Have you ever watched, like, an old Wild West style movie and thought ‘Hmm, but what is Japan-ified it?’. Everything, from the shoot ‘em up action to larger than lifestyle stakes set against a bold climate, makes the setting so easy to adapt into an anime. I mean, Kill Bill happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time, and it pulls similar inspirations from Spaghetti Westerns to gory action. And, while I’m not comparing this to the Kill Bill franchise, I think Golden Kamuy pulls off something similar.
Now, what can I say about Golden Kamuy? This little Seinen number is so severely underrated, solely because of how balls-to-the-wall it gets. It’s really different from the usual fare that is popular right now, both with its treatment of history and how the story plays out. The manga by Satoru Noda was immensely popular, becoming one of the most best-selling manga of all time in 2022. So, you know there’s something special here.
Listen, let’s be honest here. Anime and manga are great fun, but sometime too many of them start blending together. Why? Because sadly, they can be often formulaic and predictable. Take Shonen, for example. You know how it’s going to play out, but it’s still enjoyable. However, when a Shonen does manage to break its stereotypes in the best way possible, it skyrockets in hype. That’s when you know you’ve got a pretty good thing. And the same holds for Golden Kamuy.
And that’s why today, I wanted to take some time to talk about this series, especially considering the 3rd season of its anime adaptation is right around the corner. So, let’s discuss if it’s worth a watch!
The Premise: Finding Gold After The Horrors Of War
It’s the early 1900s, and the war between Japan and Russia just ended. And in Hokkaido resides an ex-war veteran, named Saichi Sugimoto who is now following the Gold Rush in a desperate plea to support his loved ones, including the widow of a friend.
Things are hard, until a passing dweller tells Sugimoto a tale a bout someone killing the Ainu, people indigenous to the area and stealing a fortune of gold from them. But before he could be arrested by the police, he hid that gold somewhere on the peninsula. The map? Coded markings on the bodies of his ex-cellmates that will tell you exactly where X marks the spot – but only if they can get a share in the treasure.
Sugimoto was hesitant, but then he comes across the mauled body of the dweller bearing the same marks. But before he could celebrate, he finds out exactly what led to this scene – a grizzly bear who intends to make him a last meal. But before things could get worse, a young Ainu girl named Aspira rescues him. Between Aspira’s keen hunting skills and Sugimoto’s survival instincts, the two just might have a shot yet!
Golden Kamuy Breakdown: Taking Inspiration From History
This is surprisingly genius. There are so many tonal differences between scenes but somehow, all of them end up working beautifully. Some scenes are packed with action, and yet it oddly becomes more slice-of-life at others, and everything feels so much more balanced.
And it does get intense. I’m talking blood, guts, and a whole lot of exposition. The action is absolutely jam-packed, filled with intensely suspenseful scenes. But then there are scenes which just encapsulate the environment they are in, taking a breather through either a cooking segment, or foraging tricks. It takes great care in setting up an environment that balances the extreme with moments of calm. And at the core of it, there is an absolutely delight hidden gem of a story that deserves a whole lot more than it’s getting.
Its absurdity and comedy somehow mix perfectly with the more somber notes, you’d expect out of a usual Seinen story. I think the only true issue I have with it is the CGI animation at some points. But that holds true for a lot of CGI anime so, if you could stomach those, you’ll be fine here!
The Verdict: A One-Of-A-Kind Anime!
If you’re looking for a break from all of the more hype releases coming out this year and want a unique take on a battle royale anime with a treasure hunt at the heart of it, this might be up your alley.
So, is it worth the venture for you? Well, it depends. Therefore, do give it a shot and let us know how it went for you in the comments below!