Golden Kamuy is a series that I almost did not pick up because the premise originally did not sound like it would be my cup of chai. Yet, I tend to really enjoy historical shows, especially ones taking place prior to or right after some sort of war. Since the show began directly after the Russo-Japanese War, an event I had never seen used in anime storytelling before, I figured at the very least I should try it. I am SO happy that I did because, if developed well, this series may end up being damn near perfect.
Originally a seinen, Japanese-style historical Western light novel series by Satoru Noda, Golden Kamuy is being adapted into an anime by Geno Studio and is being directed by Hitoshi Nanba. It revolves around a former soldier named Sugimoto Saichi, who promised his best friend, Tojiro, that he would take care of his blind wife and child if anything were to happen to Tojiro while fighting. Unfortunately, Tojiro is killed. Saichi recalls how him and his comrade would talk about panning for gold after the war to make money, which is exactly what he sets out to do in the wake of the war. One evening while he is panning in an icy river, an old man tells him about a legendary horde of gold. After a few plot points, Suichi decides to hunt down this treasure so he can give the money to Tojiro’s wife and they will never need to worry about surviving again.
My very first impression after finishing the first episode was: “That’s it? That was only fifteen minutes long, that could not have been the whole episode!” In actuality, a full 24-minutes had passed. I had become so invested in what was going on that I completely lost track of myself. It felt amazing!
The episode instantly grabs your attention as it begins with Suichi fighting the Russians on a snowy mountain. There is blood everywhere and fantastically brutal deaths as soldiers are ripping into one another. The detail work and animation quality sweep you away in the fighting. As the narrative continues and we watch Suichi learn about the treasure, more unexpected things occur, moving the tale forward in a sensationally flowing way. There were a couple of mild predictable occurrences, but it never detracted from the quality or tension of the storytelling.
Speaking of, the tension is what really makes the show feel perfect. It is exceptionally balanced with the music—which is Celtic inspired and beautiful—the pacing of the plot, the timing of specific events, the action, the level of violence and blood, and the unique twists given to the familiar cliché of treasure hunting. It all blends together and complements one another in myriad ways to keep things damn interesting and engaging.
I also love Sugimoto Saichi. His personality is strong, confident, yet humorous and charming. You can see the soldier in him for sure, but there is this underlying humanity that I am hoping will be explored further as the series continues. I feel it would serve to give his character more depth, as well as to add more dimension to the story as a whole. Creating an intimate focus on the characters themselves is really the only thing that I feel the show would need to become flawless.
Basically, you should definitely be watching Golden Kamuy this season. It is action-packed with excellent storytelling, a unique take on a familiar trope, and honestly because it is just do damn interesting.
You can watch Golden Kamuy on CrunchyRoll on Monday mornings.