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「八軒、豚丼と別れる」 (Hachiken, Butadon to Wakareru)
“Hachiken Bids Farewell to Pork-Bowl”

This was a moment we all knew was coming, but it certainly arrived sooner than I expected.

Some of these posts are easier to write than others, and this one isn’t especially easy to write. I had to take some time and think about just how I felt about the events of this episode, in fact, as I wasn’t at all sure at first. It’s not so much that it provoked a strong emotional reaction, but rather a complex one – and in fact that it wasn’t a stronger one is one of the most confusing things in the aftermath of the episode.

Even now, as I type, I’m somewhat conflicted about how Gin no Saji portrayed the final hours in the life of Butadon, and the aftermath. I think to a large extent what defines the episode for me is a lack of sentiment. Now matter how many times I’m struck by it in anime, the lack of sentiment in most Japanese fiction (not drama mind you, but sentiment, which is a very different thing) still surprises me. Heck, I live in Japan now and even surrounded by the culture, there’s still a disconnect – one that comes from growing up in America, of course. And I rather think how one responds to this episode might be largely based on how one views the role of sentiment in anime (and maybe life, too).

For me, I can honestly say that I’m not someone who views sentiment as a four-letter word. I think there’s a place for it in both life and art, and fiction can be sentimental without being melodramatic or maudlin. I think we have a tendency to fall all over ourselves praising series that show emotional restraint and mocking those that depict sentiment unashamedly, but some of the best anime ever had plenty of it when the moment called for it - Seirei no Moribito and even Hunter X Hunter spring to mind. More often than not I find anime tends to err on the side of coldness rather than warmth, at least for my tastes, leaving me feeling unsatisfied at a lack of emotional closure. It’s best of course when it indulges neither extreme but finds a perfect balance between them, though very few series can pull that off.

My initial reaction in the wake of watching this episode of Silver Spoon was along those lines – I didn’t feel it offered emotional closure that would do justice to the buildup the Porkbowl arc has received. I’ve softened a bit on that as I’ve thought about it, most probably because this is probably the conclusion that most perfectly matches the philosophy of the series. I was glad, perversely, to see that Hachiken didn’t try and find a way around Porkbowl’s fate, or succeed – while it would have been heartwarming it would have been a betrayal of the message of the arc, and the show. Arakawa-sensei clearly, whatever anyone else may feel about it, believes in the raising and slaughter of farm animals for meat. She doesn’t see it as wrong, even if she does allow that it can be painful. So when Hachiken made his offer to buy Butadon, my initial reaction (before the explanation) was first a spark of hope, then irritation. The truth of the matter – that he wanted to buy the meat, not the living animal – may not offer much emotional satisfaction, but it’s consistent with the message of the series.

I commented last week that “It can’t hurt for the people who make their living off the sacrifices of other living things to be reminded that there are indeed sacrifices being made – that these animals, given a choice, would choose to survive and propagate rather feed a hungry human and a farmer’s bank account. Perhaps in seeing Hachiken mourn at the death of an animal he cared for, they might pause and wonder if it’s such a good thing that they no longer do.” I think this was very much in-line with where Arakawa took the story, especially when Yoshino (who’s emerged as a very winning side character) got a first-hand look at what Hachiken was going through. She called him an “atama ga ii baka” – the second time that phrase turned up in anime this week – and commented that “The rest of us never really thought about killing and eating them, you know. It’s something we took for granted… Maybe it’s important to reconsider things you’ve always taken for granted.” This is the essence of Hachiken’s role at Ezonoo and in Silver Spoon, to be the foreign body, the outside thinker, and the proxy for the reader/viewer. Arakawa may support the notion of you eating bacon but she wants you to be aware of what it took to get it to your belly.

Of course, that might be viewed by some – certainly by vegetarians – as hypocritical, trying to have your pork bowl and eat it, too. I think Arakawa acknowledged this through Hachiken’s own words, in fact, when he said that he didn’t think Butadon would care one bit about how good he tasted after he died (and he’s right). This is an issue I’m still wrestling with, in fact – I think all the talk of how the smokehouse is like a funeral, and Hachiken buying Porkbowl’s meat rather than seeing it go to a stranger, having funerals for horses that died in a brutal sport… It’s all to assuage our guilty consciences, nothing to do with the sacrifices of the animals themselves. It’s about us, not them – and I think everything related to the pigs and cows and deer and bears even horses in Gin no Saji is really about us, not them. It’s Arakawa-sensei doing two things, mainly – trying to educate the world on the lives of the people who keep them from starving, and trying to work through her own feelings on being a part of a system that slaughters animals for profit.

