Story/Art: Hiromu Arakawa
Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Abigail Blackman
What They Say:
Year’s end is traditionally the time when students return home to ring in the new year with their families—the very last thing Hachiken wants to do! He’ll be the only one staying in the dorms, but after all, on a farm, someone always has to stick around to care for the animals. Little does he know that when the students are away, the teachers have their own holiday tradition: a year-end feast of the bounties of Ezo Ag! Happy New Year, indeed!!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The time has come, they have slaughtered the pigs, and now it’s time to prepare the meat for consumption. These moments are maybe the most fascinating to me as a city dweller, as most people are at this point in history probably (or perhaps it just feels that way because I’ve always lived here, or because I’ve looked at population data when it comes to voting, either or). I’m not into an in-depth look at how to create sausage or bacon or whatever, but a few manga pages are exactly the kind of digestible content I’m looking for when I want to learn about something at the surface level. It’s the exact kind of learning method Hachiken is putting into place with Mikage and horses!
This is also a volume with a (just as brief) lesson on economics, which I’m much more generally interested in than food production. Hachiken has gathered all this money to buy three pigs, with the help of a teacher. Now he has to make that food, which involves buying material (spices, casings, etc.) to process it, paying labor to make it, renting equipment to make it, and any other miscellaneous cost that will go into production. Consider all that, minus is from the amount paid for the raw material, then add on however much to make what profit you want. Too high and it won’t move at all, too low and you won’t make any money. There’s also the idea of devaluing your product so much that people won’t trust it because it’s so cheap. And if you don’t have strong branding behind something like meat, which you can’t try immediately in this kind of setting, it might not move at all because it’s just not a trusted product.
I loved the entire process that went on here, and it comprised of more than half the volume’s length. It was fascinating to see everything play out in front of them, even as they tried to create their own branding and labels to sell the sausages faster. Different things make different people buy the same product, and they were trying them all. The Ezo Ag name isn’t quite enough by itself for them.
Also, there are recipes in the back!
There are a few other things that happen in this volume, like a big Komaba return and the teacher’s having their own New Year’s party that Hachiken crashes by not going home. But the pull of this volume, as it was for near the beginning of the story, is Hachiken and his relationship with pigs and the end product. He’s expanded this enterprise, and it seems he’s learning more about what he wants to do with his life after this. Teaching is the obvious one, since he’s always teaching everyone, but maybe he’s looking at an agriculture business, which may be a better fit.
This is also, I believe, the first volume with color pages, or at least it’s the first volume for a while with them. They’re very much appreciated, as I love to see Arakawa’s art be able to get that spotlight in color, no matter how brief it is.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 27, 2019