「硫黄のにおい」 (Iō no Nioi)
“The Smell of Sulfur”
The sulfurous, remote hot springs amid dusky woods and a strangely attired man gave the feel of a ghost story in the works, which I relished given it’s almost that time of year. In the brief glimpse of the mysterious man, it was obvious that his strange “clothing” was actually a tattooed birthday suit, marking him as one of the sought-after prisoners, which Usami and Nikaidou who are visiting the recovering Ariko and Kikuta at the local hot spring quickly pick up on.
The skin in question belonged to Toni, the hot spring’s masseuse and master of echo-location. I seem to remember seeing him in previous seasons as well-his smart hearing contraption stands out. In cahoots with Hijikata, he used masseusing to gather intel to leak to Hijikata. Ariko and Kikuta only get part of the story-while they walk off with the skins, they are ignorant of his connection to Hijikata, nor do they know how much intel he leaked.
At this point, the extent of Hijikata’s knowledge is a mystery. If Hijikata does know of the 7th’s presence at the hot springs, I would presume that would bring him up there, especially once his spy-line went silent. With Tsurumi coming up (sending Usami into ecstasies at the thoughts of punishment for failing his mission), it would make for an opportune showdown between the two leaders.
I really hope it leads to a showdown between Tsurumi and Hijikata’s factions-what a fun battle that would be, especially if Sugimoto and friends show up in the fray. Speaking of Sugimoto- only Golden Kamuy would end with Sugimoto and Shiraishi fawning over “Grandmother’s Chewed Dumplings” and Sugimoto regurgitating into Shiraishi’s open mouth. It was nice to see them bring the food element back in (well, minus the regurgitation, obviously)-I missed seeing the different weekly Ainu dishes.
Ariko, Kikuta, and Toni showcased the art of hunting at its finest in a battle of sense and instinct. In one brilliant move after the next, the chased moved swiftly, suspensefully. Kikuto outwitting Toni with the eye patch, then Toni outsmarting them using the cover of darkness and echo-location (the cave naturally booby-trapped with stalagmites was clever). Just when I thought one trick was the finishing move, the other side came out with the upper hand. At first, I thought it dumb that a smart mountain man like Ariko would step on twigs rather than charging silently through the snow. It was amazing (well, not for the Toni) that he used his opponent’s weapons of hearing against him, trapping him into a prime avalanche location. Even Toni matter-of-factly admits he’s screwed-there’s not much you can do against that.
I like what they did in introducing new 7th Division characters who are in the dark about some of the details and watch them work backwards to get at the same information the others already know. It lent the air of a mystery-here’s the crime, now figure out how it happened. It wasn’t terribly clear (at least to me), if the Kikuta and Ariko knew the significance of the tattooed prisoners. They knew the 7th was looking for them, but Kikuta seemed surprised that Ariko actually skinned the prisoner, something that wouldn’t have been surprising to them if they already knew it was a map. Usami and Nikaidou also didn’t seem too keen to tell all, racing to get “the prize” that would win over Tsurumi.
What sticks out to me is the character dynamics-even though all four men are from the same unit, they don’t think or act the same, nor are they necessarily on the same side- all in competition for Tsurumi. The every man for themselves thing keeps the storyline and characters engaging, even when it is a side characters episode.
I never expected adult male soldiers to be this moe!