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「八軒、御影家に行く」 (Hachiken, Mikage Ie ni Iku)
“Hachiken Visits Mikage’s Home”

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.

August 15, 2013 at 10:29 pm
27 comments »
  • August 15, 2013 at 11:09 pmKurama

    That scene with the deer was so sad :’(

    I was surprised, pleasantly so, of course, but surprised nonetheless that they so quickly announced a 2nd season with this kind of material, but then I saw how well the manga is selling. The latest volume has sold nearly 700,000 copies so far and is still rolling. Even if it is from the same woman who wrote Fullmetal Alchemist, I’m shocked that a manga whose premise is basically “farming” is so successful.

    • August 16, 2013 at 12:48 amVivace

      According to Arakawa Hiromu sensei in her other manga Hyakushou Kizoku, she studied in the same high school before. Before she came to Tokyo to become a mangaka, she was helping her family business about 7-8 years until her younger brother could take over the farm after finish his high school. So, basically, the whole story was inspired from her personal experiences and agriculture knowledge. If you a manga reader, you can be amazed by how detail she explained those agricultural knowledge and some really random/funny experiences from school/farm. I believe no one could create such a amazing manga without experiencing the farming/school life. This is the reason why this manga is so awesome.

    • August 16, 2013 at 4:52 ambolton

      is it (the anime) doing well in sales? it’s not really popular as far as i know but it’s a really good show!

      • August 16, 2013 at 5:42 amGuardian Enzo

        Too early to know, but stalker points seem to indicate modest sales at best are likely. In truth, though, I think this show is probably more about cross-promoting with the manga than selling Blu-rays.

  • August 15, 2013 at 11:15 pmRandom

    Man I lost it when I saw that bear during the ending
    http://randomc.net/image/Gin%20no%20Saji/Gin%20no%20Saji%20-%2006%20-%20Large%2036.jpg

  • August 15, 2013 at 11:17 pmberrish17

    Yes,this anime is quite persuasive to me.

    Gin no saji…what a great anime! <3 <3

  • August 15, 2013 at 11:46 pmRyuuzaki

    i dont know why, but it seems that this anime kinda sucks me in even though im not interested in farming at all. it got some atmosphere that relaxes you and before you know it, ending song strikes in.

  • August 16, 2013 at 1:46 amJayDrink

    Gosh, this show just makes me so happy! I can’t explain it, but I find myself laughing out loud at scenes that aren’t exactly as “funny” as they make me joyous. Not a lot of animes do that for me. I mean a laughter of joy is way more pleasant than laughing because something’s funny, if you ask me.

    And the ending song.. After every episode I just feel like running outside and laughing the day away!

  • August 16, 2013 at 5:16 ambolton

    hachiken smelling the blood on his hands as he was just about to think how tasty the deer was really struck a chord with me. i really like this show for how well it displays what is considered a simple yet hard lifestyle as something so complex and beautiful.

    when i saw the bear scene, i wasn’t really impacted so much as i thought it was humorous. i don’t think there’s a really right way to think about it, though. in my opinion, the mikage family weren’t trying to kill the bear, it just sort of happened. was their reaction right/humane/morally sound? i’m not sure but when i think about it, the frequency of this sort of event and their lifestyle immediately comes to mind as the factors for their reaction. it’s an accident, plain and simple, and there’s no use in crying or burying the animal to nourish the earth if you could nourish you and your family. the mikage family is just making the best with what they got, and i don’t think it’s anything you can judge without having to continually drive through the mountains yourself. i would see it as their responsibility to put an animal out of its misery and making sure that the life they took could fulfill any sort of purpose it could in its state.

    i’m not gonna lie, though, i’m really glad something interrupted hachiken from potentially soiling his chances with mikage. i’m not sure a hand grab was the best way to commemorate that otherwise pleasant moment.

    • August 16, 2013 at 5:42 ambolton

      replying to my own post to avoid spamming up the comments too much but i’d also like to express how much i loved the bullpen scene between hachiken and komaba.

      hachiken criticizes komaba and his family’s lifestyle, wondering how it’s possible for someone like komaba to be so ambitious and outgoing when he’s basically trapped in this cage, forever doomed to work himself to the bone 365 days a year. in that moment, hachiken was without a doubt taking pity on komaba, and as soon as komaba realized this, he decided to really show hachiken why he is who he is.

      the bullpen was created by komaba’s father, and it is entirely representative of the cage komaba was born in and doomed to inherit. komaba knew exactly what he was doing by pumping adrenaline into hachiken, he wanted to hear exactly what hachiken was thinking and they were thoughts of pure jealousy. hachiken is jealous that he who was privileged to be born in a world where you can essentially be anything you want has no goals, no dreams, no ambition, and at the time, no will to live the way he wanted. komaba wanted to show hachiken that it is exactly the fact that he was born in this bullpen is what fuels his greed.

      i thought that this was really beautiful symbolism and character interaction on arakawa’s part, and felt it needed to be praised on a blog that allows for these types of discussion.

      i’m so excited to see mikage’s backstory. it seemed like she was not so enthusiastic about being the heir to the mikage farm, but i think we’d have to wait and see.

  • August 16, 2013 at 7:18 amEspada

    chu churu chu chu chu chu churu chu

  • August 16, 2013 at 8:03 ammianghuei

    That bear interrupting romantic moment scene is kindof funny. :)

  • August 16, 2013 at 8:28 amturin

    One of the worst kinds of child abuse is not teaching kids to work, be it to wash dishes, walk the dog, mow the lawn, sell lemonade, and so on, and so on.