So where does that leave us in the context of the story? I would say Butadon’s death was handled in a dignified, unsentimental and ultimately somewhat detached way. I appreciated the fact that we were spared no details on just what happened to Porkbowl, and the fact that Hachiken took the high road at all times. He watched the abattoir film despite being offered an out, he dressed the meat himself, and generally conducted himself as the strong and principled young man he’s grown into. There was even some humor in the episode, and damn good too – the pregnancy misunderstanding in the beginning was clever (yes, I really did want to punch Tokiwa). And I quite liked Sakuragi-sensei’s momentary reference to Hachiken and Yoshino as being “in heat”. But closure was something I didn’t take away from the episode – ultimately, the Butadon saga ends with me feeling somewhat let down. But I’m not sure there was any other way it could have ended without betraying the essence of the series, and maybe in and of itself a satisfying conclusion would have been wrong, because this was intentionally not a scenario that allowed the possibility of one. It’s certainly something to chew on – not as tasty as a plate of crispy bacon, maybe, but more substantial.

September 13, 2013 at 6:30 am
33 comments »
  • September 13, 2013 at 7:16 amLGrey

    The innuendo jokes are always top notch in this show.

    “The weight is about one girl, right?” – hats off to Tokiwa ^^

  • September 13, 2013 at 7:48 amGermanguy

    In Japan there is Sentiment. It is well Hidden from the Public. You should find it in the Families. Or perhaps you find it in the “younger” Generation.

    • September 13, 2013 at 7:55 amGermanguy

      Not to be Cold. but if we go and let the “Animals” for Food, unharmed and life a long life, do you thing all Humans turn into Vegetarian?

      The Plants you seed in the Spring, you sow in Autumn. Have you mercy with the Tree fruits? With the wheat?

      Imagine a Hospital Emergency Doctor. If he begin to deepen the bonds with all of his patients, and in the end they dont make it. You begin to have a mental Breakdown. You must let go things, if you dont want to turn crazy or depressed

      I know it is hard, but this is a Lesson called “Life”. Someday your Parents are no more. Are you prepared?

      • September 13, 2013 at 7:57 amGermanguy

        add to the Doctor:

        This one died, even with all of your help possible. But there are many others that need your help to survive, heck to save their life.

  • September 13, 2013 at 7:49 amBigFire

    Having already read the manga so I already knew what’s coming. But the final montage of Pork Bowl just before the commercial break, without dialogue and just a simple musical accomplishment still brings tears to my eyes. The end of part one of this show is next week, and we’ll have to wait another 3 months for the winter season.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:07 amAndré

    Nice episode, but not as dramatic as I thought it would be.

    It was pretty normal.

    - They the pig is gonna die.
    - I’m gonna buy its meat!
    - Let’s it together then!
    - YAAAAAAAAAAAY!

    It was basically this… And that’s good, I’m sick of dramatic BS in anime.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:15 amRyuuzaki

    mikage showing signs of jealousy after hearing Tokiwa’s rumor? :

    • September 13, 2013 at 8:26 amtsukioniisan

      Hachiken x Pork Bowl ship has sunk. We need more HxM!

      • September 13, 2013 at 4:17 pmMCAL

        I second this.

      • September 13, 2013 at 9:35 pm7godeohs

        I initially read “we need more HxM” as “we need more HaM” – either works for me.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:30 amOrion

    I can’t help but be reminded of “All is one and One is all” from FMA.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:58 ambelatkuro

    I can see why you would think that Enzo.
    It’s probably because most episodes cover at least 2-4 chapters. In the manga, there’s the buildup from when Porkbowl was taken to Hachi contemplating about what to do with the meat to the meat processing and finally the consumption. The succeeding weeks following Hachi’s decisions week after week per chapter built it up well and made its conclusion great. Here the whole thing was done in just a single episode. Not that I think this is a bad episode but I do agree there is some detachment from the conclusion of the Porkbowl saga. Difference in media I suppose.

    The point still sticks though that Hachi did well and grew up after all that he’s been through with taking care of Porkbowl so I still liked the episode. Looking forward to the last episode and the second season.

    And now I’m hungry again. I just ate a while ago..

  • September 13, 2013 at 9:26 amBigFire

    The anime adaptation also merge two meals into one. In the manga, the senior student making pork bowl with BBQ pork was one meal. After the bacon was made, they have another meal, this time with even the teachers showing up (Fuji-san brought her keg of beer). They do have to compress things to get things rolling.

