Golden Kamuy vol. 14 – Satoru Noda

5 out of 5

One long escape from Abashiri.

When comics – or movies, or shows – build up to a singular event, and Golden Kamuy has been talking up Abashiri prison for quite a while, it’s not that the ball is always dropped, but rather that there’s an inevitable sort of dissolution of tension once the event is over. When such a scene is a climax of a two hour film or some such, that makes sense, but when it’s part of an ongoing story, the threat is run of sort of losing the thread thereafter: everything builds to point A, but we’re expected to continue to point B.

While Noda has been circling all the gold-seeking parties around Noppera-Bo and Abashiri, he’s also made sure to continually toss in sudden and amazing story beats throughout – grand clashes that come out of nowhere. And we’ve pretty much never lost steam the whole while. Finally, when we get here, the tonal training of those preceding scenes pays off – we have a sort of level-set of the extremes of action and violence to which Golden Kamuy can ascend – but then there’s the brilliant throughlines that encourages us onward to point B: the emotional connections. Asirpa and Sugimoto; Tanigaki and Inkarmat; the continual double-crosses of dudes like Ogata. So the prison raid is the desired spectacle, and set piece – tons of slaughter; an exciting escape; moments of Noda slapstick – but we’re equally concerned about the damn story that’s brought us here, and that continues on.

I actually think this arc came across even stronger than the already-strong anime: the character cross-cutting felt clearer, as did the geography of the prison. Yet again, even knowing how this stuff turns out, I was gritting my teeth at every complication in Sugimoto’s and crew’s plans, blazing through to the last page – Abashiri now in the rear view, and the teams rearranged and on the hunt once more.