Volume 1 Synopsis
Winter of junior year. Not quite able to become adults, we couldn’t stay as we were as children, either. Our tale explores a group of teenagers and their impatience and rebirth. “They say if you write down your wish, bury it under Sheep Tower and then dig it up after 7 years and 7 months, your wish will come true … ”
Tsugu Miikura, a high schooler who loves to play guitar, moved away due to family circumstances from the rural town where she spent her childhood. After several years, she’s back in her old hometown. She reunites with her childhood friends—Sora, Yuushin, and Asari—the friends she’d buried a time capsule with back in elementary school. Tsugu is overjoyed to be with her friends once more, but the bonds that she thought would never change have in fact started to grow major cracks …
Title: The Golden Sheep (Kin no Hitsuji)
Author: Kaori Ozaki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Drama, Romance
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I would often hear that hackneyed phrase tossed around growing up from the many adult influences in my life to the first utterance being apart of some area of European history class. Frankly, being a impulsive and rather dumb child that thought himself a genius, it was ridiculous phrase I couldn’t stand or make sense of. After all, isn’t only natural to change and mature as you get older? Of course, it wasn’t until much later in life that I learned the true meaning: that while time and situations may change, people really don’t and more keen on trying maintain the status quo. That and people like to be real smug mug smart alecks like your truly. In many ways, it is what life amounts to: expecting momentous change to come only to find out that the changes already happened in a more subtle nature…slowly becoming the new norm. This is something our high school heroine Tsugu Miikura learns moving back to her hometown and reuniting with old friends in The Golden Sheep by the highly acclaimed Kaori Ozaki.
Touching many of the common and typical bullet points of coming-of-age tales, Ozaki’s is an unflinching and engaging read as Tsugu sees that her friends appearances and mannerism have changed a great deal, but truly believes that is the only thing. Oblivious to hidden feelings and new dynamics, she soon learns that much has changed since her departure and that the time loss isn’t going to be something that can easily be regained for these troubled personalities stuck in their own new states of normalcy. Ripe for more than a little teen drama, Ozaki keeps everything well away from the tendrils of the melodramatic creating a narrative with much brevity as it does heartfelt moments and food for thought. Combine that with stellar storytelling and a dab of conventional, yet clever writing and again, it is hard not too want to devour the whole thing in one sitting only to return for seconds. Being a little more literary minded in my consumption, the themes and motifs of The Golden Sheep is something of an example to the prowess that Ozaki puts on display as a writer. One in particular is that of living in the moment – not all anything specific to a particular group of people or demographic, yet conjures this “you only live once” or devil-may-care attitude most young people exhibit when it is sometimes all that they know. If that isn’t a message that resonates with my generation (or the definition of mankind), I don’t know what will.
Aside from enjoying the written components, the artwork is another area that doesn’t disappoint either. From the picturesque backdrops to lively character designs, it will be hard to walk away or ignore one side or the other. More taken in by the latter than the former, character expressions are really vibrant and haunting in some regards easily casting or setting up the mood for any particular scene. In regards to the character designs themselves, they are somewhat average, but more fitting for the setting as well as authentic. Always loving to gravitate toward the lead as an example, Tsugu would have to be my favorite thus far: a very energetic and headstrong girl with the looks to match, but just oozes affable charm. Having such compelling characters that breath life into every panel and page they inhabit, it is another area of where this manga shines brightly and work together unbelievably well.
Wrapping up on a weird note (as weird as walking in on a screaming elderly man can be), The Golden Sheep already appears to be shaping up to be more than just another “stirring” coming-of-age series. Not quite taken in by the overall direction, the brisk pacing and moment to moment developments has me hopeful for exciting things come despite how short the series is (3 volume). Also, having heard great things about Kaori Ozaki and never have read anything from her, I’m glad this was a nice introduction to another talent that I should explore the back catalog of. All-in-all, if you are hesitating or yet to chance it, I would say this is one that shouldn’t be missed.
Final Verdict: A little goofy, a little serious, and never short on poignant moments, the first volume of The Golden Sheep is unnerving as it is a diverting read for older readers and adults alike. With a likable and authentic cast, excellent narrative beats, and flexible style, it is a strong recommendation for those looking to start on another touching series.