Greetings everybody. I hope for the holidays you all are spending time in the luxury of your own home with the warmness of your family. And sometimes when you’re in the house all day from the snow or have nowhere to go to on break, so marathoning an anime is the best thing to do! So let’s talk about what’s considered the coziest and most comfort food genre, Slice of Life.
I adore Slice of Life shows. In a way, there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing a program that is able to reflect on what makes reality great and interesting. Truth is stranger than fiction after all. But I like to expand the Slice of Life genre outside of mundane conversations or the normal setting of school or a café. Movies like Clerks, Everything Must Go, Superbad, Office Space, and The Spectacular Now are all grounded, entertaining films that don’t do anything too out of the ordinary. Many people who make slice of life programs that are deliberately slow-paced or minimalistic tend to forget that real life is filled with coincidences, drama, and witty conversations.
When it comes to anime, Slice of Life is viewed as just cute/pretty teenagers doing cute, normal things. And most of the genre is that. But it’s always fun when a show is able to have that right amount of funny jokes with charming moments like Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star. I prefer it when the genre breaks outside of that mold though, as there’s way more to explore than school, which is covered well in series like Mushishi, Ichigo Mashimaru, a dramatic anthology that I will covering next time, and today’s show for blogging, Silver Spoon.
Series Composition: Taku Kishimoto
Screenwriter: Taku Kishimoto
Original Author: Hiromu Arakawa
Character Design: Jun Nakai
Art Director: Sawako Takagi
Animation Production: A-1 Pictures
Synopsis: Yugo Hachiken is a mild mannered academic who chooses to move away from his cram-heavy, suburban life in Sapporo and enroll at the Yezo Agricultural High School in the country because of strained relations with his family. He soon finds himself slowly getting used to his new environment with a short learning curve 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 or Gin no Saji is from Hiromu Arakawa, the same author/writer of Full Metal Alchemist, which we all know as a pillar in the anime community. Many of Full Metal Alchemist’s flourishes like the diverse character design, sharp look, and smooth pacing are what make Silver Spoon stand out against the crop of other realistic anime comedies out at the moment. Arakawa based much of this story from her own childhood working at her family’s dairy farm. Although she claims it isn’t based on real people or troubles she had to go through, there’s something brutally honest in Silver Spoon that is able to praise the art of agriculture but acknowledges that the rough, grinding lifestyle of the farm comes with a heavy burden.
I’m generally not a fan of animes whose protagonists are identified for being normal, but Hachiken has enough drive in himself to overcome that hurdle. The show starts rough as his weeks working at the school are filled with him griping about every chore of farm labor: waking up early, the hard work, handling poop. To the show’s intelligence, he is able to adapt to this new life thanks to the reward of fresh, incredible produce and a group of friendly, relaxed students who become his inner circle.
What keeps Hachiken from being annoying or too bland, is that he has this really generous spirit. From being raised in a very rocky household, he feels the need to help everyone with their problems, even at the cost of his own time and health. The main advantage he has over the rest of his friends at the agricultural school is that he can ace all of the general school courses of Math, Science, and English compared to everyone else. What comes off as the strongest aspect of the show is that he gains clarity through his perseverance and forms an incredible connection with his supportive, sweet, and so-close-to-kissable best friend Mikage.
Mikage works as a good balance for the show with her kind demeanor and her passion to help other people while caring for horses and her family at the same time. You get the feeling that Arakawa was likely Mikage or both of these characters as their struggle to either adapt to their expected respects or find a new goals in life is very relatable. The only thing that’s sad about their dynamic is that they are very clearly going to be a couple, but the show doesn’t allow them to gain real romantic growth, sometimes at frustratingly close measures.
As with Full Metal Alchemist’s cavalcade of memorable characters, Silver Spoon does not shy on the list of lovable students and teachers at the school. I really appreciated Jun Nakai’s close adaptation from the source material, as every character has an identifiable physical and personality trait to stand out. From the gruff Komaba, the dimwitted Tokiwa, the shrewd Inada, and the unique work ethics of the teachers; everyone has a layered personality and goes through clever little changes throughout the show. Even as the brought in the haughty foreign girl into the mix, she isn’t as one-dimension as she might seem.
Like most Slice-of-Life’s, there isn’t really much of the plot, as it’s mostly centered around Hachiken’s overall growth. There are generally powerful scenes where he questions if he’s able to skin and butcher a deer, but the show feels held down at times as his conflicts feel repetitious. You can feel for him not understanding the brutal nature of handling livestock, but many of Hachiken’s neuroses are easily pointed to his lack of confidence and understanding. His monologues about if he feels he made the right decision or if he separate himself for his past feel tired after you’ve heard them for the fifth time.
This is where I would argue that the second season is better than the first. Both are similar in humor, growth, and tone, but the second season has very well-done, raw moments of drama. What Mikage and Komaba have to go through when their family farms run into financial difficulties is really engaging, because it emphasizes on the sacrifice of their work. And when you finally get an idea why Hachiken left for an Agriculture school in Hokkaido aside from his doofy, obnoxious brother? Needless to say, the bitterness is palatable.
One thing that you should know going into the series is that it isn’t so much of a comedy. The show should really have been sold more as a realistic drama, as those are the standout moments. Most of the humor is done from the “fish out of water” scenarios with our main character, which works to a mild extent. There’s some genuinely clever moments of dialogue with the side-characters who are certainly more animated, but it’s sometimes too relaxed or plain for its own good. Yet, even when the show feels banal, it is able to make everyone feel like a real person.
The only things to flat out frustrate me was how the series ended. I feel like there’s so much rich character interaction or stories to uncover, but the second season stops at a very strange moment. The first season ended with a good transition into the next semester, but there’s so much more I want to learn about where everything is going. It’s hard to want to transition to the manga to finish the story when the voice acting, animation, and sound design is so pleasant. I would have loved something a bit more definite or even if we had more progression between Hachiken and Mikage, but it wasn’t there.
I believe there’s one word that perfectly defines Silver Spoon: admirable. After I finished the show, I felt that I admired what Silver Spoon represents more than how enjoyable the story is. As a Slice-of-Life, it’s a great addition to the genre covering the real trials and tribulations of following tradition and family. Despite it not being very funny or too cookie cutter at times, it has a genuine charm that would require a very deft hand to replicate. If you want to see a show that accurately portrays the life of farmers in a refreshing educational atmosphere, give it a watch!
Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
Silver Spoon is currently available on Crunchyroll/Hulu and is licensed by Aniplex of America/Madman Entertainment. The original manga is ongoing, written by Hiromu Arakawa and published by Shogakukan/Weekly Shonen Saturday