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Clockwise from center left: Asirpa, Retar, and Saichi Sugimoto.
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February, 1907. Saichi "The Immortal" Sugimoto is a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, infamous for his ferocity and ability to survive on the battlefield. Sadly for him, he's discharged without honors and left penniless on the island of Hokkaido, where he hopes to prospect some gold to get his dead friend's wife an eye operation. Unsuccessful, Sugimoto is instead stuck listening to a drunkard's rumors one winter night.

The legend says that, during the heyday of Hokkaido's gold rush, a group of the indigenous Ainu people was preparing to revolt. They had amassed a large quantity of gold to finance their war: 75kg in fact, easily worth 80 million modern yen. However, one Ainu man slaughtered his companions, then hid the gold. Caught by the police and thrown in the infamous Abashiri Prison, that same man chose twenty-four fellow inmates, on each of whom he tattooed part of a map that would lead to the treasure, and told them to escape.

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Sugimoto initially dismisses the story, but when the drunkard sobers up the next morning, he tries to kill him. Sugimoto is convinced and gives chase, only to stumble upon a young Ainu huntress, Asirpa, daughter of one of the men murdered for the gold. After fending off a bear attack together, Sugimoto and Asirpa become partners in search of the treasure. However, they are up against several groups of equally fearsome people. Among the Abashiri escapees, former vice-captain of the disavowed and massacred Shinsengumi, Hijikata Toshizo, has gathered followers to piece together the map. Moreover, the Imperial Japanese army's elite 7th Division has gone rogue and, under the leadership of First Lieutenant Tsurumi, is on the hunt for Hijikata and Sugimoto.

Satoru Noda's award-winning manga Golden Kamuy has been serialized in Weekly Young Jump magazine since 2014, and is still ongoing. An anime adaptation began airing in Spring 2018; it can be viewed on Crunchyroll with the appropriate regional subtitles, with Funimation doing the English dub track.

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As the manga is far ahead of the anime, BEWARE OF SPOILERS BELOW.


Golden Kamuy provides examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The semi-realistic CGI bear in the first episode of the anime adaptation clashes quite sharply with not just the hand-drawn visuals, but even the cell-shaded ones. Apparently, this visual clash was deliberate.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: After Sugimoto is captured by the 7th Division and Asirpa helps break him out, the pair use their first moment of respite to patch up Sugimoto's wounds from an earlier beating. Sugimoto and Asirpa also work out their own issues, as Asirpa's slight mistrust and Sugimoto thinking that Asirpa cannot participate in his search for the gold because she's a child, although an admittedly competent one.
  • Against My Religion: The Ainu's particular view of the world makes them think that an animal who has killed a human is cursed, and thus its meat shouldn't be eaten. Asirpa refuses the meat of an orca, believing it's killed a man, but Sugimoto reassures her that he did the killing instead, so the orca didn't turn evil.
  • A Good Way to Die: Many Abashiri convicts end up dying in the way they wanted.
    • Nihei Tetsuzo wants to be killed by a beast stronger and meaner than he is. A wolf tears his throat out.
    • Henmi Kazuo wants a violent end where he desperately struggles for life. He gets mauled to death by an orca after Sugimoto stabs him with a bayonet.
    • Anehata Shiton dies of a heart attack while achieving his dream of having sex with a bear.
    • Ueji Keiji sees his own disappointed face reflected in a window as he falls to his death, reminding him of his father and making him laugh.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Sugimoto was ostracized by his native village because his family contracted tuberculosis.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Noda deliberately leaves the exact dates of the story open to debate, though it begins in 1907.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, as even bears can't just tank arrows, especially when they're poisoned.
  • Apple of Discord: In Chapter 268 we learn that the deaths of the seven Ainu revolutionaries were caused by infighting after First Lieutenant Tsurumi sowed dissent amongst their ranks. Upon learning that Wilk had become their unspoken leader, uniting the uncooperative group with his natural charisma, Tsurumi told one of the revolutionaries about Wilk's history as a guerilla in Russia, suggesting he wanted to steal their gold to fund a coup against the Russian Empire. The Ainu, split over whether or not they could trust Wilk anymore, turned on each other.
  • Armchair Military: The lower ranks are regularly seen complaining that their higher-ups didn't bother with developing efficient military tactics such as not mindlessly using Zerg Rush or forming sniper teams, which would have saved numerous Japanese soldiers from death.
  • Arms Dealer: An American one is willing to sell guns to Tsurumi's 7th Division.
  • Art Imitates Art: Occurs frequently. Besides the Last Supper and Pieta parodies mentioned below, the 7th Division recreates Bouguereau's "Song of the Angels" upon discovering O-Gin's baby.
  • Art Shift: The art is noticeably more cartoony during humorous moments.
  • Author Appeal: In interviews, creator Satoru Noda has made clear that the reason for all the male-focused Fanservice in the series is because he likes it, even though it's a Seinen series.
    Interviewer: What point in Golden Kamuy do you want readers to pay attention to?
    Noda: The beautiful nudity of men. I want to keep drawing the naked bodies of men, be they pot-bellied or with thick chest hair.
  • Badass and Child Duo: In this case, the child is just as capable as the Badass though.
  • Bad Ol' Badger: Sugimoto and company's first animal encounter in Karafuto is a wolverine, which introduces itself by viciously mauling a bear and then targeting the party.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Local fishermen look suspiciously at a shady tattooed colleague, but one of them tries to befriend him. Turns out the friendly fisherman is the serial killer Henmi Kazuo.
  • Bank Robbery: Hijikata robs a bank to get some cash, but more importantly retrieves his sword Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada, which had ended up in the possession of the bank owner.
