Gin no Saji is living proof of the old show biz adage, “Never work with kids or animals”. The series has a pretty good track record of having its four-legged cast members upstage the two-legged (though to balance this, none of the humans have been butchered for meat yet), but so far that’s mostly been based on the kawaii factor. But increasingly, the breakout character of this season is a horse of a different color. Quite literally.
I’ve always wondered why a white horse was named Maron, which is the French word for “chestnut” (actually it’s “marron”). I suppose parts of him are the same color as the inside of a chestnut, but since chestnut is the generic English term for any breed of horse with a certain type of brown coat, I thought maybe it was meant ironically. In any event Maron has been commanding a lot of attention this season – though his facial expressions were always memorable – and this week, he was undeniably the star of the episode.
Silver Spoon continues to do what it does, so surprise is one element you’re going to find in short supply here. Most of the time it offers a slice of life at Ezonoo, and via the events that transpire gently but unmistakably colors in the portrait of Hachiken just a little bit more. This time around the theme is the local equestrian competition (if porcine was the dominant aroma of the first season, it’s definitely equine this time), which also marks the debut of Hachi-kun and all the other first-year club members in show jumping.
To be fair, this ep does offer up one surprise – the introduction of Minamikujou Ayame (Sayuri Yahagi). She’s an old middle-school classmate of Mikage’s and, in a nutshell, completely unlike any other character in the cast. In fact she sort of seems as if she dropped out of the sky and landed in the wrong show – as generic an anime ojou-sama as you could every imagine, complete with the trademark laugh. We just don’t get those kind of 2D characters in Gin no Saji – so I’m going to assume she’s here for more of a reason than to vamp for the camera and make Mikage look good, and that there’s more to her than the walking (and riding) collection of tropes we saw this week. Sayuri is an excellent seiyuu and while there’s not much any actor could do with the generic material Minamikujou had to work with in this ep, she does all she can to make her performance amusing if nothing else.
If Minamikujou is the diversion, the main event is Hachiken’s first competitive ride. The tie-in is where you’d expect it, in his extreme competitiveness – this is a boy that hates to lose – and happily, so is his horse. In fact it’s becoming clearer and clearer that Hachi-kun and Maron are very much alike in many ways, which is no doubt why they kept butting heads. Of course this isn’t an exam and Hachiken has no reason to expect to perform well, but he undeniably has an ability to produce when the pressure is on. And he does here, trusting his horse to do the heavy lifting and managing a very strong penalty-free run, though he does nearly disqualify himself by falling off when he spots Shingo in the crowd and loses his focus.
That intense competitive comes out when he roots for the final rider to make a mistake and incur a penalty – which I assume is extremely bad form in equestrian sports – so he won’t lose his place on the podium (which he does when the rider finishes a clean ride and beats Hachiken by a second). As for Mikage, she ends up riding Maron as well and manages a third-place performance, as well as thoroughly stealing Maron’s affections from Hachiken. Seeing Hachiken struggle with his demons is good stuff, though nothing we haven’t seen before – the best part of the ep for me was definitely Maron’s chewing the scenery (and Hachiken’s head). If the whole show jumping thing doesn’t work out, I think he has a future in the performing arts.