One of the best historical fiction manga on the market is Golden Kamuy, hands down. Its ability to integrate facts about life in the early 20th century makes each installment a history lesson wrapped in a drama. In the latest volume, most of the main characters come face-to-face and judging by the bloodshed in this series that’s probably a very bad thing.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
After their run-in with the mad taxidermist Edogai, Asirpa, Sugimoto and Shiraishi still have unfinished business in Yubari. But if their goal is to meet Noppera-bo face-to-face, they will need to hear Shiraishi’s story about how he escaped from the hellish Abashiri prison the first time. Toshizo Hijikata would also like to have a little chat with them regarding Noppera-bo, and there is the matter of the 7th Division, whose members are closing in…
Why does this matter?
The hunt for the tattooed map of epic proportions of gold continues, but the old adage “many hands make light work” might be the new direction this series is going in. Once enemies, it appears these characters who once tried to kill one another have to make do with working together. The only problem is that an army and other forces may stop them from accomplishing their goal.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This volume splits nicely into three chunks opening with an escape, followed by lots of backstory about Shiraishi the Escape King, and finally a big trap for the heroes to escape from to close things out. Bookending the entire volume is the plan to find a special counterfeiter who can ensure they have the right tattooed skins to piece together. It’s the McGuffin of the volume and gives the characters an adequate common goal. The opening and closing action scenes are highly entertaining, fast-paced, and a nice reminder that Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto is just as dangerous as ever.
The Escape King steals the show this volume thanks to Satoru Noda revealing how he got his special name. In key flashbacks, we learn why he ended up breaking out of so many prisons and there’s a clever and even touching reason for it. He’s always been a comedic character but this volume does a good job making you respect him even more.
The art throughout the volume continues to be sharp from environments, to fight scenes, to a great lesson in hunting Woodcocks. As I said above the action is really intense and easy to follow.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
As I mentioned above the McGuffin of the volume ends up being a big waste of time. Even when it’s suggested they go after it a character says, “Well, it’s better than nothing.” Even the characters know it’s probably not worth it. The story is entertaining enough as far as the journey is concerned, but when you put this volume down the characters haven’t progressed much or gained any new attributes to their party.
The humor falls flat throughout too. From a “butt stuff” joke about prisoners to some awkward moments the manga attempts to make light of moments in an immature way. I’m thinking the humor of these scenes is lost in translation.
Is it good?
A good volume that’s high on action and a faster pace. Lessons are learned about hunting, new details emerge about a key character’s backstory, and the action is highly violent.