High stakes and a cast of killers are the perfect recipe for gruesome action!
While the shonen standbys are bringing some major fights this season, Golden Kamuy is the only series that will sate your bloodthirst. What its cast lack in superpowers or predatory organs, they more than make up for in pure brutality. Although it has many hallmarks of modern shonen, Golden Kamuy is a seinen manga and has all the visceral combat more familiar that entails. The kind of stuff in the movies you weren’t allowed to watch until you moved out of your parent's house. How could normal humans from the Meiji era measure up to supernatural and science fiction fueled fights? It comes down to the combatants and the stakes.
Golden Kamuy is the story of a treasure hunt but the participants who have opted into this dangerous hunt are, down to the last man, are people that you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley. Although there are many factions, they can be broken down into two general categories:
Ex-Convicts: The major players of the treasure hunt are 24 ex-convicts of the notorious Abarashi Prison, which housed murders, political prisons, and at least one serial killer. Each knows of the treasure and possesses a piece of the map to find it and, Shiraishi excluded are violent, dangerous, and absolutely ruthless.
Military: One of the major groups searching for the gold is the 7th division, known as “The Defenders of Northern Japan and the Strongest Unit” and survivors of one of the bloodiest battles in the Russo-Japanese War. Few of them emerged unscarred and over the course of their military careers, they learned all the ins and outs of brutal trench warfare and many lost their fear of death, survivors of endless charges into machinegun emplacements.
Ex-hunters, roaming serial killers, and former Shinsengumi each bring a variety of fighting styles to the groups in Hokkaido, including sharpshooting, maiming traps, poison, and martial arts. When everyone knows how to fight dirty there is no point in trying to keep things clean. If the willingness to resort to violence isn’t enough, the stakes certainly are. There’s perhaps the largest single quantity of gold in all Japan on the line and each group either want it for their own selfish use or to fund even grander schemes. Not one person in this hunt isn’t deadly serious.
The method of finding the treasure itself basically demands a sociopathic ruthlessness. The 24 convicts each have a piece of the map tattooed across their torso, front and back, making the most effective means of taking the piece to skin it right off them. Not only do you have to be willing to commit some horrific acts to take the hunt seriously, but those with a tattoo face a death sentence if they don’t take out all their competitors. Just as much as it’s a treasure hunt, this quest for the Golden Kamuy is also a survivor game with anyone unlucky enough to possesses a piece of the puzzle.
Sugimoto himself is a survivor of one of the deadliest battles in the Russo-Japanese war, 203 Hill, where he earned the moniker “Immortal” Sugimoto for fearlessly jumping into danger. He credits his fearlessness for his survival as those who hesitate made easy targets while Sugimoto single-mindedly killed his enemies before they could kill him. The design of Golden Kamuy is a world where it's kill or be killed.
If you’re squeamish then prepare yourself before enjoying Golden Kamuy because the authors attempt to accurately portray the consequences of its many horrific maiming wounds has been admirable. Fingers and eyes are common casualties and many fights begin with hits that would have ended them in any other series. What the characters in Golden Kamuy lack in superpowers, they more than make up for with creativity and a desperate ruthlessness. If that’s your jam then make sure not to miss it!