「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.