Gin no Saji Second Season – 10

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It’s just ridiculous how good this series is right now.

I’m running out of superlatives to lavish on Gin no Saji after the latest episode.  This three-episode run is, quite simply, about as good as any series telling this sort of story could possibly be – effectively note-perfect.  I confess I took this show for granted to a certain extent – never stopped loving it, but when it was at its most episodic it was easy to forget just how hard it is to make it look so easy.  There’s no danger of that now though, now that the story has transitioned into much weightier material and done so with such brilliance.

Gin no Saji is really an object lesson in why characters should drive plots, and not the other way around.  There’s simply no way to generate this kind of buy-in unless you come to know the characters in their everyday lives, and can watch the progression of their lives follow its natural course like a river – with switchbacks, slow and languid stretches, and turbulent rapids.  In a medium where high-school settings are often used strictly as an excuse for inane comedy and inept romance, Silver Spoon shows us why teenagers make such powerful subjects for storytelling.  There’s nothing like people in transition to drive a dynamic plot, and no stage in life is more transitional than adolescence.  This is a coming-of-age story in the truest sense of the word, and it rings truer than life in the way only really good fiction can.

I like the fact that this episode didn’t jump right back into the situation where we left it last week – with Aki having just confessed her desire not to take over the ranch from her parents – but rather let us see the aftermath of that moment first.  One of the first things we see, in fact, is Aki asking Komaba if he wants to take over the Mikage ranch – an act heavy with implications.  Perhaps Aki is doing this as a way to assuage her own conscience, to try and soften the blow she’s delivered to her parents.  Komaba refuses on the grounds that it would be wrong for him to waltz in and take over just like that, and besides – he wants his own ranch.  But is there also a part of him that realizes Aki is asking the question for her own benefit, and not that of either the business or himself?

In point of fact, we soon see that Aki now plans to go to university to pursue her dream – which is a problem because she’s already said this season that her grades weren’t very good.  This of course is a perfect setup for Hachiken to intervene – it’s his area of specialty, he can’t say no generally, and he’s in love with Aki.  What’s happened between Hachiken and Aki has progressed so naturally that there’s no suspension of disbelief required to accept seeing them together now. She may still be resisting the idea of formally “dating” him (much to the disgust of their friends of both genders) but they’ve developed a bond of trust and support that seems to make that development inevitable.  It might be argued that most of the support has come from Hachiken’s side (and there’s a very funny joke inspired by her willingness to reciprocate) but I think that’s a function of where each of them is in their lives at the moment.  When the time comes, Aki will be there for Hachi-kun.

So off we go, with Yuugo tutoring Aki – whose grades are bad, though not as bad as Tokiwa’s.  Hachiken is resolutely competent and knowledgeable, pushing her towards Japanese History as her best best to pass the entrance exam, and overcoming her resistance by the clever tactic of teaching her history via great events in horsemanship (starting with the doomed Taira Clan).  We can see how serious Hachi is about this when he actually refuses a request from a sempai to be on a committee establishing pizza-baking as a school tradition – a student who came in with the assumption that Hachiken was a “yes-man”.  This is actually a watershed moment for his character, a time when he actually said no – and to a senior no less.  It leads to a hilarious response from the sempai and a funny-sad appearance by Pork Bowl (I love how the humor is seamlessly layered in with the drama in this series) and it planted the seed in my mind that would bear fruit later in the episode (though earlier in real-time).

As I mentioned last week, even as the focus has been on Komaba and Aki, in the long game these developments are most important for how they cause Yuugo’s character to develop.  We see it in his refusal of the teacher; we see it in his willingness to swallow his pride and ask his brother (who as you recall got into Todai, the most prestigious university in Japan) for ideas on helping Aki get into college.  And when Shingo tells him all his notebooks are “somewhere at home”, we see Hachiken facing one of his greatest demons – going home to find those notebooks, and facing his parents.  You could argue that Hachiken is doing these things because he’s a teenager in love, but in the end I think it hardly matters – he’s doing things that are hard for him because he’s trying to be a better man.  Who cares why as long as he’s doing it for that purpose?

It’s as Hacihken sits on the train platform waiting for the express (three hours) back to Sapporo, at 6:40 AM and with a box of O-miyage (though not the men’s bath yogurt from Tokiwa correction – Tokiwa snuck it into the box) from his friends on his lap, that he thinks back to what took place at the Mikage house after we left it.  And this is perfectly framed, in my opinion, because it shows us the connection between what Hachiken is doing for Aki and his own life choices.  The conversation – the ratio of love and hurt to anger is too high to call it an argument – is so believable, so honest, so genuine.  There’s shock, especially from the mother and grandmother.  The father is clearly less shocked (it turns out he overheard Aki confess her conflicted feelings to Hachiken over the summer), and more willing to listen.  When Mom moans about how sudden all this is, Hachiken steps up and says that it’s not sudden – Aki has been saying this for a long time, even if not with words.  “Can you notice her more?” he asks softly, and a more heartfelt request on behalf of a friend could hardly be imagined.

