Golden Kamuy Review
Season aired: Fall 2020
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Drama, Action, Adventure, Comedy
Thoughts: After the hunt for Noppera, Sugimoto has found himself separated from Asirpa and Shiraishi. As the latter two travel with Ogata and Kiroanke, Sugimoto allies with Tanigaki, Tsukishima, and Koito as he pursues his friends across Japan. All the while, the gold hunt continues to escalate.
Golden Kamuy Season 3 returned without much fanfare from the anime community, but I leaped at it with excitement. Season 2 ended with a stellar cliffhanger while simultaneously wrapping up a solid arc, and I had no idea how the anime would proceed now that the cast had split into different groups.
The plot of Golden Kamuy still holds strong along with its stylistic art and storytelling techniques. However, I do think this third season performs a little worse than the second season in terms of story. Due to having the groups break apart, I tend to forget that Hijikata and his allies are still players in the gold chase and only remembered them thanks to an episode dedicated to one of the prisoners that escaped. Tsurumi, the ever charismatic yet slightly crazy antagonist lieutenant, also remained sidelined as the story focused more on Sugimoto pursuing Asirpa and Asirpa’s backstory with her father. Despite the fact that I still enjoyed watching those two groups interact within their respective circles, Golden Kamuy’s whole list of characters are more colorful than many of the other anime series I’ve seen, so I still can’t help but miss seeing all of them actively involved with each other like in prior seasons.
Admittedly, I also found myself more invested in Sugimoto’s group than I did with Kiroanke, even though one could argue that more important revelations happened when the anime focused on Kiroanke. Due to Kiroanke’s actions in the second season, it was hard for me to feel empathy towards his backstory and plight. The anime tried to explain his side by dedicating episode after episode to explain how Kiroanke got to where he did, but due to the explanations coming off as selfish rationalizations, I found myself caring even less about him instead. Even when his arc wrapped up, I found myself stone-faced at it all.
Ironically, the two standout episodes in the series focused on largely forgotten characters. Hijikata’s episode regarding an escaped convict who seemed to suffer from Alzheimer’s was especially touching. The convict’s particular quote about how it felt unfair for him to find his humanity again after spending much of his life a criminal, despite the fact that so many better people never got that chance, left me with great sorrow at that accurate observation of life as a whole. Another episode, involving someone I won’t spoil, took place completely in the past but dropped such an incredible plot twist that I screamed in surprise and was left reeling and reevaluating the entire series.
In summary, the interactions of all the characters with each other, antagonistic or not, provided a type of charm to Golden Kamuy, and I found that charm lacking this season. Luckily, the seiyuus continued to voice act these characters with as much chemistry as they had before. Kenjiro Tsuda deserves a particular shoutout this time around as his performance of Ogata both fascinated and frightened me every time he spoke. Yoshimasa Hosoya, Chikahiro Kobayashi, and Haruka Shiraishi also lit up the screen as Tanigaki, Sugimoto, and Asirpa respectively.
Visually, the character designs still shine, but the backgrounds felt more muted than it had in prior seasons. Even as the groups traversed across different places of Japan, the locations all looked largely the same even though the dialogue changed as well as the customs. I took a peek at the manga and realized that the anime had simplified many of the complex backgrounds present that I think would’ve really elevated this season more.
Is the third season still good in its own right? Absolutely. The story still fascinates me, and I love the extra tidbits of information I learned regarding different Ainu people across Japan. However, after such a good second season, this third season simply seems to fall a bit short due to focal characters being less interesting and the arc focusing more on the pursuit of Asirpa even though the gold hunt wasn’t forgotten. Having said that, it’s still Golden Kamuy, and more Golden Kamuy is always good.
Plot: 7.5 (Multiplier 3.5)
Characters: 7.5 (Multiplier 3.5)
Voice acting: 8.5
FINAL SCORE: 76