Golden Kamuy
Episode 7

by Rose Bridges,

How would you rate episode 7 of
Golden Kamuy ?

There is a lot going on in this episode of Golden Kamuy. It's nice to have an episode that both resolves and introduces so many plot threads, but that also means it takes time to untangle them all.

We start with Tetsuzou and Tanigaki getting the drop on Sugimoto's gang, tying him and Shiraishi to a tree and making off with Asirpa. It seems like all hope is lost—but Shiraishi is an escape expert, so they're off and running almost immediately. Meanwhile, Tetsuzou has noticed Asirpa's connection to the mysterious "white wolf" Retar, so he ties her to a tree to act as bait. When Retar predictably comes running, Tetsuzou readies his gun, but Retar has his partner with him, a gray Hokkaido wolf. After killing Tetsuzou, we learn they even have a family of pups together. Tetsuzou tries to justify his hunting by saying that since Retar's the last of his kind, extinction is imminent for the species anyway. So this revelation brings hope and also proves him wrong about the future. At least Tetsuzou gets the death he wanted, overpowered by a better hunter.

I'm a little sad to Tetsuzou dispensed with so quickly. The plot was bound to get repetitive with time, especially since he had so little interest in the gold, and you have to get back to the main story sooner or later. Still, he was an entertaining adversary, so I think he should have had a few more chances. Sugimoto's gang has run into trouble with Tsurumi and the 7th Division how many times now? They may be the true main adversaries right now, but given how ferocious Tetsuzou is at killing bears, I expected him to last a few more episodes. At least he had some fun and raging murder-boners while it lasted.

The characters then wind up in the Ainu village for more comical eating scenes and some important exposition. I love what a big role food plays in this series, and what it tells us about the characters and their growth. This meal scene shows how Sugimoto and Asirpa are getting closer, as we see Asirpa still tease Sugimoto about his miso being "poop", but she also enjoys it and eagerly adds some to her food. As they adjust to each other's different cultures, I hope the show never gets rid of their ridiculous eating faces. Asirpa's grandmother soon starts telling them a story—which Asirpa translates—about the origin of the Ainu gold. The collection was compiled from different Ainu tribes all over the region, but it caused them to neglect their duties and spoiled their fishing. This made the Ainu realize that they should switch priorities, so they combined their loot and hid it. To discourage further gold mining or looting the existing pile, only a few people were told where it was located, who aged and died with time. The last was their number was killed by Nopperabo, the man who tattooed his fellow prisoners. This story tells us that the gold pile is much larger than previously assumed, making Sugimoto and Asirpa's goal all the more crucial—even just keeping it out of villainous hands if nothing else. After all, the previous assumption was due to Tsurumi spreading false tales about a smaller gold pile to keep others away from it.

We learn more at this point about Tsurumi's plans through Tanigaki's exposition. This is one of the few places that the anime diverges from the manga, which already revealed some of this info back when they captured Sugimoto. Basically, the 7th Hokkaido Division was cheated out of the spoils of the war, so they're feeling pretty embittered at the government. Tsurumi takes advantage of this by rallying them to a military coup. His aims for the new government sound noble, particularly his proposal for more support for the surviving families of dead soldiers, but other flashbacks suggest he harbors more sinister aims, like starting up a factory for extra capital. I've been curious so far as to why the anime shifted around this backstory info, but this sequence helps clear things up. The music and visuals work together to make a much more compelling case for Tsurumi's coup that we've seen previously. We also get some more good crazy faces from him, which is always a bonus. Tanigaki's obvious sympathy for Tsurumi's cause over Sugimoto's could also lead to future tension, especially since Sugimoto refuses to fall for the trick and give up his quest.

I've seen a lot of comparisons between this series and similarly-plotted westerns, particularly The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and I've even made them myself in these reviews. At this point, however, I think that those comparisons are selling Golden Kamuy short. In those movies, basically all the characters seek out gold out of pure greed or self-interest. (The famous title is kind of a joke, as none of them are really "good.") In Golden Kamuy, audience are bound to have more trouble casting anyone as "good" or "bad" for different reasons (although "ugly" is certainly in dispute). All of these characters have relatively compelling reasons for seeking the Ainu gold. Sure, Tsurumi might have other plans, but the 7th Hokkaido Division's frustration with their treatment is understandable, as is the Shinsengumi's desire to restore Hokkaido independence. Perhaps that's the real reason that a more straightforward villain like Tetsuzou can't survive long in this world. There just isn't room for such a black-and-white baddie in Golden Kamuy's increasingly greying canvas.

It looks like our characters are heading toward another confrontation with several of these parties. Shiraishi finds himself pursued by Ushiyama, a bruiser working for Hijikata's group. He tries to play him off the 7th Hokkaido Division when he runs into them, but the episode ends before we can see how that turns out for him. Now that we're out of the woods—both figuratively and literally—things should heat up for Sugimoto, Asirpa, and the gang. I'm guessing that means even more new factions and an ever more complicated moral web to untangle.

Rating: B+

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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