Golden Kamuy Episodes 15-17 Review

Originally published on The Fandom Post

What They Say:
“Let’s Talk About the Past”, “The Great Plan to Infiltrate the Asahikawa 7th Division!!”, “Inside the Belly”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With their alliance formed, Sugimoto and Hijikata’s groups converge on Edogai’s house to try and find more information on the fake skins, only to be attacked by soldiers from the 7th who proceed to burn down the house and any secrets it might have contained. Afterwards, they split into two groups as they advance on Abashiri. Along the way, Shiraishi is captured by the 7th, forcing Sugimoto and his allies to enlist another escaped prisoner to help them rescue him from the 7th Division’s headquarters. The rescue succeeds, and Sugimoto, Shiraishi, Ogata, and Asirpa escape into the mountains with a stolen hot air balloon.

Now this is what Golden Kamuy does best. These three episodes highlight just how well Golden Kamuy crosses genres while still feeling like a cohesive whole. We’re treated to some thrilling fight scenes (in large part courtesy of Hijikata), wild adventures as Hijikata and Kiroranke try to rescue Shiraishi in the middle of a fast-moving river, a prison break at the 7th’s headquarters, and even more development for Sugimoto and Asirpa at the end, all with just the right amount of silliness to keep things fun without undermining the story itself. The limited animation is a slight problem in its more action heavy-scenes, but the general aura of cool and tense situations more than make up for it. Hijikata still steals the show whenever he’s on screen, and having his crew team up with Sugimoto’s is one of the best decision’s Golden Kamuy has made. It allows the show to keep up with all of its subplots without leaving Sugimoto and Asirpa by the wayside like it started to do later on in season one.

Hijikata’s team has also formed a strong dynamic with Sugimoto’s, even though most of them have only just met. Asirpa continually calling Ushiyama “Dick-sensei” remains as funny as ever, and Ogata’s more serious demeanor makes him the perfect straight man for when Sugimoto and Asirpa are goofing off (especially about food). It’s amazing how much chemistry they all have after only being together for a few episodes, so hopefully that means Hijikata’s team is going to be sticking around for a while yet. On the opposite side, Hijikata and Kiroranke have also developed a surprisingly strong dynamic as two veterans who have been through more than anyone else. Their plan to have Hijikata hold off the 7th at a bridge while Kiroranke rescues Shiraishi from the rapids gives us yet another strong action scene that showcases Hijikata’s fighting skills once again. Hijikata’s an excellent villain, but he might be even better as one of the good guys now, especially when we see a bit more of his backstory with Shinpachi.

As Shinpachi thinks back to when he learned that Hijikata was still alive and in prison, we see a slightly softer side of both. Their conversation reveals why Shinpachi is so loyal, and reinforces Hijikata’s strength. Even in prison, he maintains the same confident aura that makes him such an effective villain, all while we see that he isn’t as cold as he seems. Though he denies it, it’s heavily implied that he sent Shinpachi away for the final battle to try and save his live. Even though their conversation is mostly just reminiscing about old times, Shinpachi’s tears and the fondness of their stories makes it one of Golden Kamuy’s most touching scenes yet.

Not to be outdone, Sugimoto and Asirpa share a similar moment later on as they’re hiding from the 7th and the cold in a deer corpse. Sugimoto reminisces about his favorite food, dried persimmons, which he hasn’t been able to get since before the war, a pretty obvious metaphor for how much the war itself changed him. Brief though they are, Sugimoto’s flashbacks to all the violence and death during the war are a poignant reminder that he still hasn’t recovered from the horrors he saw. It’s implied that Asirpa is his first real friendship with anyone since the end of the war, reinforcing why their relationship is so important. Golden Kamuy’s generally upbeat tone makes it easy to forget just how many emotional scars Sugimoto is still carrying around. Whatever happens in the broader plot, Sugimoto and Asirpa remain as Golden Kamuy’s emotional core.

In Summary:
These three episodes have treated us to Golden Kamuy at its best. From fighting in a burning house to rescuing a thief from a military barracks, there’s no shortage of action to be had, while quieter moments like Shinpachi’s flashback add real dramatic weight to everything going on. Now that Shiraishi’s been rescued, it’s time for our heroes to reunite and continue on to Abashiri prison to find Nopperabo and learn the truth about him and his treasure. I can’t wait!

Grade: A-

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