「旭川第七師団潜入大作戦!!」 (Asahikawa Dai Nana Shiden Sennyuu Dai Sakusen!!)
“The Great Plan to Infiltrate the Asahikawa 7th Division!!”
This is how you can tell proper newspaper journalism from tabloid pabulum: the exclamation mark. Newspapers don’t use them. We want journalists to report the news, not exclaim it. In these cynical and jaded times what kind of news is worth getting excited about? Please. Exclamation marks are the sole purview of smarmy advertisers feigning giddiness at a stock-take sale where Everything! Must! Go! and has no place in my monochrome print. I don’t need my newsmen trying to sell me the news, thank you very much. And I warn all my readers thus: the exclamation mark is not cause for excitement, it is cause for suspicion. It is punctuation trying too hard. I would believe it more if it was trying to convince me less. And when an anime episode title comes along with not one but two exclamation marks, like we have this week, alarm bells should be going off. A writer may use one exclamation mark if they really have such a pressing need to exclaim (or for irony), but two? That’s the sound of a raving madman. “The Great Plan to Infiltrate the Asahikawa 7th Division!!” is the screenwriter screaming the episode title while doing a line of coke and tasering themselves in the face. Someone is losing their bloody mind.
To make things worse, we don’t even get to initiating said infiltration plan until the last seconds of the episode so we got all worked up for nothing. But the fact that this plan is underway at all raises some interesting issues. It’s quite apropos that a professional fraudster has just been introduced because it plays into the themes of deception and treachery that have been prevalent throughout this second season of Golden Kamuy so far. Golden Kamuy takes great pains to remind us at all times that nobody should really be trusted. Everybody save our lead duo are transparent about having their own agenda. Alliances are based purely on convenience. In fact, Sugimoto has currently aligned himself with criminals, and they should be the least trustworthy of them all (and indeed at least one member, Ogata, is an outright deserter). Contrast them with Tsurumi’s faction, soldiers who are bound by duty and discipline. But while Tsurumi is off being insane, the criminals are actually displaying some measure of integrity. Their first instinct when one of their own, Shiraishi, is captured is how to rescue him. Sure, this may be based on expedience in part, and when they think about it longer they have some doubts about whether it’s actually worth going out of their way to rescue the Escape King. But in the end they still risk their necks to go after him, and not because he would be a liability or a loose end, but simply because he’s one of their own, he’s been captured (and being flayed as we speak!) and it’s only natural to get him back.
But it was Sugimoto who pushed for proactively going to rescue Shiraishi, and now he’s worked out that he was leaking information this whole time. And clearly, he has no love for traitors. He’s an army man, for one, and he also probably wouldn’t be ‘Immortal Sugimoto’ if he didn’t watch his back. On the other hand, although Shiraishi is entirely craven, it’s hard to fault him too much for what he did. The one who needed a spy was Hijikata, not him, and terrifying as it is to cross Sugimoto I can’t imagine that crossing Hijikata would be any better. He was trapped in a corner that even the Escape King couldn’t wriggle out of. A wretch Shiraishi may be, but a pitiable wretch. I doubt Sugimoto will kill him, thanks to Asirpa’s tempering influence, but can they truly be friends again like they used to be?
Of course, I’m presupposing that they actually manage to rescue him. I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll see how it all pans out next week, and perhaps put Chekhov’s Leg Gun into action, perhaps take off some other Nikaidou body part. Who knows? At the very least, it’s not me.