Golden Kamuy vs. Angolmois: Culture Clash

Golden Kamuy and Angolmois are two historical series which so far have aired back-to-back (and the former will bookend the latter once the fall season is over), so it would be quite the obvious compare and contrast topic…

There seemed to be something connecting Angolmois and Golden Kamuy together, aside from the fact they’re both about historical periods which haven’t had a lot of spotlight and they’re both about war. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I managed to track it back to the concept of “culture”.

…Maybe I should elaborate.

Golden Kamuy may be a treasure hunt at its core, but it’s also partially about how Sugimoto and the other characters interact with the Ainu, whether it be imposing on Asirpa’s village in order to recover or trying to fight infamously CGI bears. The Ainu aren’t just keys to finding the gold in this show – they also know the land really well and generally are renegades against the 7th Division (the one notable exception so far being Kiroranke), making them vital pieces in the game to claim both the gold and the more nebulous ideals that come with it, such as Lieutenant Tsurumi’s planned overtaking of Japan.

On the other hand, in at least two separate instances in Angolmois within the first 7 episodes, Jinzaburou is initially treated as nothing but a nuisance (to the point where he is thrown out of a meeting in one case!), but he wins the Tsushima people over with strategies and lessons he learnt when he wasn’t an exile. It’s not about coexistence and/or taking into account the Tsushima people’s ideas for battle, but rather superimposing one’s battle tactics…and sometimes by proxy, ideals…upon someone else. Sure, it’s one thing to be a leader, but it’s another to have the narrative be mostly about you when the narrative wasn’t meant to be about you in the first place – this was meant to be Teruhi and the Tsushima peoples’ war, regardless of whether that would have meant Tsushima would have fallen to the Mongols. It only became Jinzaburou’s war as well because he was exiled to the island.

Sidebar: I’d love to see a spinoff based on the Toibarai and the diving women defending Japan. That would be so good, wouldn’tcha think?

In fact, there is a term for this dissonant quality between the two shows – “cultural relativism”, the idea that what a person does shouldn’t be judged by anyone but that person. Basically, bystanders don’t have the right to tell a person what’s right and what’s wrong about their values and beliefs. A broader and more stereotypical way to look at cultural relativism is also embedded within the plot of Angolmois – the conquest of the Mongols is basically cultural relativism’s opposite. Colonialism is basically a declaration of “my culture is better than yours and so I’m having your land”, after all.

Even though Angolmois doesn’t have too many problems on the narrative front (aside from what has been described already) and it’s still generally entertaining, the show has lost the praise I had for it during its early days – its heavy focus on Jinzaburou almost single-handedly saving Tsushima, and Japan by extension, is getting to the point of being ludicrous now. Having Golden Kamuy around to compare it with is just rubbing salt in the wound.

After writing the Phantom in the Twilight post, something dawned on me – up until then, my weaker analyses were from trying to play at analysis of literature, something which I’m average at doing at best. However, some of the stronger analyses have cues from international studies and meta woven in to deepen them, so I’ve done the same here and will continue to do that wherever possible.

That aside, this post begs quite a few questions:

  • If you’re watching Angolmois, do you think there is enough justification for Jinzaburou to be the protagonist?
  • If you’ve seen/are watching Golden Kamuy, do you think it abides by the idea of cultural relativism, or does its strength lie elsewhere?
  • For those who fall into none of those categories, do you think this concept of “cultural relativism” should really matter in these shows? They are from time periods where cultural relativism was not really a concept, after all…




7 thoughts on “Golden Kamuy vs. Angolmois: Culture Clash

Add yours

  1. Ok, I’m up and have had my caffeine! Wouldn’t cultural relativism be the idea that you can’t judge a *culture* from the outside? To me, the definition you gave sounds like *personal* relativism, which is different.

    The fact that there are different kinds of relativism is relevant for your first question. I would argue for a form of “narrative relativism”, inasmuch as each story should be approached on its own terms. I don’t think the story should have to justify J as the protagonist, except within the logic of its own narrative (like explaining why and how he got there and ended up in his role).


    1. To be honest, I didn’t know there was any other type of relativism aside from cultural until you mentioned it.

      I did think I’d strayed off my path somewhere in the post as I was typing it up and thought I’d gotten it back into position with a thorough edit, but I guess I didn’t pay enough attention as to where the point was going…Same with the definition (I do recall changing it a bit to ensure I wasn’t misinforming anyone), so maybe I’m just understanding the overall topic wrong.


What do you think about this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Start a Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: