Slice of Life is probably my favorite genre of anime. There is just something about slow day-to-day life that appeals to me. Sure, action is fun and anime arguably has some of the best action sequences ever created, but in the end I find myself drawn to the more laid back stories. I like character driven pieces. That isn’t to say action anime is by any means shallow, it just isn’t my personal preference. Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji; 銀の匙) is a great example of exactly what I’m talking about. Spoilers ahead.
For this one, I’ve decided to do a combination review. Normally, I would try to break the review into two parts since there are two seasons, but since these two seasons really take place directly back to back time-wise, I think they can be amply covered in one. I did give them separate scores, but I’ll have all of that noted at the end.
Being a teenager is hard…
…and it’s harder when you have to face problems both at home and at school. Unfortunately for protagonist Yuugo Hachiken, he feels like everything in the world is stacked against him. He has a brother who outshines him academically, resulting in a reputation for Hachiken in school as the brother who is always trying to keep up. Additionally, his very academically minded (and results oriented) father demands nothing but exceptional excellence from both of this sons, resulting in a rift that neither side cares to overcome.
Hachiken wants to succeed academically, but more than that, he wants to leave home and never look back. As a result, he chooses to enroll in Ooezo Agricultural High School, a school isolated in the countryside far away from home. He can live in the campus dorms, eat in the campus cafeteria, and completely ignore the calls and texts from his parents with ease.
Farming is also hard
Hopefully the fact that farming is a difficult occupation surprises no-one who is reading this. It’s a lot of early mornings, late evenings, and uncertainty when it comes to things like weather and product demand. Hachiken is the son of a salary man and has zero experience with farm life. At Ooezo (a school that is also an active farm), he’s surrounded by classmates who were raised on family farms. Academically, he has them beat, but when it comes to actual farming, he has a lot to learn.
Ooezo Agricultural High School covers seemingly all aspects of farming. There is a variety of produce, livestock, milk production, cheese production and egg production to name just a few. While at Ooezo, all students get a taste of each slice of farm life through group practicums.
Hachiken is a bit of a gentle soul. While this makes him receptive to the problems of others and a good person to rely upon, it also gives him a particular weakness when it comes to farming: he has a hard time when farm animals have to die. It doesn’t matter if they’re killed for their meat or simply because they’re no longer providing profit, he doesn’t understand or enjoy it.
He spends a large part of the first season grappling with this issue internally as he raises a piglet to full size in order to sell it for meat. On one hand, he hates the inevitability of the pigs death, but on the other hand, he wants to see it grow to full potential. It sparks a lot of interesting ethics centered conversations between him and his classmates.
Everyone has struggles
As Hachiken begins to adjust to his new life at the school, he begins to make some of his first genuine friendships. As he learns about his classmates lives, he begins to understand that he isn’t the only teenager in existence with home and family issues. Some classmates have parents who have died from the hard life of a farmer; others live on farms who live with a constant struggle to make a profit, sinking further and further into debt as they try to salvage their livelihood. Some classmates simply struggle with the idea that they can’t afford to pursue their dreams, either because their families can’t afford college or because there are expectations that they will inherit their family business. Life is easy for nobody.
The revelation that he isn’t the only one struggling is probably my favorite example of growth in the series. That fact may be obvious to most, but for Hachiken, a kid who has spent his whole life focused inward in an effort to rise to the top and please his father, it’s groundbreaking. Things he had always taken for granted (such as a family who could afford to send him to college) were real struggles for the people surrounding him. These farmers wake up, toil all day, and earn more callouses, blisters and hernias than they do money. In an instant, their lives could change and that source of minimal income could disappear.
Hachiken finds a strong appreciation for the community feeling that this kind of struggle breeds among farmers. They all know the same hardships and they’ve accepted them. Together, they share ideas and fight through the tough times. Hachiken eventually throws himself fully into everything, even earning the title of “Yes Man” temporarily, and it takes a toll on his health. But it also propels inner growth (and outward growth), shaping him into someone who is more aware of those around him and their struggles. It teaches him responsibility outside of academics as he works through tough personal ethical situations. You can see big change in his character by the end of the second season. It’s a special thing to behold.
I can honestly say I’ve never been so tempted to read a manga as I am with this one. For now I will sit quietly and hope they eventually order a third season.