    Next week, the end of the Summer chapters and the Summer season. In 2014, we should be seeing another batch of adaptation, doing the entire Autumn chapters (For a change, it will have quit a bit of sports with Baseball and Equestrian).

  • September 13, 2013 at 11:54 amKarry

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • September 13, 2013 at 11:57 amGermanguy

      Anime about Animals Farming… How you turn it into Human? Did i miss the point? You compare “Pigs” with “Humans”? You even know the Islam?

      or in Short!

      Let Real Life out of Animes!!

    • September 13, 2013 at 12:56 pmLonghaul

      “USians”
      Are you referring to Americans or Mexicans.

    • September 13, 2013 at 2:41 pmDomo-kun

      Uuuuh way out of line?
      Of course I agree that those things are bad, but do not generalize and assume all Americans support it. I say this but I am not American, by the way.
      Also there’s something wrong in your values scale if you compare killing of humans with killing animals. And I love animals, by the way.
      It would be more useful for you to discuss this kind of stuff in a political forum rather than in an anime blog…

  • September 13, 2013 at 12:58 pmChan

    Enzo, not going to give away the story for you, but be careful of getting on the high horse, because you will be torn down from it, and then you’ll feel bad for even getting on it in the first place.

    Though just to point it out you are wrong about others characters, in reality Hachiken isn’t teaching them anything, rather he is the one who is learning.

    Don’t ever forget that society itself was founded off of hunting animals, and raising livestock. If it wasn’t for that society as you know it wouldn’t even exist.

    • September 13, 2013 at 4:15 pmJoe

      Umm… As someone who felt the same way Enzo did, there is no high horsing here whatsoever.

  • September 13, 2013 at 1:07 pmNitro

    i think it was a good decision to leave out the sentimentality. in the end, it’s not like we need a tearful, emotional reminder of where our meat comes from every time we eat. it’s just a thing that happens, and will happen for time to come, so having any sort of proper closure on this arc just wouldn’t be right. Pork Bowl ended up where he was destined to end up, as has many other pigs. the respect shown by Hachiken to the pigs has been more than enough.
    on the other side of the coin, the incompleteness of the arc could also represent how many farm animals that are slaughtered for food also lead lives that are just cut short and don’t have much closure. damn, now i’m conflicted too.

    in any case i don’t think Pork Bowl’s arc is done. there’s still more to come next episode, mostly Hachiken dealing with Pork Bowl’s meat.

  • September 13, 2013 at 2:41 pmZen

    ultimately, the Butadon saga ends with me feeling somewhat let down

    That’s likely the whole point of the entire arc though. An accurate portrayal of reality. Everyone’s seen abattoir films and PETA flyers and whatnot and upon seeing them most first-world folks tend to react with shock and disgust- but even after having seen these things and felt these emotions the next day at lunch most go right back to eating meat without giving it a second thought. Fact: People may be initially shocked by gruesome images of animals being slaughtered but for most momentary shock is all it is; no real enduring moral or emotional conflict is triggered because in the end meat animals are meat animals- to die and be eaten is their role, this is how we’ve been socialized to react by the predominant social norms. Pigs die and we eat them- to the vast majority of folks it’s simply not a big deal

    • September 13, 2013 at 8:41 pmGuardian Enzo

      It’s a big enough deal that Arakawa wrote enough manga about it to fill an entire anime season. Don’t you think the anime should be judged on what the anime chooses to focus on?

      • September 13, 2013 at 11:15 pmZen

        Here’s the thing about the whole farm animal rights movement- it only sounds like a big deal because its advocates are a very vocal minority. It’s like Scientology- it seems like a big deal and gets a lot of media attention because of a vocal/privileged demographic of advocates, but is ultimately marginal and relatively insignificant in the context of society as a whole because of its small absolute number of adherents.

        But anyhow, I’ve followed the manga closely since it was first released and even there I didn’t get the impression that the theme of farm animal rights, within the context of the whole Butadon thing, was in any way central to it. Rather than being the central thematic focus of the story the issue of farm animal rights within the Butadon sub-plot always felt more like a secondary thematic implement meant to serve Arakawa’s ultimate goal of telling Hackiken-kun’s coming of age story- like Bear so astutely pointed out below Arakawa’s ultimate goal here was to show Hachiken take responsibility for his actions- growing into man who acknowledges reality (That pigs must die) and takes responsibility for his actions within the context of that reality (By buying up Butadon’s meat).

