Golden Kamuy

September 23, 2018

Initially I was going to give Golden Kamuy the pass. I know, over the years the biasness and stereotypes of certain anime genres are a big part in how I make my decisions to watch a certain anime of the season. So when I saw that historical genre tag for this series, I was quick to cast it aside. You know, I had too many animes to watch so I need to downsize! Yeah… But then again my guts told me something else. It told me to properly read the synopsis. Just read it. And then boom! Suddenly I found myself interested to check out what this series is about. Soldier dude and Ainu girl pairing up to find a lost heap of gold stolen from the Ainu people. It’s not only them chasing after the gold but other criminals and military soldiers as well. So, historical Japanese version of Indiana Jones?

Episode 1
Saichi Sugimoto is nicknamed Immortal Sugimoto because of his miraculous survival against all odds during the Russo-Japanese war. Now that the war is over, he is still poor and panning for gold in some river. Accompanied by some drunk guy, he is being told of a rumour that could make him rich. There was this guy who stole loads of goal from the Ainu tribe that he slain and hid it somewhere in Hokkaido. However he was caught and sentenced to death. Before they did so, he was tortured and the tendons in his leg cut to avoid running away. He never told anybody. Because he still needed to tell his comrades, he tattooed codes all over the other prisoners’ body that would reveal the location of the treasure. Only his comrades outside can decipher it. Oddly, why and how did the guards even allow this? Anyway to crack the code, all prisoners are needed. Of course the authorities got greedy and one day decided to transfer them out. It was part of their plan to escape. The prisoners killed the guards and ran away as part of the deal was whoever finds the treasure gets to keep half of it. Sugimoto dreams of his best friend who died in the war and his last request was to take care of his wife’s failing eyes and hopes he could take her to an American doctor for a cure. The drunk guy realizes he has said too much and is going to kill him. This only makes Sugimoto believe his story. He fails to kill him and runs away. Sugimoto thinks of hunting him down before he gets a chance to return to kill him. However that guy is already dead. Yup, he became bear fodder. Look at the hole in his guts! But Sugimoto has to ‘save’ this corpse since he spots tattoo all over his body. Yes, he is one of the escaped convicts.

Sugimoto’s fears come true when the bear returns. Thankfully for this petite Ainu girl, Asirpa she manages to kill it. However upon opening its gut and finding it empty, this bear didn’t eat the prisoner. Asirpa fears the only bear who could do this are those who could not hibernate and is in a foul mood. The worst of the worst. Since it is getting dark and Sugimoto can’t just leave the corpse, he tells Asirpa the story. He needs her help as he needs the money. Surprisingly, she believes him. Because her father was one of the slain Ainu people. Night fall as Asirpa makes the necessary preparations to stave off the moody bear. I wonder how the bear can creep on them in this snow. I know it’s dark but they should have sensed something this big close. Sugimoto gets pinned down as he tells Asirpa not to shoot her arrow as she might hit him in the dark. The saviour comes in the form of a white Ezo wolf. It distracts the bear enough for Sugimoto to pick up his bayonet and stab its heart. End of the nightmare. Asirpa gives Sugimoto the credit for killing the bear so she points out certain parts he can sell for a high price. Sugimoto reasons that the gold hasn’t been found yet since this guy is hiding out here. The man who killed her father may still be alive in prison. The government won’t kill him until they find the gold. Finding the gold is a way to avenge her father’s death. She need not dirty his hands, just lend him her wisdom. He wants money, she wants revenge. Together they will be unstoppable.

Episode 2
We see Asirpa putting squirrel traps. The duo arrive in Otaru, the biggest port city in Hokkaido. They believe this is where the prisoners will be hiding as hiding in small villages will only make them stand out. They ask around for men with weird tattoos but none has seen any. They noticed a suspicious guy tailing them and they lead him straight into their squirrel trap. He is one of those prisoners as he reveals that he doesn’t know where the rest are. After the prisoners escaped, they started killing each other upon realizing things. Because of the way the tattoos are inked on their bodies, you have to skin them. This means the mastermind never intended to have them alive. As part of the deal, Sugimoto cannot kill the prisoners. Thankfully Asirpa is a good sketcher so she can sketch the tattoos onto her notes. As they interrogate further, they find out the man who carved the tattoos is called Nopperabo, literally meaning no face. Suddenly he is shot. The duo go into hiding until Sugimoto gets a chance to tackle him. Hyakunosuke Ogata is from the 7th Division, the strongest military unit in the army. They fight each other until Ogata accidentally falls off a ledge and his head knocks on a rock. Any normal person would have died from that but… Sugimoto reiterates to Asirpa that he is not a killer but after surviving a war, he learns in order to stay alive, you must not get killed. But if somebody wants to kill him, he will not hesitate to kill him first.

Now we see Asirpa cook squirrel meat and innards for dinner. Better follow her way of eating raw and not offend her. Ogata is found alive and close to death by his regiment. Next day, another prisoner gets caught in the squirrel trap. As Asirpa sketches the tattoos in the body of Yoshitake Shiraishi, they spot a rabbit. Catch the rabbit! Food! But Shiraishi uses this chance to escape as he is an escape artist. He keeps tools inside his throat! Sugimoto chases after him when the weather suddenly changes. It is bad enough that the temperature drops, now both men fall into the freezing river. Sugimoto knows they must warm up in 10 minutes or risk dying of hypothermia. He needs to find his bullets so he can start a fire with the gunpowder. He wants Shiraishi to start looking for them in the river but he insists on making a deal to not kill him. Sugimoto reluctantly does and he takes out a big bullet from his throat! They manage to make a fire. Shiraishi explains there are 24 tattooed prisoners in total. The only one who knows them all is the leader of the prisoners who led the escape. Surprisingly he is Toshizou Hijikata, the vice commander of the Shinsengumi. The only thing Nopperabo told the prisoners is go to Otaru. Sugimoto tells him to forget about the gold and leave Hokkaido. It isn’t Nopperabo’s friends or the prisoners gunning for it. The 7th Division too. Shiraishi is confident as an escape king, nobody can catch him.

