Silver Spoon, Vol. 11

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.

As promised, we get the Valentine’s Day arc in this volume. That said, it pretty much relies on the sort of thing that I walked about in the last review: everyone is sort of pissed off watching the happy not-yet-a-couple while they themselves are single. Indeed, we even get a breakup here fro0m one of the minor characters, and it’s pointed out that “eldest son of a farmer” is not a big plus for women looking for a man. In fact, it’s the opposite. That said, there is hope on the horizon. Hachiken successfully conveys that he wants chocolate from Mikage. Despite enormous obstacles, she manages to give it to him. And even with an immediate mood-killer, it’s not destroyed like Hachiken’s phone was in the last book. The same applies to Mikage’s grades – they aren’t great, but they’re now good enough that she can see about getting a recommendation for her college. Steady progress is important – in fact, that’s the key to this whole volume.

Everyone is moving up a grade – and in many cases, that means moving out of the dorms. Hachiken decides that he wants a place of his own, and manages to barter with his parents to get it. Less successful is his attempt to explain to his dad that he wants to start a business and would like funding. He has the ideas and the fortitude – and his father is impressed that he actually stands up for himself – but he has no real plan beyond “stuff happens”, so is coldly rejected. Fortunately, he has the sense to ask Tamako for help, as she’s the economic genius of the bunch. Hachiken’s dad is not made magically nicer here, but we do start to see why he was so frustrated at Hachiken passively doing what others wanted before, and it’s Hachiken (and Mikage!) standing up to him that means that the door is not permanently shut. That said, Hachiken’s dad is still sort of a scary ass.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not all that fond of “lovable idiot” characters like tokiwa and Ookawa. We get a lot of Ookawa in this book, as he’s finally forced to graduate (literally, they have to physically make him take the diploma) and face up to unemployment. There isn’t a job of “ruin Hachiken’s life”, sadly, which is a shame as he’s perfectly qualified for it. We also get a long, serious and heartwarming explanation of the Silver Spoon in the title from the headmaster, though again Arakawa can’t resist undercutting things by having the teacher point out it’s his “standard speech”. It still works, and by the end of the volume you get the sense that Hachiken is on the right path, using the resources of abandoned and half-finished projects that the school still has lying around for his own.

This seems to end the “Winter” arc, and the next arc, “Four Seasons”, is the final one (assuming the manga ever comes off of hiatus again). It remains essential reading for anyone who loves a great story and characters.

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