By Dustin Cabeal
As I wrap up my desk reviews, I’ve decided to combo up some volumes of manga I have left so that I can get a fresh start on new reviews. It’s not a preference of mine to review this way, but with the titles I had left, I ended up not feeling as if I would have too much variety in my reviews if I did them volume by volume. That is especially true of Golden Kamuy.
It became very clear to me while reading the fourth volume of this series that the series is in no rush to finish the story. The concept is decent and set the story up for a very procedural style story. A bunch of convicts all have puzzle piece tattoos that three different groups are tracking down. Our heroes have noble-ish reasons for getting the gold hidden on the map, and so you want to root for them. The main problem with the story is that it added two aspects that have deterred this storyline.
The first is the additional characters. There are two sets of “bad guys” both vying for the gold with similar desires. Because of this, the story feels forced to develop both bad guys… that are similar… and fucking boring. Neither are intriguing or deep characters. One has a visual gimmick, while the other has a cool nickname. The army dude wants to start a weapons plant to produce weapons to the world. The other wants to start his own country. Our heroes have their dumb intentions as well. The little girl wants revenge for her father, while the Immortal dude wants to help the love of his life that he didn’t commit to before she married his best friend. Pretty much everyone but the girl has shitty intentions.
The third volume focuses on the military dude with the jacked-up face. Immortal guy, by the way, I’ve given up on using their names since this is likely my last review for them. Anyway, the Immortal guy was captured, but they break him out. We learn a bit about the general dude. The rest of the volume is the trio dealing with a bear hunter trying to kill the last Japanese wolf. He’s got a tattoo, so they need him, but then they also deal with another guy that they already dealt with once and left for dead.
Volume four focuses on the other convicts as the old guy with the cool nickname is getting his society together. What’s dumb is that not everyone working with him is cool with the plan, but they rob a bank and get a fucking sword to start their “new country fund” while they look for the gold. Oh, and they have a guy that’s a rapist… so that’s a thing. The general and the convict also cross paths in this volume as both their goals are revealed and sighed upon. The second deviation is the length in which it takes the story to introduce a new tattoo. They barely get to the next one by the end of volume four, and then he falls into their lap.
The art is good, but at times it’s annoying. There’s so much historical accuracy put into the book from the food, which is another annoying distraction, to the clothing and technology that you’d think that the hairstyles and names wouldn’t be as wonky as they are. The bear killer guy’s hair is far-fetched even by manga standards, and it ends up making him look out of place in the story. The action is great, but there’s not a lot of it in either volume. That and there are a ton of extreme eye close-ups, but everyone’s eyes look the same.
There’s a wonderful procedural drama of a story here. There are enough convicts that the story could go on for quite a while before they tracked them all down and then move into the actual hunt for the gold which could be filled with other perilous tasks. Instead, it wants to spend time building up crappy villains with weak and obvious motivations. Oh, and the food shit is super annoying. None of it sounds good, and it acts like it’s Food Wars all of a sudden. The trapping stuff is occasionally okay, but at this point, it feels out of place in the story. There was a glimmer of potential here, but it’s now muddled and full of filler that it never needed.
Score: 2/5 (Both Volumes)
Golden Kamuy vol. 3-4
Story and Art by Satoru Noda
Viz Media/Viz Signature