Posted by SuperMario on 18 April 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Golden Kamuy

Leave it to Japanese cartoon that done the Western genre better than the Westerners, at least from what we have seen so far (note: despite my pun, Western the genre doesn’t refer to the Western culture, but to the American Old West). Granted, Japanese cinema and literature has a strong tradition of samurai genre, which in some ways share many similarities in characteristics with Western genre. For me though, I still consider Golden Kamuy a Western one, and (so far) a good one at that. Treasure hunt is one of the most popular premise within the genre for one thing, and then we have its focus on the wilderness. The vast isolated landscape becomes a character on its own and Golden Kamuy certainly shares this. It has snowy mountain backdrop that sets in Hokkaido and the manga (remains a question mark for the anime) pays extremely careful details to Hokkaido places and the atmosphere. Social order and moral ambiguity also play important roles, so far Golden Kamuy carries many of those traits within Sugimoto character. Ex-solider, now becomes sort of nobody who looks for huge amount of money, and in the episode 2 we see his stance for his moral code: he isn’t a murderer, but if there is anyone going to kill him, he’ll kill them first without hesitation. Lastly, Western genre is famous for depicting minorities community, for better or for worse, and Golden Kamuy follows that tradition with a well-research presentation on the Anui people. On those fronts, Golden Kamuy is rather exceptional.

What I’m worried about this show, though, comes from its production. I watched Kokkoku last season and I feel the production of that show was only functionable, not exceptional or anything. It remains doubtful whether the new Geno Studio can do justice for this popular source. CGI bears aside*, the animation isn’t that consistent to be honest. There are many still frames that was a shot-by-shot with its manga source, so while it looks alright in stills, the lack of movement remains a concern. The characters look slightly off model in some scenes, and this is just second episode. I have my real worry that the production could fall apart as the series go one.

Get into the event of this second episode, this episode is jam-packed with actions and details and splits into three parts: 1) the pair gets into Otaru, the biggest city of Hokkaido and finds another tattooed prisoner there, 2) dinner, Ainu style (do they really eat the brain raw? Eew) and 3) another life and death situation – but hilariously so – with the third tattooed prisoner, an Escape Master. This episode also marks the end of the first volume of the manga, which for me the anime runs at a reasonable pace. We learn about a lot more enemies to our duo beside the bears. On one hand we have the whole 7th Hokkaido division, one of the strongest army unit involved to this gold hunting. The guy Sugimoto faces this time, Oogata is a threatening opponent. I like the way how, after he shoots the first prisoner death, he leaves the corpse there to pursuits the duo instead. Just show you how professional, and experienced this guy is. Kill all the hazards first, then skin the corpse. He manages to escape Sugimoto the Immortal and manages to survive himself, which means that now the army division will be actively involved in tracking Sugimoto and Aspira.

Still, even in this harsh, “the strong alive the weak die” world, there’s always time for more food porn. I get the intent that Golden Kamuy wants to delve deeper to Anui culture – and indeed, so far the show has shown its appreciation and respect to the Anui people – but the tone whiplash here is too severe. When these two characters have that chibi style and fluffy reactions (especially during Sugimoto exclaims(!!!) “This is so good”, I have a feeling someone padding me in my back and telling me I’m a good boy – the amount of self-indulgence is unBEARable. Other than that, the attitude towards Anui culture is overall positively portrayed in the show. Take a scene where the Escape King mocking Sugimoto about Aspira in which she sets aside and said “I’m used to it”, it just speaks volume here. The way Sugimoto feels about the insult isn’t subtle but it’s the right kind of attitude towards those kind race discrimination.

The last segment turns this capturing and chasing game into some odd whimsical enemy-turn-comrade situation, but for the show as grim and dark as this, a little light tone is more than welcome (just don’t go for food). Again, the setting of winter Hokkaido becomes its own character, it’s a force of nature for our characters to overcome. We learn more about the Leader of this prisoner gangs, who was a Samurai before and a scary figure that our duo need to be mindful of. I like this Escape King character and I figure we will see him back again soon. Overall, we have s busy episode where we got introduced to many major characters. The gold is nowhere in sight, the myth keeps getting more mysterious and heads certainly will roll and skins certainly will get ripped off. It’s a marvellous ride, now let’s all see if the production can keep up with it.

* I think the world has complained more than enough about those bears in the first episode that it isn’t worth beating that dead CGI bear dead horse at this point – although I can offer the reason why the director Nanba Hitoshi thinks it was a good idea. In one of the interview, he remarked that “[] bear have a special status for the Ainu, so I think the way to show them is different from other animals.” TAKE THAT.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike says:

    This was one of my most anticipated anime for the spring and now i finally got around to watching it. I’m loving it so far. I just hope it doesn’t fall apart like Kokkoku did.

    • SuperMario SuperMario says:

      Trying to catch up anime this year by season, Mike? Good luck with that. Make sure to watch those Netflix original shows as well (Devilman Crybaby, Aggressive Retsuko and maybe AICO)

      As for Golden Kamuy, makes sure to hold on until second cour. First season was nice and all, but the current season ups the ante and so shamelessly goofy it’s amazing to watch.

      • Avatar Mike says:

        haha yea I have alot to catch up on! I watched Devilman Crybaby and it was really good. I just finished up the first cour of Golden Kamuy and I wasn’t disappointed. I plan on watching the second season soon.

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