Episode 3
Time for rabbit stew. When Sugimoto takes out his miso flavour, Asirpa gets shocked and thinks it is poo!!! Really, oh sh*t! After putting some bear trap, Sugimoto spots some reflections in the distance. Instantly he takes Asirpa and run. He knows those are binoculars. True enough, those are men from the 7th Division. To split up to lose them. One guy is assigned to track down the Ainu while the rest hunt down Sugimoto. They corner him and have him surrender as they accuse Sugimoto of attacking Ogata. In a bold gamble, Sugimoto dives into the bear’s den. They shoot inside. Suddenly the bear charges out and rips apart their guts!!! Holy sh*t! Eventually the bear and the army took each other out. Sugimoto exits alive as he couldn’t believe the Ainu’s legend that a bear will not attack a human in its den to be true. But if the den was small enough to fit Sugimoto, how did he hide behind the bear assuming the bullets hit the bear, right? Asirpa is caught and she plays dumb by speaking Ainu. However the soldier is smart enough to tell she can understand him. Before he could kill her, it’s that wolf again to the rescue. Man, it is tossing him around like a ragdoll! When they reunite, Asirpa is not pleased that Sugimoto has a bear cub! He wants to play mama to this cute bear whose parent has died?! Asirpa reminds him of the responsibilities of taking care of a bear so he reluctantly hands it to her. Hope she doesn’t turn it into bear stew. Genjirou Tanigaki as the sole survivor of this group is fascinated with the wolf. As he is from a hunting family, he is very interested to hunt down that wolf for its silver fur.

As Asirpa’s village is nearby, she takes him to there to stay. The Ainu are curious people so they are fascinated with Sugimoto. She brings him to talk to her grandmother. As she doesn’t speak Japanese, Asirpa translates for her. She talks about Asirpa spending her youth in the mountains and hence can do non-women stuffs like hunting, fishing, etc. This means she cannot land a husband and she hopes Sugimoto would take her as his bride. Embarrassed Asirpa mistranslates that about not eating that miso poop. Sugimoto learns more about the Ainu culture like how newborns are given hideous names to avoid them from being taken by evil spirits. When they are old enough, they are given proper names surrounding their behaviour. So Asirpa was once named her grandfather’s anus before being given a name that means a new year. Also more Ainu culture on why they do ceremonies for the gods (termed as kamuy) so that when they come down and give their blessing, they will know this is a fun place and return here again. That is why for the baby bear’s case, they will take care of it for 2 years before doing a ceremony to release it back into the wild. Captain Wada is not pleased that Lieutenant Tsurumi has took his men out for some hunt at this hour. As he rants about his punishment, Tsurumi bites off his finger! When a guy has his front skull blown off, you better not agitate him. When Wada orders him to be shot immediately, the men shoot him instead. Tsurumi has him stripped and buried. Tatsuma Ushiyama (Mike Haggar?!) is interrupted from f*cking his prostitute by Hijikata who has found a way to copy tattoos onto oil paper instead of killing them. He wants to join forces because at some point they will have to face the 7th Division and they’re going to steal the tattooed skins they have.

Episode 4
Sugimoto almost stepped into a poison trap but luckily for him, the warning of Makanakkuru made him live longer. He talks a bit more about the gold that was stolen from them. He believed it is a curse from the water kamuy because people tried to pan for gold there and the Ainu don’t even use water that flows from that river. They believe defiling the rivers to make war is blasphemy. More Ainu culture as Sugimoto learns from Asirpa about the belief of guardian spirit behind everyone’s neck and the game that children play by trying to make the scariest noise. That night, Sugimoto hears a howling of the wolf. When he describes a wolf that saved Asirpa twice, Makanakkuru explains Asirpa and her father saved it when it was young. Named Retar (white), it became close to Asirpa after her father’s death and often accompanied her when she goes to the mountains but one night it too cannot resist the call of its fellow pack and left Asirpa. She was very sad and stopped smiling ever since. She might look tough but she is still a lonely girl. Recently Asirpa is happier and he believes she must be enjoying her times in the mountains with him. With grandma even hoping Sugimoto would stay with her, he understands how much everyone loves her so he packs his bags and leaves. Next morning, Asirpa is mad that Sugimoto left without saying a word. It will be tough for her to find him in town and since Retar stands out, they’ll have to wait till night fall to move.

Sugimoto is looking for tattooed prisoners when he is ambushed by soldiers from the 7th Division. He puts up a fight before being outnumbered. Of course Tsurumi won’t kill him otherwise he won’t get to know the other skinned tattoos he has. As he is being interrogated, Sugimoto tries to play dumb. He even tries to make it sound they’ve got the wrong guy. But Tsurumi knows him. Doesn’t anybody in the army not know about his immortal status? With Sugimoto still playing dumb, not taking things seriously and laughing, Tsurumi suddenly sticks a sharp toothpick through his cheeks. No screaming. Tsurumi wants him to join and fight for him to find the gold. But with almost 100 men by his side, isn’t that too much to split? Tsurumi wants that to be their war chest. They’ll buy weapons from America and take over Hokkaido and major ports that control flow of goods to the mainland. Sugimoto still refuses him. Asirpa has Retar sniff Sugimoto’s sock to find him. But it leads to Shiraishi. During that hypothermia incident, they got mixed up. Shiraishi tells rumours of Sugimoto being caught by Tsurumi and Asirpa wants him to bring her there. Shiraishi tries to escape but Retar could easily find him. We can play hide and seek with a wolf all night. Sugimoto is further tortured and locked up. A couple of soldiers feel like cutting his fingers to make him talk. Even in this tied state, Sugimoto can still fight back! But it’s one big weird fighting orgy…

Episode 5
Sugimoto makes all those noises when he is fighting so that the other guards could come and stop them. This also allows Shiraishi and Asirpa to pinpoint where he is. Noticing the rusty window grill, he can break a grill and dislocate his joints to slide in. He just needs some oil. How about bear fat? He slides in as Sugimoto thinks he is a ghost! But those soldiers come back to kill him. With one of them watching outside, Sugimoto is swift to steal his bayonet and kill him. When others arrive, they see Sugimoto in a critical state, like as though his guts are cut opened. He promises to tell them the gold for treatment. Tsurumi has his men take him away for the best treatment. Tsurumi then examines the body and finds it strange on the way he dies. Then he realizes it is a trap. Sugimoto cut out his guts and put his clothes back on. Sugimoto breaks free from his soldiers and rides to freedom but Tsurumi is riding close behind. Thanks to Asirpa’s poison arrow taking out his horse, he gives up for now. When he returns, the police station is on fire. The soldiers lament they couldn’t save the skins but Tsurumi shows he is wearing them! Sugimoto’s reunion with Asirpa… He got punched! Hijikata gets some finest weapons from his old Shinsengumi comrade, Shinpachi Nagakura. Ushiyama thinks there is more than just gold that Hijikata is after.

