golden Kamuy’s CG can really only be described as bad.
The most prominent and consistent example of this is its depiction of bears. They very often come across as looking unnatural and extremely jarring when put next to the rest of the 2D animation, as seen in the above photo. While the director did acknowledge the difficulty of hand-drawing bears and the ability to make them look as consistently good as they did in the original manga, it does not make up for how poorly they look in the show.
The music is also not one of the show’s stronger elements. While it did receive both an excellent OP and ED, the rest of the soundtrack does not come with any standout music. This is by no means to say that it is bad. But, it is to say that it could have been done a lot better. The show’s ED, “Hibana” by The Sixth Lie, has become a personal favorite of mine, though.
Golden Kamuy is by no means perfect. There are a lot of weaknesses in some of its side characters, music, and especially in its CG, but that is no reason to discount it. Historical fiction is something I rarely seek out in anime, but if it can be done even half as good as Golden Kamuy, I would be more than happy to watch more. Overall, Golden Kamuy is definitely worth a watch.
What do you guys think of Golden Kamuy’s first season? Are you excited for the second? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you want to support the Aniwriter through donations or are just feeling generous, consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Otherwise, thanks for reading and bye for now, Friendos!