Gin no Saji – 06

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This season seems to be all about series that make me question my own feelings when watching them.

On paper, you could hardly think of two series more different than Gin no Saji and Watamote, but they have a very important quality in common in addition to the fact that both are superb.  Each provokes uncomfortable reactions from the viewer in their own way.  With Watamote it’s as in-your-face as it can be, but it’s a subtler thing with Silver Spoon – as gentle and wistful as it appears to be, it’s clear that one of Arakawa-sensei’s goals for the series is to make the audience think about things they’d rather not think about.

There more or less seem to be two major tracks playing side-by-side here.  On the one hand we have Hachiken’s personal journey, about which we receive tantalizing hints every week.  And then there’s the use of that journey as a vehicle to teach the audience about the agricultural life through his eyes.  I think it’s very important to remember that this second track is very much a personal, opinionated one – this is Arakawa-sensei expressing her views on eating meat, the sanctity of life, and rural values.  In no means should it be taken as impartial, but then I don’t think it’s really intended to be – it’s not “my way or the highway” so much as “this is my way, think of it what you will”.  But for an audience with limited exposure to these themes – certainly within the medium of manga and anime – I suspect her viewpoint could prove quite persuasive.

For me, this was an excellent episode from a dramatic standpoint but a tough one to watch – and again, I think it was intended to be.  I don’t know if there’s a qualitative difference between raising animals for food – or hunting them – and hitting them with a car and butchering them.  But while it may be my sheltered sensibility (it’s no coincidence that Hachiken used that word when expressing his reluctance to butcher Bambi) the one moment of the ep that felt really awkward for me was the last, when everyone was so happy after having killed the bear.  As a lapsed vegetarian I can bring myself around to what’s happening with Porkbowl, with some difficulty, but that felt wrong on an elemental level.  I’m sure Mikage’s grandfather (Sasaki Mutsumi) would say what’s wrong would be to see the animal’s life wasted without making some use of it (and yes, folks do eat bear meat too) and that may not be wrong.  But it still strikes a false note with me.

That’s where the uncomfortable factor comes in, because I can sense my own hypocrisy being revealed with that reaction.  Just as I sense it every time I eat a hamburger or a bowl on tonkotsu ramen while professing to dislike the consumption of animals and commercial farming practices.  This notion of values comes into play in other forms in the ep as well, such as when Hachiken sees that Komaba’s tiny twin sisters (seven? eight?) Nino and Misora (Goto Mai) are already engaged in hard labor at their dairy farm.  Is he wrong to think that children that young shouldn’t have to be put to work?  Are the Komabas wrong to think that every healthy hand is needed to get by, especially after the death of Komaba’s father (which Mikage suggests was due to overwork)?  The message, if nothing else, is that rural agricultural life is a different world, and one where the rules of modern urban society don’t fit very well.  So far, at least, I don’t think Arakawa is guilty of romanticizing what’s in fact a brutally difficult lifestyle, but it’s clear she sees an honesty and purity in it that she doesn’t see in industrialized daily life.

As for Hachi-kun’s personal saga, that’s clearly the slower-moving train so far.  What can be said is that he’s on the run – he’s avoiding contacting his family at any cost – never mind visiting home, he doesn’t even want to call to let his Mom know he won’t be coming home for summer break but instead working part-time at Mikage’s farm.  I feel for her, even not knowing the back story, because it’s clear she’s worried for her son and equally clear he’s putting her through a very hard time.  We still don’t know in detail what’s happened to cause Hachiken to be so resolute in cutting his ties, but it’s no stretch to say that he’s never going to find any peace until he confronts his past – and his family – rather than running away.  Whichever path he ultimately chooses – embracing agriculture as his goal in life or adapting its lessons to something else – he can’t proceed until he’s made terms with whatever caused his self-imposed exile to the countryside.

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  1. i

    Very well said. I too feel some hypocrisy because I have been to a beef? farm and saw cows killed, gutted and stripped of meat and nearly hurled. This despite steak being my favourite food.

    Unlike the themes Urobuchi proposes, Arakawa's stances are less existential and more fundamental. Its more that is life rather than this is how life should be.

