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Kaori Ozaki’s “The Gods Lie,” was, in a lot of ways, a devastatingly sad tale. From the initial story of a young boy growing up disillusioned with, to the evolution of its characters, and its seamless transition into a romantic tragedy gone wrong, it is a work that is not only heartbreaking to read, but touches on issues that are important in the real world. Her follow up work “The Golden Sheep” follows a similar path.
It revolves around Tsugu, a high school girl who, after leaving her hometown for a few years, returns to find her friends Sora, Sally and Yuushin exactly as she left them, or so she thinks. As time passes she discovers that the friends she left behind in elementary school are not the same as they used to be.
Tsugu’s return to her hometown marks a noticeable change in both her friends and herself. What Tsugu initially does not realize about them is that their relationship dynamic has changed dramatically. Yuushin, who was once the proud protector of the group, now bullies Sora for his money, and Sora feels so bad about what happened to Yuushin when he was younger that he just sits there and takes it.
Meanwhile, Sally, who has yet to muster the courage to confess to Yuushin, now feels like she is competing with Tsugu. As a result, Sally takes her anger out on Tsugu, pushing her away by bullying her quite literally behind her back. Tsugu realizes that life is not the same as it was when she left. Her friends are different.
Much like its predecessor, “The Golden Sheep” is incredibly well written, at least so far, and does a great job at layering important messages into the story. Whereas “The Gods Lie” focused on child neglect and abuse, “The Golden Sheep” tells a very similar tale about bullying, and how time changes people, both for the better and the worse.
The way this is mainly told is through the Yuushin and Sora. After Tsugu left the year they graduated from grade school, Yuushin was bullied due to a news story about his father having sexual relations with a teenage girl. After reuniting with Sora in middle school, he begins to bully him, as a way to take out his aggression on him.
Sora, on the other hand, feels as though he abandoned Yuushin, and as a result simply takes Yuushin’s bullying without much resistance. In fact, Sora feels so bad about his situation, with a mixed sense of guilt and anger, that he attempts to commit suicide by locking himself in a car and suffocating from burning charcoal. It is only after Tsugu notices and saves him that he realizes his own value.
One thing that seems not necessarily problematic, but more so interesting, is her characters tendency to use running away as a problem solving mechanic, even though both mentally and materially it solves almost nothing. In both “The Gods Lie” and “The Golden Sheep,” running away becomes more a means of momentary relief than anything else.
Another thing this manga and the “The Gods Lie” share is amazingly detailed artwork that works to enhance he storytelling. One scene that stand out really well is the one featured at the beginning of the first volume depicting Tsugu rescuing Sora. Out of context, the scene is depressing, sure but is on its own not incredibly emotional.
It is only after hearing Tsugu and Sora’s backstory that the artwork really enhances the scene. It shows a crying Tsugu, her favorite guitar in hand, shattered in half trying to save one of her only friends from himself. The detail in Tsugu and Sora’s face, as well as on the guitar really adds to the power of the scene as a whole.
The dynamic between the four main characters is also incredibly complex. Each new piece of information that is revealed about one of them feels like it affects all of them. When it is revealed that Sally has a crush on Yuushin, and that Sally is jealous of Tsugu, she begins to bully her. This in turn makes their relationship more similar to Yuushin and Sora’s than to the relationship of true friends.
Overall, the first volume of “The Golden Sheep” feels like an excellent opener to what will undoubtedly be an emotional complex series.
How do you all feel about “The Golden Sheep?” Let me know in the comments below.
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