Gin no Saji – 04

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Who wants pizza?

Just for fun, I imagined what the audience reaction would have been like if there’d been an “Al and Ed make pizza” episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, say, right in the middle of the Ishbal storyline.  About the closest think I can imagine would be the way the soccer episode of the original Eureka Seven (which I was the one person one of two people who liked, apparently) was received.  It’s not that there weren’t a few such moments here and there in FMA, but if any series was ever packed full of story – past, present and future – that was the one.  To call it and Gin no Saji apples and oranges would be the understatement of the year.

I suppose it’s a testament to Arakawa-sensei’s talent that she can do two series of such vastly divergent thematic structure and have them both be massive hits (in the world of manga, anyway).  If any recent anime seems to be a pure slice of life, Silver Spoon might just be the one.  In a sense this series with it’s agricultural focus – and thus a keen awareness of the passing of the seasons and the cycles of nature – makes a perfect canvas on which to paint a slice of life story.  That label is applied to so many series erroneously but it really seems to fit here, and it’s all the more remarkable that it’s been so popular given it’s relative lack of moe (apart from piglet moe, complete with head-bob – certainly a new twist on the “moepig” meme.  As Sempai says, “Piglets are cute.”), which is the commercial fuel for a lot of successful slice of life.  That’s even more true in anime than manga, so I suppose the real acid test will be whether this series commercially bombs in TV form, or manages to sell a few Blu-rays and give NoitaminA decent ratings by its own standard.

There is a story being told here, and it’s Hachiken’s tale of personal growth and self-discovery.  It’s happening at a leisurely pace, but every week a little bit of the picture gets filled in.  From the start there’s been the suggestion that Hachi-kun is a highly competitive person, concerned if not obsessed with such things as class rank, and that some sort of failure in that department might have pushed him to seek to flee his home when his high school years started.  So when the exam results are revealed, that should be a big moment for him – especially when his overall scores put him at the top of his class by a wide margin.  But he seems strangely unsatisfied with this – there’s the fact that he was beaten on specific sections by students who specialized in them, to be sure, but it seems to run deeper than that.

Fortunately for Hachiken distraction is provided quickly (one of the benefits of an agricultural school seems to be that they run you so ragged, there’s no time to think about anything for long).  During a massive school cleanup operation Hachiken finds a disused brick oven underneath a pile of garbage that includes a life-size Colonel Sanders (these are in front of pretty much every KFC in Japan, and don full Santa suits in December, as the Japanese were convinced by a brilliant marketing campaign that Americans consider KFC a Christmas tradition).  The best part about what follows, for me, is how accurately it captures the way kids grab hold of an idea that seems cool and just run with it. An abstract musing about making a pizza leads to the revelation that most rural Hokkaido kids have never eaten a real one (outside the delivery area?  Hell, they’re outside the cell phone area) and things snowball from there until the enterprise takes on the air of obsession and soon the entire school is drafted to help, each in their own way.

I love pizza – it may indeed be my favorite food in the world when done really well – and there’s no doubt that a wood-fired brick oven is the best way to make a thin (Italian-style) pizza.  I’m not so keen on the idea of Gouda on pizza but cheese isn’t the staple of the Japanese diet as it is in the West, so you take what you can get – the school has a tiny cheese-making room, and fortunately Nakajima-sensei (fast emerging as one of the funniest in the cast) has a secret underground ageing room for his wheels of Gouda.  Everything else you need is easy, because Ooezo is effectively self-sufficient – flour, veggies, firewood, and yes – bacon (again not my first choice for a pizza, but after having tried what the locals call “pepperoni” I’d take it as a substitute) are all a snap.  Everyone pitches in, the oven gets cleaned and repaired, Hachi-kun and Mikage have some nice bonding, and even the teachers gets into the spirit.  A really good pizza baked with wood in brick, with fresh-picked tomatoes for the sauce and veggies just swept clean of the dirt they were grown in?  I almost felt like I could taste it myself and laughed right along with the students.  Tasting real pizza for the first time is an experience I can never have again – it’d be like seeing Seirei no Moribito or drinking Trappist ale for the first time – so while I felt a little envious, seeing the infectious glee of the kids was a wonderful moment.

