Silver Spoon, Vol. 4

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.

Through the beginning of Silver Spoon, we’ve seen Hachiken interact with the other agricultural college students, and gradually learn wheat they do and how tough a job it is. He has a reputation, as is stated in this book, for being “stupidly honest”, but doesn’t quite have the life skills that are needed yet to wear that well – he just comes across as stressed most of the time. Still, he is slowly making an impact, and we see that the graduating third years know that he can use those skills if given the chance when they choose him to be vice-president. What’s more, his own ideas are starting to influence the others – we get the resolution of the “pig meat” arc here, and it shows off the way that he forces others to think of new ways to try things and new options to explore, as well as proving Hachiken is never going to become stoic about the slaughter of animals.

Of course, while Hachiken is the main character, there are others to think of. And not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve the way he does. We already know that Mikage is coping with needed to take over her family’s farm even when she’d rather be working with horses, and now it looks as if Komaba is having issues as well. Since they’re both farm kids who grew up together, it’s natural they’d confide in each other. Since they’re both very good at pretending everything is fine in front of other people, it’s natural they’re both unwilling to confide in Hachiken. Still, they both need social skills development, as the blunt “it’s nothing to do with you” they give him over and over pretty much eats into his heart. Unlike Hachiken, who is still a bit lovestruck, I don’t think that this means Mikage and Komaba are dating, I think it just means they’re not good at showing weakness. Which is why, in the end, Mikage ISN’T picked to vice-president of the club.

There are a lot of things going on in this series, and it seems planned out in advance quite well. The chapters do a good job alternating between character drama that advances the plot, learning about farming and agriculture, and goofy fun comedy. The goofy comedy this time around involves all the guys escaping so they can go to “Area 51” to see the amazing spectacle that only comes there at night. Yes, that’s right, it’s… not UFOs. It is, of course, something that would excite everyone except Hachiken (and Tamako, for an extra added punchline). At this point, Silver Spoon seems like a series brimming with its author’s self-confidence. Next time around it looks as if we’re getting the Ag School equivalent of a Culture Festival. Let’s hope Hachiken remembers to have fun. (Who am I kidding, he’ll be a wreck.) Every volume of this is a joy.

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