Story & Art by Kaori Ozaki
Translated by Daniel Komen
Production by Risa Cho & Lorina Mapa
The Golden Sheep’s powerful coming-of-age story continues with its second volume. The remaining bond between Tsugu’s childhood group has shattered, as Tsugu and Sora run away from their hometown. Now, they must each carve a new path for themselves and overcome the tribulations of adolescence.
While the first volume of The Golden Sheep focused on the transience of innocence, this installment has the cast look towards the future. Tsugu and Sora have started their new life in Tokyo, making a living by selling croquetes. In contrast to the struggles these two faced in their hometown, they’ve been able to live happily away from their former friends and family. Tsugu’s character appears to remain static throughout this experience, but it has a tremendous effect on Sora in particular. Sora was previously self-deprecating and shy, but through his new life, he has learned to gain confidence in himself and his own feelings. Even more so, he has learned to enjoy and value his own life, providing himself with a newfound optimism. When this eventually culminates in him having to face his former trauma, he is able to proudly oppose it head on. Sora has overcome his past hardships and is now looking towards a better tomorrow.
As Tsugu and Sora experience their new lives, Asari must face her own personal battle: her desire for love. Asari sacrificed her entire friendship with Tsugu in hopes of obtaining Yuushin’s love, but after her disappearance, she begins to question if she really made the correct choice. This conflict boils over when Asari finally thinks that she’s close to achieving her wish, but confronts the harsh truth. The person that she wanted Yuushin to be is purely idealized, and the romance she desires is that of mere fiction. The romantic world that Asari hoped for will never become a reality, and that realization leaves her aimless. In her distraught state, Asari is shunned by her peers, much like how she cut ties with her childhood friend. Asari’s story ends on a depressing note, but it feels like necessary struggle for her character. Now at her lowest point, Asari must find a new direction in life and seek the future that will make her genuinely happy.
The most fascinating aspect of the volume is easily Yuushin’s story. Yuushin served as the antagonist of the first volume, but with Sora and Tsugu’s absence, he has begun to reflect on his life and his despicable actions. He starts isolating himself from his classmates, and takes up boxing again to pursue the sport professionally. Yuushin sees no way to redeem his current self and wishes to start a new life that he can be proud of. Despite Yuushin’s previous behavior, the turmoil that he faces is easy to sympathize with, and it provides layers to his character that weren’t evident before.
In the volume’s final chapter, the series proposes an opposing perspective to Yuushin’s ideology. As Yuushin loses all hope in becoming a boxer, he comes across a stray cat stuck in a gutter. Just as he did as a child, Yuushin promptly tries to save the cat with all his effort. Yuushin had spent so much time erasing his past that he had forgotten the parts of it that he once cherished. Yuushin does not need to throw away who he once was to become a better person, but embrace his past into the future. While our lives may change over time, our history remains the same and we have to power to keep that alive.
Beyond its fantastic narrative, The Golden Sheep is visually beautiful. Kaori Ozaki’s artwork has a simple yet refined look that immediately draws in the reader. This is further supported by how Ozaki depicts her characters. There is meticulous detail placed into nearly every expression and gesture made by the main cast, masterfully conveying the story’s emotional subtext. The characters of The Golden Sheep feel like genuine human beings, and that makes their personal journeys and struggles even more compelling.
Only one volume remains of The Golden Sheep and the story is fittingly heading towards its conclusion. Tsugu and her friends have overcome many hurdles in order to find happiness, and only time will tell what their outcome will be. Still, the series continues to be an emotional story that is a must-read for manga readers.