From horny hunters to crazed cannibals, Golden Kamuy has some of the screwiest villains of the anime season. This week, Michelle and Jacob discuss their favorite (and least favorite) rapscallions on the trail of the Ainu treasure.
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So Jake, how you been doing this week? 'Cause I can tell you this guy is having a beary
For all its gory-ass violence and buff men, Golden Kamuy is hella goofy.
I am absolutely digging it so far, especially now that I understand its hero's psychology a little better. I've always been fascinated by stories about this hyper-masculine existential dread of not being able to choose how you die.
These stories usually star some indomitable adventurer struggling to survive in harsh conditions as his comrades and enemies alike die around him. At first it's like "aw yeah, this guy is too badass to bite it," but if the story goes on long enough, there's an element of existential horror that creeps into it, as the survivor's guilt begins to take hold and the protagonist begins to wonder if their life lacks meaning, that they're only alive because they're too strong, more animal than man, and totally alone.
Anyway, that seems to be this dork's problem:
Immortal Sugimoto, cursed to outlive basically everyone he knows, even though he and Asirpa get into the most ridiculously deadly situations imaginable. Everything from bears to murder trap hotels to inexplicably horny man-hunters.
Aw yee, look at him swinging around a huge knife, that's the good shit.
Right, this existential ennui is basically just an excuse to put Sugimoto and friends in as many absurdly dangerous situations as possible, and I am here for it.
I guess it would be a good idea to run down the major parties in the hunt for the gold now that the plot has solidified a little more.
First off, there's Asirpa, Sugimoto, a friend of Asirpa's father, and their dumb-as-a-brick pal Shiraishi.
Look, Shiraishi got his reputation from escaping prisons, not escaping wildlife.
Shiraishi is a pure boy.
Anyway, Asirpa's after the gold to get revenge against the man who (supposedly) killed her father, while Sugimoto and Shiraishi are along for the ride.
Well, that was the case up until recently, but I think things have changed for everyone after learning that the man who murdered Asirpa's father and stole the gold...was Asirpa's father.
Or so they say; Asirpa's not totally convinced yet. That's why this merry band of travelers have decided to track him down and get to the bottom of the case themselves.
I think for Sugimoto in particular, it's given him a renewed sense of purpose. Much like his enemies in the 7th, the end of the war saw Sugimoto returning to a homeland that wanted to forget him, so fighting to help someone else (Asirpa) find her place in the world helps him feel like it's okay for him to keep living.
I mean, that and Asirpa's rather unsubtle pleading for him to give a damn about his own life because she cares about him. :'(
Asirpa's lost too many people she cares about to just stand by while Sugimoto keeps launching himself headfirst into almost-certain death, the poor kid.
And while Shiraishi is mostly played for comic relief, I think he feels that impetus in the opposite direction. While Sugimoto relies on this quest to give his continued survival meaning, Shiraishi wants to be useful without getting himself killed, which means the struggle not to sell his new friends out is pretty real for him when he's constantly getting captured by the enemy.
He's doing his best!
It's really too bad he's not very bright. But he's trying!
Life's hard when everyone recognizes who you are and already knows that you're not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It's even worse when your old "friends" are all serial killers, cannibals, and legendary samurai. :'D
I mean JESUS, the opposition these three (now four?) treasure hunters are facing.
One of the other major parties in this treasure hunt is Toshizo Hijikata, fabled Shisengumi officer who somehow isn't dead! He wants that gold to fund a revolution and start his own nation.
And perhaps invest in a haircut.
I will not hear this slander against Hijikata's luscious old-man locks.
If you've still got it after a century, flaunt it. Hijikata himself is less interesting to me as a character than as an exposition delivery service, (he sure knows a lot of dead people who knew secrets about the treasure!) but I have a very special place in my heart for his bodyguard, Ushiyama.
I mean, his name is basically Mr. Cow Mountain.
Though I think Asirpa has the better nickname for him, fitting for the guy whose defining features are Strong, Horny, and Strongly Horny.
In a show full of walking hard-ons, Ushiyama's is the hardest. Which I guess leads us to the elephant in the room, as of this most recent episode, our first female convict in the hunt for the gold.
WHOOPS, how'd that get in there? I meant this one:
Ah yes, Kano Ienaga, the cannibal proprietress of the murder hotel who also happens to be coded trans and oh god do we have to go here.
It's One of Those pulp stories, I guess. This is another reason I like Ushiyama; he takes most of the awkward air out of the room during this reveal, because Kano's secret doesn't matter to him at all. A beautiful lady is a beautiful lady from his perspective, murderous trans cannibal or not. So I'm weirdly intrigued to find out how their relationship is going to develop in the future???
It's still a shitty old horror trope though, the story definitely didn't need it.
This reveal could have gone wrong a million different ways, so at least it only went wrong a thousand ways? It still gets a long sigh for relying on garbage tropes, but given Golden Kamuy's pulpy tone, it could have been much worse.
And I'll be fully honest, I'm always down for weird, terrifying anime ladies. Yes, even if they lick eyeballs.
They're good eyeballs, Sugimoto.
But all of these forces, from Hijikata's men to the various crackpot convicts themselves, are small potatoes compared to the main threat, which is honestly my least favorite part of the story.
I do not like it.
Their desire to create a dictatorial military enclave that would absolutely eat itself alive in less than a year is just less compelling than even things like Nihei's doomed quest to kill the last wolf in Hokkaido.
Yeah, I'll honestly take the guy who wants to be murdered slowly over Lt. Tsurumi and his gang of guys all wearing the same goddamn uniform.
But the simplest and nastiest of motives can often motivate the greatest number of violent assholes, so I can't accuse it of being unrealistic I guess, rabble rabble grouse grouse.
That's true! But Golden Kamuy's most fun when it's weird and extra, and Tsurumi's only a little weird and extra. He's at least a more entertaining presence than the two guys who try to rebel from his force, Ogata and Nikaidou.
Man, why did they waste a whole twenty minutes on that? I assume it's because Tanigaki will become more important in the future, but it's definitely something a smarter adaptation would have abbreviated or intercut with more central cast material.
Perhaps due to lackluster visual choices, I could only keep track of those two as "guy voiced by Kenjiro Tsuda" and "evil twin with intact guts," which should give you an idea of how memorable they are.
Yeah, and that's honestly the giant asterisk that keeps me from waxing rhapsodic about Golden Kamuy as much as I want to. I've never felt more like I should be reading the manga instead while watching an anime than I have with Golden Kamuy.
me trying to enjoy this incredibly compelling story despite some of the most embarrassing animated execution since Terraformars:
It's more convenient for me at this time to watch the anime, but for god's sake, just read the manga, people. I'll catch up with you eventually.
Asirpa, lend me the strength to get people who don't normally read manga to read Golden Kamuy.
So terrible production values aside, what are you hoping to see from our trio of gold-hunting idiots in the future?
This probably won't happen for a long while, but I want to see Asirpa face down her father eventually.
I definitely want to see Asirpa confront her dad, but I'm also hoping someone from Sugimoto's past will show up and confront him about what he's really running from. I think Sugimoto assumes it'll be okay or even "right" for him to die once he finds the gold, and unfortunately there's a lot of dumb macho survivalists around him who feel the same way.
So I'm hoping his past and his present converge in some way to give him new perspective on his future, whether that's meant to be spent with Asirpa or somewhere else.
In the meantime, may the goofballs eat weird shit and stay far away from the 7th.
I see you sucking on an eyeball Sugimoto, hypocrite much?
Well to be fair, it wasn't attached to his best friend.
(It was attached to his second-best friend.)