I actually never heard of, or seen this series before reading it. It’s just one from the (always) giant pile of random books I recently picked without reading the synopsis from the library. And I have to say I’m glad I decided to pick up so many unheard of books this time around, because I’ve found a few gems I know I’d never have picked up to read if I’d know what it was about before hand.
Synopsis: A recent war veteran dubbed Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto finds himself dishonourably discharged, and desperately searching the wild mountains of Hokkaido for gold in postwar gold rush 1904. Of course he finds nothing, except an old man with an interesting story: a ruthless man murdered a group of Ainu (Japanese First Nations), stole their giant pile of gold, and was caught and imprisoned. Once the secret of the large gold mine got out, with all the people-government and otherwise- wanting a piece, escape became impossible. So what did this man do? In the hopes of getting a message to his allies, he tattooed cryptic instructions of where he left the gold on all his prison mates with the promise to share with them. They stage a prison break, and succeed.
Now of course Sugimoto doesn’t believe a word, until a bear attack and dead body later, when he gets to see the unique tattoos himself. While protecting this body from said bear, help comes from an unexpected ally, an Ainu girl who’s father was a victim of the murdering thief. The two form an unlikely bond while surviving the bear attack and begin working together to hunt down the prisoners. One for the gold, the other for revenge.
Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns
This was a very different story from what I’m used to reading, so I was surprised to find myself liking it so much. Despite the historical setting and mystery (two things I enjoy, just not together), the story line and where it’s heading were more than enough to make me change my mind. Things get a bit graphic here and there once they start hunting down prisoners, but things never felt needlessly gruesome. I gave it such a high rating for it’s uniqueness. The story may be similar to others, but incorporates a fair amount of original ideas- like the multitude of referenced info about Ainu people I loved learning.
I can’t say much about the setting since I know next to nothing about 1904 Japan, but I enjoyed the learning experience, especially when they took to the wilds. Noda gives tons of descriptions which made things feel more realistic. As for the characters, with the exception of one, I have no complaints. Sugimoto is a wonderfully complex ex-soldier who is decidedly unapologetic about taking lives if he’s threatened. Yet he’s also an intelligent, compassionate, and very capable fighter who shows hints of the recklessness and emotional instability born of surviving the horrors of war.
Even one of the inmates and the hints of future antagonists, each having their own unique personalities, were fascinating to read/watch. Which all made the lack that is Asirpa, the young Ainu girl who becomes Sugimoto’s partner, pretty confusing. Though she’s clearly very intelligent and can hold her own in a fight, I found her fading to the background among Sugimoto and minor characters. I was pretty disappointed with her, but to be fair this is only the first volume. We get quite a bit of Sugimoto’s background, and learn about his motives and personality, so it’s my guess Asirpa, as the secondary main character, will be fleshed out as a character in a later volume.
Regardless this was a great read and I’m really looking forward to checking out the next volume. I actually have no idea who to recommend this to, seeing as how I would have never in my life picked this up. So I guess if anything I’ve said about this series in my review interests you, please give it a try! Thanks for reading =)