Apr 25, 2012
tazillo (All reviews)
Gin no Saji, or Silver Spoon, has a lot going for it even before you read the first page. It's created by Hiromu Arakawa, who's previous work includes the highly popular Fullmetal Alchemist. It should then be assumed that it'll no doubt be another amazing manga right? Fortunately, this is true but it does so on its own merit, resulting in a huge number of sales, the 2012 Manga Taisho award and an anime project despite the small number of chapters released at the time. Who knew a manga about farming could be so interesting and enjoyable?

Gin no Saji has an entertaining yarn to spin: how the everyday life of Yugo Hachiken changes when, for reasons not initially revealed, he decides to leave his family and city life in Hokkaido to enrol at an agricultural school. From then on, he finds out the hard way that a talent for studying isn't all there is to life as he tries to overcome physically challenging obstacles, and meets people who've lived their whole lives differently to him. The story is a far cry from Fullmetal Alchemist in several ways, not least by replacing the militaristic world and alchemy aspects with a gentler slice-of-life setting in the school and its surrounding farms. However, Arakawa's meticulous attention to detail in developing her characters and the world they live in is still present. The mangaka has a gift for introducing fantastic comedy at appropriate moments to provoke the best laughs, while any serious issues in the story are handled delicately. The individual chapters progress the manga through each season of the year, and this is reflected by seasonal events such as festivals and activities outside of school, contributing to Hachiken's character development as he adapts to his new lifestyle.

While the manga presents us with much information about farming and the various responsibilities that accompany it, it does so through its delightful cast. Hachiken is a more than capable main character who's amusing and likes to help others, but is envious of his classmates who have their own dreams and aspirations. There's also Mikage Aki, a potential love interest and one of the first to teach Hachiken about agricultural life. Most of the other students in Hachiken's school feature regularly throughout the series, especially his fellow first-years. Despite the large number of supporting characters, it's quite easy to tell them apart thanks to their distinct personalities. This includes a would-be vet who isn't sure if he's able to euthanize animals, a student who plays baseball to support his family and their farm, the class clown who keeps getting into trouble, and many more. Even the farm animals have a certain charm, and they provide an important lesson to Hachiken when it finally hits him that some animals are raised for their meat.

As mentioned before, Gin no Saji can be absolutely hilarious at times and the art style that Arakawa employs makes a significant contribution. A wide range of facial expressions for comedy situations are used depending on which character it's for, with Hachiken himself getting some of the funniest ones. With such a sizeable cast it's inevitable that certain characters look very similar to each other, but through the use of different hair styles, clothing, and body sizes, it's not such a big problem. Anyone who's read Fullmetal Alchemist prior to this manga will surely recognize the art style, especially the character faces. The background art, including school buildings and rural locations, is a bit simple and sometimes sparse. However, for a slice-of-life series with little action this is perfectly acceptable.

To be fair, Hiromu Arakawa could easily have been forgiven for taking an extended break after completing such a successful series. However, to release a new manga less than a year later and yet manage to have it retain much of the things that made Fullmetal Alchemist brilliant, despite using an entirely different story, speaks volumes for her as a mangaka. You don't need to have read or watched Arakawa's previous series to enjoy this one, as FMA is part of the action/adventure genre. But with an impressive cast, a simple yet informative story and great comedy, Gin no Saji is recommended reading for fans of slice-of-life manga and everyone else too.