Silver Spoon: Itadakimasu!

At a certain agricultural school in Hokkaido...
At a certain agricultural school in Hokkaido…

Yūgo Hachiken decided to escape from the stressful school and home environment in the city by enrolling at Ōezo Agricultural High School. Unlike his peers who’ll eventually embark upon an agricultural career, he decides to study there only because he believes it’ll be less competitive academically. Unfamiliar with his new surroundings, he tries his best to adapt to the agricultural world he had never thought of living in. (Courtesy of ANN.

Gin-no-Saji_09-01 Gin-no-Saji_09-02
First world concerns…but that’s precisely why we need to consider them…

When I think about the two series of hers that I’ve read/seen, I find myself reflecting on how Arakawa Hiromu’s works deal with really interesting philosophical questions. Fullmetal Alchemist dealt with the value of things—the priceless value of ‘life’ was something that was introduced early on and reinforced throughout the series, but, as the ending of that series showed, working out how much value there is in something, whether something is worth doing, or whether a particular action should be taken or not, is not that simple. To obtain something, sacrifices often have to be made, and what the right choice is can be different for people in different situations. Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji) deals with a similarly deep set of philosophical questions, one that most people probably do not consider often enough. Where does the food I eat come from? Have I placed enough value in the lives that have been used to sustain mine? Or in the hands that have brought that food to me? Is it right to be raising animals for food?

Teach, you told us before that we shouldn’t get too comfortable with what we have. It’s be easier if I could just accept that this is how it has to be if we eat animals, but I just can’t do it. You can’t just accept and get used to that fact, once you see these guys…
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Alright, I’ll take care of you right up to the end, Bacon!

The answer that Hachiken comes to for the last question—that he will keep thinking about the contradictory feelings of caring for the animals you raise but loving the taste of their flesh—really resonated with me. It brought to mind something that I started thinking about after becoming friends with someone who often caught his own food, be it fish, deer, or even elk, based on something that I read in a work of fiction once. Which is that we can also show respect for the animals that we kill by appreciating them as food—food that is not only tasty, but that also sustains our own lives. We are also part of the circle of life, and everything that we consume will also go back to the earth eventually. Admittedly, there are also lots of problems with mass production of food and other consumer products…but in terms of sustainable farming and hunting, I think that this is a point well worth considering.

What will that silver spoon mean for you?
A framed spoon of silver…?

Another question that Silver Spoon had me pondering was what symbolism was encapsulated in its title. As MusouMitai pointed out long ago, there is actually a range of meanings that a silver spoon carries, depending on culture and station. The use of silver spoons as a way of detecting poison actually did make it into the manga and anime, albeit through a Russian character rather than a Korean one. And the idea that Ayame and Hachiken were arguably born with to more privileged families, such that they’re quite snobbish about certain things, is also clearly in touched on in the story. And in episode 8 of the second season, the show touches on the obvious one: farmers can be said to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths, as their industry means that they should never go hungry; though as Icchan’s plight showed, that isn’t necessarily true… The final connection uncovered in that blog post was even more interesting: the Japanese novel of the same name written by Naka Kansuke and used by a class whose motto was “Things that are useful right away soon become useless.” This can be applied to Hachiken, who lost his way when he tried to follow the typical path to success. It can also be applied to the cloud that is hanging over Japan’s agricultural industry, where many farmers who are sticking to traditional practices and organisations are struggling to survive. On the flip side, the things that Hachiken achieves at Oezo High—the pizza day, making and selling bacon and later sausages, competing and finishing fourth that show-jumping event, the success of the school festival despite him not making it to the event itself—were all born from great struggles on his part. Like MusouMitai suggests, perhaps the key message of this series is that “the greatest rewards come from hard work and perseverance.”

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Sometimes, life really cuts off the paths that are open to you…

Even more compelling, however, is how the manga deepens this message in chapters 95 and 96, where the Oezo principal brings several of these messages together before providing even more food for thought. The message that the principal gives to all the students at the end of their first year is thus: the silver spoon does not appear out of thin air; rather, it is the legacy of those that have come before you, working hard to give you a foundation upon which to build your dreams. You need to remember those who’ve come before you, and those that make it possible for you to do what you want to you even in the present, and in the future. And as with silver, it is something that you will have to keep working on and polishing in order to make sure that it does not tarnish. But the important thing is that it is there for you to use in order to ‘blaze your own trail to happiness’. Will Silver Spoon be another masterpiece that Arakawa-sensei adds to her oeuvre? We’re probably only about half-way through the series, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

A framed spoon of silver...
What will that silver spoon mean for you?

About karice
MAG fan, amateur translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Silver Spoon: Itadakimasu!

  1. Pingback: Looking back on 2014, part 11: and the anime of the year is… | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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