In Hokkaido, the far northern lands of Japan, Sugimoto survived the Russo-Japanese war of the Meiji era. Nicknamed "Invincible Sugimoto" during the war, he now seeks the riches promised by the gold rush in hopes of saving the widowed wife of his now deceased comrade from the war. During his hunt for gold, he finds hints of a hidden stash of gold by corrupt criminals. Partnering with an Ainu girl that saves his life from the harsh climates of the north, they venture into a survival adventure in a race against the criminals that seek the hidden stash.
To start things off, I usually don't write reviews. The only time when I write reviews is when I feel like a manga deserves it. And Golden Kamuy definitely deserves to be in that category.
Story: The story of Golden Kamuy isn't exactly something unique; it's basically treasure hunting. But the thing is that Golden Kamuy is a manga that contains several genres that usually doesn't go well with each other. We've got historical, adventure, gore, comedy, action, cooking, psychological, etc. God knows how much this manga is going to cover. Golden Kamuy is basically a big fat cluster of
genres, and the amazing part is that it goes well. The way that the author describes the scenes is simply great.
Art: The art of Golden kamuy is easy to distinguish. The design is fairly good, and the way that the author writes the scenes are easy to understand. Also the gore in this manga is pretty explicit, which may not appeal to younger people, but after all, this is a seinen.
Characters: The characters of Golden Kamuy are all crazy in their own way. Even the MC and the heroine isn't an exception, which is something that we don't see very often. The characters in the manga stand out in both good and bad ways, sometimes to a degree that it's too much to keep a straight face. Personally I thought this was great because the dialogues between the characters are so interesting thanks to the craziness.
Enjoyment: As I said before, this manga covers many genres, and for that reason, it's very chaotic and hilarious. I myself wasn't sure what to expect when I first decided to read it, but I realized after reading a few chapters that I was missing out on an astounding manga.
Overall: Overall Golden Kamuy is an amazing manga, and not once did I regret reading it. The only reason why I didn't rate 10 is because it's ongoing. It's a wonder why it hasn't become popular, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to read something really funny and interesting.
One third gritty treasure hunt, one third Ainu cooking adventures, one third Ainu history/hunting lessons.
Now i'll start off by saying i don't follow a lot of manga series that came out within the last couple years. Most are average at best, with boring stereotypical characters, a lack of momentum in the plot line, un-inventive action sequences and typically forgettable dialogue.
However i think i've found a gem amongst the rough. Golden Kamuy is a historical Seinen series that depicts our main protagonist Sugimoto after the Russo-Japanese war in the Meji era. Nicknamed the 'Invinicible Sugimoto', he gained a reputation for being damn near invincible on the
battlefield, doing anything and everything to get the better of his opponents. We follow Sugimoto after this period, as he soon receives critical information about a secret Ainu Tribe treasure haul that has been kept hidden for years upon years.
I've already given a little description so i won't talk much about the story. What i will say is that the mangaka has really dedicated himself to spending as much time as possible, fleshing out the time period and the varying cultures present within it. Attention to detail is impressive, as little things like the 'Ice walls' of Hokkaido are given proper acknowledgement. The Ainu Tribe especially has been fleshed out to the point i feel like i know quite a bit about their culture, traditions, hunting tactics, equipment, myths etc.
Beautiful, visceral and realistic are the words i'd use to describe the art of this series. The Hokkaido landscapes are breathtaking gorgeous, offering scenic views of the snowy mountain sides and grounded views of the bustling town. Action sequences are great enhanced by the sweeping movements, good in-between panels, attentive detail on gory faces and fantastic choreography. Furthermore the characters themselves are drawn in a mostly realistic manner. Anime-esque features are apparent, but subdued for the most part. You do get the occasional chibi face or dis-proportioned face for comedic effect though.
All the characters so far are distinctive and don't really fall too much into any tropes. Sugimoto is badass,unrelenting, cunning and truly representative of his nickname. Asirpa is the little Ainu girl who is Sugimoto first companion. Though unlike most little girl characters, she actually proves to be more essential to finding the treasure, hunting, survining and strategising than Sugimoto himself. It's even noted at one point that Sugimoto literally relies on Asirpa. Shiraishi is another character who has joined the trio now of treasure hunters. Slick and renowned for his escape abilities, Shiraishi is partly a source of comedic relief but also a competent tactition that with every passing chapter, seems to be integral to their success. I'll note their food outings are some of my favourite character interactions in the series. The extremely odd dishes they consume, coupled with the often disgusted facial reactions make these moments a joy to watch.....and there's a lot of them, so get used to it.
However the different factions other than Sugimoto's crew are the highlight for me. Hijikata of the newly formed Shinsengumi, the 7th Division commander and 'boner guy' Taizo are all unique, cunning and legitimately terrifying antagonists. The 7th division commander especially reminds me of the villain of the film 'No Country for Old Men'. Hijikata is my favourite overall, as every single time he appears something badass and grand occurs. His pistol and sword set also notch him a few extra points. I won't go into their characters too much (due to spoiler territory), but i'll just say i love every single character in this series.
