“You know what you can do for your friends? Nothing, that’s what. Your friends will get their hearts broken, and get sick, and fall into debt, and go astray, and lose the ones they love and grieve and even so, there’s nothing you can do for your friends. All you can do is still be their friend.” – Tsugu’s dad: The Golden Sheep Volume 3.
With the release of Volume 3, The Golden Sheep reaches its conclusion. The series has had a variety of drama and character development, but with such a short run I was concerned that the manga might not stick the landing. With the final instalment in hand, it’s time to find out if we’ve reached a satisfying end.
As we reunite with our cast, Tsugu, Sora and Yuushin are all in Tokyo. Having failed the boxing exam and saved a cat, Yuushin is invited to spend the night with Tsugu’s grandfather before heading home. This allows the three to calmly talk through their emotions and hopefully find a path forward toward rekindling their friendships.
Meanwhile, Asari is now the target of bullies at her school, having been blamed for Tsugu and Sora running away. Left behind by even Yuushin, Asari begins to break down and decides to break a promise between the four. As kids, they buried a time capsule under the town’s golden sheep statue, but Asari sets out to dig it up on her own. The message she finds hidden within reveals a truth she wasn’t prepared to see.
The Golden Sheep is a story of troubled teenagers and what I like about the series conclusion is that it doesn’t shy away from that. Halfway through the volume, our three runaways return to Asari and their families. They aren’t okay, their bonds have been pushed to the limits and they’ve all done horrible things to each other. Despite this, the adults acknowledge that the kids all look more grown-up than when they left – something I believe too.
In this volume, Sora and Yuushin have a heart-to-heart, which doesn’t lead to them forgiving one another but instead they come to an understanding. They’re not quite friends again but there is newfound respect there. The same happens between Asari and Tsugu, leading them to rebuild the relationship bit by bit. I think this is a better path to go down than for everyone to be fine in the end. Happy endings are well and good, but this is certainly easier to buy into.
While the conclusion does feel a little rushed, I don’t think it’s as much of a problem as I feared it would be. There is more to everyone’s stories that could have been told, but this volume does well with the time it has. I’m not dissatisfied with it and I think the main plot threads are wrapped up well.
When I started this series the only experience I’d had reading any of mangaka Kaori Ozaki’s work was The Gods Lie, a one-volume series. While I think The Golden Sheep has more lulls due to being longer and juggling more characters, a lot of what I loved about The Gods Lie is present here. Ozaki’s strong points are creating suspense and portraying the feelings of her characters. Without realising it her books draw you in until you’ve read a whole volume without noticing it. Even if there are some minor issues here and there it’s hard to deny that her works are captivating.
This release also includes one of Ozaki’s one-shot stories, Love Letter. In this tale souls in heaven can choose their mothers before being reborn. The protagonist quickly settles on a young teenage mother despite being warned by God that his life will be difficult with her. It’s a bittersweet and thought-provoking story more reminiscent of The Gods Lie than The Golden Sheep and is almost worth picking up this volume for all on its own.
This volume of The Golden Sheep comes to the West thanks to Vertical Comics and has been translated by Daniel Komen. The translation continues to read well with no issues to note.
Overall, the final volume of The Golden Sheep delivers a satisfying conclusion. The cast has grown immensely since the first book and these final chapters show us that they’ll be just fine from now on. Those of you looking for a new slice-of-life series about adolescents need to look no further because this is a manga you need to have in your collection.