Golden Kamuy vol. 23 – Satoru Noda

5 out of 5

As I read more and more manga, yeah, I’ve had the good fortune to read a few things I’d qualify as masterpieces; things crafted by geniuses of their artform. I’ve also read things that, of course, have some extreme positives with qualifications; To Your Eternity comes to mind as a recent read in which the anime version occasionally betters the original content in terms of pacing and whatnot. And that brings me to wonder if I’m not being too hard on some books.

But Satoru Noda has proven, time and time again, that being a jack-of-all-trades-of-perfection is possible: no other series – no other series – jumps between the extreme Golden Kamuy does, with each of those extreme landing in often peaked impact. From giant laughs to page-turning action to heart-wrending drama, within panels of each other. Volume 23 has this in spades, sifting through some appealing plot directions – the start to a hunt for another tattooed prisoner, this time perhaps one that mimics Jack the Ripper; shortcutting the tattoo hunt by searching for a pirate who may know where the gold is – before Noda breaks from the fetch quests and takes us on what seem like harmless aside, and then morph into absolutely amazing story splinters, each swerving through the aforementioned plethora of emotions.

Sugimoto gets lost in some fog, and there’s a bit that’s initially just harmless Noda silliness that is then turned into a touching reflection of Sugimoto and Asirpa’s bond. …And then some brilliant bit of comicdom: we swoop through a week’s timeline on a single page, and land on a hilarious joke.

Next, we get some background on Usami. As we’ve seen, Noda has proven capable at most turns of making characters who seem like one-off jokes – Usami’s Tsurumi obsession, for example – into characters whose motivations, within GK context, make more sense, and now it’s Usami’s turn. It’s brutal. It also doubles as further proof of Tsurumi’s abilities in terms of manipulation – an idea that’s floated into the next storyline, which has some resolution regarding Tanigaki’s and Inkarmat’s relationship, and also has too many twists and double-crosses and surprises to even dare hinting at, beyond that. The action and drama in this bit is plenty to have us scurrying toward the end of the book as quick as we can read, but by tying it into the above mentioned line of thought regarding Tsurumi, it even further encourages our immersiveness into Noda’s world.