‘Golden Kamuy’ 2024 Ending Explained & Spoilers: Why Did Sugimoto Want The Ainu Gold?

It’s quite telling when mediums like comics and manga, which are often neglected by highbrow literary types, can convey the plight of marginalized people with much sensibility and to a wider audience as compared to other mainstream, esteemed mediums. Mangaka Satoru Noda’s masterpiece, Golden Kamuy, a story that revolves majorly around the lives and culture of the Ainu people, the extremely persecuted indigenous tribespeople of Northern Japan, is among such brilliant examples. Simultaneously, the narrative presents a strong theme regarding the futility of war, its disastrous effects on the soldiers who are commoditized by the state, and the narrative treatment, which is a whacky yet brilliant mix of absurd humor and brutal, graphic violence. But the most memorable aspect, which truly makes Golden Kamuy a ground-breaking piece of literature, is the varied and unexpected ways it appeals to the humanity of the readers through its characters. 


A live-action movie adaptation of the acclaimed manga hit theaters this year and captured the attention of fans worldwide by showing remarkable faithfulness to the source material. Here’s wishing that the success of the first installment leads to a steady continuation of the movie series, as there is a world of tales to explore with Golden Kamuy.

Spoilers Ahead


Who is Immortal Sugimoto? 

The movie begins with an Ainu proverb, which roughly translates to everything that comes from heaven has a purpose of existence. The focus shifts to a war zone during the year 1905, as viewers get a glimpse of the bloody, gruesome conflict during the Russo-Japanese war. Starved and exhausted Japanese forces rush to capture a Russian naval base, Port Arthur, on Hill 203, and both sides sustain heavy losses. Saechi Sugimoto, a fearless, reckless Japanese soldier, part of the first unit of infantry, leaves a pile of bodies as he runs a gauntlet through opposition soldiers—and shockingly, despite receiving multiple fatal injuries, he shows no signs of slowing down. Saechi emphatically declares himself as ‘Immortal Sugimoto’—a name that has attained legendary status among his comrades—and sends shivers down the enemy’s spine. A gritty, brutal introduction of the character on the battlefield sets the tone for the rest of the movie as well. 

Where is the Ainu Gold hidden?

Two years later, Sugimoto is seen in the snowclad wilderness of the northernmost part of Hokkaido, as he is panning for gold to get rich quick – for a reason undisclosed till the very end of the movie. War has changed him, as now Sugimoto has turned into a jaded, guilt-ridden individual whose bravery on the battlefront has been neglected by the state, which doesn’t bother providing monetary aid to the soldiers who fought for them in the war. Sugimoto is especially affected by the death of his friend and comrade, Toraji, during the Hill 203 battle, who sacrificed his life to save Sugimoto without knowing the miraculous survivability of his friend. Immortality is a curse when it comes with a price so high. 


Takechiyo Goto, an old drunk associate of Sugimoto, observes his obsession with finding gold and shares the story of the Ainu gold treasure with him. As the tale goes, during the time of the Hokkaido gold rush, a group of Ainu people decided to accumulate and sell their ancestral gold to create an army—in order to stand up to the oppressive Japanese people who had displaced them from their home and relentlessly persecuted the Ainu people. However, a killer slayed all the group members and hid the stolen gold worth eight billion yen somewhere in Hokkaido. The killer was put into the dreaded Abashiri prison, and despite the Japanese police trying to force the information about the Ainu gold out of him, the killer, Noppera Bo, aka the faceless man, didn’t reveal anything. 

Eventually, the killer organized a plan for recovering his treasure by sending messages to his associates outside. In exchange for a cut of the gold, the killer convinced his fellow inmates to assist him and painted cryptic tattoos over their bodies, which conveyed the location of the treasure when viewed in combination. The authorities tried to learn about the location by transferring all twenty-four prisoners with the intention of tailing them to the location of the Ainu gold, but the dreaded convicts managed to slay all the prison guards and escape. To date, no one has obtained the much-coveted Ainu gold, and with the convicts scattered, the location of the hidden treasure remains a mystery. 


Sugimoto gets fascinated after learning about the Ainu gold but doesn’t ponder much about it, considering it to be another tall tale of the old man. However, his misconception gets rectified as Goto prepares to kill Sugimoto, mentioning that he shouldn’t have said too much, which confirms that he was indeed stating the truth. Sugimoto quickly disarms Goto, and as he confronts him using his rifle, the old drunk starts fleeing through the snowclad wilderness. 

Why Did Asirpa Join Sugimoto’s Quest?

As Sugimoto chases Goto, he finds him mauled to death by a bear. Seeing the cryptic tattoo drawn on Goto’s body, Sugimoto realizes that he too was one of the escaped convicts. The bear returns and attacks Sugimoto, and he gets saved by an Ainu hunter girl, Asirpa, who kills the bear using a poisoned arrow. However, as an expert hunter, Asirpa deduces that the bear which attacked Sugimoto isn’t the same that killed Goto and warns him to leave the body if he wishes to survive, as the bear is likely to return for his prey. Impressed by her hunting skills, Sugimoto asks for Asirpa’s help to kill the bear, as he can’t let go of Goto’s body due to the location of the Ainu Gold painted being on it. 


