Gin no Saji, or Silver Spoon, is a story about a fish out of water. Well, actually it's about a city kid who attends an agricultural school. Hachiken is a high school student who is quite obviously totally out of his element from the first day of school. All of his fellow classmates are farm kids who have plans to take over their family farm business in the future or otherwise have agriculturally-related careers, like becoming a veterinarian. They are all totally dedicated to their goals and have a lot of basic farming knowledge. Hachiken by contrast, has no motivation and no goals in life, and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s only at this agricultural high school because he’s running away from something.
Surprisingly, Hachiken begins to learn the various aspects of agriculture, and even more surprisingly, he fits in with his fellow classmates. He has a lot to learn, some of it fairly painfully, but he also has some natural leadership ability, and is smart. In addition, he has no qualms about rolling his sleeves up and pitching in, whatever the task may be. His willingness to do all the jobs alongside everyone else, and sometimes his unique perspective on the job, helps him become easily accepted by his peers. And his ability to come up with schemes and to help his classmates out, helps them all become friends. He quickly falls for one of his fellow students a girl named Aki, and he joins the equestrian club to be near her since she loves horses.
Hachiken struggles with the usual farming conundrums, including how do you stop seeing a cute little piglet and realize that this animal is bacon and pork chops? How do you butcher and eat an animal you’ve helped raise? He names one small piglet Pork Bowl (ButaDon) and helps this runt of the litter reach market size during the series. Along the way he also begins to come to terms with his lack of a goal in life.
They never clearly explain exactly what it is that Hachiken is running from. He obviously has problems with his family since he's very unhappy when his older brother shows up. He also apparently had problems with being picked on and isolated in school. One of his former counselors/teachers who was concerned for him follows him to the agriculture school and witnesses how he's changed and his camaraderie with his classmates and instructors.
Silver Spoon is another series of a type that I call “educational”. The story is interesting enough to keep you watching, but they use the series along the way to teach you about the topic. Examples of this type of anime include Moyashimon, which teaches you about microbiology and fermentation, Spice and Wolf, which teaches you about merchandising and trade, Ghost Hound, which teaches you about neuroscience, and even Nodame Cantabile, which teaches you about classical music. Series are better or worse at how they handle this. Sometime the teaching interferes with the story, and that’s unfortunate, but sometimes it’s all pretty well done. I would say Gin no Saji does a good job at it. The characters are likable, and you can certainly empathize with Hachiken’s struggles. The story is entertaining enough to keep you watching, and along the way, you may pick up some information about agricultural science. It's a good series, which I suspect will have another season coming.
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