Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist is easily my favorite manga series, and a similar sentiment goes to its second anime adaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Once Arakawa finished her breakout hit series, she decided to draw upon her childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido to create a new series called Silver Spoon. Silver Spoon follows Hachiken Yugo as he attends an agricultural high school simply to get away from his family. Did A-1 Pictures create a blue ribbon anime, or was this a failed harvest?
Hachiken goes on an amazing character arc as he matures and grows into a young man over the course of the two seasons. The Hachiken we have at the end of season two's last episode is a vastly different character than the one we are introduced to in the first episode of season one. To be honest, I have seen few characters take such an excellent trajectory in any form of narrative media. Be it books, comics, movies, TV shows, or games. To say Hachiken Yugo is in my opinion one of the best developed characters ever is a vast understatement. And to think, this all started with him running away from home.
It isn't just Hachiken that is well written. In fact I think the overall cast is so well characterized and given such realistic lines that I view them as closer to being people than characters. I'll admit not everyone is as well developed as they can be, but that just adds another layer of realism to it all. I mean, do you really know everything about all of your acquaintances in real life?
Silver Spoon is both a really funny and a really serious anime, and unlike quite a few series that tries to juggle both, it nails that perfect balance between the two. It knows when to be funny and it knows when to be serious. Even better, the timing of the comedy to lighten up the mood after some particularly serious and emotional scenes is impeccable.
A huge running theme in Silver Spoon is following one's dreams. Hachiken is actually the odd one out at his school, as he doesn't quite yet know what his dream is. Rather Hachiken looks to his friends and schoolmates as examples of the kind of dreams they want to obtain. His friend Aikawa Shinnosuke wants to become a veterinarian despite fainting at the sight of animals bleeding, for example. Hachiken's focus on the dreams of those around them and helping them work towards obtaining them, all while still trying to find his own, forms a major cornerstone of his personality.
Another major recurring theme in Silver Spoon is learning how to let go, no matter how painful it might be. In the second season this theme is summarized by Hachiken's close friend Mikage Aki with her relating it to letting go of the reigns of a horse. The fall may be painful, but holding on can bring the horse down with you. The two themes of dreams and letting go actually crossover many times in the second season and form the crux of the season's primary story arc.
Silver Spoon has a great, emotional, and extremely somber soundtrack mostly comprised of great acoustic guitar songs. The soundtrack is anchored by a particular song that plays whenever there is a scene that is particularly emotional or profound. I wish I could find the song so I could let you listen to it, because it is amazing. However, while the soundtrack is one of the best I have heard, one thing I love that Silver Spoon employees is silence. Sometimes a scene is just deservedly quiet, and it makes it all the more impactful.
Silver Spoon delves into what it is like in the agriculture industry. It shows how the people running the farm still get emotional when they have to send a beloved livestock to the slaughter, it shows the literal dirty work involved with livestock, and most of all, it deals with the debt most farms find themselves facing and the results it can lead to. It is very chilling and shows that the industry isn't for the weak at heart. The way Silver Spoon covers the industry makes it extremely clear that Arakawa is taking several cues from her personal experiences.
The last four talking points all culminate in this. Silver Spoon is simply one of the most emotional series I have ever watched. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, for a creative work to get me to cry, and I will gladly admit that Silver Spoon made the tears flow on multiple occasions. Any work that could get me to cry even once will forever earn my praise, a show that can do what Silver Spoon did to me gets the highest praise I can give it.
I'll flat out say it, I tend to hate the hell out of romances that constantly circle around in a never ending dance of, "Will they? Won't they?". However Silver Spoon has managed to make the slowly budding romance between Hachiken and Mikage work, extremely well at that. It just feels so damned natural. They are clearly kids in their middle teens that are still utterly clueless about love and have their focus in other places. And that is what makes it so damn believable. They are acting like teens their age normally would in regards to romance.
If you are someone who is a bit squeamish when it comes to seeing dead animals, then Silver Spoon is probably not the best show for you. There are quite a few animals that either die or are carved up on screen. And while I do think a few scenes, like the above beheaded chicken scene are a bit much (though the aforementioned scene was really done for comedic effect), some of the scenes regarding animal death were necessary as they greatly helped Hachiken grow, such as when he field dressed a deer.
This is not a knock against the series itself. This is just yet another example of me being a greedy person. Whenever I experience something of high quality, and especially when I know it is an adaptation and there is still more source material to work with, I just want more of it. I am more than happy with the two seasons of Silver Spoon that I did get, I am just saying I want more. I want a third season, and a fourth season, and, well you catch my drift.
It will probably make me sound like a total fanboy, but Silver Spoon is one of the best series I have ever watched. Not just in terms of anime, I mean in terms of just any episodic show, regardless of style and country of origin. It just pulled me in and refused to let go. I'll admit part of that does have to do with spending my entire life in the agriculture-based state of Oklahoma, so I can relate to not just Hachiken, but all of the characters. But on top of that, Silver Spoon is just so damn accessible. It is one of those few anime you can show to people who aren't hardcore anime fans and let them know it isn't all perverted cartoons. Silver Spoon is one of the few series to make me proud to be an anime fan.