In part one of “The Golden Sheep” we were introduced to Tsugu, a girl who loves her electric guitar so much, that, along with her amp, it was the first thing she unpacked when she moved into a public housing block in Osaka, Japan with her mother and other female relatives. Tsugu is a disheartened girl who’s spirits are only upheld through her passion for music. Tsugu plays GNR and uploads music videos of herself playing Deep Purple’s “Burn”. Sora listens intently to Tsugu’s guitar playing through his headphones with a built-in amp. Her friend Sora is genuinely impressed with her guitar playing and foresees her playing at Budokan concert arena in Tokyo.
Whilst others make nasty online comments online about Tsugu’s music, the young female artist is undeterred and goes on to learn Led Zeppelin songs. After exciting and intense storylines, we come full circle with the opening scene (which involves Tsugu’s guitar being smashed to smithereens) – Sora unsuccessfully attempting to take his own life. Sora and Tsugu then decide to run away to Tokyo together where they meet up with Tsugu’s father who offers to “replace the neck on the (Tsygu’s) guitar” and “check the wiring”. The two teenage runaways end up staying at a place called “Honest Croquettes”. Part two continues from here.
As in part one, “The Golden Sheep” immediately rekindles the duos, especially Tsugu’s relationship with music. We hear how at “Honest Croquettes” they find Nirvana, AC/DC and GNR cd’s lying around. However, Tsugu has seldom time to devote herself to her music, as she, along with Sora are put to work making and delivering croquettes. Tsugu suspects the old man whose care she is under is her paternal grandfather. Whilst he is fair and kind (paying her and Sora a salary with free lodging); he rebuffs Tsugu’s attempts of exploring this relationship and bans Tsugu from playing the guitar after her father eventually repairs it for her.
As time goes by, rumours circulate at their school that the couple has eloped, and Tsugu, missing her family, feels lonely. Sora develops stronger feelings for Tsugu, confessing to himself that he now finds himself “wanting to hug a 3-D girl (Tsugu)” as opposed to his hand-drawn erotic manga images. “The Golden Sheep” also continues to tell the sad story of Yuushin. His anger issues continue and he considers quitting school. His boxing coach convinces him to stay in school and in exchange promises to help train Yuushin so he can obtain his professional boxing license.
Much attention is paid to Yuushin’s shot at becoming a professional boxer. The boxing centre, which “looks like a music venue” sees the ill-fated Yuushin reunited with both Sora and Tsugu. Seeing these two again, along with finding out that his disgraced father has been bankrolling his boxing lessons and learning “The Story of Aries” (where two girls are saved from their step-mum by a God who sent a flying sheep with a golden fleece to rescue them). Yuushin is disturbed by this story as one of the girls fell off the golden fleece and died. The girl (who was at least supposed to die) was Tsugu’s school friend who had a life-long childhood crush on Yuushin is Sally.
Despite the many glimpses of hope and optimism (the dreams of Tsugu finding her self-confidence and self-fulfilment through music and Sora coming out of his shell and overcoming feelings of despair); part two of “The Golden Sheep” is in many respects a tragedy, indicating that no one can change their nature and fate. It is bizarre that a book with mysticism and magic would fail to have the ability to assist positive spiritual change; nonetheless, one will not grow restless with this second chapter and will not be able to resist speculating over what is not explored here: Tsugu’s future relationship with her dad, her probable grandfather, her mother (and her extended family), her music and Sora. Furthermore, would Sora reconnect with his grandmother, continue to live in the real world or would he withdraw back into his manga art and eventually consider trying to retry leaving the world again?
The power of “The Golden Sheep” is not its casual mysticism, but its ability to entrap the reader into the lives of the main characters and reflect on what their fates could have been, allowing readers to imagine and construct their own alternative endings and further chapters of what Tsugu and Sora would do next before the next part of “The Golden Sheep”, part three, is released in March 2020.
Part two of “The Golden Sheep” is available to buy here.