This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Golden Sparkle. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to bullying, dubious consent (dubcon), slut-shaming, self-hatred, and homophobia, as it appears in the manga.
Himari Uehara has a fear of women. It all started when he was a child, just before starting school. He has a mother and a sister. His father left to work overseas, so he assumed all women were exactly like his mother and sister, with no one to tell him otherwise. When he starts school, he finds that women can be pretty terrifying and bullies; as such, he fears all women outside his family. To keep himself safe, he makes himself less enticing, bleaching his hair to look like a delinquent and being unapproachable in general. So when he gets the chance to attend an all-boys school, he jumps at the opportunity, able to finally relax.
Unfortunately, due to his avoidance of women and his father being out of the country, Himari has never really had the “talk,” nor has he had any interest in sex. This all comes to a head when he begins to have wet dreams but has no clue what they are or what they mean. While in class, his classmates discuss porn, sex, and the like, all of which fly over his head. While alone with his closest friend Gaku Asada, Himari takes the opportunity to figure out what all of that stuff means. Shocked and intrigued by his naivety, Gaku invites Himari to his dorm room. There, Gaku takes the time to teach him exactly what sex means, and while they enjoy the lesson and continue enjoying each other's company, this only complicates their relationship.
Can two friends do things like that with each other and still be friends?
I love this art style. I love it so, so, so much. This was the first thing I read from Suzumaru Minta, and it has not been the last. This is so pretty that I read it on Futekiya digitally. Then, when it was announced that Sublime would be coming out with a print edition, I pre-ordered it immediately along with everything else I've read on Futekiya by Suzumaru Minta that is being published in print. I rarely buy physical copies of anything, It's super clean and consistent, and the designs are adorable. It doesn't get much better than that.
Now to the story. It's really cute how innocent but honest Himari is. Unfortunately, though, it does make the relationship between Himari and Gaku rather uncomfortable. Because Himari doesn't know anything about sex or intimacy, it feels like he is being taken advantage of when Gaku jumps right in by touching him without really explaining anything. It gives off major rapey vibes and even some pedophilic vibes, even though they are the same age. Himari just has no background for any of this, and it feels like Gaku has all the power in the relationship because of it. It certainly isn't pedophilic, but it gives off that vibe because of how innocent Himari is (think Yul from Siren's Song).
However, they are super cute together in the end. I love that Himari, now that he knows about the world of sex and pleasure, dominates Gaku. It is a lovely power dynamic switch, and Himari teaches Gaku some things. The after-story is so much fun. It's super smutty and super sexy, with Himari taking the lead. Apparently, our innocent little flower blooms into quite the sexual dynamo, which we love to see. Good for them.
Unfortunately, though, the core of the tension for this story relies on Gaku being afraid of tarnishing Himari's reputation and for others to judge him for being gay since he was isolated in middle school due to his disinterest in sex and multiple girlfriends. It's one of my most disliked tropes, the whole “I'm breaking up to protect you” thing without ever trying to explain yourself to the other person. This leaves Himari feeling like he did something wrong when it was anything but. I did like the background on why Gaku is so afraid of doing that to Himari. I just wish they had talked it out first rather than Gaku just giving Himari the cold shoulder. It always feels like the one doing the protecting is needlessly punishing the one they are supposedly protecting.
This is a straightforward story. It's a short one-volume series, but it's a beautiful treat. This artist is also killer, and this is a great introductory work for that. Even if this doesn't sound like your cup of tea, I highly recommend you check out this creator's other work because it is all stunning. I'll, of course, be reviewing everything else I've read by them in time. Until then, though, give this one a shot. I don't think you'll regret it.
Have you read Golden Sparkle? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!