Silver Spoon was a manga written by Hiromu Arakawa (most famously known for creating the international sensation known as Fullmetal Alchemist), that surrounds itself around agriculture, farming and personal growth - which does feel already pretty personal knowing Arakawa's background, as she was born and raised around a massive farming background of her own.
Whilst I've always been a city boy, shifting country to country to live in the urban areas where take out for food is easy, and everything is convenient from internet, to meeting up to partake in various kinds of fun activities in places like malls, parks, game centers, etc, I was very
lacking and uninformed in the other side of the spectrum. I never really gave a thought to how a lot of food, a lot of the activities that I enjoyed, a lot of the culture that I enjoy nowadays, how much it was because of the other side (the rural side surrounding farming), that makes me feel more blessed with what I have now. And this manga does a brilliant job in showcasing the beauty of farming, agriculture with maintaining its roots and realism with tons of detail, passion, and charisma too.
Story & Writing (9.99/10)
If Arakawa-sensei was healthier/her family was in a healthier situation, and she was able to write more to flesh out the ending sequences even more, I would have given this a 10.
But regardless, the actual content of Silver Spoon is phenomenal for me, since it presents something I have a lack of awareness of, in a very interesting, humble, charming, and even introspective way. Arakawa manages to create a compelling story about a boy who is lost in the world with no aspirations, escaping to a completely different environment to try and enjoy doing something in his life with no shackles of pressure and depression to hold him down (that was caused mainly by his family's expectations and his own lack of self-worth as he constantly pushed himself away from everyone by trying to study and not enjoy life whatsoever that it became too much of a burden on him). It's very real, and the way he develops over time with a natural flow of storytelling is very nice to see.
Arakawa-sensei utilizes her childhood experiences with farming and presents her own ideologies about how the realities of farming is, with there being bitter undertones to them (like with the treatment of animals and growing them up to turn them into food/products to sell). She chooses a clear side, of what's the way she would go with when it comes to farming, but presents both sides of the spectrum really well when comes to questioning the ethical nature of the farmers' actions at the school through Hachiken.
Since he was brand new to farming, he wasn't sure of what was right or wrong but rather than being too preachy, he naturally understands both sides and tries his best to adapt to how farming works in Arakawa's head but still showing tons of respect to the animals involved to make their sacrifices worth it in an ethical fashion by treating them very well consistently. I love how this question of what's right or wrong, not only presents interesting arguments to both sides, but also characterizes many people incredibly well, and builds fascinating conversations and hearty chemistry between everyone.
Seeing Hachiken grow and adapt as a person, seeing how farming is incredibly fascinating to learn about from a non-rural resident's perspective, seeing how harsh realities can be but also seeing how beautiful it can also be when it gives fruit to so many great aspects of life from tangible to intangible ones, Silver Spoon is a rollercoaster of emotions with its narrative. Ends nicely too with solid build for its romance too.
Heavily described what the appeal was for the characters in the last section, but I'll just say Hachiken is one of my favorite protagonists in all of manga and anime. A guy who's very relatable to me, in terms of not knowing what the hell to do for his future and having high expectations of everyone else to succeed, to escape and drag his life out in a completely new environment to see his real self-worth. And seeing him grow over time with his charming personality, with bonding with tons of people from varieties of farming culture (like with cattle, pigs, cheese, vegetables, etc) was astounding.
The side characters come from various backgrounds and due to that, all play very good roles in creating tons of entertaining dynamics between characters.
And when they come together for events like festivals, or pizza parties, it creates such a heartwarming storyline full of passion and love that I rarely feel from other casts in anime or manga. Real bonds right here.
Other than how fantastic Hachiken's characterization was, Arakawa-sensei also did wonders with Mikage and Komaba's characterization as they go through their own personal struggles and try their damn best to overcome them and succeed with their aspirations (even with some unpredictable events in life trying to shackle them down). Hachiken's influences on those two, and everyone else, and everyone else's influences on him were so goddamn great to see from an outsider's perspective. Seeing people like them give me hope in a way to find my dream with the right people.
It's not the most brilliant looking manga out there, but it oozes simplicity and charm. Love the designs, love the detail and it really fits the setting well too. Great looking covers especially for the volumes, with lovely artwork present.
It's really one of the heartiest, most compassionate and emotional rollercoasters I've been on when reading this. It doesn't have explosive shounen-esque battles, or the most dramatic scenes in the world, but there is a lot of aspects that made me feel so happy (pizza party), made me feel sad (the end of the festival and some dreams being shackled), and gave me hope in a way with life with seeing the evolution of all these characters.
Gin no Saji/Silver Spoon is one of my favorite manga and anime of all time. I wish Arakawa-sensei could have fleshed out the ending portion a bit more but regardless, the amount of growth, development, and emotional rushes I got through watching and reading it was too much for me to not include it in my top 5 manga list. Exceptional work from her, and I even like this a lot more than her Fullmetal Alchemist manga.
And my god, it's made me appreciate the agriculture and farming culture so much more than I ever gave it credit for before. I really sincerely thank all farmers out there for providing tons of great quality ingredients and other materials for us to enjoy our lives with. They're all truly a blessing.