Written & Illustrated by: Hiromu Arakawa
Plot: (Taken from wikipedia)
After failing to pass the entrance examination for the high school he plans to attend, mild-mannered student Yuugo Hachiken moves away from his suburban lifestyle and enrolls at Ooezo Agricultural High School – often abbreviated as Ezonō, lit. “Ezo Agricultural”) – in the countryside. His relationship with his family is strained at the start of the story, which influences his decision to attend a school far from home. He continues to worry about his future career over the course of the series. He soon finds himself slowly getting used to his new environment despite some initial struggles, and grows into an empathetic and compassionate individual as he struggles to understand the world of agriculture and how it affects the lives of his new friends.
Silver Spoon has quickly become one my favourite heart filled anime teen drama. It brings back many memories of my time spent on my grandparent’s dairy farm. Agriculture is very close to my family, like I said my grandparents owned a dairy farm where my dad grew up. When I was a child we would spend many weekends out in the countryside while my dad helped with chores. There were hikes with my grandmother, crafts, bon fires and playing with my other cousins.
I remember finding scans and translations of the manga a couple of years ago and being excited that there was a japanese look on the agriculture life. I was surprised a few weeks ago when the anime appeared on my Netflix queue, needless to say I sat down and watched all the episodes very quickly.
So, let’s get on with the review.
Hachiken is a city slicker – plain and simple. His previous teacher recommended him applying to this agriculture school as it seemed Hachiken had lost himself in the competition of academics in his current school. Hachiken likes to study and has great grades – making the entrance exam a breeze – except he has no knowledge of the farm life. He quickly learns that even though he is smarter in many subjects than his peers – they too know more about livestock, crops and other mechanics related to agriculture.
One of my favourite opening scenes in the first episode has Hachiken learning where an egg comes from. He is then tormented the rest of the day at this discovering, how gross it is and ‘unnatural’. Yet, by the end of the episode – and his first real day doing barn chores, he gives in and eats one, realizing the importance of it’s protein and nutrients to his body. Of course the taste of a fresh egg makes him cry out in delight.
Learning where food comes from, from crops to livestock is a common theme throughout season one. It is interesting to see the conflict displayed in such a manner. There is talk of switching to a vegetarian but when push comes to shove Hachiken can’t get over the taste of meat. His worries and conflicted emotions get to him when he names one of the piglets the class have to raise. Everyone else warns him of this mistake, about getting too closely attached to any animal that will eventually be sold for food. In the end, Hachiken overcomes his worries and actually makes sure his little piglet is one of the fattest before it is shipped off. He even purchases the pig outright, smokes it all into bacon and shares the meat with his friends and classmates.
There are other themes that are brought up, more serious ones too. One is about destiny and goals for the future. While everyone in Hachiken’s class has their sights set on what they want to do after school – usually taking over their family farms – Hachiken has no clue. At times he feels lost and wandering around with no goal in sight, but by the end of the series he is reminded that instead of thinking he has no goal, to think that he is free to do whatever he wishes. A freedom that few of his classmates have.
A farming life is a poor life for many. I have heard stories from my aunts and uncles about how poor they were growing up on the farm. Yes, the always had food, but little else. It was great to see these theme also presented in the anime, the hardships and bankrupts that can and do happen to those wanting to maintain a farm. For Hachiken, it comes when a friend is forced to drop out of school in order to get a job to pay back the debts his family owed. Nobody wanted to seem him drop out, but it reached that point. His farm and all the dairy cows had to be put up for sale. It was a sad storyline, but one I believe is very truthful to reality. Hachiken couldn’t do anything, which upset and angered him more. Dreams were lost and abandoned as reality took hold. Not everyone in the anime get’s their happy ending. At the end of season one there is still a very open ending to it, one had to drop out, another managed to speak up and share with her family her desires to work with horses with a living and with Hachiken help, the two start their studying.
There is so much more I want to learn about all the characters in Silver Spoon. I want to know if they make it through to their goals, if Hachiken find’s something to work towards, a dream or a life. In either case, it is clear that everyone at the school helps each other out, Hachiken for the first time finds himself amongst a group of friends he would do anything for.
For any of you who want a laid back, fun and heart filled anime to watch – I recommend Silver Spoon. You’ll laugh, groan and cry and even get an insight into what it means to be a farmer and part of the agriculture industry.