You all know the plot twist in The Empire Strikes Back, right? With Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, that only makes sense from a certain point of view? Well, back in the day it was quite a big deal and few saw it coming. Obviously it was meant to shock audiences since there wasn’t really all that much leading up to it and it surprised Luke Skywalker as much as it did us. Contrast this with this episode of Golden Kamuy. The possibility of Nopperabo being Asirpa’s father has been entertained for some time. The ultimate truth had its impact but it certainly wasn’t intended to be shockign (especially considering how we’ve known since the end of last episode). The difference is, I think, that while Star Wars is fundamentally about confronting evil — making the true identity of the evil a valuable card for the plot to play. Golden Kamuy, on the other hand, is interested in exploring the nature of evil. Throughout the series we’ve been exposed to everything from simple pragmatic cynicism to the depths of human depravity. Nopperabo is arguably at the centre of all of that, being both the inspiration for great evil yet also apparently a loving father. How he went from that to the faceless wretch he was before killed with impeccable timing is likely a story all to itself.
That begs the question, though: is Nopperabo evil? Is his position morally justifiable? Sugimoto finds him unforgivable, so willing to send his peaceful people, including his own daughter, to war. Admiral Koito interprets Nopperabo’s actions as his duty: he must be willing to send Asirpa to war if he is to send the Ainu to war. But isn’t the corollary true as well? If it means having to send sons and daughters to kill and die, perhaps leaders shouldn’t be so eager for war in the first place. Evidently, though, Nopperabo is one for whom the ends justify the means. Assuming that the whole tattooed prisoners plan continues to be his, it means he was willing to kill and skin a lot of people for the sake of his gold. Criminals they may be, and perhaps we don’t need to kill all the prisoners, but it still paints the picture of a rather brutal ambition. Contrast Asirpa, who wants to keep the killing to an absolute minimum. How does such an idealistic girl follow in her father’s footsteps?
All that said, apparently it Nopperabo/Wilk wasn’t the one who killed all the Ainu, so maybe he’s not as bloody-minded as may first appear. But we’re not going to learn the truth of that for a while yet. With that, onto the final impressions!
Final Impressions ~ I don’t want to blog on Christmas
Damn, Golden Kamuy was good. I know it’s been said before, and by more reputable folk than me, but it bears repeating, and often. In the preview I described Golden Kamuy as excellent value for your anime time, and thankfully this second season — which is really just the first season++ — did not go out of its way to prove me wrong. Truly, Golden Kamuy can do anything. It was capable at both drama and comedy, took us through horror and adventure, both entertained and educated, swinging between all its aspects with ease all the while building a completely credible period piece filled with a sizeable cast of interesting characters. The only thing missing is a romantic arc but we can launch a thousand ships with scenes like this and… this? I am reminded of Akatsuki no Yona another show that seemed intent on entertaining from all angles and somehow managed to pull it off. This is no easy feat. Done poorly, the constant mood swings can give your audience whiplash or, worse, completely undermine the drama and leave the audience at once insulted and unsatisfied. Thankfully, Golden Kamuy is designed from the ground up to do its juggling act; it’s a character driven show, and its characters are largely goofballs who can nonetheless hulk out at a moment’s notice to become IMMORTAL.
Speaking of, it’s remarkable that Golden Kamuy can have protagonist who is so blatantly unkillable and still manage to build tension. I mean, he got an involuntary lobotomy this episode and it didn’t seem to have affected him in any way. It’s surprising what one can get used to as long as it’s been properly developed in a story. ‘Yeah. He’s the Wolverine. Of course he’s fine.’
Alas, any tension Golden Kamuy managed to build will work against us now, as the seson has ended and we’re left with a cliffhanger. Actually, make that cliffhangers, plural. The cost of doing everything, even if well, is that it takes a lot of time and we don’t actually get to go through a lot of plot. Akatsuki no Yona, if you remember, basically spent all its episodes just assembling its main cast in what was essentially its prologue. Golden Kamuy moved significantly faster than that, but even then these entire 24 episodes had something of a ‘Part One’ feel to it. I want more! I want more of the 7th division, now that Sugimoto has switched to hanging out with them now. I want to know more about Hijikata beyond just enigmatic smirks. I want to see Shiraishi finally shape up. And of course, there’s a new quest, gotta rescue Asirpa, yada yada. Everything has been set up so perfectly but now it’s ending! We’re all dressed with nowhere to go! How frustrating.
It’s the Made in Abyss problem. Blog a show, it’s really good, but, whoops, we’re running out of manga so no more of that. But at least Made in Abyss is confirmed to be getting a second season. Akatsuki no Yona never did. Let’s hope Golden Kamuy has more anime in store — and considering its strength thus far, I certainly expect it.