Golden Kamuy S2

April 13, 2019

Hinna, hinna. Give thanks to the second season of Golden Kamuy that I have been waiting for! I knew pretty much back then a single cour wasn’t enough with so many interesting developments and potentials. Good things come to those who wait. Even though the series just took a single cour break. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see if anybody gets the gold or something else. Something more than they bargained for.

Episode 13
Tsurumi visits Yasaku Edogai the taxidermist. He is impressed with all the stuffed animals he made. Until Tsurumi shows a glove made out of human flesh that he dropped. Tsurumi knows he has been digging graves for corpses for his taxidermy hobby. Yes, there is a room filled with such humans! Plus, Edogai is the only one who can hear voices of his ‘mom’ telling him to kill Tsurumi for knowing this secret. With Tsurumi’s smooth talking, he convinces Edogai to shoot his ‘mom’ to get over it. And then all the voices in his head stop. Now Edogai has become a fan boy of Tsurumi since the latter somewhat takes interest in his taxidermy work. Yeah, Edogai happily parades his creepy clothes made out of human skin to him! This is some sort of twisted fashion show. But down to business. Tsurumi wants Edogai to make fake skins of the tattooed ones. But fake enough that only their men can identify the real ones. He intends to bring real chaos into this war for tattoos. Ogata and Hijikata discuss about Nopperabo’s origins. Hijikata guesses that Nopperabo is a partisan from Russia pretending to be Ainu. In Russia, there are many groups fighting each other apart from Lenin and the partisans. Nopperabo may be trying to gain war funds for independence. This could also mean that Nopperabo’s allies outside are likely to be partisans pretending to be Ainu. We take a break with some outdoor documentary of Asirpa and Sugimoto. Then it is back to Edogai as he realizes there is some sort of problem in trying to replicate fake human skins. Elsewhere, Tanigaki is hunting with Makanakkuru when they are joined by this loner Ainu boy, Cikapasi. His parents died and he has nowhere to go so what else but to follow them. When they return to the village, they see Inkarmat wowing the crowd with her fortune telling. Tanigaki isn’t interested until she says she is looking for Asirpa. Because her fortune telling says one of the men she is travelling with will betray her. If he is not stopped, her life may be in danger. Hence Tanigaki decides to track her down with Inkarmat becoming his guide and Cikapasi joining. It seems Inkarmat made a deal with Tsurumi to use Tanigaki to achieve their goals.

Episode 14
More complaints from Edogai. Because Tsurumi has gone back to base and he wants to show him this replica of Tsurumi he made! Creepy… He is only left Maeyama and Tsukishima as guards. Later Edogai finds Maeyama shot in the head and realizes somebody is after the fake skins. Tsukishima is out in town for a bath. Sugimoto and Shiraishi recognize him as Tsurumi’s men and tail him. Ogata was the sniper as he barges into Edogai’s house. He realizes the fake skins on the floor but quickly goes into hiding since Tsukishima is back and is gunning for revenge. Meanwhile Edogai has managed to run away. Wearing a polar bear skin as disguise! Are there polar bears in Hokkaido? When Sugimoto enter the house, Shiraishi unfortunately is forced by Ogata to play along. He tells Sugimoto about the fake skins and possibly Tsukishima had taken them. I don’t know how Tsukishima caught up with Edogai or knew where he was running but at the coal mines begins a wild mine cart chase between them and Sugimoto and Shiraishi. Thanks to several accidents, some inflammable gas got released and an explosion occurs. Edogai is pinned under the rubble. He knows he is done for so he gives him the perfected fake skins to Tsukishima for Tsurumi. With the mines sealed to prevent fire, this means no oxygen as Sugimoto tries to carry passed out Shiraishi to the exit but it is totally sealed. Luckily Ushiyama breaks through and their lives are extended. Gathering back at Edogai’s house, Ogata believes Edogai is dead and if Tsukishima made it out alive, they have to assume there are about 6 fake skins in circulation. Sugimoto meets Hijikata for the first time and wonders if they’ve met before. Sugimoto remains suspicious of Hijikata. Could have almost fought had Nagakura offered Sugimoto’s side to sell them their skins. However Sugimoto has questions he needs to ask Nopperabo personally so for now they work together. But first Ienaga cooks for them and they parody this Last Supper scene! Meanwhile Tsukishima delivers the fake skins to Tsurumi. His other message from Edogai’s last word is “Iron”. He believes Tsurumi will figure out it is a hint on how to detect the fakes.

