5 out of 5
The last line of Golden Kamuy volume 3 is uttered during a bloody scuffle, a knife protruding from one scufflee: “I hope you’re ready to end up as animal shit!” Right right, typical tough guy posturing. …Except in Golden Kamuy, when such a line has followed patient, sensitive, intensely-detailed scenes concerning indigenous tribes’ of the Hokkaido wilderness hunting habits and mantras, and passed-down observations on learned animal behaviors – deer, wolves, bears – and then has peppered those insights into rewarding moments between its various characters, teaching us while the Immortal Sugimoto is taught by Asirpa; while the tense Hijikata slices and dices potential friends or foes alike; while the survived Tanigaki follows alongside an enigmatic hunter in the snow-covered mountains… Satoru Noda’s work on this series is astounding, and he’s able to lampshade it – Sugimoto jokes about Asirpa being a walking dictionary – while also being, y’know, very serious about the whole thing. And pausing frequently to joke about Sugimoto eating poop.
The suddenness of the violence here is perfect, as its punctuations are separated by contemplative treks through the landscape, for food and prisoner-tattoos. Hijikata’s chapter, in which he seeks out some companions for his own tattoo hunt, seems rather open-ended regarding his intentions, but this feels fitting for the character – he is a frightening force, hiding something very human that can’t quite be summarized in a line or two, much like all of Noda’s great cast.