The horse would only be an easy target so it is killed for horse meat. RIP horsey. Sugimoto feels bad if Asirpa dies on this mission and doesn’t know what to tell to her village. However she tells him to tell them she was in his way. She made her decision and failed. But the real issue is him. He didn’t trust his partner, acted alone, made poor decisions and got caught. He is the one who failed. Asirpa didn’t like it after finding out Sugimoto added miso into the horse nabe. But after tasting it, now she loves it! You mean she is all okay for Japanese poop now? Never try, never know. Hijikata and men go to see a bandit leader, Zenjirou Shibukawa. Earlier he sent a messenger to team up for the gold hunt but never returned. Shibukawa beat him up and had him spill the beans. Now he wants to see the skins. Hijikata shows him the heads of the men outside he killed. They can kill each other or help each other. Shibukawa orders his men to kill but it becomes a one-sided fight with Hijikata turning into a demon to slay them all. Ushiyama asked about his ulterior motive. It seems he wants to revive the Shinsengumi and call for Hokkaido’s independence. Yeah, this guy plans to live for another century. More hunting documentary from Asirpa as we see them drink water from certain vines and how to track deer. They spot one but in Sugimoto’s haste, he missed its vitals. It ran away but left blood trails. Sugimoto feels bad for making it suffer unnecessary and hopes to finish it off quickly. As Asirpa tracks, she notices footsteps of 2 men and a dog. It seems Tanigaki has teamed up with a fearsome hunter, Tetsuzou Nihei to hunt down the silver wolf. Though, Nihei is famed for being a bear hunter and kills one bold enough to stand before him!

Episode 6
More bear hunting stories from Nihei. Also, bear blood cuisine from him! Nihei asks why Tanigaki still wears his military cap. Something about his dilemma of leaving his homeland of hunting and the humans he killed he did not say the same prayers to the animals he hunted. Nihei thinks his hunter soul is lost here and wants him to kill the wolf and take its pelt back home. Tanigaki burns his cap. In order to catch the wolf, they need to prepare something special. They will hunt for deer meat. Sugimoto gets another chance to kill the deer but it still has enough strength to escape. They’ll continue this tomorrow. Hot on the heels of the deer again, Tanigaki and Nihei coincidentally are on the same trail. Nihei’s dog, Ryuu starts feeling afraid despite not scared of bears and he knows they are in wolf’s territory. When Asirpa smokes out the deer, it runs straight towards Sugimoto. However that fearful look on its face as well as its frozen blood icicle from the wound reminds him of the traumas of war. He missed his chance. Retar bites it down before Asirpa kills it. Lecture time about don’t shoot if he isn’t willing to take responsibility till the end. Also, a deer’s life is never in vain. Humans and animals eat its meat and the rest goes back to the ground and trees. As they sense somebody approaching, they quickly take what they can and Retar can get the rest later. When Tanigaki and Nihei arrive, they find the sloppy mess. They note the bad job of cleaning up like as though they leave it for the wolf to come back and eat. Nihei suggests they bath and clean each other since the wolf can sharply smell them. Sugimoto and Asirpa watch the duo from afar as Asirpa believe Tanigaki must be after her.

Back at their tent, Shiraishi has returned from town with new information about the tattooed prisoners. One of them is Nihei. Tanigaki is shocked to see the tattoos on Nihei’s body. How can he still associated with him after killing his comrades? Nihei tells his story of hunting down his human prey which is more fun than hunting down bears. Killing them was what landed him in prison. He escaped because he wanted to die in the mountains. As a hunter, he will probably be eaten by an animal and then pooped out and become part of the mountains. That is his ideal death. The duo wait at night for the wolf to come but it never did. Next morning they examine the deer carcass and find wolf poop over it. They realize the wolf must have come when they were bathing and sensed their great killing aura. To make the wolf obsessed with them, Nihei burns the droppings to make it think they’re the intruders they hate. Sugimoto’s group goes to find Nihei and they seem him in a position to shoot. He has laid a trap for the wolf and we see Retar hiding, judging if it is okay to take the bait. Just when Retar thinks it is okay to move out, Asirpa shoots the trap away. Retar runs away while Sugimoto confronts Nihei. With Shiraishi identifying him, Nihei isn’t cowed by Sugimoto’s threats and dares him to see who will survive. Ryuu attacks Sugimoto. In no time, both men start going all out at each other in bloody mortal combat.

Episode 7
With Sugimoto and Nihei at a deadlock, Shiraishi and Tanigaki are in a standoff pointing rifles at each other. But Tanigaki has Asirpa as hostage so Sugimoto has Shiraishi throw down his rifle and agrees for the guys to be killed on condition that Asirpa is taken far away and not witness the killing. Nihei forgot Shiraishi is a master of escape so the guys did just that the second he took their eyes off them. Tanigaki accidentally steps into a deer trap. Asirpa helps take out the poison by cutting out the portion of his flesh. Since Nihei still wants to kill the wolf, he uses Asirpa as bait to lure Retar out. He doesn’t care about the money and wants to be the last hunter to kill a wolf. True enough the ferocious wolf comes charging and Nihei relishes the chance to shoot it. Retar zigzags so fast that Nihei can’t aim so he uses his own arm as bait for Retar to bite. He thought he the wolf is dead at point blank but another wolf bites him in the neck! This wolf is Retar’s wife and they have a pack of cubs! Nihei is satisfied with the outcome and dies. Tanigaki is taken back to Asirpa’s village. Asirpa mentions about the gathered gold in Hokkaido by the Ainu for generations that it is kept hidden and forbidden to speak. Eventually only 1 man in the village knows its whereabouts but was killed by Nopperabo. Shiraishi is shocked to hear this because of what they’re told, there is only enough gold for 1 person to carry all. Tanigaki explains Tsurumi is an intelligent officer and strategist and passed out false information.

