Silver Spoon, Vol. 9

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.

What I said about farming last time goes double for this volume, as there’s a pile of new information here about pigs, horses and everything in between. The pigs are getting ready to be butchered, and this time the entire school pools its money together to buy three of them. Despite having raised them from little piglets, this time around Hachiken is going to see Bacon’s journey all the way through to… well, bacon. As such, we get a very detailed observation of a pig butchering, so a word of warning for those of you who are squeamish. It is quite interesting, though, and long exposure to the procedure shows all the kids bouncing ideas off each other at a very fast pace (for future selling, etc.) – something that the teachers credit Hachiken for, as his ignorance in farm matters but raging curiosity leads the other kids to think of things they may not have otherwise.

We’ve been watching Hachiken grow over the course of this series, and this volume is excellent at showing the reader how far he’s come and showing him how far he still needs to go. In order to help Mikage study, he breaks down and asks his brother for help, and finds out his study guide notes are his for the taking – provided he goes back home to get them, as he left them in his old room. (In the interim, Shingo has somehow gotten married to a Russian woman, on the spur of the moment, showing again how different he and Hachiken are.) Hachiken’s return at first impresses us – his old middle school classmates note his new abilities and relaxed countenance, even as they get fake angry when they hear there are girls he speaks to. Sadly, going home means another fight with his father, one where Hachiken for once does not back down and defends what he sees as his Dad berating his classmates. It’s a great scene, and leads to his mother journeying up to the school herself to see what Hachiken is doing there.

He’s also tutoring Mikage, and tutoring is all it is, much to the frustration of her friends and the joy of his. (The frustrating of teenage hormones is a constant refrain in this manga, usually used to make things more lighthearted.) Mikage is trying, but there’s no miracle cure – no matter how much Hachiken breaks it down into horse anecdotes, this is going to be hard for her. (I laughed when the group suggested he become a teacher, and Mikage correctly pointed out he would die trying to help each student at maximum power.) There’s no turning back now, though, especially since her parents are selling some of the horses to help pay for her to go to college. The need for money is a constant theme of this series, which is also why it’s so jarring when Hachiken asks his father about any debt they may have, and finds that he is far better off than everyone else – they’ve even saved for his college. His is not a farming family. (Hachiken is also savvy enough to realize that he needs a real accountant for their growing business translations, and turning to Tamako was very smart of him.)

Can Mikage get into college? Can she afford to? Can she and Hachiken admit their feelings to each other without their parents or male classmates killing him? Can Shingo survive telling his parents he has a new Russian bride? Can Valentine’s Day be the celebration that Christmas absolutely wasn’t? These questions and many others will be answered in the next volume of Silver Spoon.

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