    On why Hachi's is running away essentially, I feel it is closely tied, this being Arakawa after all, with the themes of life seen so far in Gin no Saiji. I'm quite sure the resolution Hachi will find will be something similar to that of how farmers live their lives and how animals live theirs. I can't exactly point out what it is yet but no doubt it's there somewhere. I say this because of FMA ended. It tied Ed's initial sin to his atonement better than imaginable. I'm sure Hachi will do the same.

  2. e

    I didn't feel that uncomfortable watchignt his episode, maybe beacuse a good number of my relatives did – and some stll do – farming, my paternal grandparents included. I dealt with Hachi's crisi in my early childhood and got over it. My own solution: know what you eat and eat responsibly.
    The depiction of his conflcting feelings and sensibilites was very well portrayed nonetheless. And the heart rate bit was indeed touching.

    They didn't kill the bear imho. Between the fade to black with screeching tyres sounds + the indentation on the side of the truck it looks more like the bear slammed into it…
    Talking by experience of barely avoided accidents of this kind while driving they can happen unfortunately.
    I don't know about the taste of bear but deer and stags are delish.
    Related to happyness over accidental extra food and children working: farming is hard. My grandma's tales of most of her life farming and tending to crops – a lifestyle and tools that were barely different from the medieval age – made very clear that every extra hand was god's given grace back then. She completed elementary schol and that was it, similarly to most of her generation, also because by the end of that children were considered mini-adults and the workload increased accordingly. And any extra food that fell in your lap – so to speak – was a blessing.
    As a whole I think Harakawa's portrait of farmig life so far is pretty well rounded and quite balanced.

    Ishruns made a good point about Hachiken's eventual resolution in the above comment.
    I must say though that my attention spiked in the fleeting moment where Aki's face got serious and shadowed at the mention of being the heir and needing to snatch a suitable marriage to secure the farm. Some nuance to her character, and a hint she's has her own burden to carry.
    On the same line imho but more lighthearted I had to laugh at Aki's relatives glinting eyes as soon as they knew he was a city kid and from a white collar's family to boot. And Aki's father getting all overprotective of his daughter, ahah.

    Also I immediateky took a liking to the tiny 107yo grandma. Lady I'm sure you rock.

  3. i

    Yeah I agree that Aki's (and Ichiro's) family were enjoyable to watch and I hope the summer break lasts a few more episodes. In the episode before this I was starting to get tired of the setting so this brings happy changes.
    The whole meat eating and killing ideas don't really effect me, maybe because I don't want to think about it, but it was still nice the see Yugo face his cowardliness and get the deer ready.

  4. M

    In my neck of the woods bear is eaten all the time. It is mostly treated as pork. Some even need the fat for the coming winter.

    In regards to the killing of the bear, I've never seen any rancher or farmer upset that a bear was killed. They are predators and kill cattle all the time. Each cow lost is a significant, as the cost is around 2k per head.

    Perspective is everything.

  5. Z

    I was a little disappointed they cut out the deer guts removal. Might have been too much for some viewers to stomach?
    Running over the bear was a bit much. That's one problem with Arakawa, always pushing the jokes too far.

  6. H

    To me, they took pains to show that the bear wasn't 'run over', but that it impacted the truck from the side. Whether that would really be sufficient to kill it I don't know, but it absolved Aki's grandfather of responsibility for the death of the bear.

  7. Z

    I know they didn't purposely intend to ram into it.

  8. E

    Yup, joke's taken too far. ha haha. I doubt Hachiken can laugh like that if the one who's accidentally killed is another Bambi.

  9. P

    Rather than Watamote,I find it more reminescent of Uchoten Kazoku with the theme about eating something/one you know

  10. S

    Mikage's grandfather was the best representation of a character I have seen thus far in an anime. I have met older Japanese guys exactly like him.

    Man, everytime I watch this show it takes me back to my old town in Japan (which I will be returning to next year!). The country, the farms, the school, the people. All of them are depicted spot on.