Episode 15
As Hijikata’s side are searching Edogai’s house for clues, Tsurumi’s men try to burn the house down and snipe anyone in sight. Nikaidou fights with Hijikata inside the house and upon hearing Sugimoto’s voice, Nikaidou gets excited to fight him. However this enables Hijikata to slice off his feet! This guy can still crawl away! All manage to escape the burning house. With hopes of evidence burnt to the ground. Their only hope is to meet Nopperabo to determine the real ones. Hijikata suggests they meet up at Ashibetsu but travel in 2 groups. In Sugimoto’s group, Asirpa, Ushiyama and Ogata. Time for some wildlife documentary and cooking. Ogata is very uncooperative in cooking the Ainu way as Asirpa instructs. Like he gives a damn. The rest in Hijikata’s group, they discuss about Shirosuke Inudou, the warden of Abashiri. It seems the old guys have some sort of history with him when they were at Kabato prison. That time, Nagakura was a swordsmanship instructor for many of the wardens here. One day he found out his best friend Hijikata was imprisoned here so he confronted Inudou about his punishment for Hijikata. He intends to wait until his life goes out before hanging him. Nagakura tried to force him to see Hijikata but his guards took him away. Luckily one of the guards grateful for his swordsmanship secretly let him see Hijikata. They talk about their past in Shinsengumi in which Hijikata has defended Nagakura many times from Kondou. With the possibility that there might be no way to tell the real from the fakes, Shiraishi is now thrust into the spotlight. They have to rely on this idiot to get them into Abashiri. More sh*t for Shiraishi because he dreams of Sugimoto killing him after finding out he was in cohorts with Hijikata and giving them info. Not sure the logic of him sneaking out from the inn because now he bumps into a group of soldiers outside. Hello.

Episode 16
Shiraishi can’t escape and gets captured. Hijikata relays this to the rest and since they need him, they have to bust him out. As those soldiers are taking Shiraishi back to their HQ in Asahikawa, who knows how long he will break out. Hijikata and Kiroranke go rescue him while the rest stay behind to wait for Sugimoto’s group to arrive. When the soldiers cross the bridge, Hijikata cuts and breaks it. With some soldiers and Shiraishi floating downstream, Kiroranke is supposed to pick him up. However Shiraishi remembers that brutal dream and hesitated. Although he swam to the side, he gets captured again. With this rescue mission a failure, the rest give some thought whether to really go save him. I think they reason they can let this idiot be but Sugimoto wants to go save him. Meanwhile Tsurumi sees Lieutenant General Narizou Arisaka. He is the one who make crazy weapons. You have to shout while talking to him because he is partially deaf. So all this just for him to make a special prosthetic leg for Nikaidou (I think this guy is starting to lose his mind). But it’s not just a fake leg. It has a hidden gun in it. Wow. Best present ever. Hijikata takes the rest to see Kiyohiro Suzukawa. He is a master of disguise as well as one of the tattooed prisoners. To know which barrack Shiraishi is being kept, they need someone to infiltrate. After the failed rescue, the army will be on alert so they need someone of high rank to obtain info. But not too high that everyone knows you. Suzukawa thinks he can impersonate Inudou. He does look the part! Asirpa’s sleeping on Hijikata has Sugimoto remember him. This means he realizes Shiraishi has been working with him for some time. Sugimoto is not pleased with this because he believes a traitor will betray you again. Hijikata claims there are no enemies or allies. What is important is information. With hints that Sugimoto might kill Shiraishi after rescuing him, suddenly Asirpa wakes up and tells him not to kill anybody needlessly. Was she listening?! The infiltration plan begins with Suzukawa meeting with the head of the 27th Division, Terunaka Yodogawa.

Episode 17
Sugimoto is acting as Suzukawa’s deranged bodyguard. Suzukawa really plays the part well. He is trying to guilt trip Yodogawa the mess he brought upon when the prisoners escaped. So in exchange for Shiraishi, he will give him plates to make counterfeit money. At this point, somebody has reported to Tsurumi and of course he senses something amiss. Before the exchange can begin, second lieutenant Otonoshin Koito barges in with orders from Tsurumi to not let Shiraishi leave. He then starts to talk in his Saitama dialect in which Inudou is supposed to know. Amazingly Suzukawa can also converse. But as they speak, suddenly Koito pulls out his gun and shoots them! From the talk, Koito knows this Inudou is fake since the real one doesn’t drink. Suzukawa got one in the head and Sugimoto only in shoulders. But the immortal takes Shiraishi and jump from the window. Ogata snipes at the chasers. Good news as they run, they stumble into the army trying to set a hydrogen balloon afloat. So nobody wants to shoot because they’re scared it will explode and kill everyone? You mean they can miss at this close range?! Anyway, why wait till they escape then only start to chase? But Koito manages to jump on board. He gets mad knowing Ogata betrayed them. With Asirpa’s support from the bottom and Shiraishi kicking him off, they’re safe for now. But will Shiraishi’s ass be safe when Sugimoto hints about his betrayal? Sugimoto notes he gave their fake tattoos to them so he didn’t really betrayed them. Phew. After the airship crashes, they have to continue running as the platoon will be hot on their heels. Yup, they’re fast. Their only hope is to cross this dangerous mountain. It’s freezing and windy. A storm will soon happen so Asirpa has them shoot deer to skin and hide in their belly. For some reason, Shiraishi has gone mad and strips and runs off! Asirpa goes after him but could it be an illusion or the playful gods luring her away? Because Shiraishi is with them. Sugimoto goes after her and although they find each other, they are lost. Thank goodness a lone deer for him to shoot. Can Sugimoto overcome his trauma? Yes he can. So they hide inside its belly just in time. Asirpa feels bad about Suzukawa’s death so Sugimoto tells her bad people feel less because they don’t have hearts. Then more talk about his days on the battlefield and the nostalgia of eating dried persimmons before he went to war. Such dear and sweet memories.

