「消えたカムイ」 (Kieta Kamui)
“The Vanished Kamuy”
I went in with high expectations, this is the finale after all, though I didn’t know how it could possibly outdo the zaniness of last week. The key was that this episode leaned heavily into the serious side of things- like with much of GK, it doesn’t copy what worked previously and risk beating a horse dead but rather steers things in a different vein, keeping things new and unexpected.
I seem to remember something of Ogata’s past from a previous episode but we get the full picture here. Tsurumi plays both Ogata and his brother for daddy’s influence- we know the tune by now. Ogata, hoping to win his father’s love, kills his little bro rival and then, to try to win Tsurumi’s love when daddy doesn’t change his heart, he kills papa dearest and again, fails to win any affection. This lands Tsurumi with another target on his head- he’s got everyone after him, Ogata, Hijikata, the government.
Usami and Ogata have a tenuous relationship- fellow pawns, yet neither liking the other. Usami is as much a devil whispering in Ogata’s ear as Tsurumi- he practically instigates Ogata in his constant taunting. Usami is jealous over Ogata receiving any attention from Tsurumi and practically gloats over Ogata’s loveless life in that hospital scene. Tsurumi’s got himself a whole harem set up in the 7th division so jealous drama like what Usami instigates is a matter of course. Usami strikes a nerve with Ogata who retaliates with a bed pan and a you filthy peasant insult before rushing off to join Hijikata against common enemy #1, Tsurumi. Though seriously, that taunting aside, who wouldn’t be on edge if you woke up in a hospital bed with that face leering over you.
One of the themes that stood out to me was that there is good and bad and everyone has the capacity for that. Ogata ponders this in trying to figure out what makes him alike or different from others. The framework for his logic is twisted, justifying himself in that everyone has the potential for bad so it makes him neither worse nor better than others. There’s a glaring difference there, obviously- Ogata acts on that murderous potential.
We also see this theme with Wilk. We see Wilk, Horkew Oskoni, named after the Horkew kamuy (like Retar) who looks after children, the caring father to Asirpa who taught her strength and pride, the man devoted to uniting the Ainu and other minority groups. Then, we see Wilk, Nopperabo who supposedly was a murderer, who tattooed the prisoners with the code knowing full well the grisly fate that would await them for their skins, and who railroaded his daughter to follow his plans through her upbringing, putting her in harm’s way.
Lastly, we see this in the tree felling that tragically deforests a huge piece of land. Asirpa points out that many Ainu take trees, animals, herbs, but only what they need. But, there are other Ainu who are greedy, ravaging the land for a profit. No matter their background, humans are a giant barrel of mixed apples, the good with the rotten.
Asirpa shows a deep wisdom in considering whether she should open that pandora’s box. Will the gold help her achieve the sovereignty for her people that she dreams of or will she and others change for the worse? Does she want to lose what she has now, both of herself and the partnership she has with Sugimoto?
Sugimoto gives her the worst answer she could have wanted. Rather than a yes or no that would make Asirpa’s decision easier, Sugimoto answers that he’ll go back to his childhood love, but only after he’s helped Asirpa with her dream. Sugimoto’s going above and beyond for Asirpa- it’s more than just about the gold, but he’s still committed to the promise he made to care for Ume. While it’s loyal of him to stick by Asirpa’s side for a while longer after finding the gold, I don’t know if it’s fair of him to prolong Asirpa’s agony by staying longer. Just like Asirpa needs to make some hard choices, so too does Sugimoto.
I get it- it makes sense that Asirpa might start thinking of Sugimoto in a capacity that goes beyond platonic partnership. She is a young woman after all and she’s come to have a respect, a deep trust in Sugimoto and he shows a genuine interest in her Ainu culture, not to mention their shared experiences and love of food- all that could easily turn into something more. But I don’t know his take on that beyond her being the goodness in his world he must protect at all costs. This conflict between Asirpa’s life mission and feelings for her bond with Sugimoto have been coming to a head and it’s weighing on her more than I thought it would- you can see her hesitation over things changing, but also the determination of what she must do for her people. There’s no doubt about which side will win over in her mind, but it won’t be an easy path to follow.
This has been a wild season of GK- not least because it took a break half way through, resuming several months later. In spite of that, it was a banging season, the same great GK as always with so many outrageous characters and moments- everyone a standout. The roller coaster ride is continuing to steadily build momentum towards the end and end which we will get to see on screen, with a final season announcement.