    Real life will take kids who don’t know how to work, chew them up and spit them out.

    • August 16, 2013 at 8:53 amTSouL

      Agreed, a sheltered life is doing a diservice to the child. I had a friend with a younger brother who didn’t know how to do his own laundry when he entered his 1st year of college…

    • August 16, 2013 at 9:26 amBear

      It also teaches them that they are part of a family and have a responsibility to contribute to the well being of the family. Too many kids think that they just have a right be given anything they want just because they exist without giving back.

  • August 16, 2013 at 9:29 amchad28

    Did you guys noticed Mikage reaction to the comment from the horse buyer?
    I couldn’t really tell if she was mad because he insinuated that a woman couldn’t run a farm or if it was because that’s not really she wants to do.

    I really liked how Mikage instantly understood that Hachiken is kind of damaged by something happen with his parents, and hadn’t called them yet.

    • August 16, 2013 at 4:17 pmEspada

      nope
      just read the manga

    • August 16, 2013 at 4:32 pmJ Jay

      *Not manga reader btw* I’m pretty sure that was because she doesn’t want to inherit the farm, which would make sense given that she has seen the struggles that Komaba (who will be the heir of his farm) has to go through. I was a little disappointed at the lack of subtlety in that scene, but conversely Mikage’s dissatisfaction has been made obvious.

      Also GE, thanks for your honesty in admitting a sense of hypocrisy regarding the beary substantial meal … although I don’t share your thoughts I did find the scene indifferent to the [brief] trauma the bear had been through. But as others have said, from “their” point of view it would be heinously unjust not to make the best of the situation. But to me that doesn’t (shouldn’t?) equate to the almost raucous scenes of celebration, even it was for humour.

      Actually, I wonder how much of this ties in with general Shinto mythology and the belief that everything has a spirit? Hopefully a later ep will chew the cud on that issue for me.

      • August 17, 2013 at 3:36 pmChan

        Without giving too much away, your guesses are totally off.

        I disagree with the comment about the bear, if anything that scene was there to show that life goes on. The scene not being treated with any somberness then its impact in the message would have been lost. Interesting your thought process is actually similar to Hachiken.

        Actually very little of it has anything to do with Shintoism, considering the fact that my family would have behaved the same way and they’re Christian. Remember that the foundation on society was hunter and gatherer.

  • August 16, 2013 at 9:54 amBear

    Two things about the bear. One is that given the farmer’s philosophy it would be wrong not to eat it. The bear deserves to have his death serve a useful purpose. The second is that the situation could have been the reverse and Hachiken, while wandering around in the dark, could have been the bear’s dinner.

    Hachiken’s reaction to Pork Bowl not asserting himself told us a lot, I think, about what pressures he must have had at home to be successful and maybe even down right ruthless. He has an admirable trait in that, no matter how distasteful a situation he’s been confronted with, he’s forced himself to deal with it. The blindfold=hostage bit was a beautiful piece of black humor. Deer do have anime eyes so having one as the first thing to butcher, just made it all the harder. Now how he’s going to deal with actually slaughtering an animal is going to be really intense (especially if it’s Pork Bowl).

    I have a very emotional reaction to this show and I don’t fully understand why. I find myself really caring for the characters. Behind the humor is Arakawa’s real understanding of what it means to be a farmer and the joys and hardship that entails. Hachiken is our everyman who gives us the POV to let us see what most of us never know about how the food on our table gets there. I can really identify with his squeamishness and wish that I could man up and handle it as well if I was in his situation.

  • August 16, 2013 at 12:23 pmArara

    “This notion of values comes into play in other forms in the ep as well, such as when Mikage sees that Komaba’s tiny twin sisters (seven? eight?) Nino and Misora (Goto Mai) are already engaged in hard labor at their dairy farm. ”

    Just a little typo here i think, it should be Hachiken instead of Mikage(:

  • August 16, 2013 at 6:28 pmLastTywinFan

    I don’t know if you notice but in the bear scene the only part damaged in the car is the door, which mean that the ‘accident’ could not b so much an ‘Accident’ as many thought.

    • August 16, 2013 at 11:55 pmNitro

      that’s just reading too much into something that doesn’t need reading into

    • August 21, 2013 at 11:16 amMartin

      That’s *exactly* the kind of damage caused by a heavy animal running into the side of a truck (breaking its neck in the process). It happened with my F150 and a adult male deer. The only difference was the amount of blood.

      (My hunter neighbor dressed the deer and I got a quite a few kilos of venison in my freezer).

  • August 17, 2013 at 3:53 amJD

    Very powerful episode. We should recognize that the foundation of civilization started with people who actually hunted and killed animals everyday (I do wonder, though, if there were pre-historic people who never killed animals?). Technological advancement has distanced a large portion of today’s population with that experience (me included). This episode actually makes me want to try butchering– despite my dislike of seeing blood. *cringe* /hide

    But for the sake of experience, I’ll think try to get my hands on it if there is an opportunity.

  • August 17, 2013 at 4:55 amLGrey

    “Want to come to my place? My parents won’t be there.”

    Mosaic background + horse neighing = ROFL for innuendo.

    This anime has pedigree on directing, I see. ^^

  • August 27, 2013 at 8:53 amboznia

    I’m late commenting, but it’s interesting to see others’ reactions to this show. My family’s from a rural area, and as you can imagine I’ve seen animals butchered (including deer) since I was little, so it wasn’t shocking to me as it might have been to others. I was quite impressed they showed as much as they did. Even though I could probably relate more with the others than Hachiken in that situation, I could still feel his struggle over the dilemma before him. It’s a well written story.