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「八軒、ギガファームへ」 (Hachiken, Giga Fāmu e)
“Hachiken Visits Giga Farm”

This week’s entry in "Hachi-kun’s Wisdom From the Farm": it’s better to be a horse than a calf.

Silver Spoon is nothing if not resolutely sure of its self-identity. This is the obvious product of a writer who’s not out to prove anything to anyone, but has full confidence that she has something to say that’s worth listening to, and the talent to say it in an entertaining way. In many ways this is almost the definition of a slice-of-life show (though it adds a new connotation to that label) in that it goes about depicting the daily lives of its cast without layering in much conventional plot, and quietly sheds light on some larger questions along the way.

That sense of not trying too hard is important to Gin no Saji’s success, because there’s been very little deception since the beginning. It’s been very clear what the show was all about and that’s been consistent – using the perspective of Hachiken as a vehicle for examining the life of the modern rural farmer, with all its challenges and rewards. The one element that’s changing over the course of the series is Hachiken himself, whose personal story leaks out drip by drip, and who finds himself being influenced by the life he sees around him. But he still asks the questions most in the audience would probably be asking, even if he doesn’t often find the answer.

It was Hachiken himself who probably summarized the perspective of the author best – maybe there is no "right" answer. Arakawa-sensei is clearly trying very hard to avoid passing judgment on what she depicts here, even when it comes to a large commercial farm like Tamako’s Giga Farms (though there are far, far worse examples of the breed in the real world). It’s the closest we’ve come in seven episodes to seeing agribusiness as the detached, unsentimental world it usually is. Her father (another legendary FMA veteran, Ookawa Touru) and mother (yet another legend, Saitou Chiwa) make Hachiken, Mikage and her Mom feel very welcome – but Tamako especially makes a point of making sure Hachiken sees the harsh side of Giga Farms. There’s the rotary milker, the cow who’s sent to the knacker rather than have its leg mended, the calf separated from his mother immediately after birth, only to face the fate of almost all male calves – castration, then a brief fattening up period followed by a one-way trip to the slaughterhouse.

Throughout all this, Hachiken remains himself. That is, he still sees the innocence in the eyes of the calf and grieves at its fate. He still holds the romantic notion that parent-child relations in the animal world retain old-fashioned values (reflecting his cynicism and internal conflict about his own life), though Mikage tells him that even at her family farm, the calves are immediately separated from the mothers. He’s still grossed out by watching the breech birth of said calf and snarls "Don’t try and force your dairy farm values on me!" when Tamako rips him for not being swept away in the beauty of the moment. Hachi-kun is still, in other words, very much the idealist – and thus far at least, managing to retain that idealism even in the face of a relentless dose of real-world cold water being splashed on his face by the world of rural Hokkaido (though the greatest challenge to that idealism is surely yet to come). Just as Arakawa doesn’t judge that world harshly for it’s seeming ruthlessness, she doesn’t judge Hachiken for his idealism – but one wonders if the point will come where on some of these questions, she’s going to have to choose a side.

What’s becoming clear about Hachiken is that he uses his instinct for sniffing out other people’s problems – and trying to help – as a way of escaping his own. He’s absolutely correct that Mikage is conflicted about taking over her family’s dairy business – her love is for horses. But at the same time, he continues to ignore his mother’s increasingly pleading e-mails and keep the nature of what drove him to Ezonoo – and in his own words, to "give up on his dreams in middle school" – close to the vest. He genuinely wants to help others, but not himself – and he doesn’t seem intent on allowing anyone else to help him, either. When Mikage compares him to a horse he’s first confused, then horrified that it’s an insult, and finally elated when he understands it’s a compliment – but it’s a back-handed compliment, which he’ll come to realize soon enough. Hachiken is coming to understand this strange way of life, and that’s the first major element in the story – the next, surely, is for him to use that understanding to help to understand himself.

August 23, 2013 at 12:57 am
15 comments »
  • August 23, 2013 at 2:09 amJUSTIN

    Cow bowl!!!

    • August 27, 2013 at 1:03 pmThe Walker

      I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cow…bowl…? Sorry. Really sorry. I couldn’t resist.