  • The Barber: One serves as a recurring character and Mr. Exposition during the Barato arc.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted for a change, as male characters have their nipples drawn. Hilariously, when Sugimoto has a (not very attractive) gangster strip, he is outraged at the sight of the gangster's nipples, and even orders him to cover them up so that Asirpa can't see. He also remarks on how troupe leader Yamada's nipples are huge.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Bears have been among the deadliest things in the series. Of course, they can't take out Sugimoto the Immortal.
  • Beef Bandage: Raw horse meat is used to help reduce the swelling on Sugimoto's face.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Tsurumi and Hijikata are both looking for the treasure but have different agendas.
  • Big Fancy House: The boss of a fishery (referred to only as the Herring Magnate) owns one and meets Tsurumi here to discuss conquering Hokkaido. It is so fancy even the toilets are made of luxurious porcelain.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Whenever Asirpa talks to an Ainu, the conversation will mix Japanese and their native tongue.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: Averted with Second Lieutenant Koito. His Jigen-Ryu sword style includes a brutal overhead strike which Japanese swordsmen agree mustn't be blocked, but dodged, since the strength of the strike will just drive your own sword into your forehead. The only one to successfully block him is Kiroranke, and the blade is still driven almost halfway through the stock of his rifle.
  • Bluff the Imposter: Koito demands that a man posing as Prison Warden Inudo converse with him in Koito's native Satsuma dialect, since Inudo spent some time there. The imposter, amazingly, answers his questions. Then Koito asks about his drinking habits, and "Inudo" replies that his tolerance has gone down. Koito immediately shoots him in the head, saying that the real Inudo doesn't drink.
  • Body Double: When Sugimoto reaches Noppera-bo, he realizes that it's a double whom Inudo has planted after the breakout. Hijikata's group was aware of this and purposely left Sugimoto in the dark. They leave Sugimoto and Shiraishi alone as bait for the guards and head toward Noppera-bo's real cell.
  • Boom, Headshot!: In a sudden and shocking turnabout, Ogata shoots Sugimoto in the head in Chapter 137, marking the utter failure of his mission. Sugimoto miraculously survives.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, reloading rifles is taken into account, and Asirpa can run low on arrows even though she's using them sparingly.
  • Breather Episode: It's not uncommon for a few chapters of brutal, gory action to be followed up with some fine slice-of-life cuteness between Sugimoto and Asirpa.
  • Brick Joke: In Chapter 16, Sugimoto discovered the kisarri, a three-branched stick used to emulate a monster and with which you'd have to roar in order to frighten children as a game. In that chapter, Sugimoto performs abysmally with it but in Chapter 88, he discovers another kisarri and roars out of anger, causing Asirpa who hears him from a distance to think that the monster is really here.
  • But Not Too Foreign:
    • Tsurumi entrusts the Japanese orphaned baby of Keiichiro Sakamoto and O-Gin to Asirpa's Ainu grandmother.
    • Olga is the daughter of a Japanese photographer and his Russian wife.
  • The Caper: Sugimoto's group and Hijikata's group ally to infiltrate Abashiri prison so that Asirpa can directly talk to Noppera-bo. Several chapters are dedicated to their preparations, such as an infiltrated ally feeding them intel, or the digging of an entrance tunnel. As soon as they enter the prison grounds, the plan pretty much falls apart.
  • Carpet of Virility: Highly unusual for Japanese manga and anime, multiple characters are sporting full (and meticulously detailed) chest hair, which only enhances their masculine badassness. Needless to say, this has made the series very popular with a certain audience.
  • Cassandra Truth: Averted, Asirpa quickly believes Sugimoto's story about the treasure. Of course, her father was killed because of it so she has reasons to believe.
  • The Catfish: The "Iwan Onnecep Kamuy" is a mythical giant huchen which is 7 meters long and eats bears. Less impressive but as scary are 2 meter long huchen which eat anything in their path, including Shiraishi, who fortunately escapes.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Asirpa is surprisingly adept at hunting and survival in the mountains for a little Ainu girl, especially in a culture where women are expected to Stay in the Kitchen. It is mostly presented in a lighthearted way to expose the most interesting parts of Ainu culture, and seemingly give Sugimoto a competent Kid Sidekick. When Sugimoto meets the real Noppera-bo/Wilk in Abashiri Prison, the disfigured prisoner confesses that he had been secretly grooming her into becoming a freedom fighter waging war against the Japanese government for the Ainu, using hunting and survival training as a pretext. The Reveal is all the more shocking since Asirpa is a Badass Pacifist and a follower of Thou Shalt Not Kill, yet Wilk planned for her to eventually become a martyr through violence.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: Constantly shifting from lighthearted Slice of Life to outrageous comedy to nail-biting drama to horrific violence, and back again.
  • Chekhov's Gift; Asirpa's makiri, a gift from her father, Wilk, is used by Sugimoto to convince Noppera-bo to openly talk about the gold. However, he's interrupted by a bullet to the brain, courtesy of Ogata.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Nihei's single shot rifle comes in handy during Tanigaki and Ogata's Sniper Duel.
    • Kumagishi Chouan's Final Speech in Chapter 90 finally became relevant in Chapter 274 for identifying the fake skins. That is, the fakes were made to be of "higher quality" than the real ones, but the stuff Edogai used to tan his fakes makes it so that they become stained when they touch iron or steel. This, combined with the key, makes identifing the fakes much easier.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Asirpa's and by extension, Ainu traps are often used after their introduction to trap humans.
    • Tsukishima's put on the receiving end of a rare case of it being an Invoked Trope, as part of Tsurumi's plan to save him from death row. Tsurumi (headed to Russia to act as an intelligence oficer) stated that his trusted subordinate and talented interpreter Tsukishima's fluency in Russian made him vital for negotiations, so he was taking Tsukishima off death row to go with him. Tsukishima knew not a word of Russian, and was told to learn it right away.