Tsurumi led his 7th division to a seemingly suicidal mission. Although he won, half his battalion were casualties. The commander who ordered this mission initially did this for personal glory, regretted it and committed suicide. The government blamed the division for his suicide and nobody received any compensation and were treated like outcasts. Tsurumi met a foreigner who is willing to buy his weapons so he could sell it to the world and make a profit from war. That’s when Tsurumi rallied his men to create a military dictatorship to use that gold to build a weapons factory. It would put some food on the table for the families of the soldiers killed in action. Tanigaki doesn’t know why Sugimoto wants the gold but his reason is nothing compared to Tsurumi’s burden. Of course Sugimoto will not back down and keep his promise to his friend. As he is a dangerous person, Sugimoto will still not work with him. Next day Shiraishi heads to town to find more info. He chose the wrong brothel to ask because Ushiyama is here. The moment he sees this hulk, he runs. But Ushiyama gives chase. No matter what Shiraishi throws at him to slow him down, he charges through like a raging bull! Finally Shiraishi stumbles into a group of soldiers and technically he isn’t lying saying that a prisoner with tattoos is after him. Will guns stop this dude?

Episode 8
Ushiyama grabs Shiraishi and flings him around! Hijikata’s men distract the police so as to let Ushiyama escape. As Tsurumi inspects the dead distractor’s body, he learns an explosion set off at the financial district. He realizes this was a just decoy to rob a bank. He questions the bank manager about what is in the vault. Bonds, jewels, a sword… Yeah, Hijikata came here to steal a better sword. Tsurumi and Hijikata almost clashed but the latter got away in the former’s horse. Shiraishi pays the prostitute for Ushiyama’s clothes he left behind. He goes back to Sugimoto and Asirpa (hunting tanuki) to request permission to borrow Retar. But Asirpa says Retar doesn’t belong to her and besides, she doesn’t want to get the wolves involved. They blame Shiraishi for letting the tanuki escape but thankfully, Ryuu caught it. Hence Shiraishi uses Ryuu to sniff out Ushiyama’s hideout. He eavesdrop him talking about a couple of fishermen bodies found at the coast. They believe it to be the work of a fellow prisoner, Kazuo Henmi since he is basically a wandering serial killer. Shiraishi is discovered and is made to help them. He lies when asked if they have a single tattooed body. He is then tasked to get Henmi. Shiraishi returns to Sugimoto and Asirpa to tell exploits about Henmi. He talked to that guy once and his serial killing stemmed from watching his brother struggle and died helplessly after being gored by a wild boar. Remembering those moments make him want to kill others. Did his dick just glow as a way to say he has a boner thinking of that?! Because the marks left by him on the corpses, he fears it might be his work. Asirpa is worried since her uncle is there to catch whales and herrings. Yeah, she wants to eat whale meat too.

Upon arriving there, Asirpa’s uncle immediately seeks their help to harpoon a whale. They manage to do so but the whale takes them for a ride. It bumps into a group of fisherman, causing one of them to fall over. Sugimoto wants to go back and help him seeing he would die of hypothermia. So he leaves Shiraishi and the Ainu to catch the whale? Sugimoto and Asirpa pull this guy back up and on land, we are shown he is Henmi. He can’t show them his tattoo and gives excuses he is shy. He killed those fishermen as bait for other tattooed prisoners. Henmi could sense the same killing aura from Sugimoto and is tempted to be killed by him. He holds back from showing his tattoos since dying now will be too easy. He must struggle like his late brother and then die a horrible death. He returns to his dorm to change. A sick man saw his tattoos and Henmi kills him! Henmi treats Sugimoto and Asirpa to some hospitality as he watches Sugimoto chop things up and gets orgasmic thinking of the horrific way he will die by his hands. Then he asks him about the people he killed in his war as Sugimoto explains he will never forget those he killed as atonement. So when he dies, he will never think he is going peacefully. Henmi’s death boner is glowing so bright now…

Episode 9
Asirpa discovers a corpse in the toilet. She returns to warn Sugimoto but Henmi has taken him elsewhere. When the 7th Division is seen, Sugimoto tries to hide so Henmi takes him to hide in a nearby private manor. A couple of those soldiers are there and they thought they spot Sugimoto. As Henmi tries to give excuse, he kills them but not without getting shot. As Sugimoto tries to carry him, Tsurumi is in this manor too. Sugimoto runs to the shore whereby Shiraishi has captured the whale. When Shiraishi identifies Henmi, the latter tries to kill Sugimoto but is shot by Asirpa’s arrow. Henmi lets his intention of dying known so Sugimoto allows him to fight and die like a man. Oh God his dick is glowing! And when Sugimoto sticks his bayonet deep in him, did he make a sexual subtext that it is coming deep inside him!!! WTF???!! But that is nothing compared to suddenly an orca grabs him and swims back to sea. WTF???!!! Can an orca go so close to shore like that?! Can they row a boat faster than that sea mammal? For some reason, the orca is tossing and playing with Henmi. So Sugimoto strips naked (except his hat?) and dives in to save Henmi. How the heck does he swim faster than the orca?! Asirpa fires a whale harpoon and they’re in for an orca ride until it dies. Henmi is glad he gets to experience this glorifying death. Sugimoto prepares to cut up his skin. Tsurumi receives word that Ogata and Kouhei Nikaidou are missing.

