Boobs, bidets, bikes, and benkyou! 

Golden Boy is one screwy comedy! Just six episodes were produced as an OVA from the original manga series that originated in 1992. Nearly ancient art and voice acting styles adorn this ridiculous and unusual combination of comedy and ecchi! It’s impossible not to love!

This is definitely R-rated, so proceed with that warning!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Characters

Rating: 8

I’ve never, ever, in my life, seen anyone, anywhere, anytime, get themselves off on a 1000cc sport bike.

And like Kintaro Oe, the protagonist in this brief series, I will never forget the girl that did it.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, actually Kintaro meets a new girl every episode. Basically, this human male is obsessed with learning. Having dropped out of law school because he’d learned all there was to learn there, he rides his bike frantically repeating “benkyou” over and over as he hops from place to place, job to job, girl to girl, and learning experience to learning experience. Japanese Bohemian!

Let’s learn a little more about Kintaro then. Benkyou! He’s a massive pervert—as is the author most likely, given the displays in this show! Kintaro gets his fill of gorgeous females in our brief encounter with him! And he’s got this problem with toilets. Whenever he gets a chance to clean a toilet, his imagination fires up. He can’t control it. He can’t stop thinking about how the current girl of has fancy has used this toilet. It’s enough to make you choke laughing, it’s so disgusting! 

Wanna know something really funny about this toilet obsession? Like everyone else, at first I thought this was just a perverse gag from the author’s imagination. But as the series progressed, so did my knowledge of the Japanese language. Remember how Kintaro is obsessed with studying? A Japanese homonym for “benkyou,” meaning “study,” is “benkyo,” meaning “toilet bowl.” I kid you not.

Anyway!

But the best part of Kintaro is that beneath his vagabond lifestyle and perverted fetishes lies a heart of gold. I know the title is a play on the colloquial meaning of the term “golden boy,” but I like to think somehow the author of this series meant to highlight the goodness at Kintaro’s core with this title as well. He genuinely expresses a kind of true love for these girls he hits on, regularly taking the fall for them when they’re in a pinch or helping to bail them out of the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. He gets beat up, misunderstood, and fired many times just for stepping in between his girls and trouble, taking all the blame as the bad guy. And so the girls themselves come to recognize his goodness and his brilliance, sometimes simultaneously. It’s really sweet all around.

Despite this show being mid-‘90s, all of us have probably heard Mitsuo Iwata, Kintaro’s VA, in some anime on our completed lists. His roles have spanned times and titles such as Akira, One Piece, InuYasha, Kill la Kill, World Trigger, Demon Slayer, and Jujutsu Kaisen. I love this old method of voice acting that Iwata-san employs for Kintaro. Kintaro’s speech is slightly slurred, mostly normal speed,  and slightly improper even to the untrained listener, definitely not the super clear and slightly slower speech we’re accustomed to for most voice acting (in any language). More of you have probably seen GTO than Golden Boy, so if you remember how Onizuka-sensei sounds in GTO, you basically have Kintaro in Golden Boy. It’s really funny and super classic!

Just imagine.

Enough about the guys in this show! It might be about Kintaro, but the main feature in this anime is the girls. This show is about as ecchi as it gets without crossing the H-line! And true to anime ecchi tradition (ahem), the clothes these girls wear are not only obscene but also 1000% impractical, as Dr. Stone might say. Are you kidding me, the president of a software company wearing that—thing? What do you even call that thing? Tape? Red tape? Is that some weird reference to the English phrase? Tape is the only thing that would fit like that thing fits. Nipples.

All the girls are drop-dead gorgeous. The ultra-ecchi clothing is toned down a little when the girls are high school age thankfully, but we get lots of ecchi scenes with all the girls. The most extreme characters, in this regard, are in their twenties at least. Obviously the president is the most extreme in her outfit. But Reiko Terayama, the biker girl, is the most extreme in her scenes.

