「誑かす狐」 (Taburakasu Kitsune)
When I was a wee lad, back in high school, we didn’t have all the fancy electronic entertainment options kids these days (by way, get off my lawn), so my mates and I played a lot of card games. One of us had a Tarok deck, which is basically just a pile of Tarot cards for the purposes of games. What I thought I’d do, being young, stupid, and bored (the teenage Triforce) was take that Tarok deck and go do some fortune telling, y’know, to impress the ladies. Now, I didn’t actually believe in fortune telling nor had any idea how to do it, but I had 10 minutes of reading under my belt and the major arcana in my hands so how hard could it be? And it turns out, spinning something that sounds meaningful from a bunch of picture cards wasn’t very difficult at all. Here’s where I can talk about Jung and the universality of symbols and the collective unconscious but, let’s be real, I was a prepubescent con-artist. And perhaps some people are more open to being conned than others. It’s as Asirpa says in this very episode; fortune telling is for those who have lost their way, not those who are firmly on the path. Those who seek fortune telling usually want someone to give them answers, and gladly interpret all manner of vague things to be one. So even just flipping over arcana number III reversed was enough for — let’s call them the ‘mark’ — to agree, yeah, she had issues with her mother.
Big takeaway: fortune telling may be bollocks but it’s not particularly involved bollocks; we mostly do it to ourselves. But in the world of anime, in fiction, who can say what’s real and what’s not? The Japanese, in particular, love their fortune telling and seem to have a system for every personal characterisitic imaginable, including blood type (which is definitely ?!). In anime, those actually work. In Golden Kamuy, in particular, all the Ainu superstitions have always held (remember the jumping into bear dens thing?), so perhaps this new Inkarmat character (Noto Mamiko) has something to her as well. Perhaps her magic bones are legit, or perhaps she’s just well informed — she knows Asirpa’s father, may have been one of his collaborators. But I think one of the questions this episode asks is whether it matters; most of the characters in Golden Kamuy are driven people, focused on their goal, and create their own luck. Kiroranke wins based only on his skill with horses. Sugimoto regularly will himself to be immortal. In stark contrast is Shiraishi who has only his impulses. He is a victim of circumstances, which is perhaps now starting to regret having been roped into being Hijikata’s mole. Rather than playing every side, he is being played by every side. He needs a fortune teller because he has no firm ground against the whims of fate.
Even without a fortune teller, though, there’s one we can predict: more Golden Kamuy incoming! Which is good thing, as this ‘finale’ is not final in the slightest, taking us on a new arc without even attempting to pretend that any of its plotlines are drawing to a close. So with that let’s jump straight to the final impressions, such as they are.
Final Impressions ~ But not really
It’s not really ideal to write a ‘Final Impression’ for a series that has not ended even slightly, but in case I don’t cover the next season of Golden Kamuy let me just say a few words about Golden Kamuy for the sake of posterity. For me, and perhaps others who are not familiar with the soruce, Golden Kamuy was a surprising show. On my part that surprise was pleasant, but I can’t speak for everybody. I get the feeling that there may have been those who may have expected things from Golden Kamuy that is never promised to deliver. For one, it was never the best looking show (the CGI bears weren’t that bad but still bad enough for me to make fun), and its action sequences didn’t have the kind of flashy choreography or splashy effects that one may get from a big-budget action series. There lies the fundamental problem, I think; there were those who expected Golden Kamuy to be a gritty action show, when that’s not really what it wanted to be. Sure, it was gritty, and at times it had action. But mostly, it was just violent. It’s easy to conflate action with violence (because people sure do fight a lot in anime) but they are, of course, not the same thing (exhibit A: sports anime). Golden Kamuy wants to portray violence, not action, and thus we have the brutal and bloody rather than the cool and stylish.
Golden Kamuy concerns itself with violence because it is ultimately a story about humans and humanity, and our capacity for violence is one of the poignant features of our kind. In in this study I found Golden Kamuy to be a strong show. Many anime engage in character studies, but Golden Kamuy is thoroughly about people in general. You may notice that almost all the characters (our two protagonists excepted, perhaps) inhabit one particular aspect of of humanity. This is most noticeable tattooed criminals who are never generalist, opportunistic crooks but instead perpetrate one specific evil. They are obviously meant to showcase the dark side of humanity, and not just them; main antagonists Hijikata and Tsurumi are both spiteful ghosts in their own way, and there is a certain uncaring cruelty underlying the entire setting. But Golden Kamuy isn’t purely cynical, and understands that people are shaped by their world, and spends a great deal of time on culture and history to build its vision of humanity and also present some counterpoints now and then. This is perhaps what I enjoyed much about Golden Kamuy, that it was so thoroughly anthropological while also spinning an entertaining yarn about hunting for treasure. It’s a balance few other anime manage to, or even endeavour to, strike.
If you’re a weirdo too and also enjoy that kind of thing then the announcement of a second season of Golden Kamuy in just a handful of months. More in October, and I expect it to pick up exactly where we’re leaving off now. I’m looking forward to it.