Episode 18
Tanigaki gets a telegram regarding Asirpa’s grandma. It seems she is making preparations for her own death. It is an Ainu’s belief to perform a ritual before they can pass on to the afterlife and must have kids. Hence they will raise any child even if it is not their own. Tanigaki doesn’t want her to die and believes he is also her child. Cikapasi’s big mouth: He is just her gigolo! Does he even know how to use that word?! But now we go back a few months ago to hear Tanigaki’s story as he told Tsurumi. In his hometown of Ani in Akita, his family often made their trademark kanemochi but he secretly made his differently with walnuts. He was best friends with fellow hunter, Kenkichi Aoyama. He would one day marry his sister, Fumi and lived in the remotely in the mountains. One day, Tanigaki receives the bad news. Fumi was killed and the house burnt down. Kenkichi was nowhere to be seen but left behind his prized hunter knife. Tanigaki became obsessed in tracking down this killer. He joined the 7th Division after hearing news Kenkichi enlisted there. He tried to find him but to no avail. At the same time, he heard news of his mother’s passing. Then there was this big fight at Port Arthur where several divisions would gather. He thought he would find Kenkichi there and kill him from the back in the heat of the battle. After one battle, Tanigaki saw a very wounded Sugimoto. He gave him his kanemochi to eat and he could tell he was from Ani. Because there was a soldier from another division who did the same thing. Tanigaki thought he finally found his killer. It seemed Kenkichi drafted into Tokyo’s 1st Division.

During another big battle, Russians were getting desperate by becoming suicide bombers. When one didn’t go down after all the shooting, suddenly Kenkichi jumps up to stop him. The explosion didn’t kill him but he is close to death. Even though he fought bravely, Tanigaki still wanted to kill him. Revenge was high on his mind after all this time. But Kenkichi who has lost his sight and hearing from the bomb, wanted this ‘stranger’ to tell his childhood friend the truth. Fumi contracted smallpox and was dying. She didn’t want him to tell others as fear it would spread. She also didn’t want her family to be ostracized if others knew she had this disease. That’s why she didn’t agree to him dying with her. Instead she told him to kill her, burn the place down and flee. If he survives this, he must decide what to do with the rest of his life. So Kenkichi kills her using his knife the way he knows best as a hunter and did as he was told. He lived his life bearing the guilt of killing her. Tanigaki lets him taste his kanemochi and he instantly knew it is him. With that, Kenkichi passes away. Ever since, Tanigaki has been asking what his role in life is. For starters, Tsurumi wants him to make those kanemochi. Now Tanigaki’s side has stumbled into Asirpa’s party at the marsh area.

Episode 19
Cikapasi explains how they stumbled into a couple of hunting Ainu who told them their location. He continues to promote Inkarmat as his possession and Tanigaki as her gigolo. Asirpa believes! The gang return to the nearby Ainu village and they are about to begin the Kamuy Hopunire ceremony. Basically Asirpa explaining their blessings to their local gods. Later Tanigaki wants to tell Asirpa a message from her grandma. Ogata thinks he is just a spy for Tsurumi but Tanigaki says he is done with the military. Grandma had a dream of never seeing Asirpa again and Asirpa explains her strong belief in dreams due to a dream of Asirpa’s mom dying shortly after one. Sugimoto thinks Asirpa should go back to prove her dreams wrong but she doesn’t want him to treat her like a child. There is something she needs to know in order to move forward and achieve her dream. An Ainu notices Tanigaki’s rifle that belongs to Nihei. They hunted together a decade ago. He talks about the significance of the scars on it when suddenly Ryuu pops up! So finally this dog has found his master’s gun? Wow. This loyalty sure predates Hachiko… So loyal that when emotional Sugimoto tries to pet it, Ryuu bites him! Meanwhile Koito fears Tsurumi will reprimand him for letting Shiraishi get away. We see him fawning over Tsurumi like a fan boy before the real man comes in. He tries to appease him by showing the tattooed skin he is wearing from Suzukawa but Tsurumi isn’t impressed. At first Koito’s heart sank when Tsurumi is disappointed in his failure. But this is just an excuse to enlist him to help find the other tattooed prisoners. Koito is disappointed in Ogata because their fathers were good friends. Ogata’s father, Koujirou Hanazawa, the former leader of the 7th Division was believed to have committed suicide to take responsibility for the many loss of lives at some battle. Tsurumi thought this would inspire Ogata to fight for this father’s honour and 7th Division but it didn’t turn out that way now.