I thought I was in love when we met Ayuko Hayami, the former Olympic swimmer who ran the swim school in the show. Man she was amazing! She made my heart skip a beat. But then we get to episode 5 and we meet Reiko on her motorcycle. If Ayuko made my heart skip a beat, Reiko well-nigh stopped it cold. I was about to jump up off the couch and run around the room like a wild man! Yes, she’s the one grinding her girl parts on her bike as she revs the throttle. It’s enough to drive me crazy!

So you get it. The girls are hella sexy and do hella sexy things in the hella normal course of life. It’s weird, it’s impractical, it’s obscene, and it works!

Hot.

But interestingly, these female characters are not just boob shows (or butt shows in Ayuko’s case—it makes me sweat) and nothing else. As ecchi as they are, they’re all very interesting characters in their own right. For heaven’s sake, the red tape lady drives a Ferrari and is the president of a highly successful software company! She’s terse, straightforward, and cold, but a true leader at heart. She’s kind to all she encounters, even if it’s in her own unique way. And you can tell how much she loves her company. The high schooler Naoko is going through that difficult age in life, and you feel for her even as she tries to set up Kintaro and subsequently bails him out once she sees his goodness and her error. Poor Noriko, the sweet girl from the ramen shop who loves flowers, is caught up in a lowlife’s low-ambition plot to take over her father’s business and remove it from the area, and she definitely gets your heart involved as you wish she could see through the blandishments the lowlife throws at her, which in her innocence she shyly but happily receives until Kintaro brings an end to that situation.

Ayuko is a powerful woman, running her life the way she wants to and trying to help people realize the dream of swimming just as she did, even if she’s gone about it a little too harshly at times. I think she’s probably the best example of a major idea behind this show. I think the author wants to emphasize the value of learning, and how it should be a positive experience, not necessarily a grind that we just do because we’re told to, or because we feel we have to just to get a better job or make more money or get this that or the other. Ayuko is very strict, even teaching her instructors some mildly forceful techniques to try and get their youngest swim students accustomed to the water. Kintaro, even though he’s never taught swimming before, manages to come up with lots of fun and engaging activities that let the kids have fun and learn all at the same time. These methods conveniently turn out to be more effective than some of Ayuko’s harsher methods, but the convenience is meaningful. I think the author is trying to make just that point throughout this series, that learning should be a rich experience and not a forced ordeal. Ayuko plays a big part in that message.

I doubt Reiko embodies any deep message. She’s the daughter of a wealthy man who lives in a very traditional Japanese style. When she’s at home, she dresses in traditional Japanese clothing and is the height of etiquette and decorum. But when she leaves home and mounts her bike, the kimono comes off, literally. She wears her bursting bodysuit when we first meet her on her bike, but this second time we meet her in her garage for the bike, we spend many minutes with her unclothed before Kintaro, as she explains her bike fetish and her distaste for men in comparison. I don’t know what the motivation is behind this character’s behavior—other then ecchi-ness—but I do know I’ve never seen another character behave quite like this one. Add uniqueness to this already overwhelming female character, and she makes our blood pump even harder!

What a fun cast! Even if you took the ecchi parts out of this show, I think it’d still be tons of fun watching these characters. It has that same wild, driving feeling that FLCL does at times, largely because of these characters. Perhaps this is because of how much must be crammed into single episodes given the series is only 6 episodes long. But there’s something more to it than that. We’ve all seen anime where you can watch the same characters for 24+ episodes and they stlll feel unrelatable, but in another show you can watch a character for five minutes and you can just feel this is a great character somehow. Sometimes it’s just a sensation of their power or anguish, sometimes it’s like love at first sight. It’s one of those powerful things we can only get in anime. It’s one of the reasons we watch! And this series does not disappoint in that regard.

Artwork

Rating: 8

Oh you know how I love it! This manga originated in 1992 and the anime premiered in 1995, so we’re emerging from the earliest anime styles of the ’60s-‘80s into that ‘90s style, and I adore it!