        Rather than being the core message in of itself, farm animal rights was used as a springboard by Arakawa to portray Hachiken’s personal growth as an individual. Anyone who thinks Arakawa was really trying hard to push a message about the ethics of animal husbandry is probably missing the point. The Butadon sub-plot was not really about Butadon at all, it was all about Hachiken. Farm animal rights, wherever it arises within the story, be it in the current Butadon arc or in other minor instances like the visit to Tamako’s farm has always been of merely secondary (In the former instance) or more often peripheral importance (In the latter instance within a self-contained mini-story).

        And in these places where this issue does secondarily or peripherally arise Arakawa’s concern hasn’t ever really been about what “should or should not be” but rather about what “is.” She presents to the reader a realistic breakdown of the differing ethical paradigms that different farmers adhere to, never suggesting even once that any is superior or inferior to any other, even subtly hinting that all of these moral paradigms exist as a pragmatic function of the kind of farming that each individual farmer engages in (Contrast the Mikages’ perspective against that of Tamako’s family).

        The same goes for the ethical paradigm portrayed in the Butadon sub-plot. Insofar as Arakawa was actually concerned with farm animal rights here (Secondary to Hachiken’s personal growth) it is not meant to raise questions about what “should or should not be” with regards to fate of meat animals but rather to portray reality; i.e. “what is.” And the reality of the attitudes of the general majority of society towards farm animal rights is just as it was portrayed in the manga and in the anime- like the ethical paradigms adhered to by farmers which according Arakawa are a pragmatic function of the kind of farming that they engage in the attitudes of society in general towards farm animals are also of a pragmatic nature. People feel disgusted by abattoir films and PETA flyers but the fact of the matter is that meat is such a crucial and venerated part of the traditional human diet that when push comes to shove, the death of an animal ends up mattering very little if at all- most shake off the PETA preaching the moment they smell a delicious sizzling steak, images of gore be dam*ed.

        Don’t you think the anime should be judged on what the anime chooses to focus on?

        That’s true, but I do in fact think that the anime did quite a decent job at preserving Arakawa’s original message within the constraints of limited airtime. It chose to focus on Hachiken this episode rather than Butadon in recognition of the fact that Hachiken’s personal growth and not animal rights is the central focus of the story. And within the time that it did dedicate to the Butadon sub-plot it stayed true to Arakawa’s emphasis of the moral reality of farm animal rights- Hachiken and co. ended up brushing the whole thing off as if it wasn’t all that big a deal. Because like the ethical paradigms that farmers such as the Mikages and Tamako’s family adhere to our attitudes towards meat animals are a function of the pragmatic reality of life- meat is an ancient and venerated component of our diet and few are going to give it up simply because the process of producing it is gory.

        Arakawa’s central message in this story with relation to secondary matter of farm animal rights has always been thus: That the ethical paradigms adhered to by more or less any individual is a pragmatic function of his/her own way of life ultimately enabling them to pursue their livelihood (The farmers) and live in a manner that is true to themselves (Hachiken and co. brushing off Butadon’s death). Hers is more of a message of tolerance rather than one of justification, that one’s beliefs about farm animal rights are so central and crucial to his/her life and identity that more or less every perspective should be worthy of respect.

        Now was Arakawa’s message portrayed in a less elegant manner than in the manga because of time constraints? Most certainly, but even so I do think what the anime did was half-decent given what it had to work with. More nuance might have served the anime better- it did all happen rather abruptly after all, but as things stand it really wasn’t all that bad…

      • September 14, 2013 at 8:45 amAndré

        So because she wrote about it, this means that this is a big deal? That doesn’t make sense.

        I agree with the guy there. Animals being killed is not a big deal for most people. It’s still interesting material to work with, but most people don’t really care; they just want to eat them all. This is a fact. In Brazil we don’t even know what PETA is and I don’t know of any equivalent to that… Sure, there very strict laws about how to treat and how to kill them, but… That’s government work. People here just want to eat them… EVERY SINGLE DAY (meat in Brazil is more common and it’s cheaper than in Japan, so we tend to eat it just like Americans eat Doritos).

      • September 14, 2013 at 12:11 pmBear

        @Zen

        I agree with most of what you said, except for Hachiken brushing off Butadon’s death. He faced it square on and didn’t flinch. Instead of saying “brushed off” I’d say he accepted it. He was sad Butadon had to die, but didn’t run from the fact that it had to happen. Yoshino’s complaint about his actions making her think and might make her not want to each pork shows how we can objectify an animal that we consume or use. Hachiken refuses to do that and that becomes more evident as the story progresses. Even in naming Butadon he (maybe unwittingly at the time) refused to let the pig become just an object. One of the messages I got from this arc is that when you do something you should understand the consequences of your actions and accept them. Hachiken is trying his hardest to keep to that philosophy.

