「錯綜」 (Sakusou)

I came into Golden Kamuy thinking it’d be an action-heavy series, and that would be what I’d be watching it for. Turns out, not at all. After a string of episodes focused on Ainu culture and all that good stuff we have a relatively (relatively) action loaded episode this week, and I think I actually prefer Golden Kamuy as a historical food anime. For one, action is not really Golden Kamuy‘s trong point. It has neither the animation nor the choreography for it. Many action series don’t actually have that many action scenes, and most of their episode time is not dedicated to fighting. Instead, they have the occasional bursts of action where they can focus most of their animation resources and those high spikes are enough to keep the show intense. Golden Kamuy does not do that, and perhaps should not do that. While in a more traditional action anime the action scenes are big pay-off moments, designed to look cool and feel cool, that’s not how they’re used in Golden Kamuy. Golden Kamuy never glorifies its actions. The focus is never about the cool factor, but the brutality. The fights we’ve seen so far involve characters who have neither superpowers nor special moves. They just maul each other. It’s an appeal to realism, perhaps; fights aren’t pretty. And perhaps it’s a cynical metaphor for human lives: short and brutal.

It’s not that Golden Kamuy is incapable of feel-good stories. Retar found a mate somewhere and even has cubs (yet still cavorts around with some other woman) so the wolves are probably not extinct after all. That’s optimistic. But I suspect that these brief respites of optimism are only there to juxtapose the pessimism. Take the history of the Ainu gold; to gain their wealth (and the capital to wage war) they sacrificed their natural bounties, and Golden Kamuy does not frame that as a worthwhile trade. Nature is always portrayed positively while human endeavour (yada yada weapons factory) are much less so. Golden Kamuy‘s view of the human condition is very bleak. Or perhaps that’s a side effect of a story where the entire male cast are stone-cold killers (except maybe Shiraishi, who needs to be the Escape King considering how often he stumbles into trouble). Then again, chicken or the egg?

Speaking of origins, the interesting parts about these bloodthirsty sociopaths is learning how they got the way they are, and accordingly this week we get more of the backstory of Crazy ‘Stache. Turns out, he’s basically Japanese Hitler (sorry, Tojo). For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Hitler’s rise to power… well, you’re seeing it right here, in general terms. As you may recall, Germany did not have a good time after World War I. They terms of the peace treaty held them responsible for the war, forced them pay reparations, and basically collapsed both their government and their economy. Hitler was a WWI veteran, did not have a good time, and felt that German soldiers were betrayed by politicians. About there Hitler and Lt Tsurumi diverge (unless Crazy ‘Stache wants to blame the Jews too) but overall it’s a familiar story. That’s perhaps because it’s been told so many times; history is full of examples where a government loses control of a disgruntled military. Napoleon, for example, learnt this lesson well. He was a nationalist, but he understood that armies fundamentally run on much baser fare than pride or patriotism. They ran on money. Pay your soldiers, or else you’ll end up with some loon out to build his own paramilitary fiefdom in Hokkaido.


  1. “You know what they should make? An Asirpa backpack. That’ll sell like hotcakes.”
    I doubt a backpack in a shape of bound and gagged girl would gain me any points at the female crowd, but it would certainly attract police…

    Russo-Japanese war was a bit like WW1 preview, with bloody mess of trench warfare, maxim guns and barbwire…
    Too bad (almost) no one in European miltaries took much notice.
    Certain French colonel, though, who would later rise to first glory and then infame, managed to squeeze the lesson into 2 words: “Firepower kills”
    To add to similarities, Japan felt robbed of fruits of victory by US-led peace negotiations. Certain US president got Noble peace prize (brand new thing back then) out of that – and sown the seeds of the Pearl Harbor, perhaps.
    After real WW1, Japanese officers in the mould of the Tsurumi actually took control of the state affairs. It did end bad.

    At least Ainu had the common sense to avoid unwinnable fights…
    Speaking of unwinnable fights is it me or it is only matter of time Imperial Army will get involved to finish off both runaway Shinsengunmi veterans AND rebellious Tsurumi?

    And boy did that block-forehead guy look like almost like second coming of Wrath… Those soldiers might get more than they can handle, guns or not.

      1. law of conservation of ninjutsu might not work here, considering this shows unheroic look at combat…
        see, for example, the bear encounter with soldiers, true the badass mama bear did kill them all but died herself…

    1. Speaking of unwinnable fights is it me or it is only matter of time Imperial Army will get involved to finish off both runaway Shinsengunmi veterans AND rebellious Tsurumi?

