Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anime Review: Silver Spoon

The summer anime season is done and almost miraculously none of the shows I followed dropped the ball with their endings which is wonderful. True I only followed four shows all the way (and there are a few more I want to pick back up, ServantxService, Hakkenden, and Sunday Without A God) but I'm still thrilled. This was never one of the shows I expected to do poorly however, Hiromu Arakawa has written a few different manga by now and was previously a dairy farmer so I had every faith that she'd be able to write a story about farming that captured everyone's attention in a way no one else could. 

Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji)

Summary: Hachiken is an odd duck and Enzoo, a high school devoted to agriculture with a 5am wake-up call and he's the only person in his class who didn't come from a farming family. But even though he's a bit out of place his classmates are certainly friendly enough and slowly he starts to find his place in the school and maybe his place in life as well.

The Good: Not everything about Hachiken's past and family has been explained so far in the story but I thought the story did a good job at hinting at what happened and I really emphasized with parts of it (the part in the last episode where the principal talks about running made me tear up since that hit a bit too close to home and was in some ways what I wanted, needed to hear). I was actually surprised at how much of Hachiken's past resonated with me, I was fairly different in high school (not thinking overly much about what I wanted to do in college, being in America I knew I'd get into several easily and would have options) but he's written as such a round character that I bet everyone can find one or two things in his life and go "yeah, I feel that way too." The side characters aren't as round but no one feels super flat, even the more comic relief characters have their strengths and passions and that really helps the show since it's just fun to watch everyone bounce off of each other (I was cracking up during the entire Area 51 episode partially because of how over the top it got). I hope some of the side characters get more time in the next part, like the friend who wants to become a vet but is struggling with the part where you have to be able to put animals down and deal with some very gory situations in the process, and while I'm sure that does happen in the story eventually I'm just worried that the anime won't get to cover it.

The Bad: It is a bit hard to say anything bad about this show considering that in some ways it's only half done, and I strongly suspect that the manga will cover all three years of high school. So of course not all of Hachiken's circumstances have been explained, but if by the end of the second half they haven't been explained enough then I'll be frustrated. Honestly the only part of the show that felt off was when the characters were discussing factory farming (where animals like chickens are kept in cages the entire time to simplify the process) and it felt like the show was endorsing it, clearly factory farming in Japan is much more humane than factory farming in the US (and slaughtering, if the characters had seen the pig butchering video my brother had to see in high school I can guaranteed they would not be eating bacon after it). I could say it was just culture differences and move on but, much like C3bu from the round-up at the beginning of the season, its something that means something so completely different in the US that it's nearly impossible to just not think about it during the show and be turned off by it.

The Production Values: This is as close as we're going to get to a "food porn" series for a while it seems and after seeing this show I really want someone to find a foodie manga and toss it at A-1 to animate after seeing how they did this show. Joking aside, I really did like the shots of the food more than anything else in the show with how lovingly detailed they were and how even a simple meal of egg over rice looked amazing. The rest of the show looked fine too, a few of the characters looked like they might be siblings to those found in Arakawa's other works but by and large everyone has rather different faces (the general shape, proportions, etc) and the animators replicated those quite faithfully. Sound wise nothing really caught my attention, none of the voice acting sounded off and the opening ended up being more catchy than I first expected but nothing was especially note-worthy.

In the end I give this show 3.5 out of 5 stars for being enjoyable, well-written, and for choosing a good place for the mid-season stop. The show will be back in the winter in the noitaminA slot again and for those who want to catch it now it's streaming on crunchyroll and a few other places, courtesy of it's licensor Aniplex (yep guys, prepare to pay higher than usual prices whenever the DVD and BRs come out).

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