The second volume of this early 20th century adventure manga has an interesting mix of the nice and the nasty. Much of the “nice” involves former soldier Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto and tween Ainu huntress Asirpa hanging out at her village. We get to learn plenty about the Ainu culture, such as how the size of a woman’s tattoo depends on the prominence of her husband, and how they give their children disgusting names initially to ward off evil spirits. There’s also plenty more about their cuisine as we see Asirpa fix otter and rabbit dishes. Saichi also has to suffer through eating a raw eyeball, but finally gets one over on his Ainu comrade when he tries to introduce her to the wonders of miso and she instantly regards it as “poop.”
All this is good fun and provides a nice counterpoint to the manga’s nasty parts. These include an encounter between Saichi, a group of soldiers from the division that’s been tracking them, and a big brown bear. It’s a surprisingly brutal sequence that includes a bit of face-based ultraviolence (and its aftermath) that would fit right in amongst the collected works of Garth Ennis. We also get to see more of Lieutenant Tsurumi and find out that the reason he wears a plate over his forehead was because a piece of shrapnel carved out a chunk of his frontal lobe. This has turned him into the kind of man who loses his temper quite easily and flies into finger-eating and cheek-stabbing rages. It also makes him into an effective villain, in case it needed to be said.
What’s here is an effective follow-up to the promise that vol. 1 showed. It’s true that mangaka Satoru Noda still loves to slow down the action with text-box asides about the period, but I think I can get used to that. So bring on vol. 3, I’m ready for more adventure!
(Oh, and there’s been a development in regards to my thoughts on how dire this series’ commercial prospects initially appeared to be. “Golden Kamuy” will be getting an anime adaptation early next year. This will definitely bode well for its commercial prospects out here, assuming the anime turns out to be the next big thing.)