What They Say:
The second trimester begins at Ezono as Hokkaido’s fall quickly kicks in. Hachiken is as busy as ever, taking over the position of vice president of the equestrian club, adopting a puppy, competing in his first equestrian event, and being in charge of many activities for Ezono’s school festival.
Even though the usual school life is carried out and they dream of their futures like any other teenager, Hachiken and his friends are forced to confront the harsh realities of agricultural businesses such as financial struggles and successor issues. Hachiken tries his best to support his peers, which ultimately leads him to face and overcome his own problems with his family.
Contains episodes 1-11 of season 2.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty strong overall even if the material itself is weak as we get the original Japanese language track only in stereo but encoded using the uncompressed PCM format. This means its pretty much the best it can be and it sounds good, even if it is mostly just dialogue with a few comical touches here and there that goes bigger. The dialogue is pretty well placed when necessary but mostly it’s a full feeling mix that comes across well while the opening and closing sequences adds a bit more warmth and fullness to it all. The incidental sounds are nice and it all has a more full feeling than a lot of other lower encoded mixes of a similar nature. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The eleven episodes that makes up this series is spread across three discs in a three/four/four format that gives everything enough space to work with. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show has a great look to it here even at the generally middle range bit rate it uses as it’s full of bright colors with a largely solid feeling to it. You can see that there’s a lot of good detail to it that would stand out more in high definition, but it’s a decent looking standard definition that captures the look of the show well. It’s biggest strength is in the good looking character designs and the overall naturally bright approach to the backgrounds and the animals that gives it a lot of pop.
The packaging for this release is pretty decent and a bit of a step up from the first volume even if it goes more traditional. The front cover artwork gives us a look at a lot of the main cast in their winter outfits outside, so there’s some nice variety and a good look to it, especially with Maron included. With a deep blue cloudy sky background, it really does feel wintery in a very good way. The back cover is the wraparound piece that has more of the school grounds showing there and the characters, reinforcing the agricultural aspect, and we get a cute shot of the adorable principal that runs the place as well. The premise is well covered along the bottom half here with it covering the idea of what Hachiken is there for and we get a solid breakdown of the content and basic technical aspects as well. The technical grid has some of it as well. The cover has some mild background artwork on the reverse side that replicates the front cover without the characters with the right side featuring a breakdown of episodes by number and title and the left showing the cast and staff. No show related inserts are included.
The menu design for this release goes with a simple approach that certainly fits in with the various pieces of artwork used for the original run across the three volumes. The first menu is my favorite of them though as it basically takes the front cover artwork of the release and plays it out in full, which is bright and more vibrant here than on the case artwork itself. Getting it across a larger screen shows some of the noise and issues that comes with a standard definition release, but it still has a decent look about it. The navigation goes for a simple gray bar that fits in well enough as it provides the basic selections while also allowing subtitles to be turned off and on from the top level. Submenus are minimal overall but are easily accessible and they work without problem.
The release comes with a few extras to it but not all that much beyond the basics. The clean versions of the opening and closing sequences make their way here, which is always welcome, and we get the original Japanese commercial spots as well as a few trailers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Silver Spoon had a lot of fun in its first half with the eleven episodes we got there as we were introduced to Hachiken, escaping from his father and family life to end up at Ezono Agricultural for his high school career. While we had a lot of fish out of water moments throughout it, it was played more for education and light humor than really making him come across badly. It was rather educational in how modern agriculture works, in a simplified sense, as well as how such schools work. One of the best parts of it though was in seeing how Hachiken got close to the pig that he was caring for and it turned into a really big cycle of life kind of thing with his understanding. There was a lot to it and while you could laugh and smile, you could also feel quite sad about it all.
