The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Golden Kamuy season 2

How would you rate episode 13 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 2) ?

What is this?

As winter melts into spring, Asirpa and Sugimoto take a break from their hunt for the lost Ainu treasure to gather delicious herbs for her village, meditating on all the revelations they've absorbed over the past snowy months. But they can't relax for too long, because Tsurumi is still hot on their trail, and he's found a new ally in a most unusual taxidermist for putting the Abashiri skins he's collected into a complete treasure map. The long and winding road ahead is overflowing with allies and enemies alike as the change in seasons changes the game. Golden Kamuy season 2 is based on a manga and streams on Crunchyroll, Mondays at 10:00 AM EST.

How was the first episode?

Paul Jensen

Rating: 3

For all the things that Golden Kamuy does well, it doesn't appear to be all that great at transitioning from one season to another. Its initial run earlier this year ended on an inconclusive note, and this continuation gets off to a relatively slow start. That's not to say this isn't a productive episode; it does a fine job of laying the groundwork for future conflicts, but that doesn't translate into a whole lot of excitement at the moment.

If you're here for life-and-death struggles in brutal conditions, this premiere probably won't do much to get your blood pumping. The primary focus here is on getting the audience up to speed one what all of the show's various factions are up to. That means checking in on Tsurumi, Hijikata, and Tanigaki, all of whom are either moving ahead with their own plans or taking on new objectives. This makes for a relatively talky episode, and it also means that we get precious little time with Sugimoto and Asirpa. The narrative's progression from winter to spring is also a potential concern, since the more forgiving climate could take some of the urgency out of future survival situations. On the upside, despite the general lack of action, it looks like Golden Kamuy is setting the stage for some interesting new storylines. With all of the major players remaining as formidable as ever, we should be in for some thrilling confrontations in the coming weeks.

While the tense survival and combat might be absent for the moment, Golden Kamuy's uniquely grim sense of humor remains intact. Tsurumi's interactions with his new taxidermist ally are entertaining and disturbing in equal measure as they evolve from a tense verbal game of cat and mouse into the world's most twisted fashion show. That scene would probably be horrifying in any other context, but it's presented in a way that feels strangely appropriate for this series. We also get a fresh dose of Ainu cooking and cultural trivia, which is a welcome return as long as you like that element of the show.

Your enjoyment of this episode will depend on two things. The first is your willingness to put Golden Kamuy's badass survival action on hold in favor of some important plot developments and character interactions. The second is your continued tolerance for mediocre character animation; if this premiere is any indication, Golden Kamuy's visuals haven't gotten much better in the off-season. I have no doubt that the series will be firing on all cylinders again in a week or two, but returning viewers may need to exercise a bit of patience in the meantime.

Theron Martin

Rating: 3.5

True action-adventure stories that aren't also fantasy fare aren't all that common in anime these days, but that's far from the only thing that made Golden Kamuy stand out from the crowd during its first season. Its focus on adult characters (beyond Asirpa) also distinguishes it, as does the way it explored Ainu culture, another rarity in anime. Perhaps its biggest hallmark was a certain gritty side, exemplified by the serial killers and other amoral types who seem to embody the nastiest side of nature, as well as nature itself being pretty brutal at times. This is a story where things like getting your face ripped off by a bear, ears being severed, or skinning a corpse to get its tattoos are commonplace, but Golden Kamuy never quite comes across as a horror series; at times, it's even joyful in its depravity.

All of those factors return in this first episode of the second season. While Asirpa shows off a traditional Ainu sweet to Sugimoto and relates the Ainu concept of seasonal work flow, Tanigaki is out hunting with his Ainu companion, which allows for illustration of how to properly skin a young deer. Meanwhile, Lt. Tsurumi engages in the sickest part of this episode, when he meets a taxidermist who makes Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs look like an amateur. He not only props taxidermied bodies up and imagines them talking to him, but he also makes elaborate clothing from human skin, including a face mask made with human teeth and ears, body suits that have fingers sticking out in random places, and even human faces integrated into crotch pieces or scarves. This would all be utterly horrifying if it wasn't played so jovially, a feat that I wouldn't have believed possible if I haven't seen it. So yeah, you'll want a strong stomach for this episode.

Equally interesting are the big revelations dropped in this episode. Asirpa has always seemed a little different from other Ainu because of her rare blue eyes, and now we know that this is because her father was a Russian immigrant. This episode also drops suggestions that he has some grand purpose for Asirpa that's no doubt connected to the gold at the heart of the story. Sadly, the technical merits of the series still aren't great, with several shots looking very rough. However, this episode absolutely reaffirms the appeal that the series has established so far. Everyone's back for another rough ride.

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