Rating: 7 out of 10
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Action, Adventure, Historical Drama
Format: English Dubbed
Official Synopsis: "The story takes place in the mighty Northern field of Hokkaido, the time is in the turbulent late Meiji Era. A post war soldier Sugimoto, aka, “Immortal Sugimoto” was in need of large sums of money for a particular purpose…. What awaited Sugimoto, who stepped into Hokkaido’s Gold Rush with dreams of making a fortune, was a tattoo map leading to a hidden treasure based on hints inscribed on the bodies of convicts in Abashiri Prison?! The magnificent nature of Hokkaido vs vicious convicts and the meeting with a pure Ainu girl, Ashiripa!! A survival battle for a hidden treasure hunt begins!"
I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t been vaccinated against Golden Kamuy’s charms, apparently though I was the only immunized party to seeing its many and massive flaws. As much as I’d like to push ethics aside and say I loved every element, that wouldn’t be something I could put my hand on a Bible and repeat in a court of law, at least not without facing some serious legal repercussions.
In honor of this series indomitable warrior spirit, not to mention the fact I’d like to at least attempt to alleviate a sliver of the immense guilt I’m about to feel in ripping it a new one. I’d like to start by praising some of the qualities that made it slightly hard to detach from emotionally.
It has an original story that’s rooted in historical facts and cultural folklore, gritty yet clean animation that’s indicative of its violent nature and sense of humor, a large cast of characters ranging from sweet to sociopathic, a half decent soundtrack, and engaging English voice acting.
Nope, still don’t feel any better about what I’m about to do. Well, it was worth a shot. Let’s rip this band aid off and start pouring salt in the wound. So I’m sure the nagging question is, “If all that was fine, what was wrong with it?” The answer’s more complex than I’d prefer, but I’ll to try to break it down as succinctly as possible.
For starters, despite Golden Kamuy’s attempts to impersonate incredibly focused semi-long running series like FullMetal Alchemist, its plot progression was shoddy at best. Rather than focusing on the mission statement, FIND INU GOLD, as well as intermingling pertinent sub plots and weaving in back stories, it ventures off on so many unnecessary tangents and antidotes that even the audience will begin to lose sight of what the goal is. With entire episodes dedicated to food frenzies, minor characters’ musings, and difficult to describe detours, it’s a wonder this series progressed as far as it did.
Next, we have what I considered to be the bedrock of the series, Sugimoto and Asirpa’s relationship, being rapidly eroded by a seemingly unending cast of additional characters forcibly inserting themselves into an unachievable group dynamic (square peg meet round hole-have fun!), while mucking up their previously perfect magnetic comradely, witty conversation, and palpable on screen chemistry.
Last, we have its straight up twisted sense of humor. Now think of who’s making this statement—the girl who laughed her way through Die Hard just called a series out for having a warped sense of humor. That’s really saying something. I can toss a pity chuckle its way when it literally sends its comedy styling down the crapper with poop and crotch jokes. I can even find a way to forgive the fact it thinks an entire military faction worshiping a brain damaged war monger who abnormally abuses them is funny, but you lost me when you introduced the loony-toon who considers making clothing out of human skin and dressing in it… is a hobby—too far Golden Kamuy—too far!
Golden Kamuy started as anime’s answer to The Revenant, and I loved it for that. Its first season left me excited and expectant, while its second dashed any hopes and dreams I may have previously. I enjoyed its ability to be gritty without being gross, right up until it reversed roles. I would have preferred fewer characters joining forces with our main duo, better focus on the objective of the story, and a less disturbing comedic vocabulary. The cold hard truth is that Golden Kamuy fell miles below where its potential could have taken it, the only upside is that I find that sadder than I do infuriating.