What They Say:
“Ani Nekko” and “Kamuy Hopunire”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After it’s more action oriented mini-arc, Golden Kamuy devotes these two episodes to exploring two very different characters: Tanigaki and Ogata. Episode 18 shows how Tanigaki originally joined the 7th in order to hunt down his brother-in-law, who had killed Tanigaki’s sister, only to find out that the man had done it with her consent in order to spare Tanigaki’s family the stigma of being related to someone who died of smallpox. In contrast, episode 19 focuses on Ogata’s past with his parents and the blood-soaked path he took to find out if his father ever really cared, a path that ended with his father (the former commander of the 7th), mother, and half-brother dead by Ogata’s own hand.
Tanigaki’s past does a lot to flesh out who he is as a person, as well as why his time with Nihei was so important. It’s a tragic story, as Tanigaki not only gives up his life among the Matagi to join the military but is also denied his revenge in the end. It’s a cruel irony that he was not only saved by the man he hated but also learned that his friend had made himself an exile to spare Tanigaki’s family. In the end, it’s food that brings them together, Tanigaki’s mochi to be specific. Blinded and dying on the battlefield, Tanigaki’s friend only recognizes that he’s telling the story to Tanigaki himself when Tanigaki gives him a bite of his uniquely flavored mochi. Golden Kamuy has always used food as a way to connect people, and this is perhaps the most poignant example of that yet. A simple bite of mochi gives Tanigaki closure and allows his friend to die in peace. It’s implied that Tanigaki latched onto the 7th as his only home afterward since he had left his people and lost his goal. It’s only after he spends time with Nihei that he’s able to find some connection with someone outside the 7th. Tanigaki’s always been one of Golden Kamuy’s most interesting characters, and this only cements his place in the cast.
On the other hand, Ogata’s past cements him as one of Golden Kamuy’s most damaged characters. The way Ogata calmly talks about how he poisoned his mother to see if it would make his father show up, and later shot his half-brother – who had shown him nothing but kindness–for the same reason is downright disturbing, made even more so when we learn he was telling that story to his father before ultimately killing him. Ogata doesn’t seem to care too much about whether his father loves him–his tone and attitude are too laid back for that–and only seems interested in satisfying his own curiosity. This could be interpreted as the fault of Ogata’s absent father and mentally disturbed mother, but I’m not so sure. The way it’s framed, Ogata seems more like a stone-cold sociopath than anything else. The way it ends with Ogata having stripped away every connection he ever had contrasts wonderfully with how Tanigaki’s ends with him rebuilding connections after losing everything. With both of them having joined up with Sugimoto’s group now, I’m excited to see how their respective histories are going to affect the story going forward.
If Shiraishi’s rescue highlighted Golden Kamuy’s talent for action/comedy, then these two flashbacks highlight its talent for character writing. Both Ogata and Tanigaki have gone from bit players in a larger story to some of the most compelling cast members in an already excellent cast. I was a bit concerned after Golden Kamuy fell into a lot of side stories at the end of the first season, but now it’s back to being a top-tier adventure again. Now that our cast is starting to come together, it’s almost time for Golden Kamuy to reach it’s end game. Wherever it goes from here, I’m definitely hooked now!