When Tanigaki returns to the Ainu village, he is shocked that Ogata and Nikaidou are here. Tanigaki somewhat lies that he was injured by a trap and was saved by the Ainu, hence he is staying here to repay them. However the duo believe Tanigaki killed the other soldiers that were sent with him. At this point, they are holding grandma as hostage as Tanigaki pleads not to kill them. They claim they were joking and leave. Tanigaki realizes he can’t stay as he pleads to grandma he wants to leave but the Ainu kid loves him? Suddenly a shot grazes his head. Ogata tried to snipe him. Nikaidou wonders why he didn’t kill him back then. He would have to kill the hostages as witnesses too and he didn’t want that. Tanigaki knows he is f*cked seeing Ogata is a sharp marksman. He tries all sorts of tricks but Ogata is experienced. Tanigaki remembers he was told the 7th Division are made up of ragtags and some don’t share Tsurumi’s goal. This means somebody is going to betray him but he never thought Ogata was going to be the one. He considers them their enemy. He throws a few smokescreen and escapes by breaking a hole in the back wall. Ogata realizes this a bit too late but notes Tanigaki can’t go far in his recovery state. Meanwhile Hijikata visits Sugimoto disguised as some old passing man. He just casually chat with him before leaving. Asirpa sleeping like a baby?

Episode 10
Tanigaki uses this hunting knowledge to get away from the duo. Next morning, Ogata spots a fire and next to it a corpse of a baby bear. He sends Nikaidou to examine and it is clearly a trap. However mother bear attacks and mauls him! Ogata is in a dilemma whether to shoot because it will reveal his location. But with Nikaidou screaming for help, he eventually fires and the bear is sent running. Ogata then exposes himself, confident Tanigaki does not have a gun. Suddenly a shot is fired into his chest! It is a soldier from 7th Division as he meets up with Tanigaki to explain, Tsurumi has been following them closely to weed out traitors. But he is shot in the head by Ogata. His binoculars saved him. Tanigaki and Ogata flee when Tsurumi’s side arrives. He interrogates Nikaidou and cuts off his ear as warning. He wants to know the names of the traitors. Nikaidou is willing to die but when Tsurumi says he will let him kill Sugimoto (since Sugimoto killed his brother back at the base then), Nikaidou immediately names them. Sugimoto’s side talks about mermaids and also some Ainu monster fish. Speaking of which, Shiraishi gets eaten when he fell into the lake! He is saved thanks to Kiroranke Nispa, Asirpa’s father’s old friend. As Asirpa explains the fish besides eating and can be used to make clothes and accessories, why think so much? Just eat it!

Sugimoto is on alert when Kiroranke says he is from the 7th Division. However he has already quit the military and during his time, Tsurumi wasn’t the commanding officer. He tells them that a strange old man (Hijikata) came to his village asking for a woman named Asuko Kochoube. Asirpa is shocked since this is her registered Japanese name and only her deceased parents know it. When Nopperabo gave hints to prisoners about his comrade to meet after they escape, it seems Nopperabo wanted to entrust the gold to Asirpa. Nopperabo is Asirpa’s father! She is in disbelief about her own father killing the Ainu and stealing their gold. Kiroranke reveals that Nopperabo and himself aren’t really Ainu and came to Japan. Judging by the route Nopperabo took, he wanted to gold to be shipped out from Japan. Asirpa wants to see her father and if so, he will tell her everything. This means they have to sneak into Abashiri prison, the toughest prison in Japan. Also, it would be easier to ask him than finding all the other scattered prisoners. Don’t worry. That’s what Shiraishi is for, right? Kiroranke wants in on this as he feels responsible for stealing the Ainu’s gold. They can take their share but the rest goes back to the Ainu. Going back to Asirpa’s village, they see Tanigaki fitting in nicely with the Ainu. Looks like he has decided to make this his life. They make route plans to Abashiri in the north but Kiroranke wants to go buy some weapons and explosives first as they will be expecting to fight. Shiraishi wonders if Sugimoto plans on letting Kiroranke on this. Sugimoto doesn’t trust him like he does with him and that Kiroranke is not telling everything he knows about Nopperabo. But if Asirpa trusts him, he can’t be that bad.

Episode 11
Ushiyama enters a hotel run by the proprietress, Kano Ienaga. It seems she recognizes who Ushiyama is but the latter not so. Ushiyama is interested to screw her but with the right timing of Sugimoto’s gang coming in for lodging, she attends to them. She also knows who Shiraishi is and wonders if he knows who she is. On the outside this might seem like a normal hotel but it is a maze-like murder dungeon. Ienaga tracks through the secret passage as she spies on her guests. Her goal is to find the perfect body. She wants Ushiyama’s body and Asirpa’s eyes. To prevent Shiraishi and Ushiyama from meeting each other, she springs a trap on the former that sends him falling into her torture dungeon. Ushiyama tries to make his advances on Ienaga again but she bites his tongue. I guess he can wait for tonight. She then knocks out Shiraishi and ties him up. Ushiyama meets Sugimoto for the first time and they almost start fighting with their judo stance. Since Ushiyama likes them, he treats them to dinner. All of them got drunk and start talking about dicks! Even Aisirpa! It’s time for Ushiyama to screw Ienaga so he goes back to his room. He finds a secret passage an unknowingly falls into the dungeon. Shiraishi tries to get his help to escape but since Ushiyama is still drunk, he thinks he is Ienaga and makes out with him!!! OMFG!!!! Shiraishi tells him about Ienaga’s identity. Now he remembers she is actually one of the tattooed prisoners. That old doctor dude who likes to cross-dress! That mole beneath the mouth jogged his memories. Ushiyama doesn’t care! He still wants to f*ck Ienaga!!!

Meanwhile Ienaga is in Asirpa’s room. WTF is she trying to lick her eyes?! Luckily Sugimoto kicks her away. She tries to give excuses but Sugimoto knows something is off. How did she get in if he locked the door and it still remains locked? That is when Shiraishi returns, knocking on the door and shouting Ienaga’s true identity. Ienaga tosses syringes at Asirpa. Sugimoto manages to catch it but Ienaga is gone. She ran away via secret passage but now she has to run away from the rampaging Ushiyama who still wants to f*ck her! Ushiyama and Sugimoto confront each other again in which a one-sided judo match occurs. Ushiyama could have crushingly won had not Sugimoto fell through a trapdoor. Ienaga tries to destroy this place and along with all the evidence. Now that Ushiyama is sober, he sees Shiraishi. He tells him a message sent by Hijikata: Always let him know his whereabouts and don’t think he can trick him. Shiraishi manages to warn everyone to get out because he accidentally dropped his bomb. Ushiyama picks up Ienaga pinned underneath a pillar. She rants about her regrets of wanting to stay young, beautiful and perfect even if that means stealing from others. Then the hotel explodes into smithereens. RIP to other guests who were sleeping there. Sugimoto believes Ushiyama didn’t survive the explosion and Asirpa who was asleep all this time (thanks to the sleeping gas), wakes up and is sad thinking Dick-sensei is dead!!!! Don’t worry, that guy still lives. A few piles of rubbles can’t even scratch him.