With this season, we get a good bit more of it with some natural changes along the way as the character stories grow and change to the situations. Hachiken, as our central character, has grown a bit from his Pork Bowl experience and he’s become rather well accepted at the school by this point, though they do still get a good chuckle out of him from time to time. What hasn’t changed is the way he puts his all into things and really works hard in order to succeed and a part of the school community. As a part of the Equestrian club, where he joined to be a part of Mikage’s life and interest, he’s now been nudged and almost tricked into becoming the club vice president since he’s so good at the chores and duties of such a position. He’s not exactly thrilled, but it does turn into an opportunity where he gets to start interacting with others in a better way because takes the role so seriously.
The Equestrian club side of the season does grow beyond that as there are fun competitions that are done and some more serious competitive time as well, which has Hachiken doing his best to get better at it and really showing his stuff overall at the real competition where we see that he’s not as awful as he thinks he is. While this is fun, what’s best to draw from it is his growing understanding of how different the world looks when riding a horse. He has a rough partner with Maron, but the two do find their balance and that’s an important thing for Hachiken to have figured out. It also puts him with Mikage a lot and he really starts to get an even better idea of just how much she loves horses and how much she wants her life and world to revolve around them.
This season does good stuff with that in the first half and even more so in the second half in a different way. What it does in between is to provide the serious side of the season, which turns its focus on Komaba. He’s had some good scenes prior to this, but has been less of a character and more of an archetype in a way. His baseball side is shown a lot through the first half as the school team progresses and makes their way towards hopefully hitting the spring competitive season. Komaba’s dream is utterly baseball, but he goes to the school so he can learn what he needs when it comes to running the family farm as well. What we see here is how, when his dream has to give way to the reality of the world, he does what he has to and really just buckles down on it. It’s what’s expected of people, though most would say they should follow their dreams. But the reality is that it’s very hard to do so when others are depending upon you.
Seeing how this impacts not just Komaba and his family but also Mikage’s family because of debt issues is definitely interesting to watch unfold. Even more so because we see Hachiken starting to realize what’s really eating at Mikage in that she doesn’t want to succeed and take over the farm when she’s older. With the debt that can’t be repaid because of the Komaba farm shutting down, that sends the Mikage family into a spiral and the adults work through it in a pragmatic way. But it’s their daughter that’s the real issue that comes up as Hachiken, having spent time there, acts as a kind of proxy for her in trying to bring about her real issues. There are some cute bits along this about how Hachiken and Mikage are properly suited, and both get kind of awkward about that, but it really focuses strongly on what it is that Mikage herself really wants and that she intends to pursue it. The fallout from it is realistic and well played and it does push her and Hachiken together more as he takes a responsibility for it.
Hachiken’s story throughout this season is a lot of fun to watch as he becomes more of a man and finds his center better. He has to suffer a bit along the way, such as when he overcommits (and gets overcommitted by others) to doing not only a class festival project but also one for the club, but that has its own worth. Since he misses out on the festival, it ends up drawing him closer to Mikage in a way. But it also has his father coming to visit, which has its own dire conversation material. That comes full circle towards the end when Hachiken ends up back in Sapporo to get stuff he needs to help Mikage and it turns into a moment where he does well in standing up to his father as he charts his own course. It doesn’t resolve things, but it helps to show that he’s not the kid that essentially ran away. Complementing that with an episode where his mother comes to visit the school without him knowing lets her see what he’s become, while also making it clear that her own fear of her husband has contributed to the suffering Hachiken went through for so long.
There’s a lot to like here as a natural evolution to the first season in seeing Hachiken become more settled while still trying to do as much as possible so he can fit in. His time with Mikage is solid as he gets closer to her and he also struggles in seeing what Komaba is going through and the fallout from that. That storyline in particular is a gut wrencher as you see just how much it impacts everyone and the kind of sadness that it evokes as we see them closing down the farm and selling off the pieces of it. That made this even harder to watch than the whole Pork Bowl aspect of the first season. I’m still a big fan of this show and what it does since it’s so not the norm, while still playing to familiar tropes, and especially because it does do some real changes along the way and evolves the characters in a good way for the most part. Definitely a show worth spending time with and inviting into your heart.
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Openings, Textless Ending, Commercial, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 16th, 2014
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.