I'm sure this is obvious if you're reading this.......but of course i love it! I think the above states everything that needs to be said. Bottom line though, is that this is the only series i look foward to reading weekly (alongside Gintama).
Ah yes, the manga where everyone is a black ops special forces commando. The manga where action scenes are short but intense instead of dragging out for 3 chapters. The manga where drama lasts for 2 panels instead of a whole volume plus 30 chapters of unnecessary flashback. The manga where the puns and comedy parts are actually funny. The manga where characters are unique, believable, charismatic, and easy to like. Do I need to continue? The answer is yes. Because no amount of praise can honor the glory that is this manga.
Golden Kamui is a story about a war veteran, Sugimoto the Immortal, from
the Russo-Japanese war that ends up hearing about a hidden treasure somewhere, that was stolen from the Ainu people. He then sets out to pursue this treasure for the woman he loves. Soon he meets up with an Ainu child called Aspira that has rights to the gold, and the two join up to find this gold and split it.
If it wasn't clear already, I'm going to lay it right out. I love this manga. It is amazing, I love everything about it, it's art, it's historical background, it's puns, the story keeps me engrossed, believe you me folks, this is one of the best manga out there. One of the super rare hidden gems in the gigantic pile of garbage that is everywhere in the manga world. And on that note, lets keep it that way shall we?
Golden Kamui is one of those manga that don't try to be more than what it is. The story doesn't try to create some grandiose scheme that involves the fate of Japan much less the world. In fact, the story being set in Hokkaido, it stays that way. Furthermore, only a couple of people know about the gold.
The leader of those bandits that stole the Ainu gold is the only one who knows where it actually is, and being arrested, he devises a plan to tattoo the location of the treasure in his fellow prisoners. While being transported, all those prisoners escape and are now all throughout Hokkaido.
And that leads us to the factions involved. Basically there are three factions trying to get their dirty hands on the gold. Sugimoto and company, the 7th division of the japanese army that is considered to be the elite of the elite, and the heroes of the bakumatsu (basically old samurai dudes). And how are they going to gather all the map fragments together? Well, that is simple, they just need to hunt down the prisoners and skin them. Because apparently that is the most natural thing to do since everyone arrived at the same conclusion.
The story has a good mix of seriousness and goofy moments. Puns are original and fit the setting very well. Every aspect of the story, be it action, drama, comedy, flashbacks, etc aren't longer than they need to be. Furthermore, the story doesn't rely on cheap tricks to make it interesting.
I wouldn't be doing the manga honor if I didn't mention the amount of research the author must have put into this. Throughout the manga, there will be several parts explaining Hokkaido at the time, the Ainu culture, way of life, tools, and specially the Ainu cuisine. If you were wandering why actions and drama parts that usually take 15 chapters to complete in other manga were short here, well, that is because it is more interesting to know that the brain and eyes of pretty much every single animal in Hokkaido is a delicacy according to the Ainu.
Here is where this manga shines like a herd of unicorns flying through a rainbow. Characters are unique, with relatable motives even if they are not the most righteous. Furthermore the contrast between the characters is superb. Lets take the first and most obvious example between Sugimoto and Aspira.
Sugimoto the immortal is a war veteran that got his title because well, he was such a badass that he would go kill russians while being shot, stabbed, you name it. He was pretty much a God in the battlefield. So you can imagine the contrast when someone like him teams up with a little girl from an Ainu village. Not that Aspira isn't badass in her own right.
Furthermore Sugimoto is the good sort of badass protagonist. Not the generic badass but boring protagonists that most authors try to create.
While we are at it kids, remember when I said at the beginning that everyone in this manga was a commando? Well that's right, everyone is badass. Even the lowest nameless grunt that would be just meat in any other manga is a badass. How badass you ask? Well guess you will have to read it to find out ;) Lets just say that halfway thorough I was questioning myself, as I am sure you will too, "why is everyone in this mange so badass"?.
Going back to the motives why everyone wants the gold, well all of the motives are actually quite selfish with Sugimoto's being possibly the most selfish of them all. So there isn't really an antagonist here in the proper sense of the word. Not even a villain actually. It really depends in the point of view.
I usually don't like to dwell much on art because it is a matter of taste. But I really find the art of Golden Kamui unique. And not just the drawing. The expression that every character makes is really one of the selling points here. No amount of explanation here can exemplify how amazing it is. Just read it for yourself.
Seriously, this is the best manga that has come out in the last couple of years, and one of the best overall. I started reading this from chapter 5 and you have no idea how happy I am whenever a new chapter comes out.
Alright kids, this manga seriously deserves more recognition. But not much more mind you. I don't want the popularity to affect the quality. So, if you were lucky enough to come across it, go read it, it is amazing, but don't tell any of your friends.