Silver Spoon, Vol. 1

By Hiromu Arakawa. Released in Japan as “Gin no Saji” by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Amanda Haley.

It’s honestly hard not to get a bit choked up reading this first volume of Silver Spoon, one of the manga licensing holy grails of the last few years. Cries of “it’s a new series by the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist! What’s stopping them?” were met with the response of “It’s a FARMING manga”. But here we are, and finally, seven years after its debut, we have Silver Spoon, a farming manga, in our hot little hands. In fact, I was rather surprised to see that “from the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist” is nowhere on the covers. It’s possible, of course, that they did not want to give mistaken impressions – fans of the fantasy action movie that FMA was much of the time would likely be taken aback a bit by this slice-of-agricultural life series. But in the end I think that’s fine, as Silver Spoon stands out on its own without any help. It’s a truly refreshing series.

Our hero is Yuugo Hachiken, who has arrived at an agricultural high school up in Hokkaido, the only student in the school who doesn’t come from some kind of farming background or family. We don’t learn his circumstances right away, except to see that he doesn’t seem to have a purpose in life. The other students definitely all are goal oriented – they have to be, given the nature of the industry they’re all in. Hachiken is an excellent student, but he’s also far too serious and tends to suffer from “if I don’t get straight A’s and the 1st place in class I am a failure” syndrome. Here, though, he’s thrown head first into farming life, with the help of the cute girl who “rescues” him after he chases a runaway animal on his first day and gets lost, Aki Mikage. He’s immediately smitten, but romance is on the back burner here. The main thrust of the series is seeing Hachiken learn about animals, farms, and the cycle of life, and trying to come to terms with it.

Arakawa grew up on a farm, and it shows. The attention to detail here is fantastic, and even though there’s a lot of exposition you never feel bored. Hachiken too is a well thought out protagonist. He’s uptight, and seemingly the sort of person you’d expect to break after a few days of the grueling work the kids have to put in at the school, but while he whines a lot, he never thinks of giving up. (And the one time he tries to slack off he’s quickly put in his place.) Moreover he’s quite happy to tutor the other kids in things like math and the like, and already seems to be showing signs of “trying to do it all”. The rest of the cast is also introduced well – Mikage is sweet and upbeat, the baseball-playing Komaba is stoic and serious, etc. Fans of Fullmetal Alchemist may find the gym teacher a bit familiar as well. And the animals are fun as well, particularly the horses – though there are hints there may be piglet drama coming up soon.

After waiting so long for this series, I am so happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a relaxing, easy read, and you’ll also learn a lot about animal care. I urge everyone to go and buy this, as I desperately want it to succeed. Highly recommended.

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