  • The Chew Toy: Nikaido lost his twin brother at the hands of Sugimoto, had one ear torn off by a bear and the other one sliced off by Tsurumi, lost a leg to Hijikata's katana, and had his hand blown away with his own prosthetic leg (again by Sugimoto). Both the trauma and the opium addiction caused by the injuries are consistently Played for Laughs.
  • Circling Vultures: A stray vulture tries to abduct Asirpa. Artistic License – Biology as vultures' claws, unlike eagles or raptors, can't carry weight nor grab prey.note 
  • Coincidental Dodge:
    • Tanigaki barely avoids a bullet meant for him as Osoma pulls on his ear.
    • A hallucination of his dead brother spooks Ogata into dodging a shot from Vasily, although the shot still destroys Ogata's rifle.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: The young Asirpa wouldn't be spending so much time in the forests if her parents hadn't died.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Sugimoto is briefly tortured by the 7th Division using dango skewers.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Despite the realistic way in which guns are treated, a rifle isn't able to pierce through any form of cover. Somewhat justified in that 6.5 mm Arisaka round is quite weak for a rifle round,note  and is better compared to the modern intermediate rounds, and these do have problems with penetration unless using specialized bullets. In fact, this round was used in a prototype of all modern assault rifles, Fedorov Avtomat, specifically because of its light weight and reduced power.
  • Conservation of Competence: Averted. Every member of the 7th Division is competent in their field of work, which is killing stuff.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Hijikata's band is smaller, but its members are more competent than the already scarily competent soldiers of the 7th Division.
  • The Conspiracy: Ogata theorizes that Noppera-bo is a Russian partisan whose goal is to fight for the independance of east Russia. Other partisans are hiding among the population of Hokkaido to support this movement from the shadows.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Retar's mate kills Nihei from behind as he's about to shoot Retar.
  • Cool Guns: The Arisaka Type 30, Tsurumi's Borchardt C-93, the Herring Magnate's Maxim gun.
  • Cool Sword: The Izumi-no-Kami Kanesada, which Hijikata breaks out of a bank vault.
  • Critical Research Failure: (No, not of the author. In-Universe example that the author uses as Foreshadowing.) In one chapter a man makes specific mention of the characteristic sound made by geta (wooden platform sandals), while we're shown a detailed close-up of waraji (straw sandals). Turns out he was wrong: the sound was something completely different.
  • Crushing Handshake: When Sugimoto and Ushiyama meet, they shake hands. The narration indicates that masters of judo can determine the other guy's strength from a handshake. Sugimoto comments that Ushiyama's strength scares him, while Ushiyama likes Sugimoto from the spot because Strength Equals Worthiness.
  • Cryptic Conversation: At one point Hijikata gauges Sugimoto by comparing him with other famous members of the Shinsengumi, but refers to them only by their first name so Sugimoto doesn't understand the references and thinks that Hijikata is being senile.
  • Cub Cues Protective Parent: Bears cubs are never far from their mamas.
  • Culture Clash: Sugimoto and Asirpa have difficulties with the finer points of each other's culture, particularly the culinary ones. One example is that the brains of squirrels are a delicacy to Ainu.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When head jailer Kadokura reports to warden Inudou that he's disposed of a 7th Division spy (in reality, private Usami killed his would-be attackers and Kadokura ran away), Inudou somewhat praises him but decides to highlight that he's always thought of Kadokura as an incompetent cowardly subordinate.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: A lot of the characters share this trope, half of them being war veterans.
  • Death of a Child:
    • Henmi Kazuo's little brother was eaten alive by a wild boar, making him grow into a psychopathic killer.
    • In a flashback story, Koichi Hasegawa's infant daughter, Olga, is killed outright by the same stray bullet that killed her Russian mother; those deaths mark the start of his deep disenchantment with the Japanese government.
  • Death from Above: Wolverines in Karafuto climb trees so they can jump down on prey and attack their spine.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Asirpa has nothing but fond memories of her late father. Subverted with the reveal that her father is still alive and is actually Noppera-bo, the main antagonist.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Culture Clash between Japanese and Ainu culture is a great part of the series, and it exposes some of their more eyebrow-raising customs, such as raising bear cubs only to sacrifice them later, or whale hunting.
  • Denser and Wackier: At the beginning, the characters were played quite seriously. However, Nihei's introduction became the landmark signalling the beginning of a more eccentric cast, with characters, especially the Abashiri convicts introduced thereafter, becoming more and more wacky in their mannerisms and mindsets, although the serious undertone of Ainu persecution and reflection about violence is kept intact.
  • Description Porn: Anything related to Ainu customs will be described with great care.
  • Determinator: Once the satsuma hayato Lieutenant Koito starts chasing you, he is very hard to stop.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The treasure map is tattooed on the skin of 24 men who went their separate ways.
  • Distressed Damsel: Asirpa is captured by Tanigaki and Nihei to use as leverage against Sugimoto and Shiraishi.
  • Dying Clue: Downplayed; a soldier in bad shape wants to write down Sugimoto's name, but only manages to write "Immortal" before fainting. This allows Tsurumi to recognize him, however.
  • Eat the Dog:
    • The Ainu eat squirrels, which Sugimoto thinks are cute.
    • Played for Laughs in a chapter where Sugimoto is separated from Asirpa and Shiraishi by thick fog; he befriends a sparrow with a broken wing, and at the very end of the chapter tearfully has him breaking its neck and eating it on a skewer...seconds before the fog clears and Asirpa finds him.
  • Elite Mook: Even the foot soldiers of the Hokkaido 7th Division are a force to be reckoned with.
