What They Say:
Sugimoto, Asirpa, and Shiraishi gain some surprising allies on their way to Abashiri Prison. There’s just one problem. A traitor is in their midst! With enemies attacking from every direction, all roads lead to the man behind an Ainu massacre, and only Asirpa will know if he’s her father.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English dub, though that gets a 5.1 bump. Both tracks are encoded in Dolby TrueHD which gives us a good lossless presentation. The series has a really good balance of action and dialogue pieces so that it feels like everyone comes away happy here. The action elements of the show definitely work the forward soundstage well with plenty of movement throughout and a good sense of metal on metal in a lot of scenes – or just thocking into wood or flesh. The dialogue works well in its own way with some good placement throughout and the occasional throws to the rears which gives it a little more life. There are a lot of variables here with some highs and lows and I like how the smaller and quieter scenes play out. There’s a good sense of placement and depth throughout on both tracks and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2018, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread out in a standard nine/three format that gives it plenty of room to work with. Animated by Geno Studio, Golden Kamuy has an interesting look about it when it comes to its character as it adapts the designs pretty accurately and that can be a little off-putting until you get used to it. But they’re detailed in their own way and come across well with some good movement fluidity where needed. The backgrounds aren’t minimal but they’re not overdone either as we deal with the time period in a really good way, especially with so much of it snowcovered, so that it feels authentic to the period but without going over the top with it. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, mostly in terms of character designs, but it’s well-adapted here and the encoding brings it to life really well with good color definition and no problems with macroblocking or noise during regular scenes or high-motion scenes.
The second half of the first season is done up in a regular edition form that will slide nicely into the box of the limited edition first half. But it also stands well on its own, which I definitely like. The set comes with an o-card that does replicate the case, always a nice moment of discovery, where the o-card gives us the core three together with some nice gold embossing going on and a busy feeling that doesn’t feel too overwhelming with what it’s throwing out at you to catch your eye. The case itself is far more subdued with the supporting cast – with a lot of dark outfits – set against a deep red and some black so that it feels very toned down in comparison to the o-card. The back covers are the same for both with a few nice shots set against an off-white background that also has a very brief summary of the premise. The extras are clearly listed and we get a solid technical grid that breaks out both formats cleanly and clearly. The set comes with a great little full-color booklet that provides pages of character design material and some looks at the various locations as well. There’s also a reverse side cover that uses the same red/black combo to showcase more character artwok from the Japanese run.
The menus for this release goes with the clips from the show format but it does it nicely with a layer of noise over it to give it an older feeling, almost like film but not quite. The various scenes of character interactions play out across it in a pretty good way though sometimes it’s a little indistinct. They’re good looking scenes but are kept mostly dark which when combined with the filter and darker background around it, it gives it a bit of a murky feeling. The logo along the top keeps to the same designs as the cover nicely while including the season number that’ll give it some consistency. The bottom strip goes for some thematic elements with the reds and design used as we get the basic selections for navigation that doubles as mostly the same thing for the pop-up menu during playback. Everything is quick and easy to move around in and it works well both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are pretty fun beyond the basics. We get the usual pieces here with the clean opening and closing and I’m also glad that this release got an audio commentary as well. Add in some commercials and it’s pretty standard fare. But the other piece we get that really makes it worthwhile are the twelve shorts that were streamed during the broadcast as the “Golden Travelogue Theater” segments. It’s basically cute chibi pieces with simple animation but it lets the characters just be silly, a nice contrast from the more serious aspects of the show itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Golden Kamuy did pretty well in its first two seasons, the second of which is here, as it was done as a split-cour. It did well enough that a third season has gotten the green light as well that will be coming in our future. The original manga from Satoru Noda is still going on as well which shows some solid popularity and that the anime is definitely driving new readers to the magazine that it’s serialized in as well as with its merch. All this points to the manga being around for a good bit more or until Noda is ready to bring the story to a conclusion. That’s good for fans all-around. I had liked the first cour well enough but I’ll admit it didn’t exactly grab me. There are historical elements that elude me from this period that I haven’t connected with and just some of the pacing of the show, combined with its character designs, left me feeling disconnected from it all.
The setup from the first set is still very much in play here as Sugimoto is in search of the gold for various reasons owing to his past. His journey has brought Aspira into his “party” along with Shiraishi. It’s a small group that has some natural ebb and flow between them but when it is kept to this core group there are some good moments to be had as they’re at ease with each other across this journey. I don’t think we get a lot in the way of strong character material all of them but Aspira brings in enough of her cultural side to be distinctive enough at times and the two men are receptive to whatever she does in this arena while largely keeping to themselves otherwise. There’s a maturity and respect that come from both of them that’s appealing and they even keep the teasing limited in the grand scheme of things so they don’t make her feel bad.
The show works the journey elements well as we get to follow what Sugimoto and his group are up to as well as what Tusurmi is. I do find him interesting to watch across this since he’s got some real issues as suffered during the war, though the metal plate across his head makes that stand out the most. I love that the character is played with some real ramifications from it with the outbursts, the mood swings, and just the way he reacts to so many things. So in the first episode we see him looking for one of the prisoners’ whose body was robbed from its grave. That leads him to a taxidermist whose trade is in skin, naturally, and you get Tsurumi looking to throw people off the path by creating fake skins to try and throw off the other hunters. I like this in that it’s creative and I dislike it because it gives you some natural creepy-creepy feelings. But it’s exactly the kind of thing that Tsurumi would do and the people that follow him have no issue with it, which says enough about them.
There are some interesting movements that happen along the way as the journey continues, such as when Shiraishi gets captured and even Hijikata isn’t able to rescue him. That leads them on a complicated plan to infiltrate the Abashiri prison in order to rescue him and that has some unexpected folks getting in on the mix and over a couple of episodes we see how things go south in unexpected ways. Sometimes there are people you just can’t bribe to do what you want since they have their own fears that supercede it. The whole prison storyline, which takes about three or so episodes in general, is alot of fun but I really cringed a bit when they end up using an airship to get away. I honestly didn’t want to look up to see if it was historically accurate or not. It just didn’t feel like it belonged well and was too easy of an escape in the end.
With a lot of these bigger moments going on the show does focus on some of the character issues along the way as well. The main one seems to be with Aspira as she’s continuing to try and find out details about her father. That has the question coming up with different groups and people they encounter and it’s one that works since it’s a simple storyline with bigger implications. But, in the end, everything here is all about moving events forward more and more. There are big action scenes to be had with the groups that are out there but with the manga ongoing and more anime on the way, the series isn’t interested in answering most if any of the real questions at the moment. It’s interested in getting us closer to them, making them feel even more desired with the way you see Aspira pained by the lack of results at times, and that’s what keeps you on for that part of the ride.
Golden Kamuy is fun but it’s also a series that I haven’t really connected with in a strong way. I have an affection toward it because it plays in a time period we don’t see often with groups of people don’t see much of. It has unusual character designs compared to the modern standard and it’s doing something that will feel drawn out because of the ongoing nature of the manga and the journey aspect of it. These are things that can be a struggle for an audience but also be the draw for others. I’m weirdly mixed in that regard since I like how it stands out as unique. The main thing is that I enjoy the moments as they unfold but it all feels very ephemeral for me rather than concrete events. Funimation has followed up from the first set well, and I really liked that limited edition, so fans will be pleased by how this looks and feels. It’s a good continuation that’s well-acted and has a solid encoding with a number of adorable extras. Fans will definitely be pleased.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Golden Travelogue Theater animated Shorts, Original Japanese Commercials, Episode Commentary, Textless Opening & Ending Songs
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 15th, 2019
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.