Aki’s father berates Hachi for speaking when he’d been told not to, but he’s clearly far more intent when he tells his daughter that it’s “not fair” to let someone else speak for her – she should be the one to tell her family how she feels.  She asks her Uncle if she can work at the Ban’ei racing stables with him, and his reaction is exactly the right one – he’s concerned that basing her future on an industry barely surviving is a bad bet.  His challenge – he’ll give her a job but only if she gets a degree.  The family is well aware of her academic limitations, and mince no words to that effect (“It’s pretty much a given that she’ll fail” says Grandma) – mulling over the possible options for a farm school girl with mediocre grades.

When Hachiken offers to “take responsibility” the family predictably misunderstands (though with quite different results), but in truth he means he’ll get Aki into college, one way or the other.  She protests – what about worrying for his own future?  His response is classic Hachiken – he doesn’t even know what he wants to do, so it’s fine.  But here’s where that seed from earlier bears fruit for me, because it seems that Hachiken is most passionate about helping other people.  It seems to me that he’d make a fantastic teacher – and there are much worse dreams to have than that one.  But even if his dreams eventually take him in another direction, it’s obvious that in helping Aki – and all the people he’s helped – Hachiken is learning a great deal about himself.

My word, that – all of it – is just so true.  It’s so real, so honest, so plain and unpretentious.  It should be cliche, a story about farm people being so grounded in simple and honest values and struggles – but it’s not, it’s just brilliant.  This show, as I’ve said before, is like the antidote to all the too-clever irony and degrading sexual humor and posturing pseudo-intellectualism that’s so prevalent in anime (and not just anime).  It’s (ironically, for a farm series) a fresh, clean breeze that blows in and clears the stench of all of that from the room.  This will never be the series that sells the most Blu-rays or garners the most discussion, but it may just be the one that does the most to enlighten and ennoble the human experience.

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  1. A

    It has to be said, but Noitamina's recent announcement of their next year has crushed my hopes to see a third season of this before year end.
    Or is there just not enough manga for a third season yet?

    A show this great really needs to continue. For me it's outshone everything else this season.

  2. I think it'd be dicey before year's end, material-wise. But I'm dubious we'll see another season anyway – it doesn't sell that many discs and, perversely, the manga may be too popular for the anime's own good – it just doesn't need the help.

  3. t

    Enzo is right.

    the manga is super popular. actually it was popular even before the anime (but I guess even more after the anime has aired). however, the anime didn't succeed as one might think. although for me, the anime did great, really. but in terms of blu-ray and DVD didn't go well at all (BTW, same with SSY, but don't worry for A-1 pictures too much as they gain enough for other projects).

    as for S3, well, the anime has reached (currently epsiode #10 of S2) to chapter #72-73 (more or less I think) and so far there are less than 100 chapters (about 97-98 I think) so there isn't enough material it'll take some time.

  4. B

    Season 1 covers material for Spring and Summer. Season 2 covers Autumn which is about as long as the previous material. Winter chapters just concluded, and it's the length of everything previously, so it should provide 2 seasons of material. But it's not a matter of having the material. Hopefully they'll come back and cover Winter chapters as well.

  5. i

    Brilliant, just brilliant. Sad truth is, that the anime ends next week and even if there is material for another season, I don´t see that happening, at least until next year. Also, Enzo, why being the manga popular means not more anime?
    I´ve read that this was last year the 6º best selling manga, and it numbers improved from 2012, when there wasn´t any anime (7º, but more than a million less)
    I see that maybe the manga doesn´t really need the help of an anime, but another series of this type, Uchuu kyoudai from A1 too, has reached 99 episodes and with a movie incoming, and its circunstances are really similar to Gin no saji (mediocre Blue R sales but popular and successful manga)
    I simply can´t hope to not having a third season, since i don´t like too much reading manga and i´ve been following this series since it was announced for an anime.

  6. When anime aren't big sellers in their own right, they need to make money somewhere else. One common approach is kickbacks from publishers if the anime is expected to provide a big boost in sales to the source material. Some anime (almost any shoujo title, for example) basically exist as commercials for the manga, LN or VN.

    Because Gin no Saji is so incredibly popular as a manga with or without the anime, a case can be made that investing in more anime isn't cost-effective. The manga doesn't need it. That's why I think a big-screen anime film or films make sense, because fans of this manga are more likely to be people who go to movies than people who spend $100 on an anime Blu-ray.

  7. i

    Aa well i see, thanks. Then the only thing we can do is wait and see if anything happens and they decided to adapt more. As you said, this show feels true, human and always leaves you with a smile, even if whats happening on the screen is crushing you.
    I already feel that i miss this show, and i haven´t even see the proper ending next week.
    Heck, what a problem, this one.