Do I adore it because it’s extraordinarily beautiful? No. In fact, there’s times when it’ll have you scratching your head at how grotesque it becomes. Perspective usually plays a big role here. By that I mean there are certain angles we view characters faces from that make the faces look really wrong. Usually this happens on the girls, and I think a lot of it stems from their very pointy chins and very small mouths. Small mouths are common to almost all anime drawing (One Piece excepted), but the very pointed chins are a big ’90s feature. You see this in GTO, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Monster, Cowboy Bebop, almost any ‘90s-style anime you can name. And while I love this version of anime artwork, making the human appear non-human and the non-human nonetheless appear human, occasionally a female character’s face will turn in such a way that the spacing of the eyes and nose and mouth appear very off. This is particularly pronounced if the chin starts to recede towards the neckline and almost disappear. I don’t think this is always intentional by the artists, but is simply a consequence of this facial style. It’s not a terrible thing—you only notice it occasionally—but it appears often enough to warrant observation.

It’s very ecchi. Legs, arms, shoulders, breasts, thighs, it’s all on display. Anime tradition only draws the H-line between bare genitals and no bare genitals, and predictably we see no unclothed muffs here, censored or otherwise. But it gets as close as anything without crossing that line! Ayuko adjusts her swimsuit in that area several times. Reiko sits astride her powerful motorcycle clad in g-string only. The president crosses her legs in provocative ways a few times, not to mention her outfit again and its lines and curves. Of course there’s the boob show as well! Nipples covered and uncovered pop out clearly throughout this show. And anytime that’s not the case, the breasts are well defined and usually centrally placed in the frames. It’s about as R-rated as it can get in this regard without crossing the proverbial line.

You know how I feel about ecchi. It’s mostly a cheap way to grab attention and evoke audience response. It distracts from artistic quality, visual or otherwise. But it can be used effectively at times. There’s way too much of it in this show, but it’s supposed to be that way! This is not “unnecessary” fanservice that some artists slip in there to cheaply titillate the viewer. It’s brash and unabashed partial and full nudity, meant to add a heavy edge to a heavily seinen show. So as much as I’m not a big fan of ecchi, it adds something to the effect of this show, and I like it well enough for that. 

But enough about that. Even if none of that was there, I’d really love the artwork regardless. I consistently find it difficult to describe what I like about this style. The classic hair strands on the forehead (male and female), the highly expressive eyebrow placements and shapes, the hair that defies the laws of physics and hair, the decayed coloring (I’ve discussed this a lot in other reviews about ‘90s anime), the cinematography that’s just a little different than what’s used in more modern anime, lots of things, little things like these. They’re beautiful in an anime way, as only anime can be, and that’s what makes anime artwork so great in the first place. It’s evocative just by looking at it, ecchi aside. I love it.

Story

Rating: 7

Six episodes account for this entire story. Each follows a very similar pattern. Do you remember it? Kintaro arrives in a new town and usually encounters some sensually overwhelming female. Sometimes he’ll follow her and so apply for work where she works (creepy but we get it). Sometimes he just conveniently ends up working at the same place they work or live or whatever. Either way, he gets very involved in their personal lives or business situations very quickly. From there, he usually makes a nuisance of himself as he tries to learn the ins and outs of his new work and contribute how he can. Mostly he makes scribbles in his notebook, learning any and every thing he can. And you haven’t laughed until you’ve heard Kintaro mutter “How educational!” to himself as he scribbles in his notebook! The notes we see usually accompany a voluptuous sketch of the woman of the day, but that aside. He usually ends up cleaning a toilet somewhere along the way as well, and inevitably is interrupted by said female at the moment he’s crouching over and embracing said toilet. But eventually he plays his true role. He intervenes when disaster strikes or manages to right a difficult situation for the lady du jour. The animosity the lady has for him evaporates, and then he moves on in life to repeat this sequence of events in the next episode.

At this rate, you can understand the limited number of episodes. What if there were 24 of these? For one thing, that’s a lot of women, and we’re kind of crossing the harem line already with the growing number of ladies in these six episodes. But also, the repetitious nature of each episode would wear on us. By episode 4 I was getting to the stage where I’d just laugh as I recognized a familiar sequence of events, and as funny as it is, if this had gone on to a fifteenth episode or something I think I would’ve lost interest. There’s only so many boobs a man can save.

