Anime Review: Silver Spoon Season 1

By Drew Hurley 24.10.2019

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Silver Spoon Season 1 (UK Rating: 12)


Hiromu Arakawa created one of the greatest series in modern manga. A series known to both the hardcore and the casuals: Fullmetal Alchemist. Since then she has produced series like Hero Tales and The Heroic Legend of Arslan, series in a similar vein to her magnum opus. However, she has also produced works close to her upbringing. She was raised on a dairy farm, and agricultural sciences have always been close to her heart, as is evident in this charming tale on the reality of farming in Japan. This first season is available now.
 
The hero of this story is one Hachiken Yuugo, a student from a prestigious junior prep school, but just as it's time to move into high school, he instead moves off to the sticks to attend Ezono Agricultural High School. A strange choice as he seems to have no particular care or interest in the industry, while all of his fellow students are the children of farmers or those with a passion for the world of agriculture.
 
Hachiken finds that the harsh reality of the world of agriculture is more than he bargained for, having to wake up way before sunrise and working heavy-duty manual labour until he drops, not to mention the complexities of the science, husbandry, pasturing, and ecology - it's a whole other world, and he's coming into it completely unprepared. Lucky for him, he's teamed up with a group of fellow students into a team of five, and they, along with the other members of his class develop into close friends.
 
In all honesty, some of these are just background characters, with little actual personality shown in this first season, but some go through some fantastic character development. In particular, there's something of a love interest in Aki Nakajima; a young girl who is the eldest daughter of a nearby farm, and a member of the equestrian club. There's a beefy rival in Ichiro Komaba, a young man who loves baseball, struggling to keep his mother's small milk farm from going under.
 
From this simple premise, it seems like it could be a simple little slice of life tale, where the characters learn to milk cows, make milk, and harvest veggies - but, this is where the difference between cartoons of the west and anime of the east are often starkly contrasted. The reality of farming is front and centre of the show. The very first episode sees Hachiken work along with his new group in gathering a bunch of chicken who have escaped from their enclosure. After doing so, their upperclassman immediately unsheathes a blade and beheads the chicken, promising to share some wings later. Blood splatters Hachiken's face, and it deeply shakes him - it's something that becomes a recurring element of the story.
 
In this same episode, Hachi's group has their first assignment, a nice simple one, dealing with the battery farm of chickens. Mucking out the enclosures and most importantly, collecting eggs. This activity causes Hachiken to contemplate where eggs come from, especially as they pop out covered in slime. The explanation of which turns his stomach and puts him off eating the little ovals of golden goodness. In the third episode, he is put in charge of a Piglet, the reality clearly explained to him that he will one day need to slaughter it. He's a complete idiot, though, bonding with it and even naming it. Although, he at least dubs it "Pork Bowl" in a "Memento Mori" style attempt to cement his dedication. A story thread that plays out across the entire season and it's easy to guess where it's going. Keep those tissues ready.

 
The bulk of the show is a standard slice of life, where Hachiken acts as the audience surrogate, a newbie with little knowledge to teach each aspect of the industry, along with some other interesting elements of rural life in Japan. Constantly, the cute or heart-warming nature of the story is counterpointed by the dark realities of the world. For instance, as Hachi continues to try and woo Aki, he heads off to the tracks with her to watch a horse race, but a wholly Japanese one. The duo heads off to watch Ban'ei, a method of horseracing where the horses race quite slow, as they're pulling huge heavy sleds behind them. It's interesting as many will not know this sport even exists, but it's quickly followed up with an explanation of how Horses that fail are slaughtered for their meat. Horse meat is commonplace in rural Japan.
 
A large part of this season isn't based on-site at the school, instead, Hachiken travels the farms of his classmates. Including getting the opportunity to work at Aki's farm for a few weeks. He grows by leaps and bounds while there, his dedication clearly showing. The trip gives him the chance to see the reality of a small farm and the challenges for the family running it. The dual nature of the show continues here too, where Aki's grandfather accidentally hits a Deer and gives Hachi a chance to butcher it. Then, while visiting another classmate, the portly princess, Tamako, heir to a gargantuan dairy farm, Hachi has the opportunity to watch, and even help with the breached birth of a calf, having to literally drag it out of its mother. But, instead of being a cute moment where mother and child are reunited, the young calf is immediately separated. Born male means it will be castrated, fattened up, and sold for beef.
 
While these small stand-alone stories are the bulk of the story, there are some plot threads running throughout in the background. The saga of Pork Bowl is constantly growing in there. Then, there's an extra level of depth to this tale too, as the truth to why Hachiken came here is regularly hinted at. His strained relationship with his family and his mother; his reluctance to speak of his past; and his comments on giving up on his dreams. It develops further when Hachiken's brother appears and a telephone call with his parents is overheard.
 
This duality of heart-warming stories with heart-wrenching reality isn't all the show actually has, surprisingly, there's plenty of comedy too! Japanese comedy often fails to land with foreigners, mostly due to its regular use of word-play, and the sort of colloquial jokes only natives ever really get, but here, the episodes have plenty of absolutely hilarious moments. For example, when a herd of city cows gets mixed up with Aki's farm's lot, her father tells Hachi you can tell them apart because city cows have never been milked, meaning their udders haven't developed, while their cows udders hang. Just like his wife's. Right as his wife belts him across the head. Hachi thinks about how undeveloped ones don't hang... glancing in Aki's direction… and her chest. Just as her father belts HIM across the head! There is a ton of slapstick and classic comedy moments, and it's surprising just how often the show enkindles big laughs.
 
This series is coming from A-1 Pictures, a studio that has produced a massive amount in recent years, and series that run the gambit on the genres, from Shonen like Seven Deadly Sins, the signature isekai Sword Art Online, the recently covered Fate/Apocrypha, amongst many more. A-1 Pictures is able to craft diversely different series, and while the creator has a very distinct style, that doesn't bleed through here outside of the character designs. There's a redhead who is the doppelganger of Winry, and another who bears an uncanny resemblance to Taito, the protagonist of Hero Tales. Not to mention a P.E. teacher who must be related to Armstrong. Almost any character could be dropped into any scene in FMA and not look out of place. This release is Japanese dub-only, and the bonus features are limited to just a handful of promo videos and the obligatory clean opening. The opening theme is an upbeat little tune entitled "Kiss You" by Miwa.
 
7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
Silver Spoon perfectly balances the harsh realities of farming, with the absolute beauty of the lifestyle. It will have many yearning for a way to pick up and move off to take up the life of a farmer. It will also break the heart of many animal lovers out there. Hachiken is a wonderful protagonist, easy to relate to and so likeable too. There's much more to tell in his story, explaining his history and watching him develop, the next season holds a lot of promise. Stay with us here at Cubed3, where we'll be looking at the second season soon!

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