Golden Kamuy Season 3
by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 3) ?
We start with Asirpa's group discussing the risks and rewards of freeing Sofia from prison. Kiroranke insists that the gold will directly benefit all the Ainu by helping them remain secure in the face of external threats. That night, the team uses the cover of darkness to liberate Sofia as well as get interesting haircuts (because of course).
Flashback to Vladivostok, where a young cameraman is taking pictures of the city. His name is Kouichi, and his wife Fina is holding their child Olga when she tells him they have guests. Three individuals want their photo taken, and they would also pay him to teach them Japanese. One of those individuals is revealed to be Kiroranke and, as he recounts to Asirpa and company, Kouichi is how he, Wilk, and Sofia learned Japanese. Sofia showed no particular interest in Japanese, but does enjoy spending time with Olga.
One day while out by a river, Kouichi observes how Wilk and Kiroranke are always on edge. They have a brief moment admiring the beauty of a wolf and Wilk waxes poetic about the creatures. Kouichi confronts them about being duplicitous – or at least guarded – about their true identities. He suspects that Sofia is likely of Russian nobility, or at the very least not a peasant, and that they are all likely wanted individuals.
Kiroranke recounts how Sofia tried to get the Russian serfs to rise up in revolution, but found no enthusiasm among the populace. She and the other intelligentsia surmised that it was due to the ties between their religious practices and the Emperor. This fear of eventually being subsumed into a deeply religious and unquestioning populace is what motivated Kiroranke and Wilk to join the revolutionaries.
When the trio return for their next Japanese lesson, Kouichi tells them they cannot come back anymore and that they have to leave. Before they can do so, the secret police arrive and force the trio into hiding while Kouichi tries to handle things. They strike and beat Kouichi to try and find out how many more are outside. That's when the secret police officer reveals that they're actually here not for the revolutionaries – but for Kouichi.
The trio ambush the other secret police and a gunfight breaks out. Upstairs, Kouichi reveals that his cameras are hiding weapons – including a powerful Maxim machine gun. They gun down a number of the police and try to wipe them out before they can escape and bring back reinforcements. However, Sofia discovers that Fina and Olga had been shot during the fighting. Kouichi stays with his dead child and dying wife, telling the trio to leave immediately. That was the last they saw of him. Sofia blames herself for their deaths, and this is why she splits off from Wilk and Kiroranke to keep fighting on her own.
Back in the present, Kiroranke reveals that they have reached the ice floes of the Strait of Tartary. Once it is completely covered in ice they will be connected to Karafuto and can walk across in a day.
In the final moments we see Kouichi admit to Fina that his true name is Tsurumi Tokushirou. He burns their home down, bids his family goodbye, and turns away a changed man.
Well folks, sometimes you watch an episode of anime and sometimes you watch an Episode™ of Anime™. Good Lord, it was a heavy one this week.
This is one of those times where I have to say that I did not necessarily enjoy myself while enjoying the episode, if that makes sense. It's an expertly-crafted flashback in a show that already knows how to handle them, but the emotional impact on the tail end of this one just laid me out flat. I think it would have been effective purely based on the excellent pacing building up to those final moments leaving Kouichi behind in the snow, but the big reveal that it was Tsurumi all along? This ep was rapid-fire in those last few minutes with the major reveals. I definitely have a much deeper appreciation for Tsurumi as a character and his ruthless streak after this one.
I think the effectiveness of this episode is a testament to how well-crafted it is and how skilled Satoru Noda is as a storyteller. Given that Wilk and Kiroranke are largely “known” quantities at this point, the fact that there is this kind of room for major revelations with them as characters and feeling completely natural is a showcase for how strong his writing is. Some of the imagery in this one – like the moment with Tsurumi quietly putting Olga's unmoving hand to his lips – are going to stick with me for a long, long time.
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