This short manga series could easily be overlooked by the readers who would appreciate it. The covers are unassuming. The round, cute, art style is misleading. And the synopsis' barely hint that this story is going to dive deeper than your typical high school life drama.
I think the only way a reader could expect this to be a darker, more complex, story would be to already be familiar with the work of this mangaka. In the Golden Sheep our four main characters are teens stuck in a small town. They're old enough to want to take charge of their lives, but still in high school, dealing with the issues they've been dealt.
Though Tsugu and her guitar are on the cover, this wont be a story about music.
Instead, it's a story about the rifts that formed between a childhood friend group as they grew up and life got hard.
I highly recommend getting all 3 volumes and reading the whole series at once. It's best consumed as a complete story.
The opening pages of volume 1 quickly alert the reader that this story will deal with some dark topics. The first thing we see is a scene of attempted suicide.
Then we go back in time to see what led us to this point. We're in the POV of Tsugu as she comes back to her hometown from the city. We slowly realize her childhood friends are no longer the people from her memories.
A lot has changed.
Through Tsugu we get an incomplete picture of whats going on. Then we start to jump between characters to see what happens when she's not there. With the addition of some backstory, we can finally piece the whole puzzle together.
The truth is pretty heartbreaking. These characters are flawed, struggling with their feelings of hurt and regret.
You get the sense that each does mourn the friendship that was lost, but none of them knows what to do about it.
All the teen angst and poor decision making is there. Things go from bad to worst.
At the end of volume 1 I was not hopeful we'd get a happy ending to this series.
Volume 2 takes us to a new setting and divides up our main characters. I enjoyed this because after volume 1 I desperately wanted Sora and Tsugu to get away from Yuushin and Asari.
The characters still feel lost, but we're seeing evidence of their desire to change.
I feel like we saw satisfying repercussions for Yuushin in this volume. Which is necessary for his potential growth. How is he supposed to move forward with all that bitterness he holds onto?
My favorite scene of the whole series is in this volume: When we're shown how tall Sora is. It was a really clever and impactful way to show to the reader that the status quo has changed.
While hoping for a happy ending in volume 1 felt futile, by the end of volume 2 I could see the potential for that to change.
This third volume proves how well Kaori Ozaki did with the character arcs throughout the series. The changes we see are believable and you find yourself rooting for this group of friends after all.
Volume 3 opens with an update on Asari. It also fills in some missing backstory for her character.
I enjoyed watching Sora and Yuushin begrudgingly repair their friendship.
Tsugu was the catalyst for this change, but at this point it feels like she became a background character in the overall drama. While I expected this entire story to center on Tsugu this shift felt right.
I like its message about the importance of speaking up for yourself.
In the end these characters didn't necessarily choose the destructive paths they got stuck in, but they couldn't get out of them on their own either.
This story is well worth your time.
Definitely read all three volumes of The Golden Sheep at once.
While its a very different plot than The Gods Lie, another of Kaori Ozaki's manga, I'm certain you'll enjoy this story if you enjoyed that one.
There are some similar themes. Most notably that The Golden Sheep and The Gods Lie both deal with strained parent / child relationships. The short story at the end of volume 3 of The Golden Sheep is a particularly sad one on this topic.
This was a NetGalley Review!
I was able to read and review volumes 2 & 3 of this manga thanks to Kodansha Comics on NetGalley! Thanks!
Have you read The Golden Sheep? What'd you think of Yuushin?
Thanks for Reading!
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