Story/Art: Hiromu Arakawa
Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say:
If there’s one thing the farm school has taught Hachiken it’s that food production is a laborious process. So when Nakajima-sensei taps the Equestrian Club to help rebuild his precious cheese stores, he is hardly surprised by how many careful steps go into making the perfect wheel of cheese. One small fluctuation can spoil the whole endeavor; the same is true throughout the farming world. And when Komaba Ranch finds itself in financial trouble, Hachiken realizes his friends will inherit the uncertainties of the harvest along with their family farms—if they don’t go out of business before then…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I love Silver Spoon, and this time, it’s not the excellence of the execution of the characters. It’s not always that Komaba has a lot going on, and has these minor moments that feel so much more momentous in hindsight. But this does. And it’s a life lesson that applies everywhere, because we collectively live in an often miserable, capitalist society.
Komaba’s ranch is going out of business, and it’s because of a set of circumstances that were largely unavoidable. They expanded, and their father died soon after, leaving the ranch with one fewer hand to help. Komaba’s mom did what she could, but she can truly only do so much with twin girls to raise also. They have no choice but, under the insurmountable weight of their debt, to sell their cows and shutter their doors.
Hachiken, feeling ever helpless, asks around about this and just learns the inescapable truth: Everyone in this world is in debt. One of his peers says their family stays in business by borrowing at seeding, and paying off at harvest. It’s a never fucking ending cycle of stress and weight that will never leave. As Komaba’s ranch shows, they’re successful, so they try to expand. But to expand, they need to take out a loan. And if expansion fails for whatever reason, they’re left saddled with debt. There’s nothing that can be done about it. It’s just the way of the world. Need to get a job while on that remote farm? Better have enough money or enough credit to be able to buy, or go into more debt to purchase, some sort of transportation. Want a roof over your head? Debt. Want to go to college to improve your station? Debt.
Silver Spoon gets life so intrinsically.
It’s probably something that Arakawa’s family had to deal with on her farm. It’s probably something Arakawa is dealing with as a mangaka. The earning and spending of money is how this world functions.
The whole volume is, fortunately, not a giant drop of reality from the Silver Spoon gods. The latter half of the volume is back to it’s normal function of great character work, this time with Mikage.
With Komaba’s ranch closing, Mikage has had a lot to think about. It doesn’t help that Mikage’s family served as guarantors on the debt that ultimately sunk Komaba’s family. It’s on her mind, as it would probably be on everyone’s.
They are kids though; high schoolers, but still kids. They shouldn’t be thinking about this, and they shouldn’t have to deal with this. But the parents know that, if Mikage takes over the family farm, she’s going to have to deal with it eventually. It’s better, perhaps, in this case to learn earlier than later.
But Mikage has dreams of her own. She wants to work with horses, of course. She doesn’t want the family’s farm, even though she knows what that would mean. She’s been part of the Equestrian Club since the first volume. She’s been part of anything horse related in the manga. She loves horses. And as much as she loves and respects the work done on the family farm, she can’t just delve into it out of a sense of obligation. She has to carve out her own path, and Hachiken has helped her get there.
Hachiken is generally a good influence on people. He helps them out of their shell, even though he’s arguably still largely stuck in his own. But crushing on Mikage especially has helped her verbalize what she’s just kept in all this time. Having someone to talk to can mean just so much.
Also this volume is about cheese.
I don’t think there’s been a better volume of Silver Spoon yet. This volume had great characterization with both Komaba in his little spurts and especially with Mikage. I love the moments with Mikage especially because of how weighty those feel in a grand scheme of the manga as a whole. It’s been about Hachiken, Mikage, and how they interact for the longest time. This feels like a culmination. Let them succeed.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 23, 2019