The show takes place in the aftermath of a war, there’s still clear conflicts that are unsolved in their present world. The first episode indulges on how Sugimoto earned his nickname, Sugimoto the Immortal. His encounter with Asirpa, an Ainu girl who saves his life almost seems like fate. Despite their differences, it really shouldn’t take long for viewers to realize their eyecatchy character chemistry. Our main protagonists are on this adventure and their skills supplements each other. Sugimoto’s military skills as an ex-soldier is invaluable for fighting the enemies that they encounter. Meanwhile, Ainu is a survivalist and possesses many important skills such as hunting, cooking, and taming animals. The two become partners in search for treasure but many obstacles stand in their way. A show like this doesn’t need a complicated storyteller because how straightforward it can be.
The idea of hunters being hunted is a classic concept that have been used over and over. What Golden Kamuy does different is able to take great care of its characters. I’m actually flabbergasted at how much the show made me invest into learning more about Sugimoto and Asirpa. From a cultural standpoint, the show explores the Ainu people as an indigenous ethnic group. We learn about their lifestyle, family ancestry, traditions, language, and behavior. This translates to how well Asirpa’s character can be accepted as we learn more about her. She preaches the lifestyle of Ainu and has great respect for nature. Through her experience, Asirpa has learned how to tame certain animals, hunt, and cook for herself and family. On the other hand, Sugimoto makes an oddball impression to me at first because how violent he seems. While he’s not a bloodthirsty man, Sugimoto can be very ruthless when confronting his enemies. War has really affected him and he became the present man as we know now. The brief PTSD moments that we witness in the series shows how guilty he feels about losing important people in his life. Thus, Sugimoto is always determined to survive and protect those he cares of. Thanks to his military experience as an ex-soldier, he does a damn good at job at that.
Led by Lieutenant Tsurumi, the 7th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army stands as a main obstacle of Sugimoto and Asirpa in their quest to find treasure. While not everyone in the division shares the same goal, they do treat the duo as a threat. It becomes a suspenseful plot as viewers will likely wonder how far they these characters go to accomplish their goals. Make no mistake. This anime doesn’t tease death and often portrays it in a realistic manner. Beyond just the PTSD moments we see from Sugimoto’s point of view, there are also times when characters question about killing others. A prominent example is how Tanigaki deals with the people he’s killed. Similar to Sugimoto, it’s clear that he feels guilty and that his sins will live with him forever. Like most war stories, death is a reality and what’s dead stays dead. War has broken characters and it’s not uncommon to realize how much people can change from the past to their present selves.
Even though everything I mentioned so far in the review suggests a moody show to get tissues for, it really isn’t. The series offers creative comedy mostly thanks to the character cast. If I’ve said it once, I’ve say it a hundred times. Never look away from Sugimoto and Asirpa when they interact with each other. The two often trades in small talk that blends between their different cultural beliefs. The jokes they throw at each other are hilarious and sells its comedic factors perfectly. Refreshing comedy isn’t easy to create but Golden Kamuy hits the right mark especially with the character reactions. I lost count how many times this show made me laugh positively to the character interactions and humorous dialogues. Characters such as Yoshitake Shirashi adds in even more comedy gags such as being a magnet head for animal bites. That is to say, Golden Kamuy is a serious show that deals with sensitive themes but also finds its way to have fun. To me, that’s important and valuable to sell itself.
I’m pretty sure most people aren’t familiar with Gene Studio. That’s because it’s a new studio that only recently began to produce projects such as Kokkoku and Gyakusatus Kikan. Early impressions of the show may have people pointing fingers at the atrocious CGI usage such as the poorly animated bear. Luckily, the visual quality manages to redeem itself as each episode begins to improve itself through its natural elegance. The landscapes of show looks gorgeous and larger than life. From snowy mountains to dense forests, it’s how nature should look like with its lush backgrounds. Even the food looks real that’s crafted right from the wilderness with survivalist skills.
Character designs also offer distinctive features such as the military uniforms of the 7th Division. Sugimoto is a man that’s hard to overlook with his soldier uniform and masculinity. Asirpa may have a petite look but she’s noticeable for her blue and greenish eyes. Some characters even addresses this like a gem that’s hard to ignore. The Ainu coat she wears also shows her cultural style of clothing with the deerskin boats to protect her from the cold. She looks like a hunter that shouldn’t be underestimated. As a new studio, I would say that Gene Studio made an interesting impression. I’m not overwhelmed or disappointed by the production quality as it manages to capture the elements of the battle scenes and is faithful to the character designs. The soundtrack and music overall creates the sensation of a survivalist show. The OP song contains electric beats and montages of characters in action.
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