Witnesses all this – and providing a bookend for the episode – is Shiroichi-sensei, Hachiken’s perhaps unrealistically caring and devoted advisor from middle school come to check up on him (the real reason for his call last week).  His words to the Principal provide yet another clue to the riddle of Hachiken’s character: “In middle school Hachiken seemed to be held hostage to the notion that he had to make something of himself.  So much so that he had no idea what kind if person he wanted to be.”  In its way I think this series is all about providing context – putting the production of food in context for an audience blissfully unaware of how such things happen, and taking Hachiken out of his comfort zone and forcing him to think about his place in the world.  There’s little conventional drama here, but one of the dramatic climaxes of this season – perhaps the biggest – will surely come when Hachiken must face the reality of Porkbowl’s fate, and the context in which piglets are raised.  The topic was gently broached this week, a soft-spoken but insistent reminder that Hachiken’s personal journey is going to have some very painful moments.

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38 comments

  1. K

    Eureka Seven soccer episode, yes good.

  2. Post updated!

  3. p

    No, it's bad!

    /conforming to majority

  4. e

    I liked the Eu7 soccer episode. Finally someone else who did :,D.

  5. i

    I liked the Soul Eater basketball episode – was that like the E7 football one.

  6. p

    Stop being anti-sheep :3

  7. e

    @pocarusweat88: what about some mutton barbecue?

  8. H

    Actually I haven't watched E7.

  9. i

    I never realized the guy whose bad at maths and the guy who drove the tractor were different people until they both appeared in Hachi's room, when he's sleeping.

    I think I was five when I first had pizza. Still remember how the cheese melts in your mouth. Also, moe pigs aside, who are the demograph for the SS anime? Is it just normal people like with SpaceBros? In which case the BDs will bomb.

  10. I honestly don't know, but Uchuu Kyoudai is likely a pretty decent model. A series with huge manga sales with attracts no otaku attention and doesn't move many discs. Silver Spoon won't get the same kind of TV ratings of course, airing late-night. And there may be a larger element of the fanbase that's serious anime watchers, given Arakawa's reputation.

  11. i

    BTW a subbed version of HxH Phantom Rouge just came out, I think, so will you do a full post on it? I think last time you just gave us the gist.

  12. I will, though finding time soon may be a bit problematic.

  13. i

    Heavy weekend, eh. Gokurosama deshita

  14. E

    I thought they were the same person too. Hahaha. Arakawa and his artstyle.

  15. Her artstyle…

    I confess, I had no idea they were different people either. But that's been working for Adachi Mitsuru for 30+ years.

  16. K

    > But that's been working for Adachi Mitsuru for 30+ years.

    Couldn't help but laugh at that.

  17. x

    But when are you seeing Kaze Tachinu, Enzo?

  18. R

    I personally don't have any genre preferences, and I think the last time that I enjoyed a really good slice-of- life show was Natsume Yuujin-Chou. This season we have lots of good slice-of-life shows, and I particularly like this one and Uchouten Kazoku. The thing about Gin no Saji, to me, is that Hachiken is such a believable and likable character. Like many teenagers, he has a hard time trying to figure out who he is and what he wants for his future, and I sense that there probably is some sort of a backstory that gets him obsessed with his search.

    As for this episode, apart from the light-hearted tone and how everyone pitched in for pizza-making, I quite like what Inada Shinichirou said to Hachiken. It's true that sometimes it's not about the answer itself but the journey of finding it. I also like how Hachiken gets so accepted by everyone in his school. It feels like a big family, and I think that this kind of support is helpful when he is trying to find his path. All in all, it's just nice to see his growth — subtle but gradual, and he sure looks happier in this episode.

    About pizza, I wasn't a big fan till I tried a homemade one by an Italian friend…it's just awesome, and now I am craving for one. I better give her a call tomorrow…lol.

  19. e

    @Ronbb: never tried the US style of pizza but what I glimpsed of them on TV looked a bit daunting X,D.
    And as you worded the non-foodie parts better than I could ever hope of doing unless I parroted you I'm here going to embrace the food part.
    —–
    Never mind I'm an Italian in Italy who ate a genuine Italian style pizza just yesterday, this episode left me craving for another one RIGHT NAO. Pizza where? :Q_____________
    I'm really curious about the taste of Gouda cheese now :,). One of my favourite pizza toppings is is actually mozzarella+fresh tomato sauce + onion + Gorgonzola cheese, followed by the mozzarella + tomato + grilled vegetables (eggplant and zucchini preferrably).
    One of the Italian traditional pizza topping combos , the '4 formaggi' actually features mozzarella and Gorgonzola and two more types of cheese (the third is typically Grana or Parmigiano cheese, the fourth one can vary from place to place).
    Ham topping (either the 'cooked' ham or the raw ham from Parma ) is pretty common here too, then there's the Speck ham variant (basically a smoked ham with stronger taste and flatter long shape, nowadays low on fat, that's typical of mountain and Northern areas). Bacon is not that much of a stretch from bacon, I would totally eat that 8D.
    TL;DR the concept of using cheese on pizza is perfectly fine with me and bacon could work well. Fresh farm vegetables = yum.
    And brick oven RULEZ <3. Now excuse me while I'm slobbering all over the keyboard.
    Piglets are cute, piglets are delicious. Cute enough to eat. ——————————————–> Tangentially: Many, many years ago my young aunts on my maternal family side ( a.k.a. the city and non-farmer folks ) and me took care of three ducks daily on the family house terrace (huge space and flat roof), raising them from duckling cuties to proud corkscrewing adult birds. When they were ripe for being cooked at Xmas and were swiftly and secretly killed & cooked & presented at the family dinner by my grandma we screamed and refused to take a single bite from that mini-hill of steaming meat and potatoes. Eh, I was a sentimental child. Just a couple of years later I would have honoured their sacrifice instead. Until death do NOT us part…

