「殺人鬼の目」 (Satsujinki no Me)
“Eyes of a Murderer”
The titular Golden Kamuy reported weighs in at 20 000 kan. That’s an enormous, almost absurd, amount of gold. For the American readers, 20 000 kan is a bit more than 165 000 pounds, which is… I don’t know how much that is because I’m not American and only you folks still use imperial measurements for the sake of, I assume, irony. In SI units, 20 000 kan is 75 000 kilograms, which is a truly ridiculous amount of raw gold to have in any one place at one time. The wholesale Spanish plunder of the New World ‘only’ brought to Europe around an estimated 160 tonnes of gold in total, and that was enough to reshape European economics for generations (along with, admittedly, a great deal of silver). For Japan in the early 1900s, still on the gold standard, a treasure the size of the Golden Kamuy and its sudden discovery would certainly destabalise its economy. In fact, it’s not enough to call this Ainu gold ‘treasure’. It’s a dragon hoard. I’m not really sure Sugimoto is up for claiming it, not without 13 dwarves and a hobbit. Luckily, we already have a grey wizard.
I would love to spend more time talking about the theoretical economic impacts of dragon hoards (and many other tangents, like conservation vs traditional whaling practices) but we’ll have to save that for another day because this episode was packed. For the first time, the leaders of the two major forces after the Golden Kamuy meet. Unfortunately, the only outcome of their meeting is that Crazy ‘Stache got a new hat and they didn’t manage to kill each other. That would probably be the best outcome for SUgimoto and Asirpa who, in contrast to both the soldiers and the criminals, have no grand ambitions and spend most of their time hunting and eating, only moonlighting as treasure hunters as the opportunity arises. Compared to the grand forces arrayed they’re mostly just spoilers, and ideally Hijikata and Tsurumi will destroy each and let our protagonist team swoop in for an upset, or at least secure an opportunistic alliance. I’m wagering that’s what Shiraishi is hoping for. Sure, he’ll always be something of a scum deep down, but he hasn’t exactly sold Sugimoto out, whether it’s because he’s playing his cards carefully or just compulsively lying. I hope he feels some loyalty and is not just working off pure pragmatism, though; Sugimoto and Asirpa trust each other completely and I hope Shiraishi can prove that he deserves some of that too.
Most importantly this episode, though, is the introduction of the next tattooed prisoner, Henmi Kazuo. And he’s… well. I would say that of all the characters we’ve met so far he is far and away the creepiest, if only because he’s the craziest. Basically all the players in Golden Kamuy, Asirpa excepted, have few hesitations about killing in cold blood, but they usually dress it up in some higher ideal or some noble cause. Henmi, though, simply relishes murder. But while he could easily just have been a caricature with a snuff fetish, Golden Kamuy enjoys its character studies and he’s juxtaposed with Sugimoto. Both are killers, but obviously very different kinds. Sugimoto takes no pleasure in death; Henmi only takes pleasure in death. Sugimoto feels contrition for his sins, while Henmi is a psychopath. Most importantly, Henmi is a death seeker, only pursuing the next thrill. Sugimoto is the kind of character who could very well have turned into a death seeker, he is not. Instead he talks of duties and obligations, where Henmi is really just a hedonist. It’s not just about wanting to live, or having something to live for. Sugimoto believes that has to live. That’s why he’s immortal.