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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two episodes primarily focusing on the human side of Golden Kamuy’s story, the focus this week shifts back to nature. Sugimoto and Asirpa continue to hunt the deer they wounded last week, all the while Nihei, who’s revealed to be another of the prisoners, and Tanigaki close in on them and Retar. The two get close and attempt to use the dead deer as bait, only to be interrupted by Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi, who learned about Nihei’s plan in town.
While not much happens on the surface in this episode, we get a far clearer view of Golden Kamuy’s position on the natural world. Sugimoto is wracked by guilt from wounding the deer and letting it suffer overnight, exacerbated by flashbacks to his time in the war, but Asirpa comforts him in an unusual way: by having him use the deer’s corpse to warm his hands. Her reminder that everything that dies goes back into the natural cycle to produce new life doesn’t necessarily absolve him of his guilt, but it does provide some comfort. They killed the deer because they both need food to survive, just like anything else in nature. It was an act of pure survival, not cruelty. The two of them have developed an interesting dynamic, with Sugimoto taking the lead whenever the subject involves civilization, and Asirpa taking the lead when they’re out in the wild. Even little things like how easily she moves across the snow compared to Sugimoto are a reminder that the wilds of Hokkaido are her territory, not his.
Oddly enough, Nihei has a similar philosophy. He hunts more for sport than survival, but he also makes sure to actually use the materials from the bears he kills and even risks his life with every hunt. He’s not a good man by any stretch-he’s constantly vulgar (about a third of his dialogue involves erections) and violent-but he’s the sort of person you can kind of respect at the same time. It may not be very traditional, but he does have a moral code.
As they travel, he and Tanigaki begin to develop a relationship similar to Sugimoto and Asirpa. Tanigaki’s reserved attitude contrasts perfectly with Nihei’s boisterousness and vulgarity, making for some amusing interactions as they eat. During all of this, Tanigaki struggles with the question of whether or not to continue as a hunter with Nihei now that the 7th Division thinks he’s dead. The way he’s torn between the two is an interesting idea, although it would’ve been more compelling if we’d seen more of him and Nihei before now. Regardless, their team is starting to become almost as fun to watch as Sugimoto and Asirpa, which only makes the fight that begins at the end of the episode more exciting.
Even with so much heavy content this week, Golden Kamuy still takes the time to spice things up with it its particular brand of humor. This week features more vulgarity than before, largely thanks to Nihei’s frequent commentary on his own genitals, but remains just as funny as ever. There’s even a bit of clever visual humor that I won’t spoil here beyond saying it’s (yet again) poop based.
As Sugimoto and Nihei move closer to what’s looking to be another thrilling clash, Golden Kamuy takes the time to further expound on it’s philosophy about the natural world, adding a lot of thematic depth to what would otherwise be more of a transition episode. Between the battle that starts at the end and hints that Sugimoto is developing PTSD, Golden Kamuy is only getting more intriguing as it moves on.