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Gin no Saji Second Season – 02

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「八軒、副ぶちょーを拾う」 (Hachiken, fukubucho o hiro)
“Hachiken Finds the Vice-President”

Well, you have to admit he’s a lot cuter than Dick Cheney.

It’s quite remarkable how little attention this series gets in English-language forums. I get very few comments at either place I cover it, and it seems to have a relatively tiny following in places like ASF and MAL. I wonder if this series isn’t punished to a certain extend for being too consistent, too solid and to straight-up with its audience – maybe anime fans have come to expect a certain level of bullshit and it just doesn’t feel like anime to them if they don’t get it.

If anything characterizes Gin no Saji for me it’s that lack of BS, and the fact the series just rarely seems to put a foot wrong. And that hasn’t changed a whit this season, which has gently eased us back into the world of Ezonoo without missing a beat. Along the way we’re seeing subtle development for the cast, most especially Hachiken. And a few seeds that have been planted along the side of the road as we’ve journeyed through 12 episodes are starting to bear fruit.

I think what we’re seeing with Hachiken is a kind of exponential expansion of the friendzone cliche to its logical conclusion. Simply put, I think Hachiken has been friendzoned by life – though ironically it’s Mikage who’s the one that puts that into words. As I said last week, being known as “the guy who can’t say no” is not a tag you want hanging around your neck for life (it’s much worse than “snack fees”). He has a little bit of a martyr complex – Mikage frames it in a positive light, deducing that Hachi-kun has been denied so much in life by his father that he can’t say no when he sees anyone else being denied something. And make no mistake, this is not all a bad thing – Hachiken is a genuinely nice guy, and extraordinarily empathetic. And the kind of guy you’d love to have for a friend, brother, son or co-worker – except my guess is that if you’re like most people, you’d find yourself taking advantage of his kindness sooner or later without realizing you were doing it.

It’s not every day we see a character for whom the phrase “he really needs to be more selfish” is more perfectly suited. The trick, or course, is to learn to do that without losing the essence of why he’s such a good guy in the first place – I think that’s the message his brother was trying to communicate to him last season. The latest example is the stray puppy Hachiken finds during the campus clean-up (and with a campus this huge, it’s quite a job). He does exactly what a nice person should do – he takes the dog back to school where it can be cleaned up and fed. And he does what any good-hearted kid would do – yearns to keep it. But that’s not enough for Hachiken – he insists that he be the one to pay for everything. Shots, food, license, you name it. It’s only when Tokiwa comes up with the idea of hanging the aforementioned tag around the dog’s neck – with a bamboo donations can – that financial assistance starts to flow in.

The dog is yet another ridiculously cute addition to the cast (though I still say Porkbowl was cuter). He ends up a resident of the stables, with his own house, and earns the name “Fukubucho” – Vice-president – which leads to some hilarious dialogue when Hachi-kun finds himself getting a bit jealous of all the attention the pup has stolen from him, along with his title (the culmination here is when Mikage scolds Fukubucho for peeing inappropriately). Indeed, this is one of the many examples in the episode of how Silver Spoon is peerless at segueing from drama to comedy without missing a beat, and this is one of the funniest episodes of the series. The stuff with the veterinarian and the bovine rectal exam is especially golden, from the reactions of the students when their teacher asks them how they’d like an amateur sticking his arm up their buttholes, to Hachiken facing the vet after he’s injured trying to save Komaba (needlessly) from a falling cow. Martyr syndrome, indeed.

This show is so effortless, so sure of itself, so jouzu – that Japanese word again that communicates so much but doesn’t translate well into English. The way the comedy, the slice-of-life and the character lessons are woven together should be studied in anime production classes for years to come. I loved the bit where Hachiken decided to train Fukubucho, because it combined all these elements. It showed us the other side of Hachiken, the one that he tries to hide – the insanely competitive side. It was very funny, and it ambled through its paces without any hurry to get where it was going. It was a little microcosm of what makes Gin no Saji such a special series, and why I never worry about where the series is headed – it has complete confidence in itself and that’s a confidence I share, and I’m happy to follow its lead wherever it chooses to take me.

January 17, 2014 at 5:15 am
23 comments »
  • January 17, 2014 at 5:22 ampashis15

    *0* hachiken!!!

  • January 17, 2014 at 5:29 amx

  • January 17, 2014 at 5:29 amDave

    I agree that this is one of the most underestimated series over the last two seasons. consistently great.

  • January 17, 2014 at 5:33 amdanes256

    gin no saji appear to have always been under appreciated, and that’s a shame really. i’ve read the manga and loved it, and the anime has adapted it very well, it’s a really enjoyable show

    • January 17, 2014 at 6:48 amGuardian Enzo

      Well, at least the manga still sells gangbusters and a half.