  • Elite Army: The Hokkaido 7th Division, or Hokuchin Unit.
  • End of an Age: The series is set during the last years of the Meiji era. Moreover, the traditional Ainu culture is also disappearing.
  • Enemy Civil War: Not all soldiers from the 7th are allied with Tsurumi.
  • Enemy Mine: Sugimoto and his group has to ally themselves to either Hijikata's own group of convicts or Tsurumi's 7th Division on two occasions, the first in order to reach Noppera-bo before the 7th Division reach Abashiri Prison, the second time because Sugimoto wants to find Asirpa and needs the help of the 7th Division.
  • Equipment Upgrade: Asirpa using the dorsal muscles of an orca to make a better bowstring than a regular whale.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Tsurumi, oddly enough, is so charismatic that enamoured young men positively flock to him. Even the mangaka has called him the handsomest man in the series. This is intentional on his part; the backstories of each of the main 7th Division officers show how Tsurumi manipulated them to make them fiercely devoted to him.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: All the soldiers of Hokkaido have heard of Sugimoto "The Immortal", but most are unimpressed by his looks.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Ainu eat almost everything from their prey, including the raw brain.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Tsurumi has taxidermist Yasaku Edogai create fake tattooed skins in order to throw off his rivals.
  • Food Porn: The series takes the time to explain the various dishes the characters eat, especially the Ainu-style cuisine.
  • Full-Frontal Assault:
    • Sugimoto, Ogata, Tanigaki, Shiraishi, Cikapasi, and Kiroranke are ambushed by a group of blind robbers during a late night soak in a hot tub. They then have to battle buck naked, with Scenery Censor for the most part in place.
    • When Tanigaki rescues Inkarmat from a group of con men trying to pull a psychic scam, Cikapasi distracts one of them by dropping his pants.
  • Gambit Pileup: Having the 7th Division's, Hijikata's, and Sugimoto's plans overlapping is a lot to keep track of, even without the multiple double agents and characters with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
    • Tsurumi wants to establish a military nation in Hokkaido, with the eventual goal of taking over Japan and Manchuria.
    • Hijikata wants to reestablish the Republic of Ezo, a city-state for ethnic minorities as a buffer zone between Japan and Russia.
    • Sugimoto just wants to help Asirpa get the gold and pay for Ume's eye surgery, but he's fiercly protective of Asirpa and will cooperate with or take down either side to make sure she's safe.
  • Gag Censor: One Running Gag is a big patch with Shiraishi's face (or Shiraishi's actual face) being used to cover other characters' crotches - or a small patch to cover an anus.
  • Genuine Human Hide:
    • Noppera-bo tattooed the sections of map in such a way that people would need to skin its wearers to read it properly. The protagonists and their enemies actually carry around the skins of the dead convicts.
    • Yasaku Edogai takes it Up to Eleven when he creates dozens of sets of clothing out of human skin. Tsurumi tasks him with making fake tattooed skins to spread confusion among his enemies.
  • Genre-Busting: It is a Seinen historical series, with action, adventure, comedy, cooking, drama, mystery, and war. A common tagline on the title pages describes it as a "yaminabe Western," referring to a type of hot pot dish where all the ingredients are added by different people with the lights off, so nobody knows exactly what's going to pop up in the dish.
  • Gold Fever: Hokkaido has gold in its soil, so many people are prospecting on the island; also a big stack of gold worth hundreds of millions of (modern day) yen is sought after by many people.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Asirpa can summon the wolf Retar for help with a deer flute.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs:
    • Sugimoto is a trained judoka and can rely on his fist in a pinch, in fact he's at his most dangerous up close and can match, at least briefly, Ushiyama in a brawl.
    • By extension, all soldiers know hand-to-hand combat. In Chapter 144, we see Sugimoto, Tanigaki, Koito and Tsukishima beat a bunch of Russian wrestlers with their own hands.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Averted, as the characters having the best sex in this series are a pair of serial killers.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Many characters are left extensively scarred by the war, and the treasure hunt.
  • Gorn: This manga can hardly go three chapters without somebody getting maimed.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: There are 24 escaped Abashiri convicts at large throughout Hokkaido, all of whom have tattoos that when brought together, form a coded treasure map leading to a massive hoard of gold. Naturally, a major focus of the series is the characters' attempts to collect the tattoos, whether by making copies or by killing the convicts and skinning their bodies. However, most characters realise it's not strictly necessary to gather all 24 tattooed skins; if they have enough to crack the code, then they can just fill in the blanks themselves. In fact, thanks to one of the convicts covering himself with more tattoos to obscure his part of the map, collecting them all isn't even possible anymore.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Specific terms are often said in Ainu.
  • The Greatest History Never Told: The series features the Battle for Hill 203 very prominently in its opening. The protagonist, Sugimoto, is a legendary veteran of this war who single-handedly captured a Russian machine gun nest and fought like a demon through the trenches, earning him the reputation of being "Immortal Sugimoto." Other veterans of the war serve as major antagonists throughout the story, specifically 2nd Lt. Tsurumi and his troops from the 7th Infantry Division who have deserted the Imperial Japanese Army and are now out to found their own country.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Anti-Hero against Well-Intentioned Extremist in a chase for ill-acquired gold.
  • Green Aesop: One of the recurring themes is that nature is beautiful (albeit harsh) and that humans need to take care of their environment.
  • Grim Up North: Hokkaido is the northernmost main island of Japan and is indeed cold. Things get even grimmer the further north the story goes, all the way up to the far east of Russia at one of the story's darkest points where Asirpa almost kills Ogata.
  • Hammer and Sickle: Just to remind us that the group is close to Russian territory, Sugimoto pulls a hammer and sickle off the wall in a brain damage-fueled rage at the end of his stenka fight with Gansoku Maiharu.
