I browsed on the internet for about a whole day just looking for some feel good, slice of life manga, and I somehow got to Silver Spoon. I heard of this title earlier in my life, but I just never got to reading it, but with this.. ahem.. interesting year, I decided to finally read it. Don’t know why. Just did. I probably should say that this is my first ever review, but this manga hit me so hard, I just felt compelled to say something about Silver Spoon. Also, there will probably be some spoilers, I don’t know how to do spoiler free reviews well yet, but I’ll try and keep it to the minimum and to ones that aren’t plot changing (I’ll say if I do give a spoiler).
For those who don’t know, Gin no Saji, also known by the English title of Silver Spoon, is a manga written and drawn by the author of the Fullmetal Alchemist series, Hiromu Arakawa. It follows the story of Hachiken Yūgo, a high school student from Sapporo who has no direction and dreams for his life and a strained relationship with his parents. With this in mind, he was recommended/informed by his teacher of Ooezo Agricultural High School, also known as Ezo Ag in the Hokkaido countryside. Expecting to breeze by in school, the manga follows the story of initial struggles of fitting in, everlasting friendships, the persistence and results of hard work, and learning the ins and outs of Hachiken’s new world: agriculture.
I think one of the most important things to me that stood out were the little things and details that Arakawa-san brought out from this story. One was about how much you could learn about agriculture. It’s like a watered down version of an agricultural class; I don’t actually know if it is, because I’m just a high schooler who likes anime, but I feel like you can learn a good percent about agriculture. You can hear bits and pieces of the way bacon is made, milk is produced, among others I probably forgot. You get to see the side of agriculture we don’t get to see often. We see the finished product. We just buy it. But so much time, sweat, and effort is put into getting these items to the selves. Like for example (SPOILERS), Hachiken put in so much effort just to make some pizza. “Pizza? Easy, just need cheese, pepperoni, batter, etc..” Is it actually easy? We tend to just put frozen pizzas in an oven or buy it. We don’t need to make it from scratch.
Another thing that this manga made me realize is that we forget where we get our food. How much sacrifices people make to bring food to our tables. Hachiken’s reluctance to kill animals really struck a chord with me too. I tend to forget that the meat we eat comes from animals slaughtered, taken from their mothers, never living a full life. While it won’t fully affect me, there were reactions from Hachiken that really resembled how I felt, and made me realize that farmers shouldn’t, more like can’t, be attached to them. In a way, they have to be “cold hearted” and put their emotions behind their line of work.
There is also the idea of dreams and goals. Hachiken didn’t have a dream, didn’t have a goal. His hard working, competitive spirit made him into a person that helped everyone, even if he didn’t have the energy and dropped dead, and tried to excel them to become the best. A running gag is him trying to help his classmates in core subjects like math and english. Let’s just say 9 times out of 10, their tests don’t go well. (SPOILERS for the rest of the paragraph) But it’s through his kind hearted nature that he finds his own dream, it’s through these trials and tribulations that he realizes that starting a business is his way forward. He built bridges and carved new paths for people, another way of helping. Another form of the theme of dreams comes through the form of Komba Ichiro. While Hachiken found his dream, Komba, in a way, couldn’t follow it. His dream of being a baseball player was crushed when his team couldn’t win regional qualifiers for Koshien, Japan’s premier HS baseball tournament. Koshien was a means to get scouted, to get signed, to get money to help his family’s struggling business which was in a lot of debt. His loss meant he had to focus on the business more now.
Something that struck me was the importance of simple phrases like good work and thank you. It’s subtle, and it may just be me, but I think it’s something Arakawa-san put in on purpose. We always use these words, but do we truly mean it? Has the essence of simple gratitude phrases lost its meaning because of the constant repetitive use of it? Of course, it’s not limited to these simple phrases; it’s also other compliments and encouraging words. On a normal basis, I feel as though we use words like thank you because it’s expected of us, but with a half hearted feel to it. In Gin no Saji, these words are used when you truly deserve it, as a means to bring one’s spirit up, because they truly deserve praise for the hard work they did.
The only fault I can think of is really just the epilogue. It felt rushed, but from what I’ve heard, with Arakawa-san’s health and long hiatus, I really can’t complain haha, at least it was satisfying.
Even though there is so much depth in the plot and underlying themes in the story, Arakawa-san does very well of developing the whole cast. Hachiken, the main character of the story, character development is arguably the best in the series. From a boy with no direction, he found his footing, in an environment without experience nonetheless, not without a lot of help! At Ezo Ag, he met many people along his journey, from Mikage Aki, the horse-riding lover, easygoing, amiable love interest of Hachiken, to the rough and honest, baseball loving Komba Ichiro, to the carefree, yet hardworking cheese lover Yoshino Mayumi. There are some many characters you can fall in love with, and these three are just three of my favorites among everyone I like, which is... the whole cast... yea.
In a compact 131 chapters of amazingness, Arakawa-san went through Hachiken’s struggles and dreams, growth and change, but also had other short, and even story long, side character plots. We go through Mikage and Komba’s stories, their struggles, their battles, their growth. We have shorter plot stories, like (SPOILERS) Aikawa Shinnosuke, Hachiken’s friend, going through his struggle of not liking to work with blood, yet having his dream of being a veterinarian.
(Oh, the horses also had different personalities, which is a 10/10 in it of itself)
I don’t completely know how to judge and grade art, but I loved the art here. There were moments of madness and it was conveyed nicely. I don’t really have a preference for an art style, I do still have standards :(, but this art was down my alley. I do love myself some simple art, and I don’t know if you’d count this as simple, but it’s very clean and detailed. Facial expressions, character drawings, background art all had a certain charm to them. The art style definitely complimented the feel good, slice of life feel to the story. I’m gladly happy that every character and every shot was drawn nicely, considering how many characters there were and so many things happening.
Overall, there was a great balance of character development, plot, emotions, drama, art, among many. The characters were lovable and I can relate to some of them. I can probably say so much more about the plot and themes of the manga, this freaking review is reaching two pages on docs, let’s not add more. I haven’t read so many manga, but this has easily hit my top 3 manga, maybe even 1. While I think this isn’t everyone’s bread and butter, this manga is a manga I’d definitely try and recommend. For me, easy 10/10.