The Fourth Angel.

So I think it was a wise choice to limit the number of episodes and thus the sprawl of the story. The last episode introduces a new girl as usual, the sweet colorist Chie-chan, but also involves all the other ladies from the previous episodes. It’s kind of sweet, it’s kind of harem, but most importantly it allows us to see all these wonderful characters once again. Because one of the powerful effects in this story is that once we see a character and get attached to her, we know by the end of this episode she’ll be gone and we’ll never see her again. It’s really a sad feeling, another thing ‘90s anime was really good at, mixing in spots of really heartfelt sadness into otherwise comedic or action shows. This effect here is exaggerated by the short series itself, and the final episode where everyone comes together one more time is highly welcome.

But my favorite part of this story doesn’t have anything to do with characters or heartfelt moments or threads of story that continue throughout the whole. My favorite part is the final episode, where Kintaro’s part-time job this time around is none other than a position at an anime studio! Once again we get a little glimpse into the details behind the creation of anime. This appears from time to time in anime, sometimes as an entire series—most recently in Get Your Hands Off Eizouken!—or just as little plot elements like here in Golden Boy. I supremely enjoy these moments. Despite the many things I don’t like about Eizouken, I very much enjoyed that show overall for this simple reason. Often, even as cultured anime fans, we don’t know much about the process of producing anime. We know it’s time-consuming, we know it’s probably very repetitive for the animators, we know it’s deadline oriented, we know it’s a grind, we know the animators et al. work very hard, etc. But we don’t get to see its creation in action very often. Golden Boy gave us another glimpse into that somewhat thankless world, and it thrilled my heart to see even fake animators at work. It made me so happy to see everyone’s effort rewarded at the end of the last episode. I wish all animators could feel that kind of reward, and I hope they can all understand how much indescribable love and admiration we have for them and the work they do. Golden Boy gave us a nice opportunity to recognize that once more.

Overall: 8

This show is extremely fun to watch! It’s stimulating, evocative, provocative, funny, sad, fast-paced, engaging, beautiful, and a ton of fun to imbibe and experience! From hella sexy moments to cringy comedic scenes to tearfully sad realizations, this show rides smoothly from one entertaining moment to the next just as Kintaro peddles his way through the road of life.

I’ve heard it said by some that this is the funniest anime ever made. I dispute that, simply because I’ve literally wanted to roll on the floor laughing holding my sides for dear life during some Gintama episodes, and I’ve never experienced that kind of a response in any other comedy anime! Nevertheless, this is definitely one of the funniest shows I’ve seen. The ecchi can distract from the comedy, as that sensation you feel during those scenes definitely isn’t one of laughter, but it can also add to the comedy, and does so effectively at times. The toilet thing is idiotic and totally cringy, but after it happens the third time you just cover your mouth in stifled laughter and accept it! Plus there’s the aforementioned play on words with “benkyou” which is criminally hilarious in hindsight! Kintaro’s manner of speech and the way he gets into and out of his odd situations with these gorgeous and often powerful women is really funny to watch. Every episode will really make you laugh, sometimes really hard, sometimes less so, but always in copious amounts! You can’t hide behind your screen in mixed company with this show, as the laughs will come no matter how hard you try to control it!

If the tag “ecchi” goes on it, I’m usually not a big fan in an artistic sense. But I have to make a rare exception in Golden Boy’s case. Everything else about this show, added to the ecchi, makes everything work together really well. The result is a highly satisfying anime experience on many different levels. If you’re totally against ecchi, and I totally understand if you are, you will not last five minutes into this show. But if you can tolerate it, you get a really high quality comedy along with it, comedy that could stand on its own even without the ecchi. 

A wonderful experience on many levels! I love this show. I highly recommend this one for buffoonery, boobs, and all things benkyou! 

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