Golden Kamuy first landed in manga format last August, and as soon as I picked it up I knew it was going to be a blast. That’s why when it was announced that Spring 2018 would feature the anime adaptation, I was over the moon! Time to see if it lives up to the manga…
Our story opens with Japanese soldiers preparing to storm a front of Russian soldiers during the Russo-Japanese war. A man with a scarred face seems particularly eager for battle, proclaiming that he won’t die, no matter what.
In the chaos that follows as the soldiers charge ahead, the scarred man is struck by a bullet in his neck, but continues forward anyways, charging the fox-hole and taking out soldier after soldier. He fights like a demon, and introduces himself to his attackers:
Following the battle, we get a brief time-skip as suddenly this same man is quietly panning for gold in a river as an old drunk man observes from the shore. Feeling talkative and friendly, the old man shares a story with him about hidden Ainu gold, and the depraved man that hid the location of the treasure hoard by tattooing fellow prisoners with a secret code.
Sugimoto is amused by the story, but assumes it’s a tall tale as he dozes off for a nap. He awakens to the clicking of a rifle and finds the old man has sobered up and immediately regrets telling him the story, claiming that he has “Said too much.” Sugimoto, however, isn’t phased by his threat.
The old man is scared off after Sugimoto punches him in the face, and then he follows to make sure the old man won’t get the jump on him again. Before he gets the chance to neutralize the threat himself, it turns out something else got to him first. With his guts hollowed out, and his body buried in snow, it appears as though a bear got the better of the old man.
Digging him out, Sugimoto discovers something that sets him on a dangerous path:
Attempting to transport the body, Sugimoto is surprised by the bear he assumes ate the old man. With his rifle stuck, it seems as though the series is about to come to a sudden end when an arrow flies past him and into the beast.
A young Ainu warrior appears, and helps him to take down the bear with a poison arrow. She introduces herself as Asirpa, and with her survival skills and knowledge of the area, she figures out that the old man couldn’t have been eaten by the bear she just killed. Instead, he was the target of a Wenkamuy: an evil bear that fails to hibernate and has now gained an interest in human flesh. Asirpa suggests he leave the man behind so as not to attract the Wenkamuy to another village, but Sugimoto is insistent on bringing him along for the tattoo. Not seeing any other options, he divulges the story to Asirpa, who is tied to the tale in her own way: her father was among the Ainu killed for this gold, and so she now has an opportunity to seek revenge.
The two prepare to battle the Wenkamuy in the dark of night, gathering firewood and bark to be able to battle against the beast. Just as Sugimoto is gathering more materials, the bear makes his appearance at the camp, and Sugimoto reacts instinctively.
Battling the bear, Asirpa is aided by moonlight and the sudden appearance of a white wolf named Retar in bringing the beast down.
Sugimoto lands the killing blow with an expert shot to its heart, followed by positioning his bayonet in such a way that the bear is impaled when it tries to crush him.
Following the fight, Sugimoto and Asirpa finalize their partnership – Sugimoto seeking money to help the wife of his childhood friend, and Asirpa seeking revenge for her father.
With the tenuous bond formed, the episode comes to a close!
The first volume of the manga definitely had a lot going on, and this episode certainly preserves that fast-paced feeling. The characterization of Sugimoto is everything I hoped it would be: part badass, part clown, part softy. We see a brief glimpse into his motivation for the money, as well as his fearlessness and prowess in combat.
Perhaps more impressive is Asirpa’s iteration. The design is striking, and her voice acting is fantastic as well. Her reverence and appreciation for nature, as well as her extensive survival skills, do a lot to bring value to the series. It’s also interesting to consider how her demeanor changes over time with Sugimoto in regards to the food he eats and his other ridiculous behavior.
The animation is largely on-point, but there were a couple of glaring misses with this episode: namely the use of CGI when it came to the bears. This was really choppy and really separated them from the rest of the episode in a bad way. I hope that they don’t make this a habit, because it can really hamstring an otherwise visually impressive show.
The savage nature of the show doesn’t appear to be too watered down, which is appreciated. We’ll see if it continues in the episodes to come, but Sugimoto’s feral combat style seems to be preserved for now.
Overall, a good first entry in the Golden Kamuy anime adaptation. Time will tell if they lean on CGI more in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to this adventure!
You can watch Golden Kamuy every Monday on Crunchyroll!
Golden Kamuy - Episode 1
- A fast-paced opener with one of the baddest MC's around
- Asirpa's character design and cultural notes are on point
- Engaging plot that kindles the spirit of adventure - let's go on a treasure hunt!
- Largely true to manga so far
- Some animation choices were...odd (CGI bear?)