Golden Kamuy Volume 1

Golden Kamuy Volume 1

My favorite type of manga is shojo romance, but the extent to which I enjoyed Golden Kamuy volume 1 shows how valuable it can be to break out of one’s usual reading patterns. This historical action-adventure by Satoru Noda was a thrilling introduction to a pair of intriguing characters.

Sugimoto, a hard-bitten veteran of the Russo-Japanese War (1905), is trying to pan for gold in order to help his comrade’s widow. He was a hero, with a reputation that he can’t be killed, but that doesn’t make him money. Then a drunk tells him a legend of a hidden horde of gold, with clues to its location held in a set of prisoners’ tattoos.

Golden Kamuy Volume 1

Between the opening war scenes and a fight with a bear, the series can be bloody, but in spite of the gore, I was impressed by the dramatic staging of the battles and the vitality of the storytelling. Plus, the scenery, as the pair navigate the unbuilt frontier, is gorgeous.

It did take me a bit to get used to the protagonist talking to himself, narrating his choices and actions, but it helps the reader be sure of what’s going on. That doesn’t last long once Asirpa, an Ainu girl with poison arrows, shows up. She’s (unsurprisingly) my favorite part of the book, from her practical yet well-decorated costume to her quiet determination and her knowledge of the wilderness of Hokkaido. It’s only due to her that they survive to start their treasure quest.

The time the first volume spends on natural predators serves as a fascinating comparison with the human villains we’ll see more of as the series progresses. Both are bestial, caring only about their own survival, which makes us root for Asirpa and Sugimoto even more. Golden Kamuy is still ongoing in Japan, with 10 volumes out so far. Viz will be publishing it here quarterly. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)



2 comments

  • Oliver

    Ever since the DENIAL of a Great Ace Attorney 3DS game release in the West, I’ve been fascinated by the Meiji Era (1868-1912) where it is situated in. I’m now looking for manga set in this period mostly out of interest for the costumes and politics of the era. I will look into this one and see if it tickles my new fancy. I am hoping the designs are close to A Brides Story in levels of beauty (although that may be a bit too high of a standard of expectations).

  • That is a very high standard, yes, and the setting in this one is different enough (running through the woods instead of a settled civilization) that you aren’t going to see such emphasis on clothes – except for Asirpa. But I hope you enjoy it!

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