First Impressions: Golden Kamuy (EP 1)

It has been a long time since my last post, but I saw a certain piece of anime news on my feed in the past two days.

Namely, Noda Satoru’s Golden Kamuy recently won the 2018 Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize.

Congrats to him!

But it wasn’t the first time I’d heard about the series.

In fact, the first time I heard about Satoru’s manga was when it won the 9th Manga Taisho Award back in 2016. The second time was earlier this year from Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards 2017 where it was nominated for the “Best Manga” category.

The series had been receiving a lot of high praise and hype on the web, so I thought to myself, why not watch the anime adaptation?

Golden Kamuy began its ongoing serialization in Young Jump magazine on August 21, 2014 and has been translated into English by Viz Media since last year. Animated by Geno Studio, the anime is slated for twelve episodes.

One thing that I find interesting about this series after viewing its first episode is the juxtaposition of a survival action adventure to procure a criminal’s gold stash with the Ainu culture. I never learned much about the Ainu culture, other than the small tidbits I’d seen with Horohoro and his sister Pirika (Pilika in the 4Kids English dub – holla at’cha girl if you seen it) in Takei Hiroyuki’s Shaman King. From my shoddy memory of watching the series and reading portions of the original source, the one thing I remember about this Japanese indigenous culture was their belief of how every living being possessed a spirit.

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I actually miss watching Shaman King to be honest. I was such a huge fan of Horohoro. (‘∀’●)♡
One of the story’s protagonists Asirpa is used as a vehicle to introduce Sugimoto (and by extension, the audience) to the Ainu culture with its traditions and terminology.
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Asirpa knows how to make her entrance. #WhatABadass (°◡°♡).:。
For instance, we learn in this first episode that the term “wenkamuy” (the title of the first episode) translates to evil deity from the Ainu language. According to Encyclopedia.com, Wenkamuy possess destructive power and are therefore able to cause misfortune.
The lead protagonists and their dynamic insofar is balanced.
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Look at the determination in this man’s face. σ(≧ε≦o)

Sugimoto Saichi  (a.k.a Immortal Sugimoto) was a survivor soldier from the Russo-Japanese war, who is seeking to provide for his dead best friend’s wife and child. He’s a hardworking individual and keeps his word. In our first meeting of Sugimoto outside of the battlefield, he is seen dutifully panning for gold to gain funds to support his friend’s family. Sugimoto is also courteous in his interactions with Asirpa, the second protagonist. Never wanting to take a reward in full when he knows that someone helped him get to where he needs to be and respecting Asirpa’s culture and asking questions to learn more about it. #He’sAGoodBoy

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Besides getting a cool lesson on the Ainu culture, the series also offers survival skill tips too. As a pleb to all things outdoorsy and camping, I am fascinated. ヾ(´▽`*)ノ☆

Asirpa saves Sugimoto from being potentially mauled to death by a mother bear, presenting herself as a strong female protagonist. With her survival knowledge skills, quick-thinking and adept skills at skinning furs off bears, Asirpa knows how to handle herself very well and never wastes a crucial moment.

The two don’t antagonize each other and instead fall smoothly into their partnership of scratching each other’s backs. Sugimoto and Asirpa are both rather calm and rational individuals but I would like to see how their relationship progresses as they become closer to one another.

For the large part of the first episode, the battle between Sugimoto and Asirpa against the wenkamuy is intense. Geno Studio makes full use of extreme close-ups and close-ups to showcase the characters’ emotions. When encountering the wenkamuy, the camera focuses upon quick close-up shots of the wenkamuy‘s intimidating face, to the campfire where its claw swiftly flicks the wood into the air like a pack of toothpicks toward Sugimoto in a medium shot.

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Why throw a table at someone you hate when you could throw a campfire instead?

During this sequence, the background music enhances the experience. There is a low drum beat that slowly rises with other instruments which add into what I feel sounds like a war cry.

In terms of animation, animals that appeared in the first episode, with the exception of the baby bear, are animated in CGI. The appearance of the mother bear in CGI effects was jarring against the rest of the 2D animation on screen.

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Mama bear looks like she was pasted smack onto the scene.
Moments that I deem squeamish are not gore-filled as they would have been in my imagination, but they are still graphic yet clean. Hence, I’m guessing that in future episodes the level of censorship in the anime is not too heavy.
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I was honestly expecting a bit more blood here… (-﹏-。)
Although the art style may not be as flashy as the other 2018 spring anime series, the moments where the backdrops are shown to bring pause to a particular scene are done beautifully. Due to the fact that the environment in the first episode occur in the wild during winter, the colour palette is fairly bleak with browns, blues and greys. Scenes are given textures with fine thin black lines.
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Love the faint patches of white to create fog off the mountain slopes and the cloudy night sky. #SimplyGorgeous

The first episode of Golden Kamuy did peak my interest. The CGI effects failed with the bear during the daylight backdrop but when two CGI elements interacted with one another or if the CGI appeared at night, I thought the animation looked fine. Therefore, my hope is that the animators will counter the whole “it looks like the CGI effects were thrown into a scene” by adding more contrast and depth to backgrounds in which the CGI moves around in to balance its 3D-ness against a 2D surface.

Sugimoto makes for a solid protagonist and I’m looking forward to seeing if there will be any moralistic problems in future episodes when he encounters other characters. I was happy to see that Golden Kamuy brings us Asirpa and introduces me to a different aspect of Japanese culture – the Ainu culture.

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So, yes, I think I will definitely stick around for the next eleven episodes.

What did you think about Golden Kamuy? Yay, Nay? Let me know down below! 

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