  • A Handful for an Eye: During the fight between Hijikata and Inudou, the warden slashes the old samurai's arm. Hijikata buys time by taunting Inudou but he's actually secretly collecting his blood in his palm. When Inudou attacks, Hijikata blinds him with the blood and cuts him down.
  • Has a Type: Inkarmat mentions more than once that she likes men with facial scars.
  • Hell Hotel: Sapporo World Hotel. Where the pretty owner of this modest establishment will imprison you in their Torture Cellar and dismember you if you look tasty enough.
  • Heroes Gone Fishing: For whales, at that.
  • His Name Is...: Noppera-bo is shot in the head by Ogata before he can say anything about the gold to Sugimoto.
  • Hooks and Crooks: A kapacirap, more or less a hook on a stick, is used to capture eagles.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: From Nihei's introduction onward, characters begin to show more and more homosexual traits (Henmi has a Villainous Crush on Sugimoto, Ushiyama is bisexual when drunk, most of Tsurumi's subordinates adore him, etc). Finds its peak at the sea otter hot pot scene, when it effectively becomes text.
  • Horse Racing: The plot takes a detour to present the world of Japanese horse-racing and the gambling around it.
  • Hostage Situation: Tanigaki takes Asirpa as a hostage, and pulls out a Put Down Your Gun and Step Away.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The first few chapters didn't feature as much male fanservice, but after Nihei's introduction, the rate of homoerotic subtext went through the roof, and many of the young male characters are now heavily played for fanservice with Shirtless Scenes and whatnot.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sugimoto is several heads taller than Asirpa.
  • Human Notepad: The 24 Abashiri convicts are tattooed with a map leading to a huge stash of gold.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: When Tsurumi reveals to Sofia that it was Wilk, not her, who fired the shot that inadvertantly killed his wife and daughter, she asks if he's going to kill Asirpa as a form of revenge on her father. Tsurumi responds that if that was his goal, he'd had plenty of opportunities to do so already. However, killing her would jeopardise his plans to turn Japan into a military superpower, and he has no intention of throwing that away for the sake of his personal feelings.
  • Ill Girl: Downplayed. Umeko, Sugimoto's Love Interest, is going blind but otherwise isn't in danger. It's just that he wants her to see her child grow up.
  • Ineffectual Loner: One day of trying to find the treasure alone, and Sugimoto is captured by the 7th Division. He even lampshades it later.
  • Infant Immortality: Aversion (and a very rare case of the aversion of this trope not being the opposite trope of Death of a Child, as it is not Played for Drama) on its "cute animal" version, right in Chapter 1, when the big brown bear kills and eats the bear cub. Contrast with the straight usages of said opposite trope mentioned above.
  • Innocence Lost: Asirpa was always pretty mature but as the hunt for the Ainu gold continues, she grows more disillusioned by how the Japanese and the Russians oppress the local tribes. By Chapter 215, Asirpa is implied to seriously consider killing people to attain her goals as she thinks to herself that she's "ready to plunge into hell alongside Sugimoto".
  • In Vino Veritas: Sugimoto learns of the big pile of gold thanks to one of the convicts being drunk and spilling the beans, though he initially doesn't believe the story until the guy tries to kill him because He Knows Too Much.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Asirpa threatens Shiraishi with her poisoned arrows so that he helps her free Sugimoto.
    • Tsurumi cuts off Kouhei's remaining ear and threatens to play a game of fukuwarai with his face.
  • Kill Tally: Nihei Tetsuzo's gun has seven notches on the barrel. The gun used to belong to Nihei's son, a soldier in the First Sino-Japanese war, and the notches are likely a kill tally.
  • Knife Fight: The soldiers of the 7th Division all carry a bayonet for close-quarter combat. Whenever a soldier fights another soldier up close, they always will resort to their bayonets.
  • Language Barrier:
    • Downplayed. Sugimoto doesn't speak Ainu, but continuous exposure to the Gratuitous Foreign Language makes him able to understand a few words. Later in the manga, Sugimoto hears his name, "ohaw" for "soup", and "osoma" for "poop". Putting two and two together, he correctly deduces that once again Asirpa is telling someone that he is eating poop, or rather miso.
    • This happens more often as the gang goes into the Russian-populated Karafuto, especially after Vasily joins.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Asirpa fakes being unable to speak Japanese to Tanigaki. It doesn't work.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: In Chapter 81 Sugimoto's group and Hijikata's group are eating a meal together, drawn as a Last Supper Homage. There is a lot to unpack here. Is Asirpa the Messianic Archetype or something closer to the actual Messiah (except for Ainu)? The Judas Iscariot-Peter-John triad throws up some thoroughly spoilerific and somewhat uncomfortable suggestions. Oh, and four of the participants are taxidermied men who've had the skin flayed off their torsos and upper arms.
  • Love Is in the Air: The four men of Sugimoto's group (plus Ogata but he's unconscious) are trapped in the same fishing hut while some sea otter meat is boiling in a pot. Little do they know that otter meat is an aphrodisiac, and everyone perceives everyone else as being incredibly attractive and lewd. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: Asirpa tells Sugimoto the story of her father who would crawl directly into a bear's den because there's a saying that brown bears will never kill a human who enters. Sugimoto later uses that knowledge to dive into a bear's den when pursued by the 7th division.
    • A recurring segment involves Asirpa recalling a legend of some sort of monstrous creature, followed by that creature (or something resembling it) immediately appearing to attack the party.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Asirpa is pretty much like a girl introducing her big step-brother Sugimoto to her own culture. In return, Sugimoto acts like her guardian.
  • Locked in a Room: They are all stranded in a house surrounded by bears, and one of two strangers was sent to kill one of them.
