As with farming in real life, agricultural-themed anime Silver Spoon is far from a sleepy, pastoral peek into rearing livestock and animal husbandry. The hours are long, the work is dirty and difficult, but it’s also rewarding, and Silver Spoon captures it all with aplomb. The show itself is brash and loud more often than not and while the backgrounds are rendered in smooth pastel shades, the foreground is littered with characters…so many characters! You might be reminded of another anime while watching, one that certainly has its bucolic beauty, but is pretty darn far from farming – Fullmetal Alchemist.
The Silver Spoon manga was drawn and written by Hiromu Arakawa, who funnily enough portrays herself as a bespectacled cow. Best known for her beloved story of the brothers Elric, Silver Spoon is an entirely different animal, a much more personal project on a more intimate scale.
The first series really resonated with viewers and this sophomore entry offers much of the same and more besides. For those that have never seen the show before, the set-up sees Yugo Hachiken flunking his selected high school’s entrance exam. In the aftermath, he swaps suburbia for the boonies, escaping his overbearing father and his sense of shame and failure. His new school is essentially like any other, except that it’s one-part farm. Here students learn to care for and rear livestock and crops, from milking cows right through to mucking out stalls and sowing seeds. For Yugo, it’s a journey of self-discovery, as he comes out of his sulky city-kid self, in over his head, to someone who’s becoming a valued part of his new community. In that regard, this second season is the pay off for so much character development that was set up in the preceding episodes.
As one would expect from an Arakawa IP, Silver Spoon has a lot going on under the surface. It might not seem so at first with its over-reliance on sight gags, but there’s a lot of touching drama and great character moments. In one of the most compelling plot lines of the second season, Yugo is put in charge of organising the school’s festival, but he works himself to exhaustion until he’s hospitalised. On seeing how all his hard work and planning created a fulfilling experience, he starts to cry. Because he’s so happy, he says. It’s moments like these – and plenty of others beside – that elevate Silver Spoon from what could have been a run-of-the-mill slice-of-life series to something that stands apart on its own merits.
It’s just that the drama does tend to get lost under its relentless gags and goofiness. Often they land with the intended humour, while others outstay their welcome until I found myself wanting to watch fewer and fewer episodes at a time. But overall it builds on the endearing formula of the first season for one of the most charming, if sadly underappreciated, entries under A-1 Pictures’ umbrella. If that doesn’t convince you Fullmetal Alchemist fans, maybe the fact that there’s a dead ringer for Alex Louis Armstrong will.
Distributor: All the Anime
Extras: Collectors packaging; artcards; poster