      • January 17, 2014 at 10:38 amZen

        Well, you did say last season that the anime was basically just a really big ad to boost manga sales, right? That being the true goal of producing this show we should probably consider the anime to a resounding success given how well the manga is doing…

      • January 17, 2014 at 4:53 pmGuardian Enzo

        In truth, the manga was already in the Top 10 in average volume sales all-time before the anime ever aired, so I’m not sure it made much difference. The first season averaged about 2200 on BD, which isn’t absolutely terrible. I think it’s fine, for what it is – the manga is so successful that funding the series probably makes sense even if it only minimally impacts sales, just to promote the brand. I do think it’s an interesting comment about what it takes to succeed in manga vs. in anime, though.

      • January 20, 2014 at 12:03 pmZen

        That is a really interesting question. Stilts should an editorial on it…XP

      • January 20, 2014 at 12:23 pmStilts

        Sounds tedious. Maybe we’ll talk about it on a podcast sometime. Then I can make Enzocchi do half the work :3

    • January 17, 2014 at 4:09 pmTechim

      You mean underappreciated by the Western audience…
      Its doing well in Japan, I think.
      There’s been news of a live-action movie greenlit since last October (http://bit.ly/1cCRWIu)
      You guys should check out the preview in that URL,
      features Butadon & this episode’s cow antics.

  • January 17, 2014 at 5:38 amtitus

    That dog is causing me diabetes.

  • January 17, 2014 at 6:46 amechykr

    A quite funny episode, laughed from beginning to end.

    Hachiken first getting delusional at people praising “Vice Prez” for being such a good boy, but then gets traumatized when they started saying how “Vice Prez” likes to pee around the place and all that stuff, especially lethal when it’s Aki that’s saying it. lol

  • January 17, 2014 at 8:54 amEmD

    He learns better than Tokiwa.

  • January 17, 2014 at 9:29 amkiishi

    Hachiken vs. dog: Hachiken wins!

    Great episode, as always. It’s nice to see that Hachiken’s friends didn’t leave him in the lurch and let him pay for both the inoculations and food. This show combines education, comedy and drama together – and does it successfully. Hachiken’s strict upbringing reminds me a little of my own. It’s the truth; most Asian city kids have things hard.

  • January 17, 2014 at 10:52 amrochichan

    I really wish Gin no Saji was more popular! But, people have different tastes for what they look for anime, so it can’t be helped…

    But the part where the doctor took out the feces from the cow’s anus… like, the animation was still the same quality, but it looked so real, I actually felt disgusted when I saw that part aaa…//

  • January 17, 2014 at 12:15 pmjustin

    the dog is a better learner than tokiwa( or whatever his name). that cracked me up.

  • January 17, 2014 at 1:24 pmBear

    I think the quality of the series actually leads to it’s lack of comments. It is so consistent and true to it’s story that there is almost a lack of things to talk about. This is about as pure a slice of life that I think you can get. Nothing flashy, , but great characters, good humor and realistic situations. My favorite of the year.

    One thing I will say about Hachiken is that I see his inability to say no comes from his desire to stop running away. In a sense, he’s gone to the other extreme. When confronted by something he doesn’t want to ignore it or run away so he takes it head on. As his friends are pointing out to him, you can only do so much for others, because you spread yourself too thin. Eventually, it snaps back at you (or lands on you when a cow slips and you don’t get out of the way).

  • January 17, 2014 at 4:20 pmRed HeartGold ZX

    Gin no Saji deserves a lot of attention. So far, it is the best anime in the Slice of Life genre in my opinion. It doesn’t go too far from reality and its comedy is not forced that it becomes corny. Excellent anime, but maybe only for those non-manga readers, I think.

  • January 17, 2014 at 4:36 pmAnonymosity

    Loved the red bean paste of dominion!
    Everyone can be conquered through their stomach.

    But really, while I don’t have anything against wacky comedy (in fact I quite like that sort too), this episode proved that more subtle jokes works at least equally well. And honestly speaking those are less of hit and miss nature too, at least for me.

  • January 18, 2014 at 3:17 amZhinvu

    http://randomc.net/image/Gin%20no%20Saji/Gin%20no%20Saji%20Second%20Season%20-%2002%20-%20Large%2006.jpg

    Best (and cutest) new addition to the cast. And it’s funny how Fukubuchou and Maron the horse got along in antagonizing Hachiken.

  • January 18, 2014 at 3:20 pmchad28

    i don’t always post here, but i watch the series and read your posts about this series.
    and i always post in the forum i go to.

    hachiken didn’t need to pay for everything if he did a stand to help pay for vaccines and stuff people would help him, because they like animals and like hachiken.
    even if it wouldn’t cover all the fees then hachiken could pay the rest, then he could take responsibility, but not before he asked for help. that’s my opinion, what i would do.

  • January 18, 2014 at 11:50 pmlegwkio

    This episode reminded me of Butadon… I miss Butadon…

  • January 20, 2014 at 1:23 amJHN

    With all the anime having action, fanservice and generally flashy stuff with the intention to make you go :o or >///< or 030, I find this to be such a relaxing anime to take a break from all that.

    Every episode just leaves me with a peaceful smile. Not to mention the new opening and ending really work well imo too. :)