  • Loop Hole Abuse: Asirpa sometimes reinterprets Ainu customs to her advantage, notably eating a man-killing orca.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Noppera-bo is purported to be Asirpa's father. The ambiguousness is kept until Asirpa can finally see him. Noppera-bo really is Wilk, Asirpa's father.
  • MacGyvering: The Abashiri convicts made tattoo ink out of charcoal they were tasked to make, mixed with spit. Russian prisoners are later seen writing letters in milk to each other.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Sugimoto has survived: tuberculosis, one of the bloodiest battles of the Russo-Japanese war, encounters with multiple angry bears, falling into rivers and lakes in freezing weather, a gas explosion underground, several fights with elite military personnel, and multiple gunshot and stab wounds, including in the abdomen, chest, neck and head. Specific mention being made of him recovering of wounds almost overnight.
    • Ushiyama also qualifies for this distinction, although he doesn't cheat death like Sugimoto and more shrugs off any damage. He's resisted stabbing attempts, even breaking the blade with his muscles, and tanks falling debris and explosion like no one else.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Sugimoto first and foremost, who receives a bullet in the throat and continues massacring Russians left and right. One soldier gets his face torn off by a bear and continues fighting. An officer gets several fingers bitten off and his only reaction is telling the perpetrator that he's crazy.
  • The Masquerade: Sugimoto and Asirpa alongside Ushiyama and Ogata visit an Ainu village. It turns out every man is a Japanese convict escapee disguised as an Ainu in order to escape from the police.
  • Maternity Crisis: Inkarmat's water breaks just as Koito and Tsukishima catch up with her and Tanigaki. Their fight is interrupted by Huci, who makes all three of them assist with the birth.
  • Meaningful Echo: At the very start of the series, Asirpa explains how a bear that kills humans is destined for Hell, and Sugimoto, reminded of all the lives he took during the war, thinks to himself "I guess they'll be rolling out the red carpet for me!" Much later into the series, as Sugimoto is fighting Warrant Officer Kikuta, he screams that he's sending him straight to Hell, to which the latter smiles and says "Go ahead. They'll be rolling out the red carpet for me." As we quickly learn, the two of them knew each other long ago, and Sugimoto most likely picked up the phrase from Kikuta.
  • Merchant City: Also a Port Town, Otaru is known as "The Wall Street of the North".
  • Military Coup: A splinter group of the 7th division led by First Lieutenant Tsurumi plans to take over Hokkaido. Heavily resenting the higher ranks and the government, not only the soldiers, but some officers of the army and the navy have been convinced by Tsurumi to participate in an upcoming revolt, and make Hokkaido their territory.
  • Missed Him by That Much: During the search for a "Jack the Ripper" copycat, Private Usami almost spots Kadokura in the streets. The only thing saving Kadokura is him spotting a coin on the ground and leaning forward to take it, which fortunately hides his face from Usami.
  • Mistaken for Badass: When Botaro the Pirate and his gang attempt to rob a postal riverboat, the postmaster pulls out a gun and starts firing wildly right as Vasily, hiding in a different boat, snipes some of Botaro's men. The postmaster assumes he's responsible and starts spouting a bunch of one-liners.
  • Mob War: Barato is torn apart by the war between two rival gangs.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, the Ainu believe that killing a human makes you evil, even if you are an animal. They refuse to eat man-killing animals.
  • More Dakka: The 7th Division are naturally well-armed but Tsurumi gathers more and more guns for his upcoming revolt. It results in the outrageous use of overwhelming firepower against the 7th's enemies. More the weapons used are a Hotchkiss machine gun against one man, and a full artillery bombardment coming from war ships against the walls of Abashiri Prison. Later, Tsurumi uses a Nambu Type 3 heavy machine gun on the prisoners at Abashiri when they try to overwhelm his troops. Predictably, Tsurumi wins.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Edogai's dining room holds several stuffed corpses with whom he has conversations. A testament to his skill in taxidermy, since the corpses do look alive.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: The wilderness of Hokkaido has killed more people in this series than any one character.
  • Neck Snap: Exaggerated Trope when a yakuza posing as an Ainu threatens Asirpa in front of Sugimoto. Sugimoto breaks his neck in two different directions, almost unscrewing his head off, before he can even blink.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: A judo fight between Sugimoto and a drunk Ushiyama is interrupted when Sugimoto falls into a trap as Ushiyama was flailing him against the ground.
  • Noble Wolf: Retar, the last Hokkaido wolf, is loyal to Asirpa for saving his life.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: All three of Gansoku Maiharu's stenka teammates resemble famous real life MMA fighters. Gansoku himself is a reference to the notorious British criminal and brawler Charles Bronson.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Besides the actual historical characters, Golden Kamuy has several named characters clearly based on (generally anachronistic) historical figures like Ed Gein, HH Holmes, and Ernest Thompson Seton.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: At the beginning of the series, a drunkard steals Sugimoto's rifle and prepares to shoot him with it. Sugimoto confidently pulls the barrel toward his chest and knocks out the guy because he sees that the safety is still on.
  • Odd Friendship: A veteran Japanese soldier and an Ainu kid. Overlaps with Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
  • Oh, Crap!: Heavily related to Bears Are Bad News.
  • Our Gods Are Different: Ainu practice animism, and believe that all animals are gods in their own right.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: Sugimoto adopts a bear cub after its mother is killed, but having no idea how to raise it, resigns to have an Ainu village take care of it, knowing they'll sacrifice it when it grows to adulthood.
  • Phenotype Stereotype:
    • Hijikata speculates early on that Asirpa has European ancestry upon seeing hints of green in her blue Irises. Later, it's revealed that her father, Wilk, is half-Polish.
