Golden Kamuy vol. 21 – Satoru Noda

5 out of 5

Several years back, at this point, I started reading my comics in arcs, not as single issues – waiting until a storyline was complete and reading it altogether, as opposed to going month by month. Going back and reading stuff I’d bagged and boarded in this format made me realize how some stuff really relied on the gaps to add something to the story, whereas reading it in one go would lead to it seeming very rushed. I can’t blame authors for taking advantage of that, consciously or subconsciously, but another side of that is that your brain – or mine, at least – would fill in character aspects or story insights that weren’t actually in or implied by the text. Again, I can’t fault writers for working in a style that works for the medium, but I felt like I could start to see indications of these “missing” pieces even in single issues, which started dictating the stuff I’d end up buying consistently after a one or two issue taste test. So the works I’ve stuck with are those that have consistency when read in the arc format, and then the works that floor me are those that seem to be perfect whichever way you approach them – standing solid as singles; standing solid altogether.

Yeah, Golden Kamuy is one of those. Noda jumps around sometimes between stories and characters, and sometimes does longer arcs, but reading the tankobons in pretty short order back-to-back has impressed the heck outta me in terms of how good each chapter is, and how well it all layers on top of itself as well. I feel so good flipping through the pages, and get multiple pangs of immense satisfaction throughout any set of chapters. And, frankly, I can’t think of anyone – literally – who so “casually” cycles through off-beat jokes, external – but fascinating – exposition, in depth character exploration, insane action, and sections that build on the overarching plot so, so effectively; volume 21 tore my heart out as it seemed to bring matters with Asirpa and Sugimoto to a head, then a page later flipped the script and set things off in an exciting new direction, and then managed to shove a laugh-out-loud Shiraishi gag into things as well.

The bulk of this tankobon features all of the above mentioned elements leading up to that, reminding us that Sugimoto’s crew is, essentially, hostage to Tsurimi’s soldiers, and so kind of circling the wagons – everyone gets a moment to spotlight where their head is at, as our journey draws to (what could’ve been) a close. And don’t forget the tears – Cikapasi has a moment that underlines how good Noda is at building up every character in his huge cast into someone fully dimensioned, and that you can care about.

Also: some Ainu stories about super long penises.

Goddamned brilliant stuff.