What They Say:
“On the Night of the Full Moon” “Overwhelmed” “Call Out”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers) It’s finally here: after a long journey across Hokkaido, Sugimoto’s group has finally arrived at Abashiri and is ready to start the raid. After a few nights of preparations, the team finally initiates the break-in Golden Kamuy has been building up for so long. Things initially go well as Sugimoto and Asirpa reach Nopperabo’s cell, but everything goes wrong afterwards. The Nopperabo in the cell turns out to be a fake, Hijikata and his allies take Asirpa to go find the real Nopperabo while leaving Sugimoto and Shiraishi as bait, and then things only get worse as Tsurumi attacks. By the end of the raid, Inudou is dead by Hijikata’s hand, Ogata, at Kiroranke’s behest, has killed Nopperabo (who was actually Asirpa’s father and Inkarmat’s old friend) and shot Sugimoto in the head, and Asirpa and Shiraishi are both stuck with Kiroranke and Ogata, not knowing of their treachery.
Golden Kamuy has promised a lot with the attack on Abashiri, and these three episodes more than deliver. The entire break-in is an exercise in organized chaos, bringing together all of Golden Kamuy’s numerous characters in a massive battle. It’s difficult to manage so many moving pieces at once without becoming too confusing for the audience to follow, but Golden Kamuy handles its cast well. Every character here has had enough development to carry a scene by themselves, meaning the show doesn’t need to rely on its core cast to hold together. Tanigaki gets his moment in the spotlight by saving Inkarmat from a pile of collapsing rubble, Hijikata gets a tense sword duel with Inudou, and even Ushiyama gets his chance to show off his strength by essentially lifting a building. It’s exciting from start to finish and, above all else, fun.
Even amidst all the excitement, however, we’re also treated to plenty of character moments and long-awaited answers. Nopperabo, who is actually Wilk, has spent much of the series as an enigma, with all sorts of speculation about his personality and motives. Though he only has a few minutes of screen time before Ogata kills him, those few minutes present him as strong foil for Sugimoto. Wilk does genuinely care about Asirpa, but he’s also wrapped up in his own cause. He’s so devoted to fighting to free the Ainu that he ends up treating Asirpa as part of that, wanting her to lead a rebellion she has no interest in. It’s implied that everything he’s done has been for his cause, which contrasts with Sugimoto’s more personal motives. Sugimoto doesn’t fight for larger causes or ideals, only to help the people he cares about. Out of everyone in the cast, he’s the only one who wants the gold for personal reasons rather than some grand plan or ideal. Because of that, he views Asirpa as a friend instead of just a vehicle to get the gold. Her relative innocence has helped him heal from his past even as he becomes more and more of a surrogate father for her. His anger at Wilk for wanting to use Asirpa as part of his own war is understandable, although we never get to see them fully interact thanks to Ogata. All we’re left with is Wilk’s cryptic comment that he wasn’t the one who killed the Ainu.
Ogata and Kiroranke’s betrayal also has plenty of interesting implications for the future. Kiroranke seems to be a more militant supporter of Ainu independence, which makes it strange that he would team up with someone as amoral and self-interested as Ogata. It also brings up questions about what his exact relationship with Wilk was, since there’s still a lot we don’t know about his past and Inkarmat’s motives for accusing him. He obviously didn’t kill Wilk years before like Inkarmat said, so it’s an odd coincidence that the person she accused of being a traitor turned out to be one in a completely different way. The anime also leaves it ambiguous whether she was working with Tsurumi all along; she doesn’t seem surprised by his arrival at the prison, but we don’t get any clear answers there. That’s a lot of questions to leave open, so we’ll have to hope for an eventual third season for the story to get a proper conclusion.
Even with so many questions and plotlines left open, I can’t be too hard on the show. Ending with Sugimoto and Asirpa, miles away, both confidently declaring that Sugimoto is immortal (bullet to the head be dammed) is a perfect note to end their arc on, at least for now. Their relationship began because they simply had a common goal, and their journey across Hokkaido has seen Asirpa and Sugimoto grow to be practically family as they’ve helped each other heal from the wounds of their past. It’s emotionally satisfying to see how far they’ve come, which leaves me hoping that this means we’ll get to see even more of their story.
Inconclusive ending aside, these three episodes are a perfect encapsulation of what Golden Kamuy does best. Every character in Golden Kamuy, from leads like Sugimoto to bit players like Ienaga, gets a chance to shine as the operation goes from a break-in to a battle to a desperate escape to an unlikely team-up, all the while maintaining the same sense of fun as the rest of the anime. This season as a whole has been a massive improvement over the already good first season, and the ending is a perfect capstone to it. If you’re looking for pure pulpy fun, you won’t do better than Golden Kamuy! It’s a story that just gets better with each episode, so here’s hoping we get another season to tie everything up.