「奇襲の音(ね)」 (Kishuu no Oto (ne))
“The Sound of an Ambush”
(Author’s Note: I’m filling in for Passerby this week – thanks to Zaiden for helping out with the capping. For the record I’ve voted for Golden Kamuy as my #1 every week in the Up to Snuff polls, so I’m happy to have a chance to do a post on RC!)
Whatever I’ve said about the uniqueness of this series, I can’t shake the sense that I haven’t been doing it justice.
I have to quote myself here, because nothing else will really do: “There is nothing like a Golden Kamuy episode”. There are few anime down the years that I can say this about, but I can truly say it about this one – I’ve never seen anything quite like Golden Kamuy. That isn’t always a recipe for success (though it usually is). In Golden Kamuy’s case being unique goes along with being memorable and often brilliant, and whatever flaws it has (and it does have some) it’s going to leave its mark on anime for certain.
Another thing that can be said about GK which isn’t always synonymous with success but usually is would be “it’s fearless”. And indeed it is – Noda-sensei seems not to care a whit for convention of decorum – he’ll juxtapose the deadly serious with the patently absurd, heart-rending emotion with utterly juvenile humor. And then there’s content itself – up until now, it’s mostly been violence but boy, the last couple of episode have certainly upped the manservice quotient to 11.
Not content to have its main male cast engage in an otter aphrodisiac-fueled sumo tournament, Noda now gives us an all-night battle sequence with that cast completely naked (except for Sugimoto’s cap). If you follow the Golden Kamuy English Twitter (I do) you know that this episode was even more graphic in the manga, but still – even if the only chinpo the anime actually showed was the smallest (and least controversial), it did manage to keep the dick slaps in. And honestly, I’ve wracked my brain to try and remember ever seeing dick slaps in an anime before and I really don’t think I have. And I don’t especially need to see them again, either – but they certainly add to the bizarre factor.
On the whole this battle between Team Sugimoto and the blind bandits was one of the coolest I’ve seen in anime for ages, nudity notwithstanding. Those bandits are indeed led by the character introduced at the end of last week’s episode, Anji Toni, and Anji is indeed one of the tattooed prisoners. He’s blind – and his followers too – because they were forced to work in a sulfur mine at Iwo by the warden of Abashiri. They survived and escaped, but not before the sulfur dioxide gas ruined their eyes – and now they scrape a living by attacking miners and Ainu villages on moonless nights.
I don’t know where Noda thinks of all this stuff – maybe these guys were based on real people – but man, the detail here is something. The bandits communicate via tongue clicking (which sounds like the clop of wooden geta), using it like bats with sonar. Anji wears huge bowls over his ears (I was wondering what that profile was about) to amplify sound, and he attacks while the boys are in an onsen. While he recognizes Shirashi’s voice, Anji seems to be in no mood to bargain – and Sugimoto’s rage over the fact that the bandits attack innocent villages means he’s not in much of a conciliatory mood either. Whatever righteousness these men had in the wake of their abuse, they’ve moved past it now, and Sugimoto is right that it’s only a matter of time before innocent people die at Anji’s hands.
Amazingly amidst all this insanity (in addition to everything else there’s also typical ludicrousness in Tsurumi’s camp when Usami returns from his failed mission at Abashiri) Noda finds a way to deliver some really powerful interior moments – and that’s so Golden Kamuy. The scene where the blind masseuse makes note of Sugimoto’s wounds as Asirpa watches is especially memorable – his “If you want to take out my soul you’d need a bigger wound than any of these” is quite heartbreaking. As is the bond between he and Asirpa, which is (again) pretty damn unique. And later in the episode, rather personal…
There’s also the matter of Ankarmat, Tanigaki and Kiroanke trying to escape by boat, only to be foiled by Anji having one of his men throw rocks until he hits it and allows him to aim his gun (and shoot Tanigaki in the ass). Ankarmat is looking more genuine I have to say – certainly her feelings for Tanigaki are (now, at least) and her observation that “fate can be changed” seems to imply that whatever motives brought her here, she’s changed her way of thinking.
Meanwhile Sugimoto and the others manage to survive until dawn breaks, and Ogata tracks the bandits back to the abandoned ryokan that serves as their hideout. But while he gains the upper hand, Hijikata and Chinpo-sensei arrive before he can finish Anji – and Hijikata seems inclined to bring Anji into the team as a nod to their shared loathing for their shared enemy. Hijikata has contacted an old friend – a photographer – in town, and sees this as a way to put the matter of Inkarmat and Kironake’s mutual accusations to the test. But the photographer also shows Hijikata a photo of the Shinsengumi as a young man – and Anji notes that Sugimoto reminds him of that young man in the photo, “As fierce as a demon, but somehow kind”. Will that kindness be Sugimoto’s salvation in the end, or his undoing?