What They Say:
The only reason why Yugo Hachiken decided to attend the Oezo Agricultural High School (a.k.a Ezono) was simply because the school had a dormitory. Entering Ezono was a way for Yugo to run away from the stifling academic pressures in the city, however, it didn’t take long for him to realize that life is not that simple. Yugo is soon forced to face more hurdles in his new environment surrounded by all the farm animals and the magnificent Mother Nature. He also begins feeling a different kind of pressure as he deals with his classmates who, unlike him, all have a clear view of what they want for their futures.
Even so, as Yugo overcomes one challenge after another at Ezono and deepens his bonds with his classmates, he begins to grow stronger both physically and mentally. This is a coming-of-age story filled with sweat, tears, and literally a lot of dirt!
The audio is only in one choice – a Japanese track in stereo (no English dub) yet I had no need to adjust the sound quality which actually made me think it was a 5.1 track at first. The audio combines the sounds needed for animals as well of course so there is a range of foley and effects which sync in well with the video and subtitles making it an unproblematic release as far as I checked. Disappointed there is no dual audio track of course but this shouldn’t happen your enjoyment of the show, especially with how over the top the sounds are with the lead character combined with the accuracy done throughout.
The video is set in full screen format via NTSC transfer to PAL format with the show combining animation and colour in a more traditional sense considering the agriculture theme – very realistic looking ranging from the animals, the food (along with the meat, things with the egg/rice and the pizza will have you positively drooling…unless you’re on the other side of the fence and the show could easily convert you to being a vegetarian) with no real problems with the subtitles, the sound synching, no pause lag or in general, it is a quality release, with the bright colours and flow really shining through on Blu-Ray with no obvious noticeable CGI effects used.
There was no packing for this test release however the Blu-Ray Special Edition version of this will get collector’s packaging.
On each of the discs, the menu is the same –clips from the show with some catchy music in the background– like most Blu-Rays it has popup menus during the show (bar extras) – on the main menu, however it is basic yet unique as it is just the episodes on the left hand side but with animals used as the selector marker – with the only other available option being Play Trailers on disc 1, and Commercial, Clean Ending and Opening on Disc 2 (no extras menu, all available from the main menu) Very simple but eye-catching.
The only extras were trailers for the show, a Japanese commercial for it and a clean opening and ending. The special edition will come with some postcards and a poster along with the collector’s packaging.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Silver Spoon is a big under the radar series that I hadn’t known about at all despite airing originally in Japan between 2013 and 2014, with the manga still ongoing since 2011. This is even more odd considering the premise is actually something I’d be intrigued by – a slice of life series based at a school which focusing on farming and agriculture. This is definitely something very interesting and unique and whilst there has been the odd farming anime, this one hits the buttons a lot more due to its more realistic nature, setting and decisions, combined with a very identifiable, developing and likeable lead character, this may just be the biggest surprise in my review pile since Snow White & The Red Hair.
So spoiler, it’s good. But for more in-depth…
Immediately our lead character seems very typical – Yuugo Hachiken is the new kid at a school, but to add to that, he’s a new kid at a school that he knows nothing about…a city boy now at a school that specifies in agriculture that he has to adapt to. What is a bit different though is Hachiken is very intelligent and seems to have been able to go to any school he wants to, yet he chose this one. He admits that he has no specific purpose of his future, and this appears to be what the story is getting to, when you take into consideration the few moments you see or hear of his family…
Along with Hachiken, he does quickly become popular as he begins to learn and fit in, combined with his intelligence in helping out in general subjects (he is overall the best student, but never is #1 in any subject so he feels like he still isn’t the best ^^) – his friends become noticeable, we have Aki Mikage, a possible love interest who is an heir to a dairy farm but her story is more that she wants to work with horses so her dilemma is whether to take over the business or follow her dream, Ichiro Komaba, a stoic young man who is Aki’s neighbour and also has a family dairy farm, but he wants to look into becoming a pro baseball player, Tamako Inada, a wealthy large lady who wishes to take over her farm and is very outspoken, Shinnosuke Aikawa a young man who wants to be a vet but is afraid of blood, and Keiji Tokiwa, an expert in chickens…and putting his foot into his mouth at the wrong times. Other characters are also around (the cheese girl Mayumi gets a fun moment late into the session) but this is our main core that surrounds Hachiken and his way in settling into this school.
Hachiken develops really well as he has to get used to early wake ups, hard labour and the more unusual things he learns and then has to react to (his development for refusing to have eggs when he sees how they are laid to eventually accepting it and how delicious they are fresh on hot rice) – he joins the equestrian club despite not knowing horses well, partly because of a crush on Aki and partly to learn something new – and it is done the hard way, the fact he has to shovel manure at first is just a test till he gets to ride the horses.
The reality of the show hits you hard too as explanation of animals that don’t do well in racing can be killed, and it really hits when Hachiken begins looking after a piglet that is named Pork Bowl….of course the idea of naming an animal when it’s fate is sealed is something that hits you hard because the piglet is undeniably cute so you know it’s going to be hard later down the line….which we’ll get to in a bit.