  11. p

    Wow enzo. This anime seems to have you continuing reminiscing about your regret at not staying vegetarian. I used to eat meat when I was younger (my family are Hindu Brahmins, and that is one group in India that absolutely AVOID meat altogether). It was extremely hard trying to be a vegetarian in the 80's-90's in the Western world, especially in the countries we've stayed in (South American continent, Spain, and even China). They had no concept whatsoever of even stuff like vegetarian sandwiches. Mom figured you can't be too hard on kids and insist on vegetarian food while travelling/sightseeing so she didn't object when me or my sister ate chicken (only meat I've ever had, and no I DO NOT consider fish to be non-veg…its still meat). After a certain age though she refused to cook non-veg at home (Mom is pretty liberal, but again usually in the area I'm from, people go crazy paranoid and do not even try to think of the HORROR of renting a house out to people who would consider cooking meat in their home…its sacrilegious and impure blah blah). So after a couple of years I just lost the urge to have chicken and just stuck with eating veg stuff. I've tried chicken once afterwards and couldn't stop thinking about 'OMG I'm eating muscles, OMG is that a VEIN! >.<'
    Sorry if I'm just rambling about my story and not really contributing anything to the discussion about this anime. It just makes me think about stuff like I mentioned above. Half of the reason I don't eat chicken anymore is I've heard horror stories about factory farms, so I think if people want to eat meat, they really should at least try and make sure its from a good source (as impossible as it might be in this day and age).
    I didn't even know there were 'Agricultural focused High Schools' in Japan. Thats an interesting fact :O

  12. F

    Interesting … the reflections you had were similar to those I had when I was reading the manga.

    But yes – there really is a lot to think about, and I like the fact that it provokes you to think. For me it is more of a showcasing how contemporary life is so radically different from the way of life and looking at things that existed for millenia.

    Still – good summary for the ep Enzo. πŸ™‚

  13. Y

    If watching this anime makes you think about this stuff, I think it's important to frame it in the appropriate context. Hypocritical or not, right or wrong, etc… Those are important questions, but besides the point unless you examine where your meat really comes from. Farms like the ones in Gin no Saji account for less than 1% of meat production, aka. that's not where your burger comes from. This is:

    Check it out. It's very well made and almost "beautiful" to watch…

  14. s

    From where I live, news about a couple planning on not buying anything for a year brought a lot of discussions on different issues and one that caught my attention was the implication it will bring to people producing things one needs to buy in order to live everyday. I thought about people like the Mikage and Ichiro, simple farmers laboring 365 days and people pledging not to buy anything for a year and that just eff up the balance of living and making a living, imho.

  15. H

    Ryohei Kimura certainly strikes a home run on his performances every time. He's always given interesting and refreshingly complex male characters to play.

  16. R

    That truck of Aki's grandfather must be pretty sturdy. It's still good and running after hitting a bear, and there's no injury to anyone. It tugged my heartstrings a bit when watching this episode. I don't know what to expect when Porkbowl will finally be butchered. I also have a bit of empathy for Ichiro — no wonder he dreams of becoming a pro. Life of a farmer isn't really easy.

  17. H

    Try reading Arakawa-sensei's manga "Noble Farmer" which chronicles her life and experiences growing up, living and working on her family's farm in Hokkaido before passing judgement on the accidental killing of the bear as a hypocritical joke or whatnot.

    I consider reading Noble Farmer as a necessary supplement to Gin no Saji (both the anime and manga).

  18. T

    Actually Hachiken's laughing after the bear incident- and his face- looks a little forced to me, like he was shocked but is just playing along. By the squealing tires and the placement of the hit (rammed into the side) they couldn't have run it over on purpose- it would be very risky, because that was the driver's side door.

    Oh, dear Porkbowl. I daww'ed when it looked up at Hachiken. I could never stick to just vegetables as I love meat, but whenever I see raw meat I cringe- and when I passed a slaughterhouse one day and heard pigs squealing, I walked away.

    Seeing the actual process the pigs go through wouldn't make me give up meat- but I do feel that they should be made comfortable as much as possible while they're… erm, around.

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