3 out of 5
Volume 21 of Golden Kamuy refreshed the storyline anew – not that it needed it, but it reupped on the engaging journey we’ve been on (and amplified the emotional reunion of Sugimoto and Asirpa) instead of heading more directly towards a Good vs. Evil (Lieutenant Tsurumi) showdown, staying true to our characters at the same time. It was a killer cliffhanger.
Volume 22 makes definite good on that, continuing right into the chase, with Sugi going bull-in-China-shoppe full form, if tempered by Asirpa, literally clinging to him. Noda’s expert craft at mingling tense choreography with violence and surprising turnarounds is on display, and then… And then it kinda feels like Noda just start to eff around for a few chapters. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s the right idea, at a high level, to “lay low” in a sense after such recent intensities, but it also separates from those same intensities – it feels like we’re on a different path; like what just happened was long ago and elsewhere. In the story’s narrative, it’s simply that our two teams – Sugi, Tsurumi – have just taken their own paths to the same eventual location, but nonetheless, it’s a diversion to gold panning and a funny lookin’ dude with an obsession with bears (no, not in that way…). Even the art temporarily feels like it becomes a bit looser and less detailed, though given the high degree of quality and complexity Noda normally delivers, this “step down” still looks great overall.
When the bear mini-arc hits its conclusion, everything starts to tighten up again – the wandering, jokey nature of the arc twists to reveal Noda’s unpredictable and creative facilities are still chugging, and the art is back on point.