Golden Kamuy Season 3
Episodes 1-3

by Grant Jones,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 3) ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 3) ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 3) ?

Our first clutch of Golden Kamuy episodes is a literal and figurative departure from the last two seasons. It has a lower ebb for one, given that we are dealing with the fallout from the disastrous events at Abashiri at the tail end of last season. Sugimoto, Tsukishima, Lt. Koito, and Tanigaki arrive at Sakhalin via boat. They are pursuing Kiroranke after the events of last season, using a photo of Asirpa (or just as often, a lewd photo of Tanigaka) to try and find them. Cikapasi is also with them, having stowed away like Sprite and Chim Chim in a trunk on Speed Racer. The hunt for the gold is still on but now takes our intrepid cast members to farther-flung reaches, specifically to the even colder north of Sakhalin. We also have the first real long-term separation between Sugimoto and Asirpa, which I think sets a really interesting tone for the series. Sugimoto and Asirpa's bond and continued back and forth where they learn more about one another and travel together is the heart of the show (well, that and the cultural insights, and the food lessons, and the high number of bear attacks, and the hilarity, and the outrageous situations, and the…). I think this new angle puts a different sort of tension on the show, with Sugimoto trying to reunite with Asirpa on top of the continued search for the gold in an area largely unknown to both of them.

It also introduces a new set of important skills into the survival bent of the show. Obviously, Golden Kamuy is very much a series where knowing the right skills for the right situation is critical. The story is really framed by all these necessary survival skills – what to eat, how to hunt, how to prepare it, what language to speak, what signals to pick up on, how to tell friend from foe, who did you serve with, what connections do you have, what secrets do you know, etc. In this new region we continue to have prominent Ainu characters, while also adding Russian characters into the mix. This adds another necessary language skill – in this case filled largely by Hajime – that can add tension, confusion, and drama to the narrative.

The sweaty wrestling/fighting pit has got to be one of the best ways to open a season. It's a great and unique locale, it's got a lot of solid fighting, and the tension really jumps through the roof when Sugimoto loses control during the battle. I think it adds a more ominous tone to Sugimoto's “immortal” moniker/status, and introduces a sinister dimension to his seeming invulnerability. (There are also copious amounts of beefy fanservice, if that is to your liking).

The wolverine stuff was also great. Tanigaki has emerged as one of my favorite characters, and his relationship with Cikapasi is an interesting – counterpoint is perhaps not the right word – comparison to Sugimoto and Asirpa's. I also think they serve the function of maintaining the themes of that bond/relationship while Sugimoto and Asirpa are apart.

Hajime's backstory is the central focus of the third episode, and what a backstory it was. I tense up when it's time for an anime character's flashback because I know Emotional Devastation™ follows, but wow, this one got to me. I think it is incredibly effective at showing how Hajime became as cold and direct as he currently is, while also demonstrating the brutal lengths through which Tsurumi will go to achieve his goals. We also see how Tsurumi got the head injury and forehead covering that makes him so distinctive. I would argue that more than the physical injury itself, what was most important is that he lost the last veneer of his humanity in that blast and devoted himself fully to his plot to go after the gold. All in all, I think what makes the flashback so effective is the multiple layers of deceit involved. It helps us understand why someone like Hajime would follow Tsurumi, because he has been worn down by multiple soul-crushing revelations and misdirections related to his life choices. Again and again he has been lead down a long path under false intentions.

The animation has been excellent throughout and it was honestly almost shocking to see non-CG bears. I recall way back when season one dropped, a number of folks were dragging the bear sequences. I'm glad to see bears that actually match the visual language of the show (and the wolverine as well while we're discussing it, though I think the smaller creatures have not been CG if memory serves).

Rating:


Grant is the cohost on the Blade Licking Thieves podcast and Super Senpai Podcast.

Golden Kamuy Season 3 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.


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