I stumbled upon this show completely at random. It came recommended under a WatchMojo clip of all things, a top ten list of countryside anime. It’s a crying shame, then, that a series like Silver Spoon rarely ever gets a share of the limelight the way your average shounen social phenomenon or excessively edgelord show gets on the average. Now that I’ve finished it, I can tell you now that it’s one of the most poignant anime out there.
The setup is pretty unusual. Sapporo city slicker Hachiken ships himself out to the Hokkaido countryside to join Ooezo Agricultural Highschool as a first-year. What follows is his trials and tribulations, outer successes and inner conflicts as he works alongside his much-experienced classmates, struggling to find purpose out in the fields.
What stuck with me throughout this anime was how down-to-earth it is. Everything from the setting to the story beats, right up to the character designs themselves came with very little frills and unnecessary over-design and add-ons. There’s the occasional caricature moment, true, but even those were arranged in service of a very humble plot. An episode-long off-the-walls escape-from-prison episode culminates in a couple of agricultural students gushing over a high-tech combine harvester, which totally made sense to me. It’s a deeply funny, ridiculous, rather slap-stick anime that has both feet planted squarely on the ground.
This same humble honesty can be seen in the way the show handles its subject matter. Being an anime about agriculture, Silver Spoon offers wonderful insights about what life is like on a Japanese farm, reflecting on the hardships of agricultural labor in general and the amount of precise skill and knowledge that goes into it. No one in this show is portrayed as being simple or slow the way cityfolk may imagine those who work in agriculture – rather, the kids and faculty of the Ooezo community are ambitious and skillful all on their own. We’re treated to little glimpses of farm management, yes, but the show also dips into the social realities of farm life – for many of the students of Ooezo, there is no future outside running their families’ farms, whether they want to or not. By deftly, carefully portraying this sector of society often left out of media in general, Silver Spoon comes as a soft and important little bit of service.
Like the best slice-of-life anime out there, though, Silver Spoon shines in the little moments of quiet reflection it sets up for its cast. Much of these moments come from Hachiken himself – he’s framed as an inexperienced outsider, a pot-stirrer surrounded by those with generations of farming experience behind them. This pot-stirring is where the tender meat of this anime can be found, though. Toward the start of the season he names a piglet, only to realize it’s slated for slaughter a few months down the line. Attached to “Pork Bowl,” as he names it, he struggles at first to come to terms with its short life – much to the disapproval of his classmates. As he puts in extreme effort to both care for the piglet and come to terms with its coming demise – rising early to clear their pens, skinning, cleaning and then eating a deer to come to terms with the reality of the food we eat – his classmates begin to question the work they do, made uncomfortable by this outsider, some endeavoring to treat their livestock with the same amount of care Hachiken shows to Pork Bowl. Eventually little Pork Bowl becomes a bacon feast, in a beautiful sequence meant to celebrate the hard work and effort Hachiken put into caring for the pig – only for him to name the next batch of piglets set for slaughter. Pressed by his classmates as to how he could be so masochistic, he shares the words his own teacher had told him a few episodes prior – that they should never get too comfortable with what they have. Tender, inspirational moments like these are scattered all across the short eleven episodes of Silver Spoon, carried through the interactions of its characters and borne on montages of farm work and close ups of clenched lips and eyes slanted with stress and inner turmoil. In creating spaces for these moments to happen, A1 Pictures shows how much they believe in their own characters.
I will never tire of anime like Silver Spoon. Some say Slice of Life is boring or kiddy or whatever else, but it’s the ones that genuinely care for their characters that bring out these most necessary eflections about our day-to-day lives. Yes, we should care about what happens out there in our farms. Yes, we should put effort into our daily lives, and yes, we should help those who struggle quietly, and yes, we should never get too comfortable with the things we have, lest we forget to grow as people from our own lived experiences. And yes – yes, you should absolutely give Silver Spoon a try. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
(+) Faith in its own characters leads to great reflections on life
(+) An honest look at a sector that rarely gets screentime
(+) Slapstick humor never fails to be hilarious
(-) There’s the occasional joke that wouldn’t really fly in todays’ social climate