And what has Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist , The Heroic Legend of Arslan ) been doing? Writing another manga, of course.
Hiromu Arakawa’s Silver Spoon (Japanese: 銀の匙, Hepburn: Gin no Saji ) is a Japanese coming-of-age manga series, serialized in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday from 2011 to 2019.
Yuugo Hachiken is a disappointment to his demanding father. He has studied hard and tried to live up to his father’s dreams, but he never seems to please. He’s given up; he has no long-term goals and no hope for the future. He decides to effectively run away. He’ll enroll in a vocational agricultural high school in rural Hokkaido, far from his bustling native Sapporo.
He imagines that there he will be an urban sophisticate in a school full of hicks. He’s bound to be smarter and better prepared than his classmates; high marks are virtually guaranteed! And if his father refuses to be impressed, Hokkaido’s Ooezo Agricultural High School is comfortably distant from Sapporo. At least Hachiken will not have to endure his father’s disapproval.
There are one or two tiny flaws in his plan.
Most of the students at Ooezo are farm kids. Hachiken was quite correct to believe they wouldn’t do well at an urban, academic school. The flaw in his reasoning is that this school is a rural school offering practical training. Hachiken’s experience with cramming academic subjects is largely irrelevant. His fellow students have hands-on experience working on farms; in that context, Hachiken is an ignorant newbie.
Hachiken may be depressed and self-loathing, but he’s also willing to work hard, once the shock of the new reality fades. It’s not the easy experience he expected, but if he’s willing to embrace his new opportunities, high school could be the making of the miserable teen.
Hachiken’s father is an off-stage presence, but it’s clear that he’s an oppressive, even abusive parent. Hachiken’s teachers in Sapporo seem to have figured that out. They’re concerned for the mental well-being of their new student. Running off to a farm school was by no means the worst option open to him.
There is amongst many authors a tendency to romanticize farm life in inverse proportion to their personal experience with farming. Nothing looks so charming as a farm seen from the perspective of an urban-core apartment. Arakawa, however, grew up on a dairy farm in Hokkaido, so has a perspective that is less romantic and much more practical. Other authors might dwell on the spiritual benefits of farm living. Arakawa knows that someone will have to shovel manure.
In fact, a lot of the humour in this manga comes from the fact Hachiken has never needed to think about where food comes from. Eggs come from cartons, not cloacas. Pork comes from hygienic packages, not from adorable piglets. And breakfast does not require one get up at five AM to feed and tend animals first.
This is an entirely mundane manga. Instead chronicling the potential end of the world, Arakawa is faced with squeezing drama out of daily life … something she does quite handily. The issues the students face — hard work, the precarious economic situation of some farms, academic shortcomings, the usual romantic ambitions — are mundane but still of vital importance to the characters. This isn’t Fullmetal Alchemist but it’s still entertaining.