A war veteran travels to the wilderness in search of gold, to fulfil a promise made to a dead comrade. He encounters a native woman who helps him fight off a bear attack and they join forces in search of a legendary treasure trove stolen from the woman’s own people, while other, more sinister forces are also looking for it. A typical western, except for its setting.
Because Golden Kamuy is actually set in snow bound Hokkaido, just after the Russian-Japanese War, rather than the American west and Sugimoto Saichi is a veteran of that war, having almost died in the battle of Hill 203. Now he’s looking for gold to take care of his dead comrade’s wife, who is slowly going blind and needs an operation. Asirpa, the native woman he encounters is an Ainu girl. It’s this setting that makes Golden Kamuy interesting from the start. Even if the nominal plot so far isn’t the most original, the setting sure is. Not to mention that having an Ainu character is very rare in anime, this is the first one I’ve seen.
Asirpa is an interesting character, from what little I’ve seen of her this first episode. She shows up halfway to save Sugimoto from a bear attack, then serves as his introduction to how to survive in the wilderness. It’s a role that reminds me of the Native American friend of the protagonist in a western, but there are some hints she’ll be playing a larger role later on. She teams up with Sugimoto to look for the murderers of her father, the men who stole the gold he is after.
This first episode was mostly setting the plot in motion and as such did its job. I like both Sugimoto and Asirpa and it’ll be interesting how their relationship will evolve. The bear punching didn’t disappoint either. Since Golden Kamuy started as a critically well received manga, I have faith in the quality of the source material. The studio adapting it also did last season’s Kokkoku, which was much better than I expected it to be, so I have high hopes for this.