Story/Art: Hiromu Arakawa
Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say:
With no goals of his own, Hachiken is devoted to helping his friends—especially Mikage—achieve theirs. To prepare her for the college entrance exams as promised, Hachiken swallows his pride and calls in a ringer: Tokyo U dropout and academic genius Shingo Hachiken. But collecting his brother’s old notes means returning home for the first time since he started high school…Has everything he’s learned at Ezo Ag readied him enough to face his past…?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hachiken has always been a dude without a goal in life or a direction to go. He was studying all through middle school and probably elementary school too, and he ran off to this ag school in Hokkaido. Since then, he’s found a bunch of good buddies and he seems genuinely happier from the little snapshots of his junior high we’ve gotten.
This volume, we got a look straight into that which gave Hachiken such mental anguish. He visits home to gather the college prep books his brother left behind so he could help out Mikage on her exams. There, duh, he meets his dad, who’s unclogging a toilet, and his mom, who comes home just as he’s trying to make a quick exit.
I loved this sequence. In typical comedic Arakawa fashion, Hachiken is hungry so he has to stay for lunch. It lightens the mood in what is an extremely tense moment, and it’s exactly why Silver Spoon (and Fullmetal Alchemist before it) could exist in such heavy topics without feeling overbearing. So he stays for lunch, and eventually he and his dad go at it.
His dad just sees Hachiken as a test taker who failed to advance on those tests he holds in high regard. Same with Hachiken’s brother, I’m sure, which is why neither of them want to be home. They’re loved, probably, but the goal is to achieve high test scores, get into college, graduate college, and get a good job. This man’s sons exist for this purpose, and seemingly nothing else.
Hachiken equates this all to livestock, which is born and bred to be eaten, or for whatever other purpose. It’s a uniquely Ezo Ag conclusion he comes to, and shows the knowledge he’s gained even at this trade school, which is something to be looked down upon by his dad. Hachiken has failed, just as livestock fail, and he’s been put down (figuratively in Hachiken’s case), just as livestock are put down. But! It’s not always death for the livestock that fail. Some go to high schools that don’t have huge budgets, but need the animals for their classes. Some get that second chance, like when he’s going through the horse tracks and they fail a jump. Animals are given a second chance, but Hachiken isn’t even given this leeway by his dad.
Hachiken is a whole and total failure because he stopped taking his tests. There’s no other purpose for him. It’s an encompassing of his entire character struggles up to this point. He hasn’t had goals, direction, or achievement since entering Ezo Ag. And that’s because of his dad, who doesn’t seem to give a shit.
But life is more about achievement in tests. It’s about just living. Living in whatever way you choose is valid, and it’s up to you to decide what that way is. Hachiken has found some living at Ezo Ag, where he didn’t find with his dad at a prep middle school where he saw everyone as enemies in test scores. And they didn’t even see each other as that in their middle school, if the guys he ran into at that book store are any indication. It was Hachiken’s dad, and his overbearing expectations, that led him to the conclusion that everyone was competition for him.
And then he superimposed those expectations onto Mikage. He wanted her to succeed so much that he toed the line of being too overbearing. His methods are much more friendly, so it never felt like that, but Hachiken knew he was doing this, and felt guilt because of it. He promised Mikage’s parents, yes, but he also has this strong desire for achievement psychologically beaten into him by his dad.
Also they’re going to buy more pigs to make more bacon and other pig products, and raised a ridiculous amount of money from students and teachers through the whole school to do it. ¥1,000 (about 10 bucks) per head, and ¥250,000 for a whole pig. They’ve raised well over ¥500,000.
The power of bacon.
This volume is my favorite stuff about Silver Spoon all wrapped in one volume. I can’t believe how much Hachiken has grown from the guy who first showed up at Ezo Ag with nothing he wanted, and a soon-to-be crush on Mikage. But it’s obvious getting away from the environment where his dad is around every day has been good for Hachiken. It obviously has. His mom noticed, both at home and when she visited Ezo Ag again, and even his friends from middle school noticed.
There’s a lot more that happened in this volume, but this is the most important part. Hachiken and his dad, going at it.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: June 18, 2019