Flashback shows that Ogata was born out of his father and his mistress. When Hanazawa finally had a son, Yuusaku with his real wife, he stopped seeing them. Hence Ogata’s mom had this obsession in making monkfish stew which was Hanazawa’s favourite every day in hopes he would come back. Ogata got sick of eating it every day and went to shoot a bird in hopes her making something different. Nope. Same monkfish stew. That is when he poisoned it and she died from eating it. His plan was to see if Hanazawa loved her, he would at least come to see her at her funeral. He did not. We see Ogata slowly killing Hanazawa as he relates this story to him. Hanazawa thinks he too is sick of her like him. However Ogata points out that as a child who don’t get to choose his parents, there must be something missing for one being born lacking parents’ love. Shortly after Ogata joined the military, he met Yuusaku and could tell from his eyes that he is well loved from his parents. Yuusaku was always by his said, claiming he always wanted a brother. During a battle, Ogata shot Yuusaku in the back of the head. It wasn’t out of jealousy of hatred. Just the thought of what would father think when he heard of Yuusaku’s death. What would father think of his other son? Would he care more for his mistress then? Hanazawa agrees he lacks something. And that is a failure as a son. Ogata makes Hanazawa’s death look like suicide. This was a plan concocted by Tsurumi to bring his division together by turning Ogata into some idol because others will see him as a god, the only surviving son of Hanazawa. But Ogata never believed in all that.

Episode 20
Locust attack! So while the guys seek shelter in a cabin, the ladies take a boat out to sea. Good chance for Asirpa to ask Inkarmat about her dad. Inkarmat says Nopperabo isn’t her father. Because Wilk wasn’t the kind who would steal the Ainu’s gold and kill them. She knows him as she has met him as a child. Born of a Polish father and Ainu mother, she first met him on Sakhalin. He was trying to rally the minorities to fight against the czar’s oppression. Asirpa doesn’t believe her as father never said anything about her. Perhaps he only thinks of her as a child and is forgotten. Maybe Inkarmat’s tears make it more believable? But Wilk is now gone. He is murdered by Kiroranke. And she has proof. I guess we need some time off from this heavy drama so we go look at the guys. If you wonder why nobody has ever eaten otter meat, it’s because of its great aphrodisiac effect. Oh yeah! Those guys are getting hot and gay with each other!!! OMFG!!! I guess we can’t show them going full on gay so their take on getting it on is having a great sumo match. Yeah, one hell of a gay sumo fest. So it’s no wonder the next day, the guys all want to never speak of this. But the only one winning this ‘lottery’ is Tanigaki because Inkarmat soon comes to make out with him! Blame it on the otter meat! When they gather, Asirpa asks Kiroranke straight if he murdered her father. With everyone in shock and Kiroranke denying, Inkarmat shows the evidence. So his fingerprints on the horse betting ticket?! Wait a minute. At this age? Fingerprint identification? Okay, even so, but in Japan?! And how did Inkarmat get the results so fast?! With Tanigaki defending her, Ogata points his rifle and accuses her of working with Tsurumi. He says all belongings of the Ainu at the murdered site were only collected by Tsurumi and hence only his fingerprints are there. Inkarmat replies she is only using Tsurumi for her own purpose. The rest try to ascertain from Shiraishi if Nopperabo’s eyes are blue since he is the only one among them who seen him. Too bad he avoid looking at his scary face. All he did was make tattoos silently and Hijikata was the one who planned the escape. Could this all be just a setup by Hijikata? There is also a possibility that Tsurumi falsified fingerprint records. With everybody suspicious of everyone, Sugimoto tells them their goal is to get to Abashiri. If either Inkarmat or Kiroranke ends up dead along the way, he will kill the other. Meanwhile at Abashiri, Kadokura the security chief is tasked by Inudou to rid a newbie, Usami who is believed to be working under Tsurumi. He lets some prisoners kill him but he fights back and kills them! Kadokura flees and then lies in his report he has taken care of them all.

