The 7th Division catches up with Sugimoto and Asirpa, but due to quick thinking, the assistance of Asirpa’s Ezo wolf friend, and yet another angry bear, they escape while three of their four pursuers lie dead. They decide to lay low at Asirpa’s village, where Sugimoto learns more about Ainu customs and Asirpa herself. As the episode draws to a close, the bulk of the 7th Division arrives in the area, and we get a glimpse of a new set of characters that plan to oppose the division.
Man, apparently there are bears, just, everywhere up here! Our team doesn’t seem to go more than 5 minutes without tripping over another angry mauling waiting to happen. The show should probably tone down the Deus Ex Bearina just a scootch, or the final episode is just going to be a hundred bears versus the entire 7th division. Not that I’d complain if that did happen, mind you.
Bears aside, both of the show’s major elements are on good display here. There’s plenty of tension as the advance scouts of the 7th Division come across our pair. He may be Immortal Sugimoto, but the soldiers that he encounters are a force to be feared and avoided, not fought, if possible.
Until it’s maulin’ time, though, there are some clever tactics on display by our heroes, and it’s neat to see characters intelligently trying to evade, rather than ambush, their pursuit.
After their escape, the other part of the show has its time to shine as we learn more about the Ainu. From ears…
…to naming conventions…
…there’s plenty of interesting stuff to absorb, even if the scenes feel a little more like “show and tell” for the benefit of the viewer than they do an actual conversation. Perhaps most importantly, we learn about kamuy, the Ainu version of gods or spirits.
These guys come down to earth to play, taking on the guise of animals, which the Ainu are thankful for, as they get to take the meat and pelt of these temporary forms. In return, they raise baby bears to adulthood lovingly before sacrificing them, so that the god inhabiting the bear will tell everyone back home how great earth is and they’ll continue to head down.
It’s an interesting look at another culture, a system of belief that has its own internal logic, and I’m looking forward to more of it.
There’s also the short, quieter moments with Sugimoto and Asirpa that, along with the edutainment, feel like my reward for cringing through a man having his face ripped off by a bear, or the lunatic commander of the 7th Divison biting some guy’s finger off while his brain juice leaks onto his face.
In these interstitial scenes, Asirpa and Sugimoto have short conversations about food, hunting, or each other, and they go a long, loooong way towards humanizing Sugimoto and making us sympathize with him.
While some of them, as Brendan has mentioned, do feel a little too cheery for the rest of the show, they’re still vital to getting the viewers to root for the main characters. Plus, who doesn’t love a fluffy wolf belly rub?