  20. Ah, but there is no US Style of pizza. New York has a style (Brooklyn to be specific – fold it over itself it eat). Chicago has numerous styles. Connecticut has a style (New Haven to be precise) and then there's the infamous California pizza (which can actually be quite good, but has many sins on its karmic ledger to pay back). US-style pizza is like saying Belgium-style beer.

  21. e

    Any enlightenment is appreciated oh pizza-sensei. The one(s) I spotted were huge – Italian pizzas can be huge too but when so they're not meant to be eaten single-handedly usually ^^" – , quite thick (closer to a focaccia in this aspect), weren't folded and feautured a nearly inch-high topping of… a lot of things. It looked like they had put on it everything they could find. Sooo what pizza style would that be among the ones you listed? 😀

  22. Most likely one of the Chicago styles, deep-dish.

  23. Z

    As far as pizza is concerned (at least for me) less is more.

  24. e

    Thank you. I knew I could trust both your natuve knowledge and your self-proclaimed OCD-ness since you chastised me on the whole Netherlands term use months ago ;p
    *after googling for pics*
    holy mother of dough! Sacres estote oh ye Chicagoans
    *drool*

  25. e

    @ZetaZero: ahah, if I were to eat pizza often then the less is more approach would be my pick too. But I must say the pie style once in a while looks appealing. VERY.

  26. i

    I just get Pizza Hut when I want pizza. To be honest I prefer burgers and shawarmas more.

  27. If you think Pizza Hut is what decent pizza tastes like, I don't blame you.

  28. A

    I'm from Argentina, here the pizza is like italian pizza.

    But I went to New York once, and ate pizza in Pizza Hut. It was pretty bad, too oily. Then I ate pizza in a place in Brooklyn, I think it was Grimaldi's, and that was different, and a lot better.

    It's funny how there are almost 30 comments talking about pizza here xD

  29. R

    @elianthos80: That's what I had at my friend's house: mozzarella + tomato + grilled zucchini and eggplants. It's so delicious. My friend's mom made the dough from scratch herself, and that made the pizza so much more yummy. I am drooling now.

  30. e

    @Ronbb: ehe, people of good taste think alike. And yes, the dough just does not taste right unless is hand/home-made, ditto on texture.
    @Augustin: some topics are worth commenting X,D

  31. H

    Augustin: Pizza is a landmine of the internet. This is one of the more tame discussions about it that I've seen. Usually it's flame war on the order of many banned topics. And the reason is because there are so many good varieties of it.

  32. Yeah, it's not like it's great to see a thread sidetrack to 30 posts that aren't connected to the episode itself, but pizza is a passion topic for me and as long as people keep it civil, it's all good. And I think it does say something about the episode that it managed to get people so worked up to talk about the subject.

  33. Z

    So long as Hawaiian pizza isn't brought up.

  34. e

    Oooh nice pic(k). I like the amber-y colour of the crust, personally I'm not fond of the 'bake your pizza until is borderline charred' style.

    That's some lovely arugula on top of that. Oh! Salad Rocket =*W*= . That's great on pizza with either a) mozzarella, bresaola http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bresaola and Parmigiano cheese or b) mozzarella, smoked salmon and fresh tomato slices.

    /Shingeki no Pizza

  35. S

    I can't be the only one that caught this during the computer lab section. The part where everyone gets all crazy because they can't get pizza anywhere.

    http://i.imgur.com/4Eyzz5O.jpg?1

  36. G

    One thing not mentioned is what oganizing this does for him with the other students (and teachers). It makes him insanely popular and campus wide famous with most students. It helped him to grow as a person, gave him positive attention with the teachers and also the girl he likes probably thinks more of him as a person as well.

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