Episode 21
If you thought the last episode was gay. Wait till you see this one! In a hotspring as Sugimoto and co rest, they hear the blind masseur talk about the recent ambush by blind bandits. They’re interested because one of them has strange tattoos. Immediately Shiraishi recognizes the bandit leader as Anji Toni. Mining sulphur for a long time causes one to go blind and Inudou were using some of his prisoners to continue doing that after the mining was ceased. As the men soak in the hotspring, they hear strange clicking sounds. It dawned too late when they realize it is the sound of a tongue clicking and it is a way by the ambush via echolocation. So we see our men fighting stark naked! Can’t see anything. Too dark. It gives the blind bandits the advantage. They get some reprieve with Ryuu attacking. Inkarmat is reluctant to get on the boat with Tanigaki and Kiroranke, fearing her ill-omened prophecy will come true. Because she can’t swim. So she was perfectly fine talking to Asirpa on a boat the last time?! True enough, Toni starts shooting at them. Tanigaki gets hit and the boat overturns. Inkarmat sees visions of bears, a sign that they are going to take her to the afterlife. But don’t fear. Tanigaki bursts out in his bare chest to scare away the bears! WTF???!!! Tanigaki is Buddha???!!! Inkarmat now believes she can change fate but I think the kiss she gave Tanigaki wasn’t so much because he saved her. Because it’s funny Toni’s shot went through his butt! Dawn is approaching so Toni and his men retreat. Sugimoto and Ogata tail them to their hideout and have to take them out now because going back for their guns will give them time to escape. But they are trapped inside the house as the bandits have already shut all windows, doors and openings tight. WTF Asirpa can tell it is Sugimoto by groping his butt?! A struggle between Sugimoto and Toni soon ensues. It is only stopped when Hijikata arrives. Asirpa warns him about killing the innocent. He might live in darkness but continue this way and he will never escape from darkness. When everyone gathers, Hijikata has an old friend take photos of all of them (this is to do more background search on Inkarmat and Kiroranke). He is given a photo of a dashing Sugimoto as he remembers what Toni said about Sugimoto. His battle spirit resonated fiercely just like his but still kind.

Episode 22
We have reached Abashiri. Asirpa feels scared to know the truth but Sugimoto assures. Because it is salmon season, they build an Ainu hut just outside the perimeter of the prison next to the river to hide a hole they are digging into Nopperabo’s cell. When guards come to shoo them, they bribe them with salmons. With Tanigaki and Inkarmat’s romance coming into light again, Inkarmat explains about her fortune readings that told her she will never meet Wilk again. She always thought it meant her own death. Then he died and heard Tsurumi had his belongings as well as Nopperabo knew about the gold’s location and was working with Kiroranke. She was satisfied her fortune telling wasn’t always right. When she drowned, she was prepared to face her destiny until Tanigaki came to her rescue. He changed the fate of her fortune telling. She learnt fate can be changed and now has hope she can see Wilk again. When Sugimoto finishes his digging, he pops out in Kadokura’s lodging. But this guy shows them the layout of the prison and tells them how Nopperabo moves to different cells every day. He knows which cell he will be. Apparently Kadokura is helping them because his father once fought with Hijikata and if this plan fails, his backup plan is to join Hijikata. On the night where there is no moon, all are in place for the big break in. With Toni leading the small group, they eventually enter the cell where Nopperabo is. Too dark to see anything so when Sugimoto lights the match, there is your faceless man! Yeah, let the scream fest begin. However Asirpa can tell this isn’t her father. With the alarm sounded, they are forced to flee and Sugimoto thinks somebody set them up. The only bridge linking to the prison blows up. Tsurumi and his 7th Division ride in on their Destroyer class ships.

Episode 23
Tanigaki believes Inkarmat has been siding with Tsurumi all the while. She puts it this way. Now that Sugimoto has failed, only Tsurumi can get Nopperabo and Asirpa out. Even if the 7th Division gets the gold, it’s not like it matters to them. With the Destroyers blasting a hole in the walls, Tanigaki and Inkarmat take cover but the latter is trapped beneath the rubble. Time for Tanigaki to show his manliness and bring her out. When another rubble threatens to fall on them, Ushiyama makes himself useful to hold it up till they make it to safety. Tsurumi orders his men to kill everybody. They will make up the story of assisting to subdue a prison break. It will be easy since HQ will not send anybody to this hell to verify the story. Tsurumi and his men confront Sugimoto who is using the fake Nopperabo to escape. They dare him but Nikaidou shoots first and had to be subdued. Little do they know, he has shot and killed the fake. Sugimoto and Shiraishi need to escape and they do so via the air duct below. Usami tries to get Kadokura but the latter pulls a lever to simultaneously open all the prison doors. Now the 7th Division have to fight a horde of tough killers in this dark and narrow hallway. Sugimoto believes this is all part of Hijikata’s plan to separate him and Asirpa. Knowing that Inudou would panic in this ruckus, he would head to where the real Nopperabo is kept. He will use Asirpa (as well as those photos) to get Nopperabo to reveal the gold and then escape. Hijikata follows Inudou to the chapel. It must be where Nopperabo is. When Inudou moves Nopperabo, that is when they catch him. Sugimoto now has to fight Nikaidou who is just crazy in getting his revenge. I guess Nikaidou loses his hand this time when Sugimoto uses his machine gun leg against him. I hope this crazy guy stays dead. Inudou brings out Nopperabo from a secret underground room. Hijikata and Toni move in but Inudou attacks and kills Toni. He plays dead so when Hijikata goes up close, he handcuffs him. They fight to the death. Asirpa and everyone else gathers at the main gate while they wait and believe in Sugimoto to bring Nopperabo. As Sugimoto crawls his way to the chapel, the flares light up the place as he sees Nopperabo trying to escape. He confirms those blue eyes.

