Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sub.DVD - Complete 2nd Season
Hachiken's first year at Ezono Agricultural High School continues as he learns more about farming life, from delivering calves to making cheese. But he also discovers that rural life can be harsh in more personal ways as his friends struggle with their futures and family farms, and Hachiken himself must ultimately find a way to cope with his own family...and who he wants to be from here on out.
Silver Spoon, based on the manga of the same name by Fullmetal Alchemist's Hiromu Arakawa, is definitely one of the best depictions of farm life in the entertainment world...which means that if you're squeamish, you want to be prepared. Arakawa's story never flinches away from the less pretty aspects of either rural life (like the first season's butchering of roadkill) or farming, and if you'd rather not know where your food comes from, parts of this second season may make you uncomfortable, such as the shot of the plucked and drained, but not yet butchered, chickens in one episode. A bovine rectal exam (complete with feces removal) and a couple of cow birth scenes may also be too much for some viewers, so keep that in mind if you prefer your slice-of-life a little cleaner.
This more realistic attitude, however, counts as a plus for me at least. Silver Spoon manages to be both truthful and entertaining at the same time, which isn't always easy to pull off. When this season starts, Hachiken is moving into the second trimester at Ezono, having successfully survived the first and adapted much more to rural farm life. His summer working at Aki Mikage's family farm and his handling of Pork Bowl have given him a lot more confidence, and while he's still not totally comfortable, he's also rapidly on his way there. He's beginning to actual enjoy horseback riding, which he initially started because of his crush on Aki, and as he learns to respect the horse and not just regard it as an animal he's controlling, we can see his whole attitude begin to shift. As he grows more comfortable with each early episode, he begins to realize what he missed in his high-pressure middle school days, and gets a reputation as “yes-man...” which backfires on him spectacularly halfway through the series. This marks a turning point in both the show and the tenor of Hachiken's own emotions, and by the end he has learned to face not only the demons of farm life, but his personal monsters as well.
Unsurprisingly, one of those monsters is his father. While we only heard about the man before, this season allows us to actually meet him, and when we do it becomes painfully obvious why both Hachiken boys fled the nest. While we could excuse him as being old-fashioned and traditional in his viewpoint, the man comes off as cold and uncaring, using the occasion of his younger son's hospitalization to berate him and tell him that he clearly has no real friends. Mrs. Hachiken is a much kinder figure, but it is clear that she feels she can't speak against her husband too much. (The ending gives us a little hope on that front.) All of this explains why Yugo is the way he is – emotionally needy, socially uncertain, and terrified of failure. We do see him making major steps in all of these areas this season, and his realization that “failure” does not make a person worthless, as well as sometimes being no one's fault, becomes a central theme for the second half of the season. As he finds happiness in his new life (albeit slowly), he starts to see that doing what he wants is key and he tries to help others to come to the same conclusion, no matter who they must go against. It's not all serious, of course; during this section of the show, we also get an amusing glimpse into the fact that the other students are well aware of his issues: at one point the girls are discussing him as a good marriage prospect, largely because he comes from a “normal” (non-farming) family and thus can inherit a family business with no conflicts. But, as cheese-fanatic Yoshino comments, “He's a lot of work.” (The former outweighs the latter for the Mikage family, incidentally.)
Visually this season looks a little nicer than its predecessor, although some of the CG stands out a bit much, such as the door on a cattle transport or one scene towards the end when all of the livestock are 3D against a 2D background. Animals are anatomically correct, which is important for the show; even Maro the Evil Horse is still recognizably a real horse rather than a horse-like anime creature. Interestingly, I caught myself thinking how normally all of the characters dress in Silver Spoon before realizing that their jeans, sweats, and sneakers are only normal for their rural Japanese environment; there is a noticeable difference in how people dress when the scene shifts briefly to Sapporo. The ending theme has a particularly nice asthetic, looking like paper cutouts in watercolor with very limited animation, but on the whole this show creates a believable farm setting complete with manure while still being very attractive. There is one small misspelling in the subtitles, with “damn” written as “damm,” but otherwise the release is well put together.
Silver Spoon may make some viewers squeamish, but it is a heartfelt, charming story about a young man coming to terms with himself through learning about farming. The romance is sweet and understated, the characters are vivid, and the insular rural attitude is very well depicted without being too heavy-handed. The ending is a bit overdone in its last five minutes, but on the whole Silver Spoon's second season is as good as the first, delivering a well-told story that gently takes hold of you and doesn't let go.
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Good pacing, Hachiken's development feels natural. Farm life is not made cute and artificially appealing. Some very funny moments.
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