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Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Golden Kamuy picks up this week right where it left off with Ogata and Nikaido pursuing Tanigaki into the woods. Tanigaki takes advantage of a nearby bear to injure both Ogata and Nikaido, the latter of whom is quickly captured by Tsurumi and his men, who had been pursuing the two traitors. Tanigaki manages to elude both Ogata and his former commander and escapes back to the Ainu village. Meanwhile, Sugimoto’s group encounters Kiroranke, an old friend of Asirpa’s father, who reveals that her father was actually Nopperabo himself. With that in mind, Sugimoto, Asirpa, Shiraishi, Tanigaki, and Kiroranke decide to break into the prison so Asirpa and confront Nopperabo and find out the truth, as well as the actual location of the gold.
While the second half of the episode is primarily exposition and setup for the coming weeks, the first half has all the action and tension we’ve come to expect from Golden Kamuy. Tanigaki’s plan to take down his pursuers when he only has one bullet is a clever one; he uses a carcass that a bear had recently fed on to make them think he had stopped for a time, and let the bear attack Nikaido when he came to investigate, which in turn forced Ogata to reveal his position so Tanigaki could shoot him. The entire sequence maintains the same tension as last week. Tanigaki is injured and only has one bullet for two targets, meaning one wrong step would lead to his death. Even when his plan worked, the only reason he was able to escape was because Nikaido and Ogata were distracted by the arrival of the other men from the 7th.
Tsurumi once again steals the show with his capture and subsequent interrogation of Nikaido. He starts off by cutting off Nikaido’s one remaining ear (he lost the other to the bear), and then threatens to cut off Nikaido’s nose if he doesn’t reveal his co-conspirators. Brutal as it is, what finally convinces Nikaido to talk is Tsurumi’s offer to let him kill Sugimoto. Tsurumi is undoubtedly cruel, but his brutality and apparent mental instability hide a clever mind. Instead of just relying on torture, he has the presence of mind to bribe Nikaido with the one thing he desires most: Sugimoto’s death. Every second Tsurumi’s on screen, he seems like he’s about to snap. The constant close-ups of his grinning face as he tortures Nikaido are a stark reminder that Tsurumi isn’t entirely stable, even if he’s also quite the manipulator.
After Tanigaki’s escape, the episode shifts to Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi’s antics as they try to catch a giant fish that almost eats Shiraishi, a welcome bit of levity after the more intense first half. Their encounter with Kirorarke and the reveal of Asirpa’s parentage comes off as a bit sudden, especially since the twist was only even foreshadowed last week. The anime still hasn’t even clarified some of the details behind said twist, like whether the man Asirpa knew as her father was actually Nopperabo or an Ainu man who had adopted her. Hopefully, the next few episodes will clarify these details, especially since it’s hinted that them meeting Kirorarke might not have been a coincidence. Regardless, their plan to break into the prison to meet Nopperabo shows a lot of promise. It’ll be interesting to see how the five of them use their different skill sets to break into the supposedly impenetrable prison. Kirorarke reveals that he used to be a sapper, and we haven’t seen Tanigaki working with the main cast before, so the upcoming episodes promise to be quite entertaining.
Somewhat sudden twist aside, this was another solid episode of the quality we’ve come to expect from Golden Kamuy. Tanigaki’s escape from Nikaido and Ogata is as tense and clever as the anime has ever been, and Tsurumi continues to steal the show every time he shows up. There are still a lot of characters in play, so it’s somewhat worrying to see it introducing new characters this late in the game. Hopefully, Golden Kamuy will be able to resolve everything with only a few episodes remaining.