Episode 12
Shiraishi gives Ushiyama the copy of Henmi’s skin. In turn, Ushiyama brings him to Ienaga who reveals a juicy bit. After some fox hunting lesson, Sugimoto’s side stays at an Ainu village belonging to Asirpa’s grandma’s brother. He notes a strange woman is staying here to. She is Inkarmat and is a fortune teller. She uses the skull of a fox to tell fortunes and she deems their journey will fail. However Asirpa views herself as a new age Ainu girl and will not believe such nonsense. Well, it’s just a prediction, not an order. But then Asirpa is left to think twice when Inkarmat guesses that she is looking for her father. As her fortune telling is believed to be 100% accurate, you know what this means, right? Shiraishi takes her down to the horse racing track to bet! She finds it interesting and agrees. In no time Shiraishi becomes rich from all her true predictions! So when Sugimoto and co come looking for him, that bastard is so cocky that he could pay off whatever debt he borrowed from Asirpa for those earlier horse races he lost. But Kiroranke can also ‘predict’ which horse to win. He has been handling and training horses since young so he has a good eye. Suddenly a couple of guys is in search of a missing jockey who ran away. They think Kiroranke is it and has him be the replacement. But Kiroranke can sense something afoul because the next race is going to be rigged when some of the guys try to bloat the horses with water.

With a certain horse certain to win, of course Shiraishi bets all his money on it. Win big or lose it all. Asirpa tries to stop Inkarmat but the latter reminds her that it would be good for her if Shiraishi loses. Because if he wins, he will have no reason to help her anymore. Similarly as Sugimoto restrains Shiraishi, he is being told that he doesn’t need that much money. Yes, they are in Hokkaido to make money but they don’t necessary have to risk their lives. Sugimoto as his principles and will not abandon Asirpa. Asirpa is left shocked when Inkarmat views her eye colour as pretty as her father’s. Then she disappears. She had enough fun for today. When the race begins, it is very obvious that the horse designated to win, its jockey is playing dirty. Kiroranke will not allow this and rides his horse to victory, causing a major upset! Oh Shiraishi, you lost it all. Now keep dreaming in the bundle of money you’re swimming in. Hijikata sees Ogata. The latter offers to be his bodyguard. Before Sugimoto and co depart for Abashiri, Shiraishi tells that juicy bit from Ienaga. She relates a thief who stayed at her hotel told her about a house full of taxidermy skins. He saw one with strange tattoos that didn’t resemble a yakuza. That house is in Yuubari. The Abashiri plan may not work so it’s also best to have another plan like gathering info on other prisoners or tattoos. Meanwhile Tsurumi and his men are also at Yuubari. They spread false rumours and are waiting at the grave so a grave digger could show up. He did but ran away after realizing he is being watched. His men go after him while Tsurumi picks up his dropped items.

OVA
In the small town of Barato, 2 opposing small gangs are fighting each other. Hijikata and Nagakura are hired by the mistress of Hidoro gang to be their bodyguards. You see, they only take up the job because Mrs Hidoro has got a prized tattooed skin that they want. Meanwhile Ogata is also here and the chief of the place warns him if he sides with Hidoro, he is done for. Too bad Ogata beats him up and Umakichi is interested in hiring him. The plan is to kidnap the pregnant mistress, Chieko and hold her hostage until the skin is handed over. Shinpei, Mrs Hidoro’s son fears she will not hand over the skin. Plus, Chieko is pregnant with his child and not the boss’! Once this is over, he hopes to get away from here with Chieko and start a new life. Hijikata starts by killing some of Hidoro’s men. He sends out word that it is done by Umakichi’s men. So when Ogata and Umakichi arrive at the scene, Umakichi fears he will be blamed but Ogata can tell the bullets left behind are from Hijikata. Soon an exchange will be made. Both sides lie in wait, ready to ambush each other. Mrs Hidoro throws down the box containing the skin for Chieko. However her plan is when Umakichi’s man is going to check it, she will shoot him and thus a signal for her men to attack. However Ogata snipes at Chieko! It is revealed that Nagakura is masquerading as the pregnant mistress. With the box laid out in the open, it is tough for anybody to go near because either Ogata will snipe you or Hijikata will cut you down.

So it becomes a bloody war between both sides. Hijikata is concerned in taking out Ogata who is sniping from the high ground so he leads some of Hidoro’s men closer and to surround him. Ogata has been thinking too much of why a greedy Mrs Hidoro won’t take the box and instead returned to her burning lodge. He realizes he is surrounding by Hijikata’s force and tries to flee but gets shot in the shoulder. When Umakichi and his men try to claim the box, Nagakura kills them all! It is discovered the box is empty. Hidoro finds out Chieko is not pregnant with his child but Shinpei’s. Mrs Hidoro insults him that she knows he is infertile. After Mrs Hidoro retrieves the skin and badmouths Shinpei for being weak, Hidoro then bludgeons her to death. Shinpei vows to rebuild his life better than him and before Hidoro could kill him, Ogata snipes the big boss. In the aftermath, looks like everybody on both sides died and left a trail of corpses. Only Shinpei and Chieko survive as they split from this town. Hijikata and Nagakura arrive at the lodge only to see Ogata with the skin. He offers them to hire his service as a bodyguard. Elsewhere, over on Sugimoto’s side, we see him trying to catch some eagle. After Asirpa kills it, she is almost taken away by some big legendary vulture bird! Not really sure about this legend…

There Is Gold On Them Thar Skins
I knew it! It can’t just end like that, can it?! This series is going to have another season! Hooray! Hinna, hinna. I don’t have to wait long for it since they are taking a one cour break. Hinna, hinna. My hunch was telling me that this series is going to have a lot of unfinished business when it reached the halfway mark. Because there was so much things going on and at the rate at this is going, it is definitely impossible to end it or even in worst case scenario, make it a very rushed ending. Heck, the last episode felt like a filler because WTF, horse racing and gambling? It’s like they’re wasting time, know what I’m saying? One season wasn’t definitely enough to tell everything. It would be tad sad had this series ended so without any possibilities of a sequel due to all the potential developments that are slowly unravelling at an interesting pace. But looks like I don’t have to worry about that possibility since it is going to happen.

