OP2: 「レイメイ」 (Reimei) by さユり×MY FIRST STORY
I usually look forward to new OPs for anime. They’re usually an excuse for the producers to go a bit wild with the visuals, because the OP/ED are not bound by inconvenient things like the script. Therefore it makes for a great place to re-imagine key scenes from the show, or make up entirely new ones that did not fit in the narrative, or just bust out something entirely abstract and tangential that looks cool when set to a pop song. If an anime has any visual chops at all the OP/ED is a great place to show-off. Now, Golden Kamuy has never been the most visually brilliant anime, and I don’t ask that of it, but I still confess myself disappointed with the new OP. It’s what I would call a ‘lazy OP’, one that relies heavily on recylcing scenes from the show itself. Usually such OPs are place-holders, only there to buy time until an actual OP gets made, and are usually a sign of some production hiccup. I don’t think the one we have here for Golden Kamuy is temporary, though; it does put some effort into masquerading its true nature even if viewers who have been paying even the slightest attention will immediately notice the scenes it’s cribbing from. So perhaps Golden Kamuy has made a conscious decision not to invest too many resources into a new OP, or perhaps even cannot afford to do so. Without any insider knowledge, I can only wonder. Golden Kamuy managed a perfectly decent OP in the first season. What happened in the second?
But there’s no point griping about Golden Kamuy‘s visuals at this stage; it has never been the point of this show and I will actually be weirded out if it suddenly flooded with sasuga. So let’s instead focus on things that Golden Kamuy does better than any of its contemporaries: its curiously educational adventure around Hokkaido. This week features zany mine-cart antics that would not be out of place in an Indiana Jones movie or as a puzzle level in some RPG. It’s all great, silly fun, but what is fun without tension? All the conflict of Golden Kamuy come to a head as the three factions after the titular treasure (if you can count Asirpa & Co. as a faction) suddenly collide. Yet, the real danger of this episode was not any human force, but the coalmine itself. Golden Kamuy evidently wanted to portray the life of a 20th century coalminer and wanted us to understand the conditions of the deathtraps they brave. A lecture would be boring though, so it works the education into the conflict of the episode (with details littered around the background). Lesser storytellers would have just turned this adventure in the coal mines into a fancy rollercoaster ride and squandered the opportunity for history, but thankfully Golden Kamuy always keeps in mind the proper balance between bread and circus.
Of course, pure action series are great in their own way, too, but that’s not the kind of show Golden Kamuy is. In an action series, when opposing factions collide like they do here we’d expect them to be fighting all the time, for the sake of action. In Golden Kamuy, this collision brings up an opportunity for—what else?—food. The plot is getting more complex now, with talk of alliances contrasted with whispers of betrayal. We know that Sugimoto’s loyalty is steadfast—when offered money he turns it down purely out of his obligations to Asirpa—but otherwise little else is concrete. The key theme of this narrative arc, it seems, deals with these fluid human affiliations. Lt Tsurumi is capable of inspiring fierce devotion in his men (a devotion that Edogai dies for and does not tolerate traitors — even as he himself is a traitor to the state. And Sugimoto and Hijikata may be about to broker an alliance of convenience, even though it’s evident they don’t trust each other at all. After all, who can we trust. I’m never sure how seriously I’m supposed to take parodies of the Last Supper. Is this supposed to be a hint as to who is going to turn? Or is it mocking the very idea? I mean, Kiroranke is right there as Judas. What else am I supposed to make of that?
ED2: 「時計台の鐘」 (Tokeidainokane) by eastern youth