「新月の夜に」 (Shingetsu no Yoru ni)
“On the Night of the New Moon”
In order to be a good authors you also need to be a terrible person. Authors are lords over their stories, creator gods of their own mythologies. They are of the old pantheons, whimsical deities who delight in upsetting the mortals over which they have power. There are no creature so fickle as an author to their characters; what the gods giveth the gods also taketh away, and authors are willing to take away much purely for the sake of weaving drama. To paraphrase Tolstoy liberally, happy people are boring. But they have value to an author in the moment that happiness is snatched from them. The more genre savvy of you already understand this; there is no warning sign that everything is about to go wrong in a story as clear as everything going right. So you just know that when we’re at a high point in the narrative, when the entire team is united over good food and simple joys, when the master plan has been devised in detail, when heroes are geared to defy fate, that this is the perfect time for things to hit the proverbial fan.
Since this is Golden Kamuy, it’s not just a matter of the plan failing; we’re going big or going home, so if something is going to go wrong then everything is going to go wrong, in the most spectacular way possible. In a way, this is the pay-off episode, where all the intrigue that has been building up, all the factions arrayed against each other, all the plots within plots that have been implied, come to a head. This kind of confluence of subplots, when done right, is a sight to behold and Golden Kamuy does not fail to deliver. Even with that in mind, I was still caught off guard by Tsurumi rocking up with naval power. Say what you want about Tsurumi, but he sure knows how to make an entrance. With a moustache like that Tsurumi has to play the villain, and I’m always pleased to see him fully embrace the role and ham it up for our entertainment.
Tsurumi’s timely arrival is probably what’s going to end up saving Sugimoto. I think we can safely surmise that Sugimoto is betrayed, and that Hijikata intended to throw him under the bus in order to tie off that particular loose end. If Hijikata’s plan had gone off without interference he would have probably gotten away with it too, so Tsurumi’s sudden spanner in the works (if we can call a warship a mere spanner in the works) can only help Sugimoto. Sure, it’s all chaos right now but protagonists thrive on chaos, especially Sugimoto who is nothing if not an opportunistic survivor. Still, we find ourselves in a quandary: Sugimoto and Asirpa have been separated and perhaps will not reunite in a while. Hijikata obviously has a soft spot for kids (the last sparks of kindness in a bitter old man, perhaps) and seems willing to help Asirpa meet her not-father, but Sugimoto does not factor into his plans. Will Asirpa and Sugimoto end up on opposing sides, begrudgingly or otherwise? The two have been inseparable thus far and I prefer it that way, but perhaps splitting them up will make for an interesting dynamic.
In any case, old alliances will break down and the lines will have to be redrawn. I assume the story’s not anywhere close to finished so the cast will probably get shuffled around a bit. The one wild card I’m keeping an eye on is Ogata. His distrust of everybody also means he seems to be on nobody’s side, merely looking out for number one. So maybe he alone has no secondary agenda. Sugimoto needs an unlikely ally right now, and this is as good a place as any to find one.