      It would be really implausible for Hijikata to achieve anything, since his real-life counterpart’s attempts at creating a new domain on Hokkaido were crushed with ease by the imperial army and the quasi-state of Ezo didn’t last even half a year. And that was in 1869, when anger among disenfranchised samurai was still tangible. He wouldn’t find enough people ready to fight for his cause (since mercenaries are not necessarily loyal and willing to die a martyr’s death) in the day and age of the Golden Kamuy story; most people would assume he is a lunatic and the only audience for his nostalgic ramblings would be limited to a couple of old-timers who get closer to the grave with each passing day.

  2. It’s a popular meme these days that the Treaty of Versailles led to Hitler and WWII, however the truth is somewhat more complex. I’m aware of the famous quote, “The war to end all wars led to the peace to end all peace” (can’t remember who said it), but that turned out to be true for reasons other than its effect on Germany.

    Taking the situation as a whole, although there were obviously negative effects on its population, from a strategic point of view the treaty was actually advantageous to Germany. WWI had effectively wiped out their competition to the east (Russia having been crippled by the reparations Germany had forced it to pay earlier in 1918 and also by revolution) and it still left them as the most powerful single nation in mainland Europe. Their system of government was left intact, they were spared large-scale military occupation, and because the size of their military spending was severely restricted this enabled their economy to recover fairly quickly. So really WWII was not a consequence of leaving Germany too weak after WWI, it was a consequence of leaving it too strong.

    As for the Russo-Japanese war, though, yes it’s strange that lessons weren’t learned. The Japanese military was well connected with Western militaries – for example, the British Armstrong shipyard had built the Japanese ships and guns that defeated the Russian Navy in 1905.

    1. I don’t know what you mean by ‘meme’, but I cannot agree with your analysis. The post-war German economy was propped up only by heavy government spending. As debt accrued and stiff tariffs preventing Germany from using their weak currency to export their way to fiscal solvency, reparations became untenable. What to do? Print money. Which, of course, didn’t work yada yada hyperinflation, Great Depression, bad times had by all.

      It is this climate of suffering and resentment that allows someone like Hitler to take power.

      1. I’ll go with dictionary definition:
        Meme N.
        1. An element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.

        The immediate post-war German economy was about the same size as its pre-war economy. It was, however, seriously damaged by a series of ill-conceived general strikes ordered by the Weimar government in response to a limited (but nevertheless illegal) military occupation of German industrial assets by Franco-Belgian forces, which was inevitably followed by the subsequent printing of money by the government to cover the economic shortfalls that ensued.

      2. @Angelus
        Ah, by ‘meme’ you mean to express a casual dismissal of an entire view of history. No, I can’t agree with that either. For one thing, let us not conflate the rise of Hitler and the start of WWII. Perhaps some other leader will have taken Germany to war so long as Germany was allowed to rearm despite Versailles, but Hitler was a product of his sociopolitical climate. Secondly, the assertion that the German economy post WWI was somehow fine even in the face of reparation payments is one that, from what I’ve read on the subject, is often based on shaky mathematics. The ‘reduced war spending being a boon’ argument conveniently ignores that it was exactly massive public spending (with borrowed money) that kept Germany’s economy intact after WWI and in fact Hitler’s military spending was in part an economic stimulus. It also ignores the longer term problems. Germany already came out of WWI with sizable debt, and reparations added to a structural deficit in their economy that was made evident when the Great Depression started and the USA stopped lending Germany money.

  3. The only fault of Versailles is that was not enforced militarily when Germany started to ream itself in 1933… (as Pilsudski proposed)

    “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years” – Foch

    In WW1 Germans were spared complete destruction of armed forces, and therefore the military (and Hitler) could have devised the “backstab” meme where revolution and cowardly politiicans betrayed unbeaten army (which was on the verge of collapse by late 1918). This in turn led to second attempt at wrestling European, and possibly world, domination, with fatal results…

    This also was one of reasons Allied leaders in WW2 went for “unconditional surrender” knowing full well Germans would probably never agree, making complete crush of Germany possible.

    It worked almost too well, as today Germany has become almost pathologically pacifist and doesnt contribute much to common defence…

    1. Curiously, the ‘complete crush of Germany’ as the Soviets wanted, while devised and supported in the highest offices of Allied governments, it (a la the Morgenthau Plan) was never quite implemented (maybe partly because Roosevelt died). Instead, we got the Marshall Plan, which was much better for Germany (well, West Germany because Soviets) than the alternative. I would think that Germany modern pacifism is simply a matter of practicality; it can pacifist, and with its reputation as the bogeyman of western Europe it’s probably better for PR to be pacifist.

      1. I’d rather put it to natural selection killing off the most warlike genes in the population…
        And there is difference between crushing defeat followed by friendly hand (Germany andf Japan after WW2) and invomplete victory followed by harsh reparations (Germany after WW1)


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