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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After last week’s cliffhanger, Golden Kamuy picks right up with Tanigaki escaping with a captured Asirpa, with Nihei not far behind and Sugimoto’s team in pursuit. Asirpa saves Tanigaki after he’s wounded by a poisoned arrow from an Ainu trap, but Nihei decides to continue with her as a hostage none the less, still pursuing his obsession with killing the last wolf. Asirpa is ultimately saved thanks to Retar and his mate arriving and killing Nihei, with Sugimoto and Shiraishi arriving right after to collect the tattoos from Nihei and return to the Ainu village with an injured Tanigaki in tow. Shortly afterward, Shiraishi encounters Ushiyama in town and has to run away with Ushiyama close behind.
While Nihei is fleeing with Asirpa, we’re treated to an interesting conversation. Asirpa berates him for trying to kill the last of an endangered species, only for Nihei to respond that, with only one of the species left, wolves in Hokkaido will never recover and are already extinct. According to him, everyone bears some of the blame for letting things reach the point where a single death would leave the species extinct. Nihei’s explanation doesn’t justify his actions or his cruelty, but it does flesh him out as more than a thrill-seeker or a fool. He’s thought through everything and follows his own moral code, twisted as it is. Of course, his justification leads to an interesting bit of irony when it’s discovered that Retar isn’t the last of his kind and actually has a mate and pups. Not only does this make Nihei’s death all the more ironic, it also gives Asirpa a nice moment. Realizing that Retar left her because he has a family gives her some closure after her grief at him leaving. At the same time, Tanigaki being able to perform his people’s death rites over Nihei’s corpse gives him at least a little relief after not being able to do so during the war.
Back at the camp, Tanigaki’s reveal that there’s actually 1000 times the amount of gold that they thought shakes things up even more. With that much wealth, Tsurumi plans to open up a weapons factory in Hokkaido to arm his men and create a military dictatorship. As it turns out, his motive for this isn’t just to get revenge on the Japanese government; he wants to create a state where everyone who lost family members in the Russo-Japanese War has steady work and can earn a living, a plan he came up with after the Japanese government blamed the 7th Division for their superior’s suicide and refused to pay them or give them anything for the war. This, combined with a brutal flashback of Tsurumi fighting in the war and having to use one of his fallen comrades as a shield against gunfire, does a lot to humanize Tsurumi and explain why his men are so loyal to him. He still isn’t a good person, but the way he genuinely seems to care about his men makes him more than just an intimidating villain.
The episode ends mid-chase with Shiraishi using all of his escape-king tricks to try and get away from Ushiyama. Shiraishi tries using other local toughs, a stack of rocks, and even a panicked horse to stop Ushiyama, all to no avail. Ushiyama is so strong that he can even toss a horse out of the way without having to so much as slow down. He comes off as more of a force of nature than anything else, making the confrontation that Shiraishi sets up between him and the 7th Division all the more exciting. With that connection made, it looks like Hijikata’s faction is going to start playing a more direct role in the story from now on.
This was quite an episode for Golden Kamuy. Between Nihei and Tsurumi’s additional development, Golden Kamuy’s villains are becoming almost as compelling as its heroes. With Nihei gone, it looks like Hijikata and his men are going to take center stage next time, and I’m excited to see how that turns out.