Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto is a veteran of the Russo-Japanese war, scrapping out a meager existence. It is the early 20th century, and there is also a postwar gold rush on the wild frontier of Japan's Hokkaido region. Sugimoto stumbles upon the first “piece” of a map leading to a fortune in hidden gold belonging to the Ainu (an indigenous people of Japan and Russia). Ruthless criminals and rogue Japanese soldiers are also hunting for the gold in the harsh northern wilderness. It will take all Sugimoto's talents and the help of an immensely-skilled Ainu girl named Asirpa to survive, let alone find the gold.
As Golden Kamuy, Vol. 12 (Chapters 111 to 120) opens, Sugimoto and Asirpa must find the deranged animal lover, Dr. Shiton Anehata, in order to save their ally and soldier, Genjiro Tanigaki, from the wrath of a tribe of Ainu. They are not having any luck, but Hyakunosuke Ogata and Ryu the dog join them. Will that be enough to capture Anehata and stop a giant brown bear?
Later, Sugimoto, Asirpa, Tanigaki, and Ogata reunite with Yoshitake Shiraishi (the “Escape King”), Kiroranke (the sapper), Inkarmat (the lady fortune teller), and Cikapasi (the boy who tags along). This octet leaves on a journey to Abashiri Prison where they plan to meet Noppera-Bo, the mysterious man who might be Asirpa father and who allegedly knows the secrets of the Ainu gold. But first, they must get past the “Blind Bandits” of Lake Kussharo.
[This volume includes bonus art.]
THE LOWDOWN: The Golden Kamuy manga has a large cast of characters. Besides the leads, Sugimoto and Asirpa, creator Satoru Noda has populated this series with wonderful supporting characters and also with guest characters that defy the imagination, especially in terms of deviance and in criminal intent.
Golden Kamuy Graphic Novel Volume 12 focuses on Sugimoto and Asirpa's compatriots in the goal to find the Ainu Gold. Noda uses the chapters contained in Vol. 12 to create situations that reveal more of the conflicts, connections, motivations behind this wonderful group of six adults and two minors that are part of the larger “Toshizo Hijikata group.” John Werry's translation catches the flavor of the characters, especially of guest star, Shiton Anehata.
Golden Kamuy also features some of the best depictions of nature and of the wilderness that I have ever encountered in comics. Noda's gorgeous art finds beauty in everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly of the natural world, and Steve Dutro's lettering is the perfect storytelling accompaniment.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of Westerns and of Japanese historical dramas will want to try the VIZ Signature title, Golden Kamuy.