Episode 24
When Sugimoto shows Nopperabo the dagger from Asirpa, he instantly recognizes it. He wants to see Asirpa and only her he will reveal the gold’s location. Inudou has a long grudge against Hijikata for refusing to join the Meiji government. Hijikata believes he is scared and used him as a reason to justify his brother’s death in a battle. He thought locking him away will turn him into one of them but Hijikata turned out more loyal than a samurai. Hijikata cuts Inudou and decapitates him. Sugimoto tells off Nopperabo he doesn’t want to bring Asirpa to meet him. Nopperabo told Hijikata Asirpa’s real name so that she could become the leader of the Ainu and fight for the people. But Sugimoto didn’t like how he got her involved in all this because all he wants is to hunt and eat animal parts with Asirpa! Nopperabo spots Inkarmat atop the roof and she likewise. She calls Asirpa to ascertain Nopperabo. Yup, that’s papa. Makes her remember the time daddy ‘abandoned’ her to kill a red bear all by herself! Nopperabo wants Sugimoto to tell Asirpa that he didn’t kill the Ainu. Before he could reveal the gold, he is shot in the head! Sugimoto soon after! Asirpa is devastated but Kiroranke takes her to run. The sniper is no other than Ogata. Tanigaki braves the sniping to use his manly strength to pull Sugimoto and Nopperabo out of the sniper’s sight. When he returns, he is devastated to see Inkarmat stabbed. She reveals to him when Wilk was shot, she saw Inkarmat giving somebody the signal. Asirpa is now with Shiraishi, Kiroranke and Ogata as they make their escape. Tsurumi and co have gunned down all the prisoners and take those left behind as captive.

In the aftermath, Sugimoto lives! It is thanks to Ienaga’s surgery skills that extended his life. Yeah, he is now partial brain-less buddies with Tsurumi since they have part of their grey matter removed. Sugimoto could feel the sniper is Ogata who is in cohorts with Kiroranke. Further flashback reveals Inkarmat tried to stop Kiroranke and a small struggle ensued that ended with Inkarmat accidentally stabbing herself. Inkarmat is sad over Wilk’s death but Kiroranke said he had to die because he changed as the plan was to tell their comrades where the gold was. Kiroranke’s group is probably on his way to Karafuto to meet up with his former guerrilla friends since Asirpa who is the critical key is in his possession. Tsurumi has clean-up work to do at Abashiri so he lets a small team that includes Sugimoto and Tanigaki go. Yeah, Koito so heartbroken he has to leave Tsurumi. Hijikata and Ushiyama examine Inudou’s secret lair and discover he was gathering info about the escaped prisoners to lure Hijikata back to Abashiri. Hijikata has got it figured out and prepares to leave south. Koito’s father who is an admiral talks to Sugimoto. He is okay sending his son to die in battle. Narrating the lesson from the Hanazawa and Yuusaku incident, if he keeps his own son from danger, what can he say to those whose sons died? Thus he believes Nopperabo thought of the same. Before he can tell the Ainu to die, he had to send his own daughter to battle. It’s not that he raised her so as she can be used. The power of dreams has Asirpa dream that Sugimoto talking to her, promising he will come for her. She still believes he is alive.

Gold Makes Monsters Out Of Men
F*ck! F*ck! FFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT IS OVER JUST LIKE THAT!!! I guess it was foolish of me to think that the series will end once Nopperabo and Asirpa meet. After that it would be a race to see who reaches the gold first. Too bad father and daughter didn’t meet but at least they saw each other one time. It feels like a waste that this season they go all the way to Abashiri just to get Nopperabo and now he’s dead. They’re supposed to ascertain the fake skins, right? Unless he said it all to Sugimoto before he got shot, I don’t see how the plot twist of Asirpa being the key. I mean, I know she is important but if she was from the start in some ways, shouldn’t they have headed to the gold instead to Abashiri?

