Sugimoto, Asirpa and Shiraishi square off against the hunters. Tense standoffs and bloody fights ensue, ending only once Retar reappears with unexpected aid. The group returns to the Ainu village to recover and learns more of the motivation behind Lt. Tsurumi’s attempts to seize control of the 7th Division. When Shiraishi returns to town looking for information, he crosses paths with both parties seeking the treasure, and must run for his life.
Golden Kamuy has switched to a very odd pacing structure these last few episodes. The arcs tend to begin towards the middle of an episode, then wrap up within the first half of the next, before starting the cycle over again. Episode 7 is no exception, as we open in the midst of a fight between Sugimoto and the hunters seeking to kill Retar, the last Ezo wolf, then promptly wrap up that entire affair before the commercial break. This segment features plenty of the violent stabbings, beatings and maulings that the show has made commonplace, though they still have plenty of visceral oomph.
In another pattern the series has fallen into, we retire from the violence for a meal and an info-dump, learning that the Ainu had gathered far more gold than was initially thought. We also find out more about how Lt. Tsurumi persuaded his fellow soldiers to join his growing rebellion, and what motivates these renegades. I appreciate the depth they’ve given to what could’ve been a textbook psychopathic leader, and his motivations are understandable, if clouded by his own madness.
If there’s a place that episode 7 falls down, it’s in the second half, as we follow Shiraishi into town on what he calls an “intelligence gathering mission”. When he runs into the brute Ushiyama, he takes off and pulls every trick he can think of to throw off his pursuer. Unfortunately for him, Ushiyama keeps chugging through everything and sprints towards Shiraishi and a squad of 7th Division troops… at which point the episode abruptly ends.
Do you kind of see what I’m getting at? This feels like it would be the first half of an episode in almost any other show, with the dramatic conclusion unfolding in the second half. It also brings out the show’s inconsistency in tone, where scenes like this:
Happen in the same episode as this:
It’s not impossible to dance between humorous and hyper-violent, but I don’t think Golden Kamuy has quite the grasp of its material to make that sort of jump work. I enjoy the individual elements of the show – desperate fights on the frontier, exposure to a unique culture, and a being open to breaking up the serious parts. However, the balance just seems a bit out of whack, and it’s distracting me from the parts I like. Alongside the unusual and sometimes jarring pace of the show, it’s really put a damper on my interest. For now, at least, the intrigue is enough to keep me going, but we’ll see how it continues to play out.