*** The following article contains spoilers ***
It’s rare in American culture to find entertainment that focuses on food, outside of the Food Network of course. Odd when you consider that we spend roughly 2 to 3 hours a day eating–and some of us just as much time prepping–food. Even a show like Bob’s Burgers is more interested in the family dynamic than in the burgers themselves. Maybe I sound crazy. Who needs to know that much about food? What’s interesting about that? Thankfully there is Silver Spoon, a show that not only details the lives of students at an agricultural school and the animals they care for, but also makes all of this interesting and engaging.
The first season of Silver Spoon, which aired last summer (2013), focused on Yugo Hachiken and his move from an urban high school, where he was largely floundering as a student, to the Yezo Agricultural High School. It largely played as a “fish out of water” tale with Hachiken getting more and more used to the ways of agricultural work as the season went on. Underneath this simplistic tale however, were ruminations on the human relationship to food and the animals that provide that food to us, whether it’s milk and cheese from cows or meat made out of pigs that the students raise themselves. In particular, a touching story builds where Hachiken raises a small pig that is the runt of its litter (metaphor much?). As the season builds and the pig grows, Hachiken becomes closer to Pork Bowl (the name given sarcastically by Hachiken’s fellow classmates). I won’t spoil the ending, but the season’s main take away was the importance of connecting to your food, both in the work that went into the craft of it, as well as where it came from. The students of Yezo High may kill animals for food but they care for the animals in a way that speaks to a deeper appreciation. **For more on connecting to your food, check out the Connect a Bite blog.**
If the first season of Silver Spoon dealt with the role of animals in the agriculture industry, the second season focuses on the role of the human beings that run the farm. The season begins with Hachiken more ingrained in the social hierarchy of the Yezo Agricultural High School as seen by his appointment to VP of the Equestrian club. Hachiken lets this role of leadership weigh heavy on his mind until he sees the love interest of the show, Mikagi, and a member of the Yezo baseball team, Komaba, having a serious conversation. His interest is peaked but both tell him not to worry about the incident. We are made to believe that their is a potential romantic connection between the two but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hachiken’s interest in their relationship borders on concern that Mikagi is with someone else or that Komaba hurt her emotionally but he is also generally worried for his two friends. This is a recurring theme of the season, as Hachiken becomes even more of a person who wants to carry others on his back and share their burden.
Soon, Komaba and the rest of the Yezo baseball team make it to the Regional Baseball Championship. When they lose the game, thus not making it to the Nationals, we come to find that Komaba has lost out on his last chance to earn the money his family needs in order to pay off the debt on their farm. Hachiken is torn up for Komaba’s situation and, once again shouldering the burden of a friend, travels to the farm with Mikagi to help Komaba sell off the last of his family’s cows.
Here we get several touching scenes where the plight of the farmer takes center stage. For the most part, the series up until this point, paints rural/farm life as being worthwhile and generally fun, though with plenty of physical hardships. Here we see that not everything is as rosey as on first blush. Komaba and his younger sisters have to say their farewells to the dairy cows that they’ve taken care of for years. One character even remarks that the cows aren’t frightened by humans because they’ve been so well taken care of. We can feel the love and hard work that’s gone into building this family farm and yet, after the loss of a baseball game, this family must shed their old dreams and figure out new, more realistic ones. The journey to the farm ends with Komaba bringing a piping hot batch of the last of the farm’s milk to his sisters, Mikagi and Hachiken and sharing it with them. Hachiken, in particular, is humbled by the delicious milk, probably made all the better because of the circumstances. I can try to put it into words but the scene must really be seen to get the range of emotions. It’s one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen in an anime.
For her part, Mikagi is dealing with her own demons as her family expects Mikagi to take over the family farm while she would prefer to work with horses. Here we see a different take on family agriculture, seperate from Komaba who looked forward to running his family’s farm. Mikagi represents a lifestyle that still exists in many families; having your profession or trade passed down to you. Silver Spoon shows us the positives and the negatives in this, stressing that at the end of the day, you have to try your best to do what you love and what moves you, rather than what you feel you are supposed to do. When Mikagi breaks this news to her family, with Hachiken’s support of course, her grandmother, who is often quiet and sage like, is positive about the news but reminds Mikagi to not insult the horses, “…by taking on the challenge half-way.” This speaks to the larger theme of the show, which is the importance of putting your all into that which you are doing.
These two views on farm/rural life are juxtaposed with a trip that Hachiken takes to his home in order to get some old school notes for help with tutoring Mikagi. Hachiken ends up eating a home-cooked meal with his mom and dad, the latter of which he has a strained relationship with. When Hachiken tells his mother how good the meal is, she is taken aback, not used to hearing from him (when he still lived there) or his father the quality of her meals. Hachiken reflects on this and we get a chance to ruminate on how much Hachiken has changed since the beginning of the series. His connection not only to food and the animals and places it comes from, but to the farmers who nurture said food, is clear by the end of the season. Hachiken has become a part of the process and has been enriched mentally, spiritually and emotionally because of that. This speaks to a larger ideal that if the lot of us could have just a fraction of Hachiken’s involvement, we may all be better off. There is also an unspoken divide happening here between Hachiken’s father, who represents urban life and the emotional distance therein and Hachiken, who has come to represent rural life and being more connected with the world around you. Though his father is the adult, Hachiken feels like the character who has gained the most maturity, both in his willingness to connect with others and his ability to see the world in a new way.
I’m not sure if Silver Spoon will continue with a third season, as there is currently no mention of it anywhere, but the manga that it’s based on is still ongoing so there will certainly be more stories to tell. However, if these are the only animated stories we’ll see, we’re still better for it. At its best, Silver Spoon captures realistic human emotions and shows us a side of life that few of us know anything about. What more can you ask of well-made entertainment?