Golden Kamuy Episode 1: Wenkamuy (First Impression)

I wonder how animators feel when they make stuff like this. Like, do they look at this and think it looks okay? The scenes with the bears were pretty intense, but I actually couldn’t help but start laughing. It was so bad. It kind of looked cartoony because the CG tried so hard to make the bear look realistic that it clashed so terribly with the rest of the art. It’s like when American cartoons put real images into the episode to be funny, that’s what this was. It was just so weird? I just hope we never see bears or other animals in this anime ever again.

Other than the bear mishap, this episode was dope! We got an interesting story about gold, war scenes, animal scenes, and we have a good idea who our main characters are. Saichi Sugimoto, or The Immortal Sugimoto, is working hard to make some money after he partook in the Russo-Japanese War. The old man accompanying him tells him a story about a gold hoard that involved the murders of the Ainu people, the tattoos of the prison inmates involved, and so much mystery. In order to find the location of the gold, a person would need to find all the tattoos, which are on the backs of the prisoners, so the main quest is to find the actual prisoners, kill them, and skin their backs. Only when they have all of the tattoos then can they find the gold. Realizing the old man said too much, he tries to kill Sugimoto but ends up getting killed by a bear. Sugimoto then finds out that the old man is one of the prisoners of the story, enforcing the validity of the so-called tall tale. After having a run in with a bear, he meets a little Ainu girl named Asirpa. Things happen, and now they’re working together to find the gold.

First off, I just want to say that I love the designs of Sugimoto and Asirpa, especially Asirpa! She seems like a little kid, but considering that her father and the rest of her people were killed off for the gold, she’s probably been living by herself for awhile and has become a hardened but knowledgeable hunter. So far, I like our two main characters a lot. This is the first time in all the years that I’ve been consuming Japanese media that I’ve ever seen the indigenous Ainu people mentioned. Probably for the same reasons Native Americans are hardly ever portrayed on screen in the US unless it’s a documentary. Learning things such as their beliefs and culture through Asirpa is very interesting, like not eating a bear that ate a human, believing a human killing another human will go to hell, stuff like that. I love historical stuff like this because I’m a nerd. <3

Sugimoto himself is such an interesting guy too. He was given the nickname The Immortal Sugimoto because the Russians in the war didn’t stand a chance against him when trying to kill him. And from what we saw in the beginning, he’s actually very brutal. With his rage and brutality, he has no problem killing people left and right in any matter, but it’s interesting that he would even go so far as to gouge out his opponent’s eyes. He had no problem skinning the old man either, and he has no problem killing others to get the gold. He’s a scary dude, but a good one. The reason he’s looking for the gold is not for himself but to carry out the last wish of his best friend that died during the war. His friend’s wife is slowly losing her sight, and to make sure she doesn’t go completely blind, Sugimoto wants the money to take his wife and son to America to get the surgery before Japan and the United States’ relationship gets worse. Sugimoto shows great pain in losing his friend, who he knew since they were kids. He also shows great respect towards Asirpa, who’s only a child but knows that she’s very intelligent and wise, and even offers her most of the gold when they find it. He’s a scary killing machine with a good heart basically, and that’s pretty awesome and I like him already.

Other than the bear, the show looks nice and the story already captures me. It’s obviously very violent and gory, with showing Sugimoto’s friends without his limbs, the corpses of soldiers, and the skinning of both animal and human! I…have to admit, when Sugimoto skinned the old man’s back it freaked me out a bit. But I love that they’re not fucking around. This type of environment is rough and gritty, and I don’t want them to hold back on us.

This was a damn good start and I can’t wait to see more, though I do have to admit that I’m not too thrilled with getting only 12 episodes. There’s no way a story like this can be concluded in that small frame, especially when the manga is still going, so if the rest of the anime is as good as this first episode, then maybe we can expect a second season.

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2 Responses

  1. zztop says:

    1)Regarding the CG bear, Kamuy’s director claims he was trying to make the bear “emanate a difference presence (and atmosphere) from the humans.”
    He also claims they’re still working on trying to blend hand-drawn animation and 3D together.

    “…it’s difficult to (hand-)draw fur like (in the manga), but pure…3D…will cause parts to not blend in with the surroundings…we’re still trying to figure out how to fit it all”.

    In a way, he DID succeed in making the bear stand out, just for the wrong reasons! :D

    2)Hokkaido in RL is like the Alaska of Japan – less developed than the main islands, but famous for its natural beauty.

    3)Brief history lesson – Prior to the Meiji era, Japanese settlers were already in Hokkaido for natural resources.
    However, there was a delineation between the samurai settlers and the local Ainu tribes, who formed the majority residents.

    Hokkaido’s full annexation by the Meiji was largely a response against Imperial Russia – Tokyo was concerned the Russians would try control Hokkaido as a stepping stone into the Far East beyond Vladivostok. Naturally Hokkaido was Japanized and the Ainu assimilated into Japanese citizenry.

    Either way Ainu indigenous sovereignty was numbered – either they’d be assimilated as part of Japan (per history) or part of Russia. I cannot say for certain if they’d have fared better under the Russians.

    • Berry says:

      Yup I saw someone bring up the director’s words and I get it. Yeah, they reeeeally made the bear emanate a different presence in ALL THE WRONG WAYS. I went back to watch the scene because I didn’t remember if the baby bear was hand drawn or not. It was and looked fine. I know it costs more money, but damn it I wish they had just drawn the bears normally. :(

      Also thanks for always giving us trivia! :) I don’t know much about the Ainu but I’d like to research them more.

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