This volume arrived on Monday. If I had more foresight I would have had that WTH revelation lead directly into this review, because…
Revealing that charismatic Ainu revolutionary Kiroranke was one of the people who assassinated Russian Tsar Alexander II certainly ranks as one of the more outrageous backstories in this series. I’d go so far as to say “ridiculous,” except for the fact that when the identity of his conspirator is revealed… well, it actually makes a lot of sense in the wider plot of “Golden Kamuy.” Of which this is one of its more dramatically straightforward volumes. Mangaka Satoru Noda wisely dials back the wackiness after vol. 16’s circus antics and kicks things off with Asirpa’s gang mixing it up with a Russian patrol. The highlight of this is the sniper duel between Ogata and his opposite number on the Russian side, which is satisfyingly tense even as it observes all the conventions of this kind of engagement.
Less successful is what we learn about Ogata’s history in the aftermath as it involves trying to get his standard-bearer brother to violate his moral code so that Lieutenant Tsurumi will be able to control him for… reasons? Even if the reasoning here is shaky, Noda does provide good reasons as to why the rifleman would resent his brother, and lead him to do what he does. Which goes a long way towards explaining his cold-blooded demeanor.
Meanwhile, Sugimoto and company are still trying to catch up to Asirpa’s gang, only to get caught in a snowstorm along the way. They’re saved by an old Russian couple whose daughter has gone missing, leaving Sugimoto to promise to rescue her as thanks. This initially comes off as an unnecessary sidequest, until Noda manages to seamlessly work it back into the main plot. Which is going to involve a prison break to spring the biggest, meanest, and burliest female Russian revolutionary the world has ever seen. I’m sure everything will go just as well as it did when the cast broke into Abashiri, even if asking it to be as entertaining feels like a really tall order from here.