One thing that the show really does well is displaying how magnetic Hachiken is. He is flawed, and not perfect but he is able to make friends easily and able to draw in other people – the pizza episode is a bit one when they look for ingredient after discovering an old stone pizza oven and with the school very out of town for delivery, they get gouda cheese (one of the teachers having an ‘illicit’ cheese supply always makes me laugh), bacon, eggs, dough, and OH BOY…YOU WILL BE DROOLING WHEN YOU SEE THAT PIZZA COME OUT THE OVEN…
There are a lot of comedy moments too, Tokiwa and Tamako hitting the right buttons for that, but each character still has moments of personality towards their specialist subjects that still make them stand out in their school. And it works outside of school as well – as you can see Hachiken clearly has some issues with his family (which you learn maybe due to his overbearing father, as you meet Hachiken’s brother later on and that he is trying to find a purpose outside the norm) that instead of going home he goes with Mikage to work on her family’s farm. This also brings in Komaba a bit more, as you learn of his own issues with wanting to win in the baseball tournament but also make things easier on his family – you get the feeling this will come to a head in the future but not sure how and the show just keeps it ambiguous enough to keep you guessing…
The realities continue to hit you though – visiting Tamako’s farm shows the conflict of looking after baby calves to the best they can but also separating them from their mother knowing they may be used for meat/milk unless they can be used for studding. Hachiken is a great viewpoint of a character as he learns as we do, and the harsh realities of farming (an episode has Hachiken accidentally forget to attach a pipe to the milk machine, causing a fair bit of loss money wise to the group, and knowing the struggles, he feels guilty and doesn’t want to take the money he earned on the farm…the money however becomes important a little later…) and the kids debating to take over the family business or go on their own path is a similar struggle to Hachiken but in a different way. Indeed, we see Hachiken’s brother visit him and see that he is also under the thumb of his family and has taken his own path, we’ll see if this gets to a head later as a phone call made suggests their father isn’t happy with either of them…
The final arc is the fact that the piglet Pork-Bowl has grown up and with cute moments between the two making it harder for him (and the audience) knowing that he will be sent to the slaughter-house, when the day comes Hachiken makes the use of his money earned to buy all the meat that will come from Pork-Bowl and going round his friends what to do with it. There is even a video that he decides to watch about the slaughtering process (also bringing in Aikawa who has been the nice guy friend to Hachiken, but his fear of blood is put to the test as he tries to get used to this)…the food you see throughout this show looks amazing…but knowing the realities of what goes through, it is a fine line of going between amazing food and wanting to become a vegan…Hachiken even has the same thought process that to avoid the pain it might be good to go vegetarian…but when offered some freshly smoked chicken or bacon, he can’t not enjoy the flavour. It ends with Komaba playing baseball seeing if he can get to the nationals, everyone buys the meat off Hachiken…and Hachiken wondering what path he should take as he is still undecided in life…
The strength of the show is basically a) the setting and b) our lead combined with the interactions with all the other characters and the subtle developments they get as well. Hachiken is incredibly well rounded to be one of my favourite male leads in a long time. He’s a fish out of water, but also able to adapt well because of his smarts…but not to the point he is perfect – his mistake with the milk weighs heavily on him, his attachment to the piglet was something he knew he would have to deal with when the time came, he has plenty of flaws and yet is also an incredibly nice guy (to the point you think he can’t say no to anybody when helping out) that he gets used to the trials and tribulations of farming (getting up at 4-5am, physical labour) but also trying to be a normal student (helps with exams, has a love interest yet is unsure what to do with his life). The setting of an agricultural school really is unique as well because it doesn’t go over the top and instead plays it very straight. Cows being milked and how it works both pasteurized and fresh from the cow, but also the harshness of separating calves from mothers and of course, the slaughtering process for cows, pigs and even horses (chickens seems to avoid this, though Hachiken’s reactions to the eggs being coming out of chicken’s is the first point of comedy…of course, once he puts a fresh cleaned egg on top of rice it looks like something out of Food Wars…)
There are definitely plenty of things to look forward to in the second season – Mikage, Komaba and Aikawa all have moments that they have to focus on for their dreams but the real focus is what is going on with Hachiken and his family. Topped that with a great sense of humour throughout and a very realistic approach on the livestock and dairy farming, it is surprisingly educational and entertaining at the same time – if there were any flaws, the only thing I can say is that it is a very specific type of series – it is very niche so it won’t be for everyone…and it’s also one of those shows that the harsh realities can make you either enjoy the food porn…or become a vegetarian. It definitely tugs at the brain and the heart at that respect, but as a show, it is one of the best I have come across.
Silver Spoon is a very different and unique take on the new student at a new school formula. There are no harem hijinks, there are no over the top slapstick moments (though comedy is still definitely good here) and is set at a school with a subject not really discussed much in anime in agriculture. And because of that it stands out from the crowd as a well written, educational yet entertaining piece of work, a very likeable and approachable lead, a good surrounding cast (I barely mentioned the teachers but they are also very likable) and hints of story with many of the cast being hopefully developed for the future. It’s definitely a series that once you look at the synopsis you can decide if it is for you or not as it is very niche, but if you think it might be up your alley, chances are you won’t be disappointed.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: June 3rd, 2019
Running Time: 275 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1:78:1 widescreen
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.