Going strong for two plus years, historical fiction Golden Kamuy continues to unveil the tips and tricks of staying alive in the early 20th century as its characters attempt to find a massive amount of hidden gold. It’s a series I’ve liked and sometimes loved, but can it sustain our interest as it continues to avoid letting these characters find the gold? That’s a question I ponder every time I open the latest volume…
This volume opens where we left off as our very vulnerable and naked heroes are attacked at a hot spring at night. It’s a tense sequence with many of the characters dodging bullets and avoiding death. Series creator Satoru Noda keeps your interest up by weaving in a bit of comedic relief thanks to the nude men while also making it a scary experience for a few of the characters. This scene pays off for a fatalistic character later in the volume, playing well with a twist in the ending.
The meat of this story is all about a prison break to find Asirpa’s father. There is a lot of build up to the actual attempt which gives the book a nice heist feel. Thrown in are a few surprises, including a close call at getting caught before they even infiltrate and a shocking (and terrifying) realization that Asirpa’s father is a very scary dude. This is intercut with scenes featuring Lieutenant Tsurumi, who continues to be quite insane with an intense underling who seems to be in love with him. The character has always been quite outrageous, though the big ending to this volume certainly uses Tsurumi with high effect.
There is of course plenty of cooking and other nature tips thrown into the narrative here and there. The characters make a citatap using salmon that allows the characters to bond a bit between the dramatic action sequences. There is also a neat little side exploration of making shoes out of salmon skin.
Unfortunately, this volume feels quite thin on plot and character work. Much of the narrative spends its time getting characters out of and then back into trouble. There isn’t much meaningful bonding going on beyond Inkarmat’s new lease on life. I also ponder how the manga uses nudity for humor but also subtle sexual undertones between characters. The men are naked to start the volume and there’s a reason for it, but it’s played up in ways that’s awkward and quite strange. Considering the somewhat cartoony nature of how characters act in this volume, it comes off as childish.
This is a good volume, but one that seems to matter less than most. The survival facts and cooking scenes continue to be good, though they are quite thin here. The prison break is well done, but with the opening nude escape sequence, it ends up not being a central focus and is sped over.