Silver Spoon, Vol. 6

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 going to be very hard to discuss this volume without talking about the final chapter that overshadows the rest of it, but I will do my best to save that for later. In the meantime, there is still festival prep, and horse races! The racing is a highlight of the book, mostly as, despite getting distracted by family, studies, and Mikage, Hachiken is finally learning how to ride. This is despite the fact that he almost falls off Chestnut 3/4 of the way through, creating a dramatic moment when everyone panics he’s going to fall and get trampled. But he survives, and ends up in fourth place! Which is interesting, because it’s really good for a newbie, but it still irritates him. He wants more. He’s getting competitive spirit. This is especially good news given that he’s fallen for Mikage, who gets third in her own race and actually agrees to go on a date with him during the festival (though she may not have realized that’s what it was).

It would be remiss of me not to mention Ayame, who is introduced in this volume and is FABULOUS, in all senses of the word. Trying her hardest to have wandered in from a Rose of Versailles manga, and consumed with an intense rivalry with Mikage (who merely sees her as a good childhood friend), Ayame is pure hilarity the moment she steps onto the page. She’s basically the “ohohohohohoho” laugh given human form. She rides slowly and perfectly through her race, not understanding or even really caring that she’d doing it wrong. And when Hachiken manages to get fourth in a race (and thus finish ahead of her), Ayame admits that she’s rivals with him as well. For all that I praise Silver Spoon for its depiction of agriculture and compelling characters, there’s also no doubt that Arakawa can make things incredibly funny.

…and then Hachiken collapses and is taken to hospital, right before the festival begins. Frankly, the astute reader should have guessed this was going to happen. He hasn’t been brought up on a farm, and he got goaded into taking charge of eighty different things. He was ridiculously exhausted, and now he’s paying. That doesn’t make this any less depressing, though. His look as he wakes up in the hospital is almost heartbreaking. And that cliffhanger, showing the arrival of his dad, promises that the next volume is not going to be starting with laughs either. Still, I like that we are shown the start of the festival anyway – the manga is not just Hachiken, and I’ll lay you even money that his incredibly detailed and easy to understand festival plan is going to be noticed by someone at some point (there’s even a shot of the notebook sitting there like Chekhov’s gun.)

So the festival looks to be a success, but will Hachiken get to see any of it? And will his dad demand he pull out of the school? Can his dad, in fact, find it in him to not be a complete dick this time? I cannot wait to find out, because Silver Spoon is still amazingly addicting.

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