I have to give credit to my guts for telling me to stay and watch this anime because ever since I started watching this series, my attention has never wavered and my eyes glued to the screen. Maybe the occasional distraction when things get slow but overall, everything has been downright interesting and intriguing. Right down from the plot to the characters. The intrigue is fascinating enough for me to think what more is in store for the characters and what kind of bizarre plots are going to be laid out for all of them. Sometimes I lose track of time watching this series that I only realized time has flown by when the ending credits showed up. Even so, I can’t help crave and be impatient to watch the next episode.

While the general plot may be about various characters trying to get their hands on the elusive and mysterious gold, some characters are not driven by this gold rush and have different agendas of their own such as Nihei and Henmi. Sometimes I feel like those episodes are like fillers but short of being standalones. But in the bigger picture, I suppose that such characters and side plots are eventually needed and necessary because they’re going to need all 24 tattooed prisoners for them to put together the map. Who knows how many have died and are still alive.

As for the main characters, it is interesting to see the dynamics between Sugimoto and Asirpa. A tough hardened soldier who seems to have the devil’s luck in surviving the impossible and a young Ainu girl who has the skills of surviving the wild. They may look like a mismatch and an odd pair but you can tell right from the start that they complement each other. Not because the series’ promotional poster tells you so. So it is great to see them rely on each other, trusting each other as partners despite coming from different backgrounds as they work together for a common goal while remaining as they are.

One of the oddest moments that I tend to notice is if Sugimoto and Asirpa aren’t in the plot to hunt down the next tattooed prisoner, they are mostly surviving in the wild and trying to hunt for their next meal. Sometimes this makes it look like I am watching the Discovery Channel or National Geographic! Just without the narration. Hence from time to time when I see them prepare their traps or cooking their meat from the hunt, I also start thinking if I am watching an educational documentary programme. Who is up for some deer meat?

Is it me or do I start noticing that lately Asirpa has become more of a joker character. I thought Shiraishi was enough to fit this comical role himself but I have a feeling that Asirpa is almost becoming one but short of being a manzai comedy partner for Shiraishi. From her distrust of eating ‘poop’-like food and most recently looking up to Ushiyama as her Dick-sensei (?!), wait a minute, has she been influenced too much by modern Japanese?! I know, she is still a young girl and probably naïve and innocent to the so called Japanese culture. I believe her Ainu roots are still strong and she is just influenced for the moment. I hope. But sometimes comical notion to break the tension might seem a bit out of place because the moment is serious and then this. Like, huh?

I hope next season brings in more exposure and development to the other characters. Namely the other rivals of Sugimoto in this gold rush like Hijikata-Ushiyama combo, mad Tsurumi and his 7th Division, rogue ones like the traitorous Ogata and who knows other parties or individuals that have not showed up at this point and have yet to surprise us. Maybe like those damn Americans too are secretly in on this! This season sets these characters’ goals and motivations for wanting the gold and hence a little bit messy when this season shows bits and parts of these different camps. There will be one point where all of them will converge and slug it out in one big battle royale.

My only question is if Tanigaki is still in on this hunt or has he decided to live the rest of his life as an Ainu. After all, he wasn’t in on the gold in the very first place and wanted Retar’s fur. Speaking of which, Retar sometimes feel like plot convenience because it pops out of nowhere to save Asirpa. And then for some reason there is his family pack and because they don’t want to endanger the endangered species anymore (wolves are officially extinct in Japan but you might never know. They’re breeding underground away from our prying eyes…), Retar is not heard again. Like as though, uhm, it’s no more useful for the plot so it’s tossed aside. For now.

I believe this isn’t the first anime that puts the Ainu tribe in the limelight. Shows like Princess Mononoke based their characters on this. I thought it was my first exposure in anime watching the Ainu people but apparently in past retro animes like Shaman King and Samurai Champloo, they have characters from the Ainu tribe but I never realized that they were. My memories don’t serve me so well here but I don’t remember them being really given as much focus or prominence as this series. Since I know nothing about the Ainu tribe except that they are the true natives of Japan, everything they do feels fascinating and interesting. Probably it is their respect for the land and being able to live off the land in their simplistic ways that charms me (despite I have no interests whatsoever to turn to that kind of life – yeah, can’t live without internet!).

I don’t want to offend anyone but being an agnostic person myself, hearing people talk about their beliefs in higher being and gods sometimes feel like one big fairytale (that’s a nicer way of saying nonsense). I’m not disrespecting their culture or anybody’s culture about their beliefs in such beings but it’s just that we understand so little about ourselves and having this as the base of logic for me isn’t my cup of tea. You’re free to believe what you want but I’ll still listen to those godly and supernatural stories. Back to the Ainu prominence thingy, I believe this series just showcases part of the Ainu’s culture and tribe, their way of life and beliefs. You can even learn a few Ainu words from here too. Hinna, hinna. Though it sounds foreign to Japanese, if I’m not concentrating on how they speak, it sounds Japanese enough… O_O

But I just got to ask in the event if the gold is returned to the Ainu, so what of it? Like I have said that the Ainu has continued to live in a simple and respectful way, do they really need the gold? I mean, somebody in the future might come up with this bright idea of stealing from them again, right? It is not like returning the gold to Ainu would bring back their glory days or appease the gods. Would it? I don’t think they would really need the gold and safeguarding it from future greedy bastards would do more harm than good. So it’s best to leave the mad corrupted men to kill themselves over it, don’t you think?

