Manga 2014–present / Anime 2018.
Manga written and illustrated by Satoru Noda. Anime directed by Hitoshi Nanba, written by Noboru Takagi, with Geno Studio.
Golden Kamuy is an historical, action, mystery set in the Hokkaido region, a short while after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05). The story follows former soldier Saichi Sugimoto, and young Ainu Asirpa; in their search for a cache of hidden gold rumoured to be worth around ¥800 million. The catch is, the map is tattooed on the backs of 24 escaped prisoners from the infamous Abashiri prison.
Historical fictions usually aren’t my bag, but I couldn’t resist the unusual premise — Golden Kamuy is now a firm favourite. Noda has a compelling style of storytelling and does a fantastic job of vilifying, and then redeeming characters. I found myself warming to the extended cast’s charming quirks. Not to mention, they’re seriously fucking funny.
Some studios tend to overuse 3D, but Geno Studio has struck the perfect balance between traditional animation and visual effects. The hand-painted background’s capture Hokkaido’s wilderness beautifully, and create a dramatic contrast with the character design. The restrained and subtle use of VFX to generate fire and animal fur, raise the bar high for a TV series — even though I’m up to date with the manga, watching will be a delight.
Though for me, what makes this series great is Noda’s use of historical facts and research. Hiroshi Nakagawa, an Ainu language linguist from Chiba University, supervised production. Noda also included many historical, flora and fauna notes in the manga; which helps tremendously with the culinary sub-plot, where Sugimoto and Asirpa eat absolutely everything they get their mitts on. Literally every chapter they’re enjoying a new dish, and going by the amount of detail included in the books — I’d bet these are legitimate recipes. Hinna! Hinna!.
Episode one aired April 9. The anime looks incredible; I highly recommend watching the season and picking up the manga where it leaves off.