      • September 14, 2013 at 12:51 pmZen

        @Bear

        I agree with most of what you said, except for Hachiken brushing off Butadon’s death. He faced it square on and didn’t flinch. Instead of saying “brushed off” I’d say he accepted it.

        Well, when I said “brushed it off” I didn’t really mean he didn’t care. What I really meant to say was that in comparison to the maudlin sentiment that you so rightfully criticized and Enzo was presumably anticipating Hachiken’s and co.’s relatively mild reactions could be considered to be “brushing off the matter emotionally.” Compared to the severe emotional turmoil that would occur from say accidentally hitting and killing jaywalker Hachiken and co. “brushed off” the maudlin emotional impact of Butadon’s death rather easily. That’s all that I meant to say. A deep, sentimental sense of responsibility is certainly present here as you stated below but the raw, maudlin emotional impact of death was mostly brushed off…

        @Andre
        Farm animal rights = #firstworldproblems. Most, like myself are unabashedly indifferent and would agree that money spent on it is better spent on helping starving African kids, fact…and this predominant attitude in society is what Arakawa was trying to bring to bear with the Butadon sub-plot…

  • September 13, 2013 at 2:54 pmGuzano

    As an Agronomic Engineer, this series portrays exactly my college days, when we were asigned the livestock, my fellow companions (especially girls) cryed when we had to sacrifice our animals, I was the one who slaughtered the pig an a few chickens, but my group was unable to see the process (maybe ´cause they never seen it, I was raised in the country side, so is a ride in the park for me).

    Meat production is just as they describe, some people find it cruel, some necessary, but in the end, that´s the cycle of their life, and just as Hachiken says in the episode, it´s bittersweet (but damn tasty) when you eat a animal you´ve raised.

    This series made my anime season.

    • September 13, 2013 at 3:48 pmBear

      Ever notice how wild life films show the lion bringing down their prey, but cut away when they’re tearing it to pieces (sometimes while it’s still alive)? The cycle of life is damn cruel, Disney not withstanding. Animals kill, even plants. That’s reality. Trying to put humans outside of that just ignoring reality. The fact that this show does not shirk reality and is thoughtful about what is a part of life is what makes it so special.

  • September 13, 2013 at 3:02 pmCybersteel

    Animals die when they are killed!

    • September 13, 2013 at 6:10 pmLastTywinFan

      Tokiwa coul be his cousin

  • September 13, 2013 at 4:02 pmBear

    I guess I don’t see where there is a lack of sentiment. What makes this show special is that it is not maudlin sentiment. Hachiken is a special MC because he is learning to face facts he would rather hide from them, from dressing a deer to taking care of an animal he knows is destined to be slaughtered. In a lesser story he would have bought the pig as a pet. In buying the meat, he takes responsibility for his actions by completing the raising of an animal who’s meat is meant for consumption. That is a sentiment of the highest order. I choked up when I saw what he did. If he had let Butadon’s meat go to someone else Butadon would have just disappeared from his life. By buying it back he acknowledged what he had done in raising Butadon and what the end result was.

  • September 13, 2013 at 7:43 pmThe Truth is in the Axe

    I actually thought that there is sentiment in this show, since it’s all about Hachi and the rest learning how to be more thoughtful and to be more appreciative of what’s being raised and what to do about it.

    To Hachi, Butadon is more than a product to eat, and also more than just an animal friend that he likes. I think that Butadon is also the result of his efforts, and when you acknowledge what you did and how much thought you put into it, then it becomes more than just a production line for Hachi to do for his school work on; it’s like him knowing what it is that sustains his daily life.

    And I personally think that he did it in a way that minimizes cruelty in Pork Bowl’s life.

  • September 22, 2013 at 10:54 amYukie

    I think Hachiken bought Butadon, because then he can decide and know how Butadon’s meat will be handled. In a way, it’s like making sure none of Butadon’s meat will be wasted or mistreated? And to enjoy the meat at its best is in a way of paying the utmost respect to Butadon..I think. I think Arakawa’s showing us the entire process to help us understand this is where our food comes from. Although the end result is the cold hard reality, we have to come to terms with the fact that the lives of these animals are what sustains us. Nothing’s changed, but at least we have a new appreciation.