Golden Kamuy vol. 5 – Satoru Noda

Two main tales: Sugimoto and Asirpa and Shiraishi search for serial killer and escaped tattooed prisoner Kazuo Henmi in a fishing village; and Tanigaki, while recovering in Asirpa’s village, is visited – and then hunted – by two defectors from Tsurumi’s division: the brutally effective sharpshooter Ogata, and the remaining of the twins Sugimoto attacked, Nikaido.

Both of these stories are quite brilliant, and quite different. The former is all oddball comedy, as Shiraishi, who can identify Henmi, is kept separate from his partners through hijinks, and Henmi himself is obsessed with his own death, which he feels Sugimoto can gloriously give him. That latter bit might sound dark, but obsession in Noda’s world is often sexual, so Kazuo gets a sweaty face and funny grin and a glowing crotch quite often, and Satoru draws him rather hilariously misproportioned, with a comically large head. This all builds up amusingly and hectically and wholly unpredictably, with an appropriately ridiculous ending.

Meanwhile, Tanigaki’s portion of the tale is dark and tense: the tactics used by Ogata to track and Tanigaki to escape are rife with the same level of researched realism that Noda’s brought to his exploration of Ainu culture, and when that’s applied to action sequences, it’s brilliantly unique stuff. Noda’s ace personality work also kicks in: Ogata is another slightly tweaked, but absolutely intriguing character, and the absolutely twisted path Nikaido is taken down is just… pure Golden Kamuy: bloody and funny and tragic and profane all at once.

Noda starts applying some cool layouts here, with top widescreen panels and single shots beneath, and overall, the volume is as solid as any other, especially for how it moves the story forward in some important ways. However, knocking a point off here for getting a bit too cute with the cooking lessons, as Noda practically has Sugimoto and Shiraishi turn to the camera and wink about it all at several points.