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Golden Kamuy Vol. 4 Review


Golden Kamuy Vol. 4 Review

This fourth volume raises the stakes even higher.

If you like fun facts and history, Golden Kamoy is the manga for you. Series writer and artist Satoru Noda delivers a wealth of knowledge when it comes to tracking, hunting, and survival in a cold wilderness. Amongst these facts is a story about an “immortal” soldier looking to find gold. The map is tattooed onto multiple soldiers’ backs and the only other guy after the gold is a trained killer. No big deal.

So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

Tetsuzo Nihei, the legendary Bear Killer, is determined to become the hunter who kills Retar, the last remaining Ezo wolf. Asirpa will never allow this, and she and Immortal Sugimoto race to stop his bloodthirsty quest. Meanwhile, in the port city of Otaru, Hijikata, the relentless head of the reborn Shinsengumi, leads a band of death row inmates against Lt. Tsurumi and his 7th Division. In this clash of iron resolve, only the strongest will survive.

Why does this matter?

As you can see in my reviews of volume 1, volume 2, and volume 3, this manga is a good series if not a great one. Its mix of history rendered in high detail with colorful characters is unmistakable. The only other manga I can think of that’s in the same league is Vinland Saga, which is possibly one of the best manga of all time. Reason enough I’d think.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Golden Kamuy Vol. 4 Review
Don’t blink.

In this volume, Sugimoto gets some key flashbacks and this time they aren’t moments from war. Instead, we find out a little bit about him prior to the war and how he loved a woman who married his best friend. These flashbacks help humanize the character and give him a bit more weight. The villains also get fleshed out nicely and we’re given a sense of what they want the gold for. This is a huge development because so far the characters chasing the gold have only been characterized as greedy jerks. I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just say their reason to acquire 70 billion dollars worth of gold (in today’s money of course) raises the stakes and makes Sugimoto and Asirpa’s need to find it first all the more important.

Speaking of Aspira, Noda continues to write her in a fun way as she continues to force food on her friends. She’s been the guide to survival fun facts since the start and it’s her likeable and no-nonsense demeanor that makes the factoids so much fun.

The art in this volume continues to be quite detailed to the point where I’m starting to wonder if Noda draws over photographs. Part of the reason all the survival tips are so interesting is that Noda is so good at drawing them in a way that’s understandable but also clear. For instance, one scene in this volume shows how to trap a fox by splitting a spike in the ground catching the fox’s leg as it attempts to snatch fish. In another section, we learn about a giant bird that reportedly had a 4-kilometer wide wingspan. Noda draws this bird, and all birds for that matter, in a highly realistic and believable way.

Golden Kamuy Vol. 4 Review
He’s either a badass or he’s numb.

It can’t be perfect can it?

This volume opens where the last left off, on a key cliffhanger pitting Asirpa and Sugimoto in grave danger against the Bear Killer. The build-up was good, but the conclusion leaves a lot to be desired. It ends so quickly and in such an unsatisfying way (it requires Deus Ex Machina to wrap up) you’ll be left disappointed. Much of the rest of this manga introduces new characters and has the preexisting characters move about in a bit of limbo as Noda gets key plot points ready for a future arc. It’s rather obvious at one point when Asirpa asks Sugimoto if he wants to eat yet another animal and he shouts at her that he’s not in the woods just to eat. I agree with him, get on with the gold plot and stop running around sniffing poop (which is oddly censored) and eating strange animals!

Is It Good?

This is more of a table-setting volume than a striking volume worth reading in its own right. This installment opens with action, but the way it wraps up is rather unsatisfying. It’s becoming clear that Noda needs to start pushing his characters toward the bigger plot already and stop hunting for the sake of it.

Golden Kamuy Vol. 4 Review
Golden Kamuy Vol. 4
Is it good?
A hiccup of a volume that is more about setting things up.
The flashback for Sugimoto fleshes him out well
The villains get a stakes-raising purpose for finding the gold
More of a setup volume introducing new characters and raising the stakes, but not progressing the journey for the heroes
The opening action scene ends in an unsatisfying way

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