Golden Kamuy
Episode 23

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 23 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 2) ?

Golden Kamuy delivers hard this week with one of its most thrilling episodes yet. It's just a rush of non-stop action, as every faction in the race for the gold goes head to head at Abashiri Prison. Everyone wants the same thing—Nopperabo and the location of the Ainu gold—and they're willing to pull out all the stops to get there. That makes this pandemonium difficult to break down, but I will do my best.

At the start of all this, it feels like either Tsurumi or Hijikata has the upper hand. Tsurumi's group outnumbers the others and has the superior military resources, while Hijikata has tactical help with head jailer Kadokura on his side and the dexterous Toni Anji as well. Inkarmat also seems like she's helped in this betrayal, though early on in the episode she reveals her true loyalties; she's with whoever she thinks can most easily help Asirpa to safety, so she's willing to move between loyalty to Sugimoto's group and the 7th Division depending on how confident she is in whichever side at any given moment. I'm not so sure I agree with her about the latter group; the 7th Division may use her to get to Nopperabo for sure, but I don't think they truly care about her. Asirpa has a way of magically making every adult in her vicinity want to be her parents, but I'm not sure how well that would work on the twisted mind of Tsurumi. Inkarmat ends up on Sugimoto's side by the end (or at least she's helping them for now), and Tanigaki gets to pull off a daring rescue that shows off his chest, while they're both rescued by Ushiyama—who also seems to have switched to Sugimoto's team.

As for Hijikata's group, he and Toni Anji make off with Asirpa in order to use her to get to Nopperabo. They wait for Inudou to reveal where the man is hiding, correctly deducing that he'd go there in the midst of all this chaos. I think it's kind of strange that Inudou would be so obvious in his movements, but checking to make sure he's still there does make sense. Maybe Inudou just lacks the cunning of his competition, overseeing a prison rather than daringly marching across the frozen wastelands in search of gold. That would go against his imposing reputation, but who says that's completely warranted? He sure doesn't seem to have the knack for leadership that Tsurumi or Hijikata possess, considering he has men under his employ secretly working for each of them. Anyway, Inudou hides Nopperabo in the basement of the temple, a place he already frequents—Hijikata and Toni Anji also make it over there, but not without losing Asirpa first. Luckily, Hijikata can prove he knows her with a picture of them together, from that photo shoot several episodes ago that others felt suspicious about. Looks like they were right to worry.

Meanwhile, Sugimoto's team focuses on escaping, finding Asirpa, and meeting up at the main gate. Shiraishi and Sugimoto blast their way through a small opening in the building wall—literally in Sugimoto's case, and at the cost of temporarily dislocating Shiraishi's shoulder. Well, you don't become the "Escape King" without bending a few bones along the way! Asirpa comes to them after escaping Hijikata, and while Shiraishi waits at the main gate—because going directly to Nopperabo with her would be stepping into Hijikata's clutches—Sugimoto edges toward the chapel where he knows Nopperabo is hiding.

Tsurumi continues to be his usual crazy self. Even as creepy and sadistic as he is, he's still one of the most fun characters to watch on this show. As he rallies his men, he comes up with a plan to explain away their attack as resulting from the locust plague in Hokkaido that we saw a few episodes ago. In general, this episode does a lot to reward the attentive viewer. If you can remember even further back, you'll have predicted Nikaidou using his leg gun too. Luckily, Sugimoto lives up to his nickname and manages to escape that direct attack—even taking the leg gun with him and breaking Nikaidou's hand. The dude just can't catch a break.

Kadokura's presence refers back to our first glimpse of the Abashiri prison, and we get to see the new guy who's not-so-secretly working for Tsurumi come up against him yet again. This comes not long after Sugimoto's group pieces together that Kadokura is working for Hijikata. He had to have known that the Nopperabo he was leading them toward was fake, because he works with the guy regularly. So this was all part of Hijikata's plan to lead Sugimoto's group astray while getting the upper hand on their own search for the gold. Kadokura uses his immense knowledge of the prison to his advantage in battle against the new guy too, using a special key to open every lock and trigger a prison break. Even with all his men, Tsurumi can't expect to stand against a much larger force of bloodthirsty criminals.

It's a lot to take in, but this wild ride of an episode was impossible to look away from. It was immensely rewarding after so many episodes of build-up, and I like that the show is already promising even more excitement down the line. After all those thrills and spills, we're rewarded with Sugimoto being the first to make it to Nopperabo and noticing his striking blue eyes—the clue that he's almost certainly Wilk, unless there's some other convinct in Abashiri prison of European descent. I can't wait to see what happens if he busts Nopperabo out, and father and daughter are potentially reunited. All the action makes Golden Kamuy fun, but the character dynamics are what make it meaningful.

Rating: A-

Golden Kamuy is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.


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