It goes without saying that this season maintains its intrigue and it is as interesting if not more so than the first. I didn’t think that it would turn out to look like Tsurumi vs everybody. Or rather, Hijikata’s side since I didn’t quite expect that everyone else would be forming some sort of ‘uneasy’ alliance with Hijikata ever since the fake skins got around. It felt like to cut things short because instead of going on a wild goose hunt for the other prisoners (who knows where they are at this point or if they are still alive), might as well break into prison and ask the main man himself. So you could say this sequel is more of trying to break into Abashiri to get Nopperabo. With the turn of the final events, this grouping has changed once again with Sugimoto and Tsurumi probably pairing up against Kiroranke’s side and not forgetting Hijikata’s side still lurking.

With a handful of characters, some are featured more prominently than others while some not to say they fall by the wayside but they take lesser spotlight here. For instance, Sugimoto and Asirpa don’t feel as prominent as they were in the first season perhaps because their goal had always remained the same. They didn’t really change much either so instead of boring us with the same ol’, same ol’, might as well shed some light on some of the other characters who deserve it. But it shows that Asirpa has had a tremendous impact on Sugimoto. For him to want to continue hunting with her, I hope he hasn’t forgotten why he jumped onto this gold rush bandwagon in the first place. Money to help his dead friend’s wife. You still remember that, do you? Though it’s a bit sad that they aren’t together in the end as they’ve been mostly together or at least close by ever since. Sorry, dreams don’t count. Other characters like Ushiyama and Ienaga also feel underused this season. Understandably, what can Ienaga do except to provide a pretty face (and a scary one after she operated on Sugimoto’s brains) but Ushiyama being the muscles and brawns of the group didn’t really do much here (unless the plot commands for it that needs a real strong guy to get somebody out of a predicament). Like as though he is some sort of robot following Hijikata’s orders.

Tanigaki and Ogata get an episode to flesh out their background and it feels refreshing to get to see their back story and how they came about to their present situation. It is a nice detour and I was wrong to think that such flashbacks would be a waste of time this season since there are only a dozen episodes and they should cut to the chase. But surprisingly their flashbacks were done pretty well and quite interesting to say the least and it helps to understand their predicament a little better. Like why Ogata is such an emotionless and serious guy. Now that you know his past, you don’t want to make enemies out of him or at least realize this guy isn’t suited to be even funny! No jokes for this dude.

While Tsurumi has his own tricks up his sleeve, Hijikata is also another force to be reckoned with. He is also another scheming and shady character, using others for his own ends and means. You might not think of it much at the beginning since they give as an impression that they are all on the same side. But that made us let our guard down and underestimate this old fart because it seems he has been staying a few steps ahead from his own comrades and if I should say, having a few backup plans of his own. He knows how to ‘twist’ words and not really give a definitive answer when suspicions arises (especially when it comes to Sugimoto). It all boils down to everyone having their own interests and probably Hijikata understood that well enough to take this into account and use them for his own agenda.

If Sugimoto and Hijikata’s side look like a ragtag of weirdoes, the same can be said on Tsurumi’s side, as everyone here is a twisted weirdo! Even much more. For example, Nikaidou who has been steadily growing insane since the death of his twin brother in the last season, I’m not sure if there is some sort of running joke that he is also slowly losing parts of his body. The more parts he loses, the more insane he becomes. His insanity becomes his natural pain killers. It’s like you can’t kill this guy. I’m pretty sure his failed revenge on Sugimoto was his last and he is dead for good. I think. Then you got new characters introduced here who are just as quirky like Koito and Usami. I suppose when you become fan boys of suave Tsurumi, you also lose your mind. Among the sea of weirdoes, this makes Tsukishima the only normal and rational looking one. You keep wondering how long this guy can last before he falls into that insanity. I thought Tsurumi’s way of talking looked familiar. Thank the internet that they pointed out how he talks like Hitler! Yeah, the 7th Division is really one big insane group.

As mentioned, I thought it was a waste that when we finally get to know Nopperabo is Asirpa’s real dad AKA Wilk, he is then suddenly killed off. Well, this series isn’t a stranger in killing off some of its characters. At least the first season was limited to some of the prisoners. This season we had others too like Edogai whom was promptly killed off after he has done his part. For a second there I thought he might have joined Tsurumi’s side. Then there is Suzukawa who was introduced so suddenly that I thought he would be another weirdo joining Hijikata’s side. And what do you know? A weak bullet to the forehead is what it took to do in this old fart. It’s safe to say that Inudou won’t return as an enemy if ever there is another season. For now, his little back story and connection with Hijikata feels somewhat unrelated to the plot.