  • August 23, 2013 at 2:59 ampetitorenji

    This episode made me remember the time I watched “Food Inc” and “Earthlings” (a must watch, for those who haven’t seen it). This episode made me remember guilt that came with the realization that half our food is dependent on our brutality, esp on our ingenious ability to make a mega-killing system to feed almost everyone at such a commercially effective cost. I remember the guilt of being able to forget the intelligence and adorableness of those animals when seeing them as sizzling strips of meat or bottles of delicious, vitamin-fortified milk. And also my willingness to continue to turn a blind eye. Like many others, I like my animal-based foods. And I like them cheap.

  • August 23, 2013 at 3:33 amThe Truth is in the Axe

    I feel for Hachiken when he avoids his mom’s emails. Judging by that little flashback in the last episode (with the rice balls), he looked super miserable and stressed. If he gets pissed and stressed at the sight of some worried emails (which are understandable on his mom’s part- he’s just not letting her know what he’s doing to at least keep her in the know), he must have really needed some distance from them.

    In contrast, I totally like Tamako’s very very very frank admittance in wanting to take the farm away from her parents’ noses and use her ambition to make it even better. XD

    This is also probably the only anime that would show how mammals get born. Breach birth indeed.

  • August 23, 2013 at 3:47 amRed HeartGold

    Dat Mikage-otou-san sneak shadow technique… xD

  • August 23, 2013 at 5:18 amcutemi2

    CEASARIAN BIRTH, not applied in this episode, only normal birth slash pull the cow’s leg

  • August 23, 2013 at 8:42 ambolton

    I’m just so in love with this show.. its knack for tugging at your heartstrings given the all too real setting is baffling. It’s truly a shame when I see people disregard it simply for its premise, but at the same time, I can’t blame them.

    I can’t say with a straight face that certain farming techniques are acceptable or not. All I know is what I don’t, and so I’ve come to selfishly appreciate the simple fact that all of it is able to be put in the back of my mind. I’m not sure if but only a few of us are really cut out for this sort of life, raising animals that are destined to meet the slaughterhouse at some point. It’d be hard not turning it into a nursery, but I’m sure there aren’t many farms that can afford that luxury.

    I wish Hachiken’d realize his own hypocrisy while pointing out Mikage’s. It’s not so much selfless as it is selfish to be nice and help everyone out but not allow anyone to breach your own AT-fields. Still, things like this are all too human, and I love watching the slow peeling of the apple more than I love eating it.

  • August 23, 2013 at 11:24 ambelatkuro

    I liked these small details they placed here.
    The names in here that Hachiken was looking at are connected in some way to the manga. Miss Sunday Shogakukan is a publishing company. The Father, Weekly Sunday, is the magazine where Gin no Saji runs, which is under Shogakukan. And the Mother, Miss Big Comic, is another magazine of Shogakukan.

  • August 23, 2013 at 2:10 pmbvb

    This show is so underrated.

  • August 23, 2013 at 2:58 pmtsukioniisan

    I just love this show’s subtle philosophical hints. But because of its well executed comedy, it’ll just leave you laughing even before you start to argue with your own mind the “humanity” involved in the farming industry.

    Oh, and I that moment when they handed Hachiken the rope for pulling out the calf – I couldn’t stop laughing with what’s going to happen next and from his reaction.

  • August 24, 2013 at 3:03 amGermanguy

    Well, i think this Anime has more an Impact on “City grown” Children’s. Because they never known the Country Life. If their Refrigerator is empty, they go buy it in a Store. Children even dont know real Fish, all they know is fish stick. Or that Cows are purple (because of some promotion)

    But for someone that grown in Country Life and move to life in the Citys, this is “normal”

  • August 24, 2013 at 11:51 amMelz

    I love how the cow doesn’t care about her calf being taken away and just eats like nothing happened. And Hachiken’s reaction to that was hilarious once again.

  • August 24, 2013 at 2:35 pmLonghaul

    “Jiiiiii” in an old mans voice…

  • August 24, 2013 at 4:00 pmDomo-kun

    Another great episode. Looking forward to more developments on Hachiken backstory and Hachiken x Mikage.

  • August 26, 2013 at 7:02 pmZhinvu

    This was an eye-opening episode as I didn’t know pulling a calf out was one way of a cow giving birth. And Aki’s dad reminds me of Scar. I laughed a lot at the first scene when Hachiken was imagining Aki’s dad was behind him.