The Fall 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Golden Kamuy season 2
How would you rate episode 13 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 2) ?
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How was the first episode?
Golden Kamuy has a Funimation dub, and it sounds like a Funimation dub. You could easily mistake it for any of their other simuldub efforts, but for the discussions of Ainu mythology or pre-WWI geopolitics. To me, Funimation dubs are usually more naturalistic-sounding than most other animation dubs, but might go just campy or silly enough from time to time to remind you that you're watching a cartoon. You'd never mistake it for live-action acting, but it's closer than most, in a middle ground that most resembles theater acting. Where Funimation dubs tend to stumble is when they get that mix wrong, going for cartoonish on something that should sound more naturalistic or vice versa. Unfortunately, Golden Kamuy has more than a few of those stumbling blocks.
Ian Sinclair would be perfectly cast as Sugimoto if not for the fact that his voice and delivery stands out so much as belonging to so many other recognizable roles. Vary it up a little more! Monica Rial, on the other hand, doesn't feel like the right choice for Asirpa: She goes too far over to the "cartoonish" end of things, as she usually does when playing younger girls, and she sounds too old for the role. It's distracting in moments like Asirpa's monologue at the beginning of episode 13. Ben Phillips certainly tries to make Shiraishi goofy, but it doesn't feel like the right casting choice when you match him up against seiyuu Kentaro Ito. Phillips doesn't seem to have the right delivery for Shiraishi's campier moments.
The supporting cast fares better. There are still some missteps—Felecia Angelle plays Inkarmat more syrupy-sweet when I was expecting a femme-fatale purr—but overall, it works. Greg Dulcie's Hijikata in particular sounds exactly how I would have expected. David Wald as Lt. Tsurumi surprised me, seeming to play him too "normal" at first, but he showed hidden depths as his scenes with Edogai went on. He clearly has the range for this wildly unpredictable guy. Brandon McInnis' Edogai was my favorite. I was expecting something that more obviously broadcast him as crazy from the get-go, like a sinister whisper. Instead, McInnis plays him with a boyish innocence that gets way closer to Edogai's specific kind of insanity.
As for the script, it does a good job of streamlining complicated explanations while keeping the meaning the same, which is essential for this detail-heavy show. Still, there are a few puzzling word changes. For example, why replace the iconic "boner" jokes as "hard-on"? For me at least, "hard-on" conjures images of middle schoolers learning to swear for the first time. It doesn't work for the silly-yet-weirdly-serious ways that the characters in this show talk about boners. Overall, the script is the strongest part of this adaptation. I only wish its casting could be as consistent, but Golden Kamuy's dub shakes out to decent.
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.
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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