In war, life is often brief and brutal. Therefore, it’s no surprise that someone earning a title like “The Immortal” puts people on edge. Enter the protagonist of VIZ Media’s latest manga release, Golden Kamuy. Saichi “The Immortal” Sugimoto established a reputation for himself during the Russo-Japanese war as a daring soldier who constantly escaped death. Whether it was a cannon, a bullet to the neck, gashes, slashes, or other wounds, Saichi constantly recovered and returned to the battlefield, ready to dole out death and punishment to his enemies.
Following the end of the war, Saichi is doing his best to eke out a living and earn money, panning for gold alongside a stranger in the forest when we first meet him properly. This stranger sets his life on a violent and dangerous path after confiding the story of a lost trove of gold.
Central to the mystery surrounding the missing gold are 24 prisoners, each with unique body tattoos that are necessary to locate the hidden treasure. A man with an adventurous spirit, Saichi is intrigued and begins to set out on his journey to find these prisoners and find the treasure for himself!
Golden Kamuy does a great job in this initial volume of world-building and introducing us to the various characters. While many of the antagonists remain shrouded in mystery, you get a good understanding of Saichi’s persona – a truly Chaotic Neutral hero willing to engage in horrific acts against his enemies in pursuit of his goal. His bloodlust is tempered by a young girl from an Ainu tribe named Asirpa. Combining his military prowess and survival skills with her understanding of the elements, the unlikely duo form an entertaining bond, and while they both agree that only the strong survive in the wild, Saichi is obviously more willing to kill or be killed than his companion.
Speaking of survival skills – this may as well be a guide on how to make it in the wild. Satoru Noda has included a lot of very fine details on a variety of nature-specific topics including the speed and power of brown bears, how tree bark can be utilized in the wild, detailing small traps for capturing squirrels and rabbits, and much more.
I think everyone loves a good treasure hunt, though as the initial volume goes on you find that it’s quite a bit more macabre than you may have originally expected. Mysterious units appear to interfere, and the web surrounding this treasure grows more tangled very quickly, establishing a world that can span into multiple volumes.
It’s worth noting that the world Golden Kamuy is diving into is a bit unique in terms of the time. Often historical adventures take place around World War II, or smack-dab in the middle of the Meiji Era. This is an interesting and not-often visited section of Japanese history, which definitely increases its appeal as the surrounding events haven’t been re-visited over and over before.
Of course, what good is a manga title without decent art? Luckily, Golden Kamuy delivers in spades, featuring captivating shots of the wilderness, detailed depictions of character movement in combat, and the harsh conditions of a forest during winter.
In short, if you’re looking for an action-packed romp with gruesome combat, interesting characters, and compelling art, Golden Kamuy would be a great fit! You can find more information/purchase this volume here!
Note: VIZ Media provided us with a digital copy of this manga in exchange for our honest review.