In the early twentieth century, Russo-Japanese War veteran Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto scratches out a meager existence during the postwar gold rush on the wild frontier of Hokkaido. When he stumbles across a map to a fortune in hidden Ainu gold, he sets off on a treacherous quest to find it. But Sugimoto is not the only interested party, and everyone who knows about the gold will kill to possess it! Faced with the harsh conditions of the northern wilderness, ruthless criminals and rogue Japanese soldiers, Sugimoto will need all his skills and luck—and the help of an Ainu girl named Asirpa—to survive.
Satoru Noda‘s Golden Kamuy Vol. 1 is a fantastic debut manga volume that fills in the backstory, provides depth to characters, and delivers a solid crime story. The concept of the story is simple, a soldier attempts to find a map to a treasure that involves convicts, crooked soldiers, and a young girl to help him along. And, all of that is set upon the backdrop of the Russo-Japanese war fallout. It’s a series that crosses a whole lot of genres and pulls them off quite well.
While the story has “heist” elements to it, this first volume mainly takes place in a forest giving it a survival aspect to it all. It defies expectations in many ways and it kept me on my toes by doing so.
What’s even more interesting is its two main characters, Sugimoto and Ainu, have a lot of depth coming out of the first volume. You get a great sense of who they are, what motivates them, and their general personality. You get a backstory to them as well. That’s a hell of a lot packed into one volume and by the end you get a sense you really get these two and their dynamic.
The art by Noda is fantastic as well. There’s so much detail to everything and the juxtaposition of the nature in which a lot of the first volume takes place and the fact material wealth is the driver is fascinating. There’s an ominous feeling throughout that industrialization is right around the corner and that the encroaching technology will destroy what we’re viewing. War comes home and brings advancement and destruction.
A fantastic first volume that’s a familiar genre matched with an era you don’t see too often. An absolute must get and a great read for manga fans and those new to it.
Story: Satoru Noda Art: Satoru Noda
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
VIZ Media provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review