「八軒、豚丼に迷う」 (Hachiken, Butadon ni Mayou)
“Hachiken Hesitates Over Pork-Bowl”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this season is going to finish up.
Gin no Saji has certainly been an enjoyable ride, but the whole Butadon thing has been a foreboding presence hanging over the series since the premiere. The fact is, there’s no better device for Arakawa-sensei to frame all the issues she’s raising with this series, and it cuts right to the emotional heart of the matter in a way nothing else in this show can. It’s the one element that ties together the agricultural ethics side of the series with Hachiken’s personal development, the two halves of Silver Spoon that are close enough to perfectly balanced as to be equally important.
I don’t know what route Arakawa is going to take here, but it’s certainly going to be interesting to find out. Porkbowl’s saga has been a supporting player for most of the series but its presence was always tangible, and this was the week it really became the central theme of Silver Spoon. If anything, I hope we get something a little different from the conventional tearful goodbye and acceptance line, which would be the standard way of handling this. Hachiken has a fat wad of money burning a hole in his wallet which he’s refusing to spend, and that’s surely not an insignificant plot point one way or another – I don’t know how much medium-grade pigs cost (I suspect more than a couple of week’s wages as a farmhand, and then there’s the matter of room and board) but his using his money to buy Butadon and put him out to
stud the petting zoo would probably the second-most conventional way to resolve the situation.
That second one is an attractive notion, but as tempting as it is to believe it could happen (and it certainly wouldn’t be a shock) my gut tells me Arakawa isn’t going to go there. As heartwarming as it would be it would also be a bit of a copout, because for all that she’s tried to take a middle-path on the issue of raising animals for slaughter, in truth she’s definitely staked a position – she believes it’s a necessary and even noble human endeavor. How then to justify that Porkbowl should be spared while all those other animals we see the cast rapturously devouring are not? He’s undeniably cute (a true moe-pig) and he has a name – but no more true cause to be spared the knife than the millions of his brethren and sistren (it’s a word, look it up). Either you believe in eating meat or you don’t – Arakawa-sensei clearly does – and if you do, it’s not right that Butadon should be an exception. If anything he’s already luckier than most, because unlike the millions of pigs that exist mainly as lines on a spreadsheet in the cold and brutal world of mega-farming, for a while at least he’s had someone to show him genuine love.
Hachiken is the right person to make this decision, I think. As Silver Spoon has progressed he’s grown impressively both as a person and as a main character. As his teacher said, Hachiken is a "foreign body" at Ezonoo – and sometimes a foreign body is a good thing. He sees everything about the agricultural world with fresh eyes, and that makes him valuable both to the school in the context of the story and to the series as a narrative device. Just maybe, even if Porkbowk is to wind up on the knacker’s table, it’s not such a bad thing to have someone mourn an animal that goes to slaughter every once in a while. 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.
The other dominant element in Hachi-kun’s thread and that of the series itself is family. There’s a growing sense of just how much the type of agriculture we see depicted in Gin no Saji is a dynastic thing – of the great sense of duty the young feel to carry on the work of their parents. That’s something we see less and less of in the modern world (it can be debated whether that’s a good or bad thing, on balance) and is mirrored in his own life, where we see the tremendous pressure their father puts on Yuugo and Shingo to live as he feels they should. There’s a part of me that expects a scenario that’s almost similar to Hyouka to develop here, where Hachiken comes to love this way of life and sees his role as taking a place at Aki’s side, so that she can be allowed to pursue a way of living that she loves (i.e. horses). But that would be a long way off, and for now he’s still running away from all that – a task that the reminder the recurring presence of Shingo presents makes considerably harder to do. I suspect that side of the story is mostly going to be be deferred to the second season, with Butadon’s saga providing both the dramatic capper to this one and the next point in Hachiken’s character arc that kicks off the next.