Other than the intriguing plot and the bloody action scenes, there are a few parts that seem to either make it stand out like a sore thumb or just cute. I don’t know. It was a dilemma for me. For example, certain parts that are supposed to be funny and for comedic purposes like when the gang are having a group meal together, Ainu style. Because Ogata doesn’t join in, this prompts the rest to do stupid and silly cartoonish faces, trying to tempt him to join them. It feels out of place but at the same time, it makes them, uhm, cute? Even when Tanigaki got a bullet through his butt… That was like, uhm, funny? Last season I said that it had this documentary feel because we see Asirpa and Sugimoto going hunting in the wild as they explain to us about nature and also some of the Ainu culture and beliefs. This season also has its fair share of such documentary but I feel it is somewhat lesser thanks to the development of and building up of the plot. Can’t go hunting more often when you can smell the gold this close.

Another weirdest and funniest moments are those gay scenes! Yes, this series has a bit of them. I guess with many of the casts being males and in a period where war is raging and you need to be at the top of your condition, expect some real muscles. That sumo gay time was really hilarious and I’m sure many of us would go WTF and make us question why the heck they included this. And there was an episode where our guys were running around naked in the dark for most of it! Does that bring out your inner gayness? For those who aren’t into such macho gay scenes, then some twisted pretty boy scenes would suffice and you’ll see this mostly with Tsurumi and his ‘devoted fan boys’. Sheesh. More funny moments that does not take itself seriously with some silly references. Like that Last Supper scene. It came out of nowhere and was this supposed to make us go, “Aww… How cute”. But I’m sure WTF came first. I read there are a few other scenes that mimic other paintings and iconic movie scenes as well but I’m not an art and movie enthusiast so I didn’t get to spot them.

It also feels weird that they are trying to make Tanigaki the epitome of manliness because there are a few scenes where you see his shirt’s button being popped out to reveal his hairy chest. Like, WTF?! Is this gay? But making this season weirder too is how they incorporated the very odd romance between Tanigaki and Inkarmat. Is this to soften the overall gayness? After all, Inkarmat is the only attractive mature woman in the pack. Those who watched last season should know about Ienaga’s identity… I thought there would be some sort of conspiracy or twist involved since they’re making this pairing too obvious instead of a forgettable distraction. On a side note, with Nopperabo ascertained at Wilk, it only puts many of the theories that Inkarmat said to be false. For example, Wilk being killed by Kiroranke. She made it sound so dramatically convincing. It really had me thinking if her fortune readings are correct in the first place or if she has another ulterior motive.

The action sequences continue to be the main attraction of this series. They don’t disappoint but some parts can be really gory and violent. After all, when you are fighting tooth and nail to survive, anything goes. Be surprised or not when Sugimoto gets stabbed and pierced in weird places but still continue to survive. He literally earned his nickname of Immortal Sugimoto.

This season’s animation and art are still maintained like last season. They’re not the best but it’s still consistent. Overall the characters do look weird even the new ones like Inudou really looks like a dog if you look closer. Of course Nopperabo and his fake do seem scary without any face. But thanks to the ‘inferior’ quality of the art, I didn’t horror scream like Sugimoto and the rest. Although this was meant to be funny. Yeah, who could forget that ‘grandma’ face Asirpa always makes when she is unimpressed. Some parts were really dark and I can’t see anything and it was a bit annoying. Like that Toni introduction episode and the ambush into Abashiri. I would have totally forgotten about the horrendous CGI had they not bring back those bears! OMFG! It made me remember!!! Despite the bears only appear in Inkarmat’s dream as well as Asirpa’s bear fighting flashback, they still used that horrible CGI!!! Like WTF?! Those who watched the first season would remember how badly the bear was rendered and there were criticisms and even jokes about it. Thankfully, that is all the CGI is confined to and if there were other parts using that, I am not aware of.

This season’s rock based opening and ending themes sound like they suit the theme of the series well but it didn’t really resonate with me. Reimei by Sayuri x My First Story as the opener while Tokei-dai No Kane by Eastern Youth as the ending piece. The latter feels weirder the more I hear it because it sounds more like punk rock with all the screeching electric guitars and the vocals screaming. If this series wasn’t an action based, it would have sounded so out of place.

Overall, this season is quite as entertaining and interesting than the first (it’s best to watch the first season to better appreciate and understand the sequel). Great action sequences as well as many great developments in the plot and some of the characters make it a worthy sequel. Even when some parts feel really twistedly dumb (just for the comical moments) and out of place, it is still entertaining to watch and if I should say, part of this series’ unique charm. Even if nobody got the gold in the end (yet), at least this series will always be gold material to me for many years to come (hinting it should get another season, PLEASE!!!). Comedy gold, good as gold, a series that is worth its weight in gold. Hinna, hinna.

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…