「昔の話をしよう」 (Mukashi no Hanashi o Shiyou)
“Let’s Talk About the Past”

One of the big advantages the Allies had in World War II was their mathematicians. Not that there were no Axis mathematicians — and after the war German scientists were no doubt very influential on the space race — but it did seem that the Allies had a lot of them willing to contribute to the war effort and as brave soldiers gave their lives on battlefields around the world nerds at home were providing their unique form support. For in WWII, more than ever before, warfare was as much about information as it was about strength of arms. Waging conflict across continents required information networks that can stretch across similar distances, and the ability to both infiltrate and protect these networks became vital. Battles were won and loss based on intelligence (insert something pithy by Sun Tzu here). Enter mathematicians who, along with experts of all stripes, were charged with both designing and breaking the codes used to encrypt orders beings transmitted over the aether. You may have heard of the exhaustive efforts to crack the Enigma, or how successful US efforts allowed them to monitor enemy fleet movements throughout the Pacific war. In fact, the US had come up with a rather clever code for themselves. No doubt American readers don’t need me to tell them about Navajo code speakers and other Native American communicators, who used ‘codes’ based on their native languages, to high effectiveness. For codes, the more complicated the better, but they also need to be capable of decryption by those receiving the messages (hence the rise of computing during the War). Language is innately complicated, filled with layers of grammar and semantics, based on obscure mythology and cultural norms. Even as infants we require years absorbing language to ‘program’ them into our brains. And without a Rosetta Stone, unknown languages are notoriously difficult to translate.

I wrote that entire preamble in order to discuss the Golden Kamuy treasure map, artfully tattooed on the skins of people. I may have missed something, and if I did I’d be grateful for an explanation in the comments, but isn’t the map supposed to be coded in some kind of Ainu symbols? Such that it’d take an Ainu can understand them? By the same token, shouldn’t it be hard for a non-Ainu to (an ‘Aino’? Sorry) to create them. For example, I don’t know any Hungarian. I can, perhaps, get a bunch of Hungarian looking words and string them together into a Hungarian looking sentence like, say, ‘A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal.’. I may be able to convince the uninitiated that I have some foreign language capability but an actual Hungarian would read that and know immediately that it’s silly nonsense, and my jig would be, as they say, up. In the same way, shouldn’t it be hard to forge the skins? Sure, it may be possible to make some convincing scribbles, but shouldn’t an Ainu be able to look at the fake skins and realise it’s gibberish? It seems like something Asirpa should be able to work out. I suppose if Tsurumi only intends to sow chaos by introducing extra skins it doesn’t much matter, but is this all as big a deal as Hijikata’s people are making it out to be.

Yes, I understand the irony; I’m making a mountain out of a molehill as well, but I need something to talk about and that was what it ended up being. Other than the Black Knight finally dying in a fire or the brief glimpses of Hijikata’s past, but otherwise Golden Kamuy continues to maintain its mix of action-adventure and outdoor camping tutorial. More important than any movement in the plot, though, are the changes in cast dynamic. While Asirpa and Sugimoto will always be eating, it’s important to note who eats with them. Their new allies eat with them too, and it is a process that humanises them. It may be a tad simplistic to generalise, but the trend has been that those who engage with the Ainu customs are framed as ‘good’ people, while those who disrespect them are not. So even a violent womaniser like Dick-sensei becomes almost endearing, thoroughly converted to the protagonist party, while the standoffish Ogata will still seems suspect.

But with all the scheming afoot, who can say where allegiances really lie? On that note, Shiraishi has gotten himself into trouble. Again. I’m assuming he’ll need to be rescued now, and hopefully that will inspire a higher loyalty in him. He’s featured rather prominently for just a throwaway crook, and if he were ever to turn over a new leaf, now would be a prime time for it.


  1. As we can see, the codes on the skins are just curves and few encircled Kanji characters, which are not difficult to forge.
    Also, since Ainu is not a written language, the code is rather unlikely to be a “written message” that can be identified as meaningful or nonsense in a vacuum. It is more likely to be a map or portrait that only make sense if one gathered many pieces of skin.

      1. As far as I can remember I’m relatively sure it hasn’t been mentioned in the story that the code is -necessarily- specific to Ainu culture. Perhaps it could have aspects of Ainu culture to help decode but that would be because it’s a Nopperabou Special code or something. This point is supported by some events that happen later on in the story as well. And as Lu mentioned Ainu don’t have a written language.
        I think for the others, the hope is that with all the tattoos lined up, it’d become a bit more clearer in terms of decoding the map.

  2. i was under the impression that the skins were fragments of something like a treasure map, and would only show the whole picture once arranged. a pictorial code would be much easier to mislead, perhaps. your preamble makes it out to be more like a page of words though, torn up and distributed.


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