The action parts are also one of the most interesting draws of this series. In many fights, you can bet that it is going to be bloody so it is definitely for the faint hearted. Even if those blood drops and blood spills are 2D animated. As the fights are mostly no holds barred and ultimately it is kill or be killed, the fight for survival is often exhilarating with the characters having different ways to fight like Hijikata with his sword, Ushiyama with his fists and raw brute force, Tsurumi with his pistol, Ogata and his sniping and Sugimoto whatever means he needs to stay alive. Don’t worry, he is immortal, right?

While the art and animation look pretty okay and average, but there are a few things that I want to bring up. Firstly, the horrible CGI bear animation!!! It is so obviously horribly rendered, you wonder if the production was using an outdated software or they had underpaid interns designing it. If they used normal 2D hand drawn techniques, it wouldn’t look so bad but this was really bad. I am not sure if they want the bear to look like some god being or something because imagining it in 2D form might not make it look as ferocious as it is bad when it is in 3D. Retar is mostly animated in 2D but sometimes in CGI format too but it is less obvious thanks to its white fur and the white snow surroundings so it does not stand out pretty badly like the bear.

Another art style I want to bring about is the look on Asirpa’s face when she is displeased. I know it is for comical purpose but the way they draw her meme or derp face makes her look weird. Really. It’s like suddenly Asirpa has aged into a granny or something. Uh huh. At least I know what Asirpa looks like if she lives to a ripe old age. But seriously that kind of derp face drawing, it either makes you laugh and go WTF or give you nightmares. Throughout the years, anime has this distinct art style that immediately lets everyone know it is anime. So characters from all nationalities usually have this anime look. So while they want to differentiate how the Ainu looks like, I can’t help feel that many of them looks very cartoonish. Thick cartoony eyebrows, thick cartoony beard and just cartoony overall. Except Asirpa of course. Nice blue anime eyes… Oh right, her dad is said to be not of Ainu origin. Damn loophole…

But other than the Ainu people looking funny, I find that some of the characters also to look a bit odd. How should I put it? They have this eyes of a dead fish. This is mostly characters from the 7th Division like Tsurumi, Ogata and Nikaidou just to name a few. Looking at them gives this feeling like as though they’re emotionless and dead even if they’re being crazy, mad or showing other emotions. Starring at those eyes too long might make you go crazy. Luckily I didn’t. But just to be safe… Essentially, many of the characters may look bland and dull but at the same time weird. For instance, Ushiyama. You can’t help notice that ‘fish cake’ stuck onto his forehead and it makes you curious to want to try and pry it out of his head. Don’t do it, Asirpa… As for the backgrounds and sceneries, it’s mostly the cold and freezing rigid snow of Hokkaido. Be careful, you might get snow blindness starring too much at all the whiteness… This series is animated by a new anime company, Geno Studio who started off with Kokkoku before helming this one.

Voice acting is pretty decent with recognizable talents including Jouji Nakata as Hijikata, Hochu Ohtsuka as Tsurumi, Kenjiro Tsuda as Ogata, Akio Ohtsuka as Nihei and Sayaka Ohara as Ienaga. I was surprised to learn Tomokazu Sugita is behind Nikaidou’s voice. He might not sound like his usual in Gintama as he puts up a more sissy and derpy voice in this character. But upon closer hearing, yup it’s that guy. The other casts are Chikahiro Kobayashi as Sugimoto, Haruka Shiraishi as Asirpa (Kirie in Himouto! Umaru-chan), Kentarou Itou as Shiraishi (Renji in Bleach), Kenji Nomura as Ushiyama (Shishigou in Fate/Apocrypha), Yoshimasa Hosoya as Tanigaki (Reiner in Shingeki No Kyojin), Masaki Terasoma as Kiroranke (Kanbei in Samurai 7 – say, doesn’t this character look alike?), Takayuki Sugou as Nagakura (Wanyuudou in Jigoku Shoujo) and Toshihiko Seki as Henmi (Mousse in Ranma 1/2). Remember what I said about the Ainu language sound like Japanese when I’m not concentrating? Well, they didn’t hire any real Ainu to voice the roles of the Ainu characters. Enough practice and you probably sound like one. So like Asirpa’s grandma is voiced by a true blue born and bred Japanese, Miyuki Ichijou.

Of course I’m not going to leave out my favourite Mamiko Noto who has a cameo here as Inkarmat! Hah. You thought I forgot to put her name down when I mentioned recognizable talents and would surely put down her name first. Surprise, surprise. While she is splendid as usual voicing the mysterious Inkarmat, something bugs me as I wonder if for this particular season she is taking on character roles who make their debut in the final episode. Because in that same season she did the same for Mahou Shoujo Site as well as Comic Girls (though technically there was an earlier episode she just said a word). Like as though it’s a sign that tells us she’s still not done yet and in the least unexpected final moments, there she is. Like as though the producers really know how to make my day and slip in this goddess and make my heart skip a beat. Okay, skipped several beats.

Hearing the opening theme, Winding Road by Man With A Mission, it sounded very much like an American rock piece. Probably because more than half of its lyrics are in English and the way the lead singer’s voice, it sounded like at least a Caucasian. Alas they are just your Japanese rock band. But the song itself isn’t too shabby and not bad. In some ways, this song somewhat reminds me of that insert song in another anime series, The Reflection, Sky Show. But ultimately this one sounds better. The ending theme is also another rock outfit, Hibana by The Sixth Lie but this one sounds heavy on the bass lines.

Overall, this series is very interesting and I am glad to have watched it. They didn’t betray me by giving it a sequel. Hinna, hinna. Its plot might sound generic and the characters as well on a broad level but the pacing and development of the story and the characters will compel and captivate your interests. At least for me. Therefore this is one of the better series of the season that I truly enjoyed despite some of its less than stellar flaws and incredulous moments that makes no sense like that orca scene or even moments to just give some mini shock value and WTF factor like Henmi’s glowing boner. Yeah… Otherwise it is overall a great series. This season leaves up to its title of being golden in many ways and hopefully it would achieve greater heights in the next season. Uhm, Platinum Kamuy, anyone? Hinna, hinna…

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