By Hiromu Arakawa. Released in Japan as “Gin no Saji” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Amanda Haley.
This isn’t the last volume of Silver Spoon – that’s the next one, and I’ll get into why that’s controversial when I review it – but let’s be honest, for most readers of this series who were not in it for just the extensive farming talk, this volume is the payoff. This is not to say there isn’t still extensive farming talk – in fact, there’s more of it than ever. Arakawa is determined to drill into readers’ heads what making a living as a farmer in 21st century Japan is like, and by now the readers are close to understanding it, though probably not enough to actually start a farm. As our heroes get closer to graduation, we see expanding businesses, more pizza sales (though they don’t break even – always talk to Tamako first), and how to see your career prospects threatened by an extremely sketchy company looking for indentured servants in all but name. That said, the big plot here is Mikage and her exams.
The cover might seem ominous, with Hachiken and Mikage once again separated from actual romantic contact. And the exams are not easy – indeed, Mikage’s exam partner, Aikawa, ends up not passing – with Mikage getting a particularly vicious interviewer who suggests that her love of animals is because she hates dealing with people. Of course, as we’ve seen in the past, he’s not far off, but the days of deflecting and stepford smiles are over for Mikage, who gives a nice, heartfelt answer that amounts to both “I fell in love with this guy” and also “I was inspired to better myself because of everything he did”. As for Hachiken, frankly, he’s so worried he ends up in bed with gastritis. However, not to spoil too much, but things work out. In both ways – the 121st chapter is, as I said above, the payoff, and after a LOT of events conspiring against them (even equestrian helmets!), Hachiken and Mikage are a couple.
Now, Silver Spoon was never just about whether these two would get together, so there’s more to come here. For one, the other students find out – which naturally leads to the two of them being separated for all romantic holidays from now until graduation, because the boys are lovable assholes. There’s even another couple getting together – to contrast with Hachiken and Mikage’s tortured courtship, Sakae and Maruyama’s pairing is as blase as they come, and the two of them still think like farmers, as they have to discuss how the family businesses would merge in the event of their getting married. (Sakae also has some great lines as the biggest Mikage/Hachiken shipper in the cast.) Mikage’s parents also find out, which goes exactly the way you would expect. Basically, as with previous volumes of this series, every super heartwarming moment is undercut by extreme silliness.
So we head towards graduation, and seeing what everyone does next. Will there be enough pages to fully flesh everything out? Aheh. We’ll talk about that next time. Till then, enjoy what everyone was waiting for.