Let’s say you’ve got ten minutes to catch the bus and you’re nearly there. Why not enjoy a leisurely scenery-soaked stroll? Golden Kamuy is like that stroll, or, like an action-oriented Mushishi. We follow a motley cadre of characters searching for gold throughout 1900s Hokkaido. Our main character, “the Immortal” Sugimoto, leisurely learns about Ainu culture during his gold-oriented stroll and we, too, learn about the malignment and mystery of Ainu through this sundry stroll.
Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]
Spoilers?: Nothing significant (general commentary)
This cultural study within an anime context was once nearly unfathomable.
Until 2008, the Ainu were not considered an indigenous people by the Japanese government, causing this rich culture to be ignored at best by people living outside the northern island of Japan, or more often whitewashed by the mainland Japanese culture that colonized Hokkaido. Now, Hokkaidon mangaka/author Noda Satoru can tell a nearly academic story in collaboration with researchers of Ainu culture, which through exciting drama and calm moments, can inspire more interest in academic anthropologic studies.
It’s just unfortunate the anime is too roughly edited and produced.
Visually variable, some scenes containing delightful designs, followed by weirdly-rendered or weirdly-drawn characters requiring trust in the narrative and suspension of disbelief to accept. The physical releases are even being delayed to address this issue. Narrative pacing problems plague the latter half of the season, where episodes are crammed with various vignettes and episode-ending cues appear mid-episode, or, like when you think you have the time to catch the bus, only to see it pass by the bus stop a few minutes early.
The series was just too rushed! Fortunately, the material is still great.
Nuanced characters like vibrantly vivacious villain Lieutenant Tsurumi, and particularly the main cast themselves, entertain endlessly. Sugimoto can be really silly! He would be typically typecast as an unemotive, unwaveringly rude dude with a heart of gold. Instead, Sugimoto has some of the silliest facial expressions of the series, surpassing Asirpa; just slightly. These conflictingly dynamic dichotomic traits typify most people, but not as often fictional characters, because complex characters can confuse critical crowds.
There’s one more element that makes Golden Kamuy stand out.
Calm, cooking cut-away scenes punctuate pulse-pounding post-action fights. After our main characters – the aforementioned “Immortal” Sugimoto, young Ainu tracker Asirpa, and sometimes comedic-relief “Escape King” Shiraishi – kill an attacking animal, Asirpa will prepare and cook the meat. She shares her culture with them, and us, through her cooking methods, which can nearly be recreated with further research. This might be the greatest strength of Golden Kamuy: vibrant cultural preservationist entertainment.
We’re more likely to study what is relatable, relevant, or riveting.
Casually learning about Iñupiat culture through action platformer Never Alone or Hawaiian sovereignty in the ukelele ballad “Hawaii 78” popularized by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole can inspire us to expand our observations outside ourselves. There is a rich world out there to explore if we dedicate more time to leisurely scenery-soaked strolls. Take the next bus.
|Sources: Sources cited in the review. This review is focused only on the anime because I haven’t read the manga yet. Honestly, I don’t read manga that often.|
|Inspirations: I thought of the bus-catching duality between this and my MEGALOBOX review during the final five-minute stretch of sidewalk before arriving at the bus stop. Also, if the over-alliteration was awkward, sorry, but it was a good practice in writing with… weighing wording’s worth.|
|Pictures: First episode screenshots.|
|Written On: June 28th [30 minutes], July 2nd [1 hour], July 3rd [1 hour], July 4th [2+ hours]|
|Last Edited: July 4th|