by Rose Bridges,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Golden Kamuy ?
Golden Kamuy sets off with yet another episode that feels like it's in transition between upcoming major plot shifts. It introduces a new character, develops its existing ones more, and drops a pretty big bombshell of a revelation for Asirpa. Let's get into it.
We start off picking back up with Tsurumi's group and some cool action sequences, but I'm glad their side of the story only took up half the episode. While I can watch the fighting and tension this divide between the enemy camp provides for a while, it's not enough to get me invested in their story over Sugimoto and Asirpa's. Mostly we just need to know how their division might ease or complicate Sugimoto's situation. Tanigaki and Tsurumi are interesting characters, and this episode adds new depths to Tanigaki in particular. Ogata and Nikaidou are far less developed, and we don't learn much about them this week that we don't already know. Their goals, other than discontent with how Tsurumi runs things and a desire to find and kill Sugimoto, are still rather vague. Luckily, they both survive, albeit with Ogata on the run and Nikaidou captured and working for Tsurumi again. I hope their continued survival means we learn more about them beyond just how good Ogata is with a gun.
Tanigaki is revealed across the course of this episode to be a man in conflict. His loyalties are shifting closer to Sugimoto and Asirpa's gang, but Tsurumi has no idea. He still sees him as a loyal soldier, who's only working with all these other groups to help along his own aims. You can see the discontent on Tanigaki's face when he realizes that's not the case. Whatever he intended, he has developed an attachment to Asirpa's tribe, to the point of wearing Ainu clothes and playing music with them. He could potentially be the most interesting character the show offers up in this regard. The show is doing just enough to make us care about him, while still holding enough back to make us curious to learn more.
After the first half, we move on to Sugimoto, Asirpa and Shiraishi's latest escapade. Finally, the Japanese characters get to share some of their own folklore with Asirpa, giving us a true moment of two-way cultural exchange. This week we learn the story of Yaoibiki, a young woman who ate mermaid flesh and attained immortality, only to be burdened with watching the deaths of everyone she loved. These legends about mermaid flesh are familiar if you've seen other anime and manga depictions of Japanese mermaid lore (and if you haven't, we have a brand-new article on that very topic), and they come up in the show naturally, with rumors about Hijikata's youthfulness and longevity. But the real character this reflects on is Sugimoto and his own rumored "immortality." Sugimoto is a tough guy who has learned to survive well, but that's often come at the cost of his own well-being and his connections with others. Hopefully his current group will allow him to regain some of that humanity, but this story foreshadows that it won't. The other big story in this section is an Ainu legend that Asirpa shares about a giant fish who ate a bear, the Iwan Onnechep Kamuy, but that mostly serves to set up Shiraishi almost getting swallowed by a fish. He's rescued by a new character, Kironanke Nispa, who was a friend of Asirpa's father.
So now it's time to address the elephant in the room: Nopperabo, the man who Asirpa thought killed her father, is actually her father. As a spoiler-phile, I've known about this big twist for a while, but it's finally time to discuss its implications. Like Luke Skywalker before her, Asirpa will be forced to reassess her goals and whether everything behind them was a lie. For now, she's content to continue the mission to figure out what's up with the 7th Division. We also learn that Nopperabo is not from Hokkaido and not really Ainu, so this doesn't remove the element of him betraying another culture—it just changes how Asirpa was raised to feel about it. I'm also curious if Asirpa might have an identity crisis from learning about her mixed heritage. The anime doesn't seem to explicitly confirm where Nopperabo is from, except that he came through Sakhalin (a large island north of Hokkaido that is currently controlled by Russia, but was disputed by Russia and Japan for centuries). This means that he might be Russian. Either way, it's a huge moment for Asirpa to learn this, as someone who defines so much of her identity around her ethnic and cultural heritage.
So there are a lot of tantalizing threads running through this anime's last few episodes. Even for an episode that felt like two or three mashed together, this week's Golden Kamuy included a lot of interesting plot movement and character revelations, along with a few fun action sequences. If the show keeps delivering without going down any thorny backroads, I'll be pleased.
Golden Kamuy is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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