Asirpa corroborates Goto’s account of the story about Ainu Gold, as her Aca (father) was one of the victims of Noppera Bo, the infamous killer. Asirpa also notices markings around Goto’s body, which suggests that the convicts were meant to be skinned by Noppera Bo’s associates, contrary to their initial assumption they’d get cut of the Ainu gold. Eventually, the bear attacks the duo and almost mauls them when Asirpa’s friend, the white wolf, Retar, comes to her aid and distracts the bear. Finally, with Sugimoto accidentally pulling off a daring maneuver, the killer bear gets slain. Asirpa is relieved to see Sugimoto survive, and the duo gradually forms a bond as Asirpa shares her cultural beliefs with her new friend. She mentions that the souls of the beings who kill humans turn into Wen Kamuy, aka evil spirits, who get condemned to Teine-Pokna-Mosir, aka hell. For a brief moment, Sugimoto remembers the blood he had spilled in the war and smirks at the thought of getting banished into hell. 

Observing how resourceful and skilled Asirpa is, Sugimoto shares a proposition with her about joining him. He remarks that her father’s killer is still kept alive in the Abashiri prison and will be executed the moment the Ainu gold is found, thereby allowing Asirpa the chance to get justice for her father. Realizing that helping Sugimoto get the gold will be beneficial for her as well, Asirpa joins his side, and skinning the map off of Goto’s body, the duo begins their journey. However, Asirpa agrees to help Sugimoto on the condition that he not kill people any more.


Who else is in pursuit of the Ainu Gold?

Sugimoto assumes that the rest of the convicts must have stayed in Hokkaido in search of gold, and to stay off the radar of their pursuers, they must have mingled amidst the city crowd. Sugimoto and Asirpa travel to the city of Otaru and manage to bait three convicts by asking practically everyone they meet about the tattooed man. With Asirpa’s help in trapping, Sugimoto captures all three of them by bringing them out in the wilderness, and with skinning them out of option (as he had promised Asirpa about not killing people), Asirpa sketches the tattoos of their bodies with precision. 

However, a lone sniper of the seventh unit of the infantry battalion (arguably the most fearsome unit), Hyakunosuke Ogata, attacks them, killing two of the convicts using his deadly aim, sending Asirpa and Sugimoto in a rush to save the surviving convict, Yoshitake Shiraishi. Sugimoto engages Ogata in a battle, and his legendary status is recognized by Ogata at once. As Ogata gets cornered and tries to flee, he trips from a high spot and falls unconscious, prompting Asirpa and Sugimoto to consider him dead. After a funny chase sequence involving Sugimoto and the idiotic Shiraishi, Asirpa manages to draw the latter’s tattoo.


Sugimoto asks Shiraishi the reason why the escaped convicts of Abashiri parted ways when they could have worked together instead. Shiraishi informs them about the violent slaughter that ensued right after the killing of the prison guards, which is the reason for this. During their conversation, Shiraishi states that each of the twenty-four escapees of Abashiri are crazier than the last. He especially mentions the extremely fearsome convict who ordered the jailbreak and slaughtered the majority of the guards during the transfer: Toshijo Hijikata, the elderly Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi, the legendary faction who aimed to protect the last shogunate. What vested interest a person like him might have in Ainu gold remains unknown, but Shiraishi mentions that Noppera Bo had urged all of the convicts to venture to Otaru. As the scene shifts to Otaru, it is revealed that Toshijo is gathering strength by recruiting other convicts. With the military and police already in search of the gold, Toshijo aims to work with the convicts in unison to gain the Ainu gold and split it among themselves. Tatsuya Ushiyama, a strong, hot-headed brawler, turns out to be the newest recruit on Toshijo’s team. On the other hand, Shiraishi parted ways with Asirpa and Sugimoto and returned to Otaru. 

An injured, nearly frozen Ogata is rescued by the seventh unit Chief Lieutenant, Tokushiro Tsurumi, and his unit. It turns out that not only convicts, but the ex-military unit is in pursuit of the Ainu gold as well. However, instead of informing his superior, Tsurumi, Ogata acted on his own to gain the gold. Ogata informs Tsurumi about the presence of Immortal Sugimoto in the vicinity, exciting him about the possibility of an encounter, and the lieutenant sends a few of his men to search for him.


Why did Tsurumi want to gain the Ainu gold?

Tsurumi’s men nearly capture Sugimoto and Asirpa, but thanks to the intervention of a bear, the pursuers get brutally mauled to death. The bears are partly a recurrent motif, as the Ainu belief system considers them revered spirits. Sugimoto rescues the orphaned cub of the bear, and Asirpa takes him to the Kotan, aka the Ainu village, where Sugimoto gets a warm welcome from her family. Sugimoto gets acquainted with Ainu culture and learns about the hardships the neglected, ostracized indigenous people face for survival. Asirpa’s grandmother and uncle take a liking to Sugimoto, and they mention that after her aunt’s death, Asirpa has never been this happy for the longest time. They trust Sugimoto to take care of Asirpa, putting him in a conflicted state. 

