And so passes the best show (by far, I should add) of the Winter 2014 season, Silver Spoon, as Hiromu Arakawa adds to the legacy of her writing. This was a show that transcended both the genre and the medium as the sheer, unbridled (that was intentional) authenticity of Arakawa’s personal experience shines through at every moment. It wasn’t the flashiest; it was the funniest; it wasn’t even necessarily the most fun to watch. But it was honest and true to the human experience, and there is no replacement for that.
To be totally honest, I was pretty torn as to how I wanted to rate this show. My gut instinct was that Silver Spoon is a 9/10, the first one I’d seen in a quite a bit. But my current rankings didn’t really allow for that, which lead me to believe that my rankings, once again, needed something of an overhaul. So, that’s what I did. Silver Spoon gets a 9/10 from me, setting it at the very top of tier II. This is a show I would want to show to my kids when they are Hachiken’s age, because it hold that much meaning and that many valuable lessons.
At some level, I’m finding it kind of impossible to articulate how good this show is. It means a great deal to me personally, as it beautifully managed topics that both indirectly and directly connect to my life. I know I’m repeating myself from other places, but Silver Spoon was truly a terrifyingly beautiful experience for me. I’ve already run out of synonyms for the words honesty and authenticity, because those two ideas are what this show runs on. Silver Spoon is the harsh and beautiful truth and life.
And that’s maybe the best thing about this show. It doesn’t shy away from the awesome difficulty of being alive and surviving in this world. Although it is set in the agricultural sphere, which makes everything all the more potent when lifestyle and survival are so intricately intertwined, these are battles that people fight all over the world, every day, no matter what their circumstances. Yet, through all that and without glossing over the pain, Silver Spoon defiantly and definitively celebrates the joy of being alive.
Bowing out and quitting isn’t an option in Silver Spoon; you persevere and push on, no matter what, no matter how hard it is. Even being able to struggle on is a privilege in a world where failure means the end of years of family tradition and the destruction of an entire way of life. And Silver Spoon shows all this through its characters. Komaba continues to work and survive, even when his dreams of playing baseball have been shattered. Mikage devotes herself to studying into university, even though she may or may not have the aptitude. And Hachiken, for all the running away he’s done, keeps fighting to build his own identity. It’s a beautiful, and much-needed message.
And about those characters. Hachiken is far and away the best male character of the Winter 2014 season. And I’ll even go so far to say that he won’t be surpassed in all of 2014. That’s right, you heard it here first: Yuugo Hachiken is the best male character of 2014. The development of his character over these two season, especially in this current season, is truly unrivaled by any character I have seen in any anime ever. I won’t attempt to elaborate on how this development happens, because it’s not something I can describe in a review. It has to be experienced, because although Hachiken really does go through an intense transformation (and it’s not even complete yet!), it’s handled so masterfully that calling it character development is to use too heavy-handed a term. It’s the growth of a person.
Arakawa never allows Hachiken to be passive; he’s active, making choices and taking action. Action is character, and Hachiken’s actions show exactly the type of character he is. He puts himself, whether he knows it or not, into situations where he can grow; no one else is forcing him to do things. And all this possible because Hachiken made the decision to run away? It’s brilliant writing, truly brilliant.
Among the side characters, Mikage and Komaba have the largest roles and also get the most attention as characters. While neither of them experiences the radical change that Hachiken does (it’s his story, after all), Mikage does go through a shift due to Hachiken’s influence (and love!) and Komaba shows himself to be a deeply thought out character with many layers. To be perfectly honest, using a literary term like “characters” is an injustice to this show, because these aren’t characters. They are people. They talk like real people and they act like real people.
It all goes back to the authenticity of the show: everything is real, everything is honest. Everything is true. Even among the rest of the cast this remains the same. Just because they aren’t the main characters doesn’t mean they are glossed over. Sure, some of them may fall into recognizable archetypes, but that’s just the reality of telling a story. Not every character is going to get equal screen time (unless, of course, you’re Togashi writing Hunter x Hunter, and then main characters be damned! Everyone needs their slice of the pie!).
As I said earlier, Silver Spoon transcends its genre, but at the same time the genre is inextricably essential to the telling of this story. Silver Spoon is the quintessence of slice-of-life storytelling; these are legitimately slices of a young man’s life. There’s not really (except in a few spots) a traditional plot, because Silver Spoon is concerned with telling a story, and that story is about Hachiken and how he grows. But when Arakawa does decide to use a plot (referring to the final episodes, when Komaba’s secret is finally outed to Hachiken), it’s devastating and elevates the entire show with its power. It’s a culmination of everything that Silver Spoon is about, and it resonates so deeply with the human experience that it…well, it’s impossible to describe. Sorry.
From a production standpoint, Silver Spoon isn’t on the same level as what A-1 did with SAO, but it never needed to be. A-1 does exactly what it should: sit back and simply convey the story in as much of an untampered manner as possible. All the real legwork has already been done by Arakawa, and Silver Spoon absolutely deserves to be seen as an equal to Fullmetal Alchemist. The OP and ED songs recall the themes songs from the first season (I dearly wish I understood the lyrics to all of the theme music) and the OST is excellent, recognizable rifts running throughout the show, holding it together.
However, perhaps the greatest use of sound is in the use of silence. Kotomi Deai took over directorial responsibilities from Tomohiko Ito in the sequel season, and his use of silence was perfect, turning down the music in those moments when the characters were speaking for themselves, without need of any aid. It’s a credit to both Arakawa, for allowing the characters to speak for themselves with such clarity, and to Deai for recognizing when those moments were.
Usually, at this point in the review, I try and sum up the show in a few sentences. I can’t do that here. This has been (and most likely will stay) the most bittersweet moment of the Winter 2014 season for me. Perhaps the most appropriate thing to do, regardless of whether it goes unheard or not, is to just say thank you. Thank you, Hiromu Arakawa, for writing such a beautiful and true story. Thank you, A-1 Pictures and all the staff, for bringing this story to life on screen. And perhaps, just a bit of thanks that I am alive and able to experience this anime. I truly am grateful.
Silver Spoon is a must watch. A beautiful character study with valuable and important lessons on life for anyone who cares to listen. This is what art ought to be, and be about.
Reasons to Watch:
I can’t even. Just read the review. There’s no way to summarize this show in a few short lines.
NOTE: My review of the first season of Silver Spoon can be found here.