  8. e

    The Pork Bowl from The Other Side :,) – that was my dramedy moment of the week – .
    I think Aki made that request to Komaba bacuse of basically all the reasosn you listed. had he accepted she would both felt relieved in pursuing her own dream, provided a friend (and his family) in need an established occupation outlet and provided her own family a trusty support – but hey if anything her family (even tiny greatgrandma) have already singled out the perfect next gen farmer candidate from Sapporo… maybe Icchan on a gut level knows he would be only second best in the house :p – .
    More seriously he and Aki are such close friends they can see each other's motives and live with that 'no'. Would have ben convenient to say 'yes'? Yes. But right? No.

    On Hachicci's notes retrieval trip to his house nd his demons: well, love (whatever kind of) is as good a motivation as better of a person it inspires you to be… I approve of this love package. Hachi fight!
    Also… DAT YOGHURT. *oy, I'd drink that. As long as the bottle was well sealed I see no problem :D*

    P.S.: even without reading the whole blessed paragraphs one could gauge the level of appreciation from your river analogy. That one comes out only in very special cases *recalls a certain episode of SpaceBros featuring a key Mutta moment*. And yes it's very well deserved here.

  9. Fuck, did I already use that one? Oh, well – 1000+ posts a year and it's bound to happen once in a while…

  10. e

    The wording was just similar rather than nearly identical if it's any consolation ;p. I'm a sucker for nicely-phrased water analogies. I tend to remember them. And for similar reasons I'll probably never forget Tokiwa's special yoghurt-making pointers… I need a men's ofuro in my life :,D.

  11. w

    "Anything" you say? Poor Mikage is too innocent for her own good. Lucky Hachi's such a gent ^_^ I thought he was going to scold her for saying that to a teenage boy.

    Also, I'm fairly certain that was a third year and not a teacher, although you wouldn't know by the size of him..

  12. e

    Don't give her ideas! if she started teasing him inentionally he would turn into a dry prune on the spot :,>. On accoutn of his collapsing I must say collarbones and the hollow at the base of a loved one's throat are quite devastating for the watcher's inner balance :p. Oh clavicular gift of swoony goodness!

    I thought he was a senior student myself but I was not 100% sure.

  13. r

    Enzo, I'm impressed you still have words to describe this show. I'm fresh out.

    For me, this show is beyond description at this point; it's transcended the genre and the medium and we're watching art on screen in A-1's simple style that doesn't distract from the story, but just let's Arakawa speak through the characters.

    I finish these episodes and feel like crying, not because I'm sad, but because it's just that beautiful and true.

  14. It was the same for me. I was very close to tears for much of the second half of the episode, and not because of any specific event on-screen – it was just because everything just felt so true.

  15. S

    Well, that was good. As in, very, very good. I read of people complaining about how Gin no Saji got "too serious" this season but honestly I love it (though I liked equally the comparative levity of season 1).

  16. M

    Some people just don't give a toss about "coming of age". More often than not, those that do are in it for the teen romance.

    I myself preferred season one's strong focus exploring the philosophical aspects of agricultural life. The conflicts raised last year for one seem less common than baseball and tender relationships.

    Perhaps I'm missing the terrible, beautiful sadness at the heart of the humdrum. Too high a price I guess.

  17. F

    Thank you for another satisfying review; your words are as easy to read as the anime about which you blog are easy to watch.

    I feel as though I'm missing something. The last scene of this episode shows the Mikage eldest is watching a weather report on the news, the gist of which was "A real winter is coming." I know they don't waste a frame in this show on anything inconsequential so I know that was there for a reason. Were they foreshadowing that life was about to get harsh for the characters involved? I'd appreciate any ideas about that.

  18. e

    The GnS story is allegedly structured in different story arcs names after the seasons… s1 was about the Spring and Summer manga chapters while the current anime episodes are the 'Autumn' chapters.
    Both on a structure level and content-wise it does seem like foreshadowing. Winter is coming (will we ever see the Winter chapers animated? Who knows)… and even if we dodge a GoT reference I would expect some bumps on the road ahead – hopefully not of the gory variety… – . .

  19. t

    actually, silver spoon anime has already entered the so called winter-arc. the autumn arc has ended in chapter #63 with the folks finding out that Komaba farm went bankrupt. as I said above, currently, this episode (#10) ended around chapter #72-73 and there are still about 25 chapters (the manga is now at 97-98) all of them are still winter chapters (a long winter…someone?), so now chance they will finish it (and as also stated above – doubt for S3 right now due to lack of material and especially low sells in bluray and DVD. although… if A-1 will really want to do it later on, like next year or something when there will be enough material, they can do it, they suppose to have enough money probably from other projects that are making enough fortune).

    BTW, if you noticed in this episode last seconds, when Aki's great-grandma saw TV, there was weather forecast telling "a real winter is coming" (HaHa A song of ice and fire – game of thrones…someone?).

  20. I think it's a given that the last scene is foreshadowing of trouble next week. I didn't think it was subtle enough that I even needed to mention it…

    I still say theatrical movies make the most sense for this series as an anime.

  21. F

    Thanks everyone! I also thought that it may be for events in next week's episode, but seeing as there is only one episode left, I didn't think they would go to the trouble to lead us into that final episode. I mean, it's not like we would watch for so long and then bug out on the series finale.

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