Six weeks ago, I listed Silver Spoon as one of the five anime of the summer you should be watching—and with good reason. From start to finish, Silver Spoon is an anime that walks the fine line between realistic drama and comedy to create a series brimming with real heart.
The story of Silver Spoon follows Hachiken, a high school freshman who has abandoned his life in the big city to go to a rural agricultural high school. Of course, this means he—like the majority of the viewing audience—knows little to nothing about farming and ranching. Thus, Hachiken acts as the audience proxy—asking all the "stupid questions" the viewer would ask in a similar situation. And if you have never been to a ranch or modern farm, boy do you have a lot to learn.
The series looks into everything from chicken egg-laying anatomy and swine herding, to the various ways of handling dairy milk production. It even shows all the work that goes into making a pizza from scratch. But most importantly, the series makes learning all this devilishly interesting by tying it into Hachiken’s personal dilemmas.
We all know that beef comes from cows. But do you know where on the cow your meat comes from? Have you ever seen a cow slaughtered? If you saw it done first hand (or did it yourself), could you still eat beef?
For Hachiken, this moral dilemma is explored through his affection for "Pork Bowl," the runt of the litter of pigs his class is raising to be sold as pork. In fact, this quandary is more or less the main arc of the season. Through the other students, we see the ways in which each of them have come to terms with the idea of raising animals for food—though for Hachiken, none of these rationalizations do much to ease his mind.
In the end, Hachiken does everything he can to make "Pork Bowl" into a big, meaty pig—all the time aware that nothing he does will change the pig's fate. However, he is able to find some solace in making "Pork Bowl" into the best pig he can be. This ties directly into the series' other main theme: finding a meaning to life.
Hachiken is a character running away from his past. With a genius big brother to be constantly compared to and an overly demanding father, Hachiken always knew his path in life—until it all became too much and he suffered a nervous breakdown.
Going to an agricultural school deep in the countryside is, originally, his escape and nothing more. But he soon finds that nearly every other student at the school has a driving goal—whether that's to become a vet, a baseball star, or to simply inherit the family farm.
Hachiken constantly struggles with the fact that he has no goal—and envies everyone who does have one. And while he feels lost, he doesn’t give up the search for a goal of his own and ultimately serves as an inspiration to many of the other students.
When it comes down to it, the series has a great moral: Sometimes running away is okay; and there's nothing wrong with making a fresh start if you give it your all.
On paper, Silver Spoon’s greatest selling point is probably the fact that it is written by the author of the internationally popular Full Metal Alchemist. However, those expecting a similar, action-filled fantasy tale will no doubt be disappointed.
Silver Spoon is the epitome of a slice-of-life/coming-of-age story. This means that the plot often wanders aimlessly, simply recounting the events of Hachiken's high school life. There is no epic plot arc—no definite ending. Instead, thematic exploration is used to tie the story together. This makes for a compelling watch, but one far different from the author's most famous work.
As a rule, I am not generally a fan of "slice of life" stories. Yet with the exploration of themes alongside the dilemmas of a normal life, Silver Spoon delivers a story that I couldn't help but love. It is never too serious and never too comical; it remains light-hearted but with its feet firmly on the ground.
In the end, Silver Spoon is one of the season's best anime. If you grew up in the countryside, it's a great fish-out-of-water tale that will just keep you laughing. If you have no knowledge of agriculture, it's like looking into a world hidden within our own. But more than anything, it's a truly human story of growing up that anyone can relate to.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.