Feeling his dark past might catch up to him and Asirpa might get hurt because of it, Sugimoto decides to leave Asirpa and ventures to Otaru. In the city, a skirmish ensues between Toshijo and Tsurumi’s forces, and Sugimoto gets caught by the seventh unit lieutenant as Toshijo flees after retrieving his katana. As Tsurumi takes him into captivity, he reveals what he intends to do with the Ainu gold, which, in some aspects, is noble, to say the least, barring his cruel, sadistic methods of obtaining it. Tsurumi reveals he wishes to fund the entire seventh unit with Ainu gold and take over Hokkaido to start opium trade. Using the high profits gained from the trade, he is willing to aid the families who have lost their close ones in war and then take over the entire nation, as Tsurumi is too disenchanted by the callousness of the state in taking care of its soldiers. As a fellow victim of the state’s machinations, Tsurumi asks Sugimoto to join his side, and as he refuses, the lieutenant sets his two sadistic underlings, Yohei and Kohei Nikaido, to torture him. 


What is Sugimoto’s motivation to obtain the Ainu Gold?

On the other hand, Asirpa comes to know about Sugimoto’s abandonment, and using her white wolf Retar’s help, she tries to track Sugimoto down. However, an unintended switch-up leads the duo to Shiraishi, who had witnessed Sugimoto being detained by Tsurumi, and as Asirpa coerces him to cooperate, the former convict begrudgingly agrees to help.

With Shiraishi’s help, Sugimoto frees himself and manages to kill Yohei, and as Tsurumi makes the mistake of transferring him elsewhere, Sugimoto engages with his lackeys in a horse-drawn sleigh. Asirpa intervenes at the right time as Kohei and more of Tsurumi’s troops join the chase, and at the end, Sugimoto and Kohei manage to escape to the wilderness. Shiraishi burns down the seventh unit settlement after failing to find the collected tattoos, and to his horror, it is revealed that Tsurumi was protecting them by wearing the skins of the captured convicts. 


Later, after reaching safety, Asirpa lashes out at Sugimoto for his lack of trust in her, which is the reason he had abandoned her in the first place. As a gesture of trust, Sugimoto reveals the true reason behind his obsession with Ainu gold. While growing up in the countryside, Sugimoto shared a special bond with his two friends, Osoma and Toraji. It is hinted that Sugimoto and Osoma had fallen for each other. After Sugimoto’s family perished from tuberculosis, he was shunned by the villagers, which led him to leave the village and return a year later. By then, Osoma was married to Toraji. Later, during the battle of Hill 203, Sugimoto and Toraji fought side by side against the Russian forces, and as Toraji sacrificed his life to save his dear friend (not knowing about his supernatural survival ability), Toraji requested that he take care of Osoma, who by this time had become blind. Sugimoto states that he knows that he is forever damned for all the lives he has taken on the battlefield, but he still wants to make a difference by staying true to the words he gave his late friend. With a portion of the gold, he will be able to afford treatment for Osoma and possibly be able to help her see the world once again. 

Moved by Sugimoto’s account, Asirpa repeats the Ainu proverb about purpose, assuring him that as a survivor, he has a purpose in his life, which is to honor the memories of Toraji. Asirpa needs to know the reason behind the Ainu massacre, which claimed the life of her father as well, and the movie ends with the duo reforming their bond once again. 


What Does Toshijo Plan to Do With Ainu Gold?

In the mid-credits scene, a conversation between Ushiyama and Toshijo reveals that the original valuation of the hidden Ainu gold is actually a hundred times more than initially assumed, which the former shogunate military officer plans to use to reform the country by creating a new republic in Hokkaido. Noppera Bo, the killer, is seemingly in cahoots with Toshijo in the implementation of this plan as well, which adds a new dimension amidst all the differing motives we have come across so far. 

In a post-credits sequence, Shiraishi is revealed to have joined Sugimoto and Asirpa, as he too wants to plunge his hands into the ongoing gold rush as well. However, the trio has to face impossible odds and new challenges from now on, as with the ending sequence, a number of new characters appear in a montage, raising the possibility of a sequel and their future roles in the overarching narrative. 


In the end credits scene of Golden Kamuy, Sugimoto and Asirpa are shown venturing out in the snowy wilderness as they continue their journey to find the Ainu gold in order to fulfill their respective purposes. The narrative focus shifts to Abashiri prison. In his darkened cell, the infamous Noppera Bo, the faceless man, mutters Asirpa’s name with great difficulty as the movie comes to an end. While viewers might feel bewildered while wondering about the possible connection these two characters share, the manga readers know that the fearsome Ainu killer is none other than Asirpa’s Aca, aka her father. The possible reason for him to betray his tribe and massacre his own people remains unknown. But one thing we know for certain is that in the upcoming sequel to the movie, this revelation will change the relationship dynamics between Asirpa and her Aca, whom she idolized as an honorable person. The disfigured, hideous face of Noppera Bo, which is totally antithetical to his appearance as shown in Asirpa’s memories of him, bears the mark of cruelty. Whether such treatment was justified or not can only be known through further investigation. 

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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