WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Golden Kamuy Season 3, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
Last season, Sugimoto was left behind as Asirpa was swept away by Ogata and Kiroranke, who betrayed the group in the middle of the chaos at Abashiri Prison. The first episode of Season 3 gives viewers a brief recap, recounting the shot that killed Asirpa's father Nopperabo and Sugimoto sailing out to reunite with Asirpa, before delving right into continuing the story. Things are serious -- Asirpa's in danger -- but as usual, Golden Kamuy manages to draw humor out of the direst of situations. Sugimoto's teams up with Tsurumi's soldiers leads to some surprising shenanigans.
Some Unlikely Teamwork
After recovering under the care of Lieutenant Tsurumi and Ienaga, Sugimoto and Tanigaki set out to chase after Asirpa. The recovering Inkarmat informs them that Kiroranke is most likely heading north, to meet up with his old friends and members of the guerrilla. Accompanying the two men are Tsukishima and Koito, both officers under Lieutenant Tsurumi’s command.
Koito and Sugimoto immediately run into some conflict -- the group has to retrieve Koito from an inn, where he wandered into and began sampling the local hurep (lingonberry) wine. After Sugimoto reprimands him, Koito immediately spills the staining red alcohol onto Sugimoto’s uniform, prompting a revenge splash and a brief fistfight. However, it’s unclear whether this is a personal grudge or just Koito venting frustration about being away from his beloved Tsurumi.
New Friends, New Dangers
At the inn, the four men receive information about an Ainu girl sighted with a fisherman. Believing this girl to be Asirpa, they set off for the forest, searching for her. Although the girl they find is not Asirpa, she did meet her, and is happy to relay the info. Before she can speak further, the party is interrupted by a vicious wolverine, which was brought over by the bear it was attacking. Koito is injured, and everyone flees together. Remarkably, the wolverine was not CGI like past Golden Kamuy animals -- and definitely looks better for it.
The Sakhalin Ainu girl, Enonoka, tells Sakamoto that Asirpa was safe, if low-spirited. However, in character, she cheered up with food: in this case, pickled hurep. However, Asirpa was no longer in the village, as Kiroranke mentioned going even further north. Sugimoto was heartened by the news, relieved to hear that she was at least unharmed.
Tsukishima is the MVP
Although Tsukishima has proven his loyalty in diligence in previous arcs, he's really the responsible and level-headed member of the group in this episode. He reigns in the rowdy antics of the rest of the search party, keeping everyone on task despite the tensions between Koito and Sugimoto.
What’s also useful is his language ability. Since they’ve gone much further north than ever before, they’ve also encountered many Russians -- Tsukishima interprets for the soldiers without batting an eye. Perhaps this fluency comes with practice: he’s often forced to speak for Koito when he can’t restrain his high-speed Satsuma dialect.
The Stenka Fistfight
The soldiers head to a settlement populated by Russian ex-cons, and Tsukishima diligently warns them to be careful. Despite his best intentions, a huge muscle-bound drunkard threatens the group. Fed up with the angry stares and the drunkard, Sugimoto completely knocks him out and leaves the bar.
In retaliation, the Russians steal the prized Ainu sled dog, pressuring Sugimoto into doing a fighting match for them. It wasn’t a bad deal: they’d return the dog, and Sugimoto may get to fight a tattooed prisoner. Hilarity ensues when the Russians insult the Japanese soldiers’ fighting ability, resulting in a musclebound throwdown. The episode ends with a teaser of who appears to be the newest tattooed prisoner watching the match.
New episodes of Golden Kamuy premiere Mondays at 8:00 AM PST on Crunchyroll.