「不死身の杉元ハラキリショー」 (Fujimi no Sugimoto harakirishou)
“Immortal Sugimoto Harakiri Show”
Among the many labels I could affix to Noda Satoru and Golden Kamuy, “shameless” would certainly be one. And I mean that in the best possible way. There’s no gag too outrageous, too gross or too stupid for this series. And that, really, is the key to making lowbrow humor work, as the Pythons would tell you. You have to be fully committed to the joke, to the point where dignity and taste have no seat at the table. This kind of comedy just doesn’t work if you go at it halfway.
As usually seems to be the case this season, Asirpa, Shiraishi, and Kiroranke’s party (and Ogata too of course) briefly bookends the episode. And while both segments have their gross-out humor – a musk deer’s scent gland and Shiraishi’s poop to be precise – the cold open is the most serious moment of the ep by a fair distance. The scenario we see playing out here is pretty unnerving. Asirpa is a smart girl, but a child she still is – and Kiroranke seems to be very effectively winning her into his confidence. He’s one of her own, a link to her father, a smooth talker and a fearless operator. It makes sense he would be a convincing suitor, but his intentions towards her are clearly predatory in the non-sexual sense.
Meanwhile Team Sugimoto is in Toyohara, seemingly one of the more important towns on Karafuto, where he’s just been robbed of the knapsack containing Gansoku’s tattoo copy. The thief, Chokichi, leads Koito on a merry chase, finally ending up at the Yamada Circus and assuming he’s given Koito the slip. The boy is an acrobat and unused to being successfully tailed, but he knows circus talent when he sees it – and Koito clearly has it. The ringmaster, Yamada, stages a fake punishment of slashing Chokichi across the face, and eventually the truth comes out – it’s a prop sword, all part of the circus’ “harakiri show”.
The idea behind the vaudeville routine that follows – Sugimoto wants to gain enough attention by being in the show that Asirpa notices and realizes he’s alive – is sound enough. But the execution is pure farce. None of the party have any talent for performing – except Lt. Koito, who’s a genius acrobat beyond all belief. Sugimoto ends up taking on the harakiri show, while Tanigaki and Tsukishima wind up in tutus as part of the line of dancing girls, under the harsh gaze of their foul-mouthed director.
Huge nipples, fake blood, real blood, Koito freaking out over a photo of Lt. Tsurumi – it’s all here. Tsukishima puts the photo on the high-wire to break Koito’s concentration, fearing he’ll overshadow Sugimoto (he does). But naturally Koito assumes the jealous Sugimoto did it, and swaps out the trick sword with a real one. Of course Sugimoto decides to go ahead with a performance anyway (what’s a few more scars), and is about to try and gut himself in a non-fatal way when three Russians with guns turn up and the limbs start flying (good thing that was a real sword). Turns out they were after Yamada – who was a Japanese spy operating in Russia all along.
I’ve expressed already the futility in trying to capture the essence of a Golden Kamuy episode in words – you just have to experience it. Reading this piece if you’d never seen the ep I imagine it would sound incredibly lame, but in practice this was easily the most hilarious anime episode of the season. And in true Noda fashion, it seems as if the whole shebang was designed to set up the final punchline – the misprint in the (two-sentence) episode in the newspaper referring to the performance of the “Immoral Sugimoto”. May you never develop a sense of shame, Noda-sensei.
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