After the universal success of Fullmetal Alchemist both through its manga and anime forms, another one of manga author Hiromu Arakawa's creations makes its way towards being adapted into an anime series. And while Arakawa's most prominent and grandiose work is undoubtedly Fullmetal Alchemist, Silver Spoon pulls back the reins in order to focus on the ordinary and rather simple tale of a young protagonist from the city venturing into the farmstead lifestyle. Perhaps more akin to her 2008 semi-autobiographical manga Noble Farmer, a work that described the seven years she spent in Hokkaido partaking within the farming industry, Silver Spoon is certainly a telling re-interpretation of that past work, exploring how the farming business operates and trials and tribulations that accompany the individuals within it.
Firstly, those expecting Silver Spoon to be anything reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist in terms of scope, might be disappointed in what this particular series has to offer let alone what it intends to be. Silver Spoon is a very reserved series to say the least, and where the twists and turns of Fullmetal Alchemist's narrative made for a significantly compelling series, Silver Spoon is a slice-of-life drama that mainly hinges on making fun of the stereotypical elements of the "city boy" and his struggles in adjusting to the complex nature of the farm life. Main protagonist Yugo Hachiken is the conveyor of much of what we can assume Arakawa undertook when she was working within the agricultural field, with the series often portraying Yugo as the less than enthusiastic urban dweller from Sapporo who initially believes that attending agricultural high school would be simple - an assumption that is far from the truth.
There is a heavy sense throughout viewing Silver Spoon that Arakawa is attempting to break down the misconceptions surrounding individuals who are agriculturally inclined, with Yugo seemingly being the scapegoat in which to make fun of the common outsider unaware of the diligence necessary to be successful within the farming world. The irony of Yugo's predicament is that his peers at the agricultural school are all there because they take their future as agriculturalists serious, whereas Yugo really could care less and simply wants to take an easier academic path in order have more time to better prepare for college entrance exams. It initially paints him as a snarky young man willing to take the undemanding path in life, a move that paints Yugo as rather foolish and ultimately a willing and haughty underachiever.
But through Arakawa's talent as a writer and with further contribution from series' director(s) Tomohiko Ito and Kotomi Deai, we slowly begin to see how Yugo grows, which is also the case for many of the other characters throughout the series as well, dealing with the aspect of following one's path in life and the uncertainties that surround it. We also begin to see how Yugo's own life choices and situations have brought him to where he is today - confused as to what he wants to be in life in comparison to many of his peers at the agricultural school already knowing and subsequently following their own life goals. Yugo is essentially the figurehead within the series that represents us as the viewer, unbeknownst to the ways of farming and all of the complicated demands that it entails. The slice-of-life elements that series showcases - milking cattle, cutting chickens, and taking care of pigs, etc. - quite easily translates into Yugo attempting to acclimate to his newfound lifestyle with initial frustration and dismay, with those viewers unaccustomed to such experiences feeling just as confused as he does. The series works on a very personal level because of this, which one will appreciate considering the honest nature of the series as a whole.
Alongside Yugo is also a colorful cast of characters, which is perhaps the main element towards what establishes Silver Spoon as a delightful narrative regarding finding one's passion in life. While Yugo is slowly unveiled to be a very reliable and hardworking individual who gains the trust of his fellow peers, it is the genuinely charming - and often times rather comical - side characters that influence Yugo that stand out the most. Whether this is seen in Shinnosuke's wanting to be a vet but always fainting at the mere sight of blood, to Aki inheriting her family's farm and the conflicting ideals coinciding between her family and her own desires, to even the emotional responses expressed by the farm animals themselves, it is these character interactions that enlivens the series. Each character is seen as having a passion for something, striving through their own hardships in order to succeed and make their dreams come true. While such an approach could have easily led towards a sense of impractical optimism, Silver Spoon recognizes the often times harsh reality of the farming industry and how it can emotionally affect individuals within it, which is an approach that was unflinchingly bold and refreshing to see within an anime series.
Silver Spoon is a series that succeeds primarily because it does a fantastic job in enveloping us into the considerably large agricultural world with ease. Initially going into watching the series, one may feel that the subject matter could lead to one being completely bored out of their mind, but through the use of situational comedy and the eye-opening elements of the farming experience, it makes for an enjoyable slice-of-life drama that neither panders to the agricultural inclined crowd nor patronizes the viewer for not knowing how to properly milk a cow. It is also always great to see a series bring about an environment that is somewhat foreign and make it accessible to even the most common of viewers. And although Silver Spoon is rather niche in a lot of ways, it is ultimately an enlightening viewing experience and one that will make one better appreciate just how challenging - and utterly amusing - the farm life can be.
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