Those of us who grew up in America in the late 1990s and early 2000s might have Golden Boy to thank for all of our favorite comedies. Movies like Hot Rod, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, and even Anchorman follow a loveable loser or two on their pursuit of women, happiness, and sometimes, a higher purpose in life.
Maybe Judd Apatow didn’t directly pull from Golden Boy storylines, but in any case, the manga and anime series’ was really the first of its kind. The character, his stories, and their creator were all new and exciting to the manga (and eventually, the anime) world back in the early 1990’s, and have engaged fans new and old across the globe ever since.
The Man Behind the Boy
The Golden Boy series is penned and illustrated by Tatsuya Egawa, a Japanese manga director and creator. Born in Nagoya in 1961, Egawa was a middle school math teacher for five years before starting a career in manga. Maybe it was his experience teaching in a junior high that inspired him to create Golden Boy.
After working under Hiroshi Motomiya and winning an open contest in Comic Morning in the 1980s, Egawa’s Golden Boy debuted in 1991 to high praise. Egawa has gone on to direct feature films, including the live-action versions of his own manga series’, as well as live-action features for the adult film industry.
Beyond Golden Boy, and his more salacious directing credits, Egawa is known for drawing characters with over-the-top facial expressions. As with a lot of media and live performance, facial expressions and wild physicality can be the great equalizer across languages and cultures, so it’s no wonder that this series has been a global hit. He is also known for always crediting his staff on each of his works, citing “Egawa and his assistants” on every cover.
From Manga to Anime
As previously mentioned, Golden Boy debuted in the early 1990s, and was well-received, especially by English-speaking audiences. Furthermore, Golden Boy is credited with popularizing anime in Russia. Golden Boy pushed (and continues to push) boundaries, so it’s no wonder that it has been a gateway for the arrival of new manga and anime fans.
The story follows Kintaro “The Golden Boy” Oe, a 25-year-old traveler and former student who is also described as a pervert and a “freeter”. A “freeter” is a Japanese word for someone who is unemployed, or rarely has consistent employment. It applies to young adults who choose a life of under-employment, even though jobs are available to them.
In Golden Boy, Kintaro has dropped out of Tokyo University a few credits shy of graduating with a law degree, but is said to have “mastered the entire curriculum”. The audience watches as he moves from city to city on his bike, Crescent Moon, taking on one different job to the next. Each installment typically starts with Kintaro interacting with a beautiful woman who shows no interest in him, for one reason or another.
These relationships tend to morph and change, and Kintaro ultimately has a positive impact on these women and their lives. Kintaro keeps a journal where he reflects on the people he’s met and the travels he’s had. He may be labeled as a “freeter” and a pervert, but he is intelligent and reflective on his experiences.
Despite all of that, it is no surprise that this series borders on erotic, and centers around adult themes. In fact, Golden Boy became borderline pornographic in its second volume. But that didn’t stop its popularity, and Golden Boy and Egawa saw the release of 10 total volumes.
Golden Boy was first serialized in Shuiesha’s Super Jump. Parts of the Golden Boy manga series were developed by Shueisha and KSS into a six-part anime series under the same name. Released in Japan in 1995, it was dubbed for North American audiences the following year, and having bounced around a bit, can now be viewed on Crunchyroll. Golden Boy: The Complete Collection is also available on Blu Ray.
According to Wikipedia, “In the 2010 19th issue of Business Jump, it was announced that a sequel to the Golden Boy manga was in the works. Tatsuya Egawa stated that the sequel involved Kintaro taking on the entertainment world for his next job.” That was ten years ago, so who knows if Egawa has moved on to another venture. For our sake, we hope he hasn’t, and that we get to see the loveable “freeter” Kintaro again someday.