    • Fina and Svetlana are Russians with light-colored hair.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Tsurumi cradles the dying Usami in a parody of this.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The gulo gulo, also known as the wolverine, is an animal no bigger than a wolf. But the locals call it even more ferocious than a bear because of its violent temperament.
  • Pixellation: Violent deaths? OK. Extreme gore? OK. Nipples, asses, naked flying spinning prostitutes? Ok. Poop? Always pixelate that shit!
  • Poisoned Weapons: Ainu use poisoned arrows to kill their prey faster, and have to quickly cut off the shot body part to conserve the meat.
  • Raised by Natives: Tsurumi entrusts the Japanese orphaned baby of Keiichiro Sakamoto and O-Gin to Asirpa's Ainu grandmother.
  • Rated M for Manly: Let's put it this way, a mere Mook faces down a brown bear with a bayonet.
  • Realistic Humans, Cartoony Animals: Inverted. Animals (especially bears) are drawn much more realistically and in more detail than humans.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers:
    • Right before the battle of Hill 203, we see Sugimoto eating a stray ant. A good indication of the living conditions of the soldiers at the time, and justification of why every dish he eats after the war is Food Porn for him (save the raw brains).
    • When the group is stranded in the high mountains, the only animals available to hunt are mountain pika. This isn't considered gross by the standards of the manga, but a few pika aren't enough to feed a then-group of four and multiple characters comment about how disappointing it is to eat mouse crackers (the trap used to catch them squashes them).
  • The Remnant: It has been some thirty years since the Tokugawa Shogunate was toppled. Still loyal to the shogunate, even if they have already disappeared, Hijikata pretty much wages a one-man war against the Meiji Government, and his first step is to get the gold.
  • The Reveal: In Chapter 30, it's revealed that Noppera-bo had deliberately and vastly understated the amount of gold hidden away; instead of "only" 75kg of gold, it's actually 75,000kg, an amount equivalent to a third of Japan's national budget, explaining why both the 7th Division and Hijikata's group are so eager to find it.
  • Running Gag:
    • Asirpa thinking that miso is "osoma."
    • Shiraishi getting bitten on the head by various animals, or his face being used as censor patch.
    • Whichever animal Asirpa is hunting that chapter getting a cover page where it's friends with her, often immediately before getting killed by her.
    • Ogata refusing to say "citatap".
    • Tanigaki repeatedly saying "boner".
    • Lewd photos of Tanigaki and/or his shirt popping open.
    • Showing the wrong photo to people (usually one of the aforementioned ones of Tanigaki).
    • Koito screaming like a monkey, in or out of combat.
    • Also, villains talking about what a nice guy Sugimoto is when he's kind to them.
  • Save the Villain: Sugimoto saves Henmi from drowning, unaware that he's a serial killer.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Many characters, more notably, Retar the Hokkaido wolf.
  • Scenery Censor: Besides the Running Gag with Shiraishi's actual face being used as censor patch (as mentioned in Gag Censor above), several rather phallic objects (like long guns, or thick, huge, erect mushrooms) eventually find their place right in front of naked male crotches.
  • Scenery Porn: The beautiful nature of the mountains is shown in gorgeous double pages whenever the occasion presents itself.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Ienaga planted one in the Sapporo World Hotel. It involves pulling a hidden chain which will spill alcohol in the Torture Cellar then light a fire, burning the building down. It escalates once Shiraishi accidentally drops a bag full of bombs into the fire.
  • Serial Escalation: How much crazier will an Abashiri convict get?
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story:
    • The circus arc. Sugimoto spends the entire arc trying to put on a circus act so spectacular it'll get into the newspapers and Asirpa will hear about it, but while he succeeds at making the news, Asirpa's already long gone and never sees it. And the newspaper misspelled his name as "Sugimoto the Immoral".
    • Shiraishi's backstory: The artist Kumagishi Chouan draws him a picture of a nun, mentioning that she was beautiful, but the drawing looks like a child's scribble with no nose and extremely tiny eyes and mouth. In order to find the real nun, Shiraishi breaks out of every prison in Japan and earns the title "Escape King." Finally, after being imprisoned in Abashiri, he gets a chance to meet the nun...who looks exactly like the drawing. Shiraishi concludes the story by saying that Chouan is a really good artist after all.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Asirpa's grandmother wants her granddaughter to marry Sugimoto.
    • Asirpa herself thinks that Tanigaki and Inkarmat should marry.
    • Botaro the Pirate encourages Asirpa's crush on Sugimoto.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: As the story escalates into its final part, Cikapasi and Ryu stay in Karafuto and Tanigaki and Inkarmat leave Hokkaido with their child.
  • Shout-Out: The title page for almost every chapter references a movie, advertisement, book, anime...the list goes on.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Each volume lists an impressive bibliography of research, not only into the time period but also Ainu culture (assisted by a university professor).
    • An example particularly noteworthy because of Reality Is Unrealistic reasons would be Sugimoto's aftermath for brain damage: instead of commonly depicted highly visible results (like, losing mobility or speech), he's shown without any apparent effect. However, one of the many possible results of brain damage in the area he was shot is mild dyslexia, and an exaggerated emotional answer. And next chapter, he's actually shown consistently taking out the wrong photo, getting all teary-eyed at having found Asirpa's track, and being much quicker to anger, even for his usual standards. Do the math.
  • Side Quest: A non-videogame example, Sugimoto and Asirpa spend as much time hunting various local animals for food as they spend looking for treasure. A longer arc involves them trying to kill three bears in order to reclaim a sealskin wedding garment that belonged to Asirpa's aunt.
  • Slapstick: Shiraishi becomes the target of quite a lot of this. At one point, quite literally being slapped by... uh... Kiroranke's stick. Twice.
