Golden Kamuy vol. 11 – Satoru Noda

3 out of 5

Mostly focused on the 7th Division’s tracking down tattoo skins in the possession of Bonnie and Clyde-esque killer thieves “the Lightning Thief and Viper Ogin,” volume 11 of Golden Kamuy both feels like another side story of sorts, as well as being somewhat scattered in general.

The side stories are not necessarily bad things, and it’s not like they’re unrelated to the larger plot – obviously we have main characters still tracking down the gold – they just give the sense of the timeline going temporarily on pause for a few chapters while we chug through some type of mini-epic. And this bit is pretty good, but Noda building up a mythology for Lightning and Viper solely to be used for their appearance here is a bit contrary to how such build-ups are used elsewhere; like it’s a lot of bluster for nothing. “Nothing” is really too dismissive – again, the pages are definitely entertaining, with some really well choreographed mayhem and good physical comedy – but there’s something about it that rather lets you know right away that it won’t matter in the long run.

The Sugimoto plottings surrounding this are where the scattered comment comes in to play: there are a couple of lines that seem, perhaps, oddly translated, misplacing emphasis such that it renders dialogue as questions or statements when it doesn’t quite make sense. Noda’s use of photo-tracing – or however he’s been adding in the wildlife / nature scenes – also sticks out here for the first time. Perhaps it’s because he uses it for more barren sequences, against rocks and whatnot, but even some of the types of stuff we’ve seen before – depositing characters amidst lush forestry – looks off. Maybe he was experimenting with different techniques here; who knows.

Golden Kamuy has never been bad, or sloppy – there are just page-turners, and then volumes that are lighter fare, and slightly more disposable feeling. This is the latter, but it doesn’t dim my love for these characters or this series whatsoever.