  • Sniper Duel:
    • Tanigaki gets into one with Ogata. Tanigaki wins.
    • Another one happens later between Ogata and Vasily, a Russian border guard. Ogata wins this time.
  • So Much for Stealth: In Chapter 128, Sugimoto's group meet with a patrol the minute they enter the Abashiri prison grounds.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The two first Abashiri convicts seen are anonymous incompetent goons, but then we are introduced to the 7th Division and Hijikata Toshizo's group of convicts, who are more than a match for Sugimoto and Asirpa.
  • Spotting the Thread: During their confrontation on the Karafuto ice floes, Ogata lies to Asirpa that he witnessed Sugimoto dying and heard his last words. Asirpa figures out it's a lie because Ogata quotes Sugimoto as wanting to go home and eat anglerfish hot pot, when in reality Sugimoto mentioned to Asirpa he wanted to eat dried persimmons if he ever made it back home – anglerfish hot pot is Ogata's favorite food.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Sugimoto miraculously survives being shot in the head by Ogata.
  • Title Drop: First Lieutenant Tsurumi gives a bombastic one to Asirpa in Chapter 271:
    Tsurumi: For the Ainu, gold wasn't something they needed in their daily lives... It was useless to them. In fact, it was worse than useless. When the Ainu panned the rivers for gold, the rivers became polluted and the Ainu starved. You said that Kamuy reside in all things, correct? (...) So if gold were to have a Kamuy...!! Would it not be an evil god? One that brought misfortune to the Ainu people? Those who touch it meet a horrible death... It would be a Kamuy more hideous and brutal than any other... A Kamuy so beautiful as to be dazzling... One that shines with a golden light. What you could call... A Golden Kamuy, so to speak.
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Asirpa uses a bow and arrows, and almost never misses a shot.
  • Surprise Litter of Puppies: Retar's family, revealed at the end of the wolf hunt arc.
  • Tanuki: They are part of Hokkaido's fauna. Asirpa details the best technique to catch one.
  • Tattooed Crook: The 24 Abashiri convicts bear tattoos which create a greater treasure map once they are skinned and the skin assembled.
  • They Have the Scent!: Once Retar has someone's scent, he won't let them escape.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Shiraishi sticks out like a sore thumb among his group made up of war veterans, expert hunters and seasoned murderers. The one reason they bother with him is that everyone knows that to get the treasure, infiltrating Abashiri prison to directly interrogate Noppera-bo is better than fighting openly against the 7th Division, and thus Shiraishi's specialized set of skills will be essential.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill:
    • Asirpa, and by extension most Ainu, really do not want to kill other human beings. Since the rest of the cast is made of damaged war veterans and violent criminals, that particular restraint stands a lot.
    • Sugimoto looks up to Asirpa precisely because she isn't a killer, and among others seeks to preserve Asirpa's innocence and happiness. When he understands that Wilk has been secretly grooming Asirpa into becoming a soldier, he calls him out on it.
  • Treasure Map: The location of the criminal's gold was smuggled out as a coded map tattooed into the skin of 24 prisoners.
  • Unfortunate Names:
    • Invoked. Ainu children are given disgusting names to ward off ilness until they're six year old. Asirpa's first name is Ekasiotonpuy, meaning "Grandpa's butthole".
    • Cikapasi's name means "boner", but he's proud of it, Dirty Kid that he is.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The Japanese government put the blame for the seppuku of a chief of staff on his subordinates and refused to offer the 7th Division any reward for their sacrifice during the Russo-Japanese War.
  • Verbal Tic: Sugimoto learns that Ainu tell that something is delicious by saying "Hinna hinna" while eating, he does this regularly thereafter.
  • Villain Episode: Several continuous chapters are focused on Hijikata getting another tattooed skin in the town of Barato. The 7th Division also gets their own arc, where they try to hunt down a tattooed criminal named "The Lightning Bandit".
  • Villainous Friendship: Tsurumi develops one with Yasaku Edogai over their mutual interest in Genuine Human Hide.
  • War Is Hell: War has broken a lot of characters in the manga, beginning with Sugimoto. It doesn't help that most of the veterans actually fought in the Siege of Port Arthur, one of the most outrageously bloody and poorly executed battles in Japanese history (a "victory" that cost tens of thousands of casualties), and got little to nothing in return.
  • The Western: The series has many elements reminiscent of the genre, even though it's set in Hokkaido in the Meiji era. The cover of Chapter 59 is designed to look like a Western poster.
  • Whole Plot Reference: Several.
    • One lengthy arc is very similar to Yojimbo, with Hijikata's group arriving at a town plagued by two warring gangs.
    • After Sekiya Waichiro poisons Ushiyama and leaves him to die, Ushiyama emerges from his grave, delirious, and ends up befriending a bullied child in an homage to The Iron Giant. One of the opening pages of this subplot even uses the movie's font.
  • Wild Wilderness: The island of Hokkaido is full of forests where nature is unforgiving.
  • Winter Warfare: The series begins with a prologue set during the Russo-Japanese War depicting the final assault of the bloody Battle of Hill 203, which took place in early winter. The main plot itself is set on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido (and later Sakhalin), well known for its bitterly cold winters. As such, the freezing weather and hungry wildlife are as much of a danger to the main characters as are the violent criminals and deserting soldiers they encounter.
  • World of Badass: Pretty much everyone's a badass in their own right, be it the humans, animals they meet, or even plants.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Matsuda Heita mentions that a killing can be made off panning for platinum, which for decades gold prospectors had been throwing back into rivers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Although most are reluctant, a lot of the characters would kill a little girl like Asirpa if pushed. Ueji Keiji targets children exclusively.

Alternative Title(s): Golden Kamui

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