The protagonist, Hachiken, is where the story shines the brightest. He is rebellious, depressed, the epitome of the angst-filled teenager. Hachiken looks down on the activities of his peers; he finds the work tiresome and disgusting. The notion of cleaning a pig’s cage or cutting apart an animal for food feels degrading and inhumane. But he matures. He does not learn to enjoy these activities, but he gains the ability to respect others’ lifestyles. His internal world becomes less about himself and more about the people surrounding him. He understands that he felt alienated in the past as a result of focusing only on himself. Humans are a social creature that require cooperation to find peace.
Hachiken does not mature from melodrama or heavy-handed ‘lessons’. He matures simply by living. The episodes of the show rarely contain any significant drama, and controversial topics are treated in a very down-to-earth, realistic manner. Silver Spoon could have easily become a sort of pro-slaughter propaganda, but it is not. Not in the slightest. It portrays both the good and the bad in equal measure.
The only real issue with Hachiken’s characterization is that his stubbornness can get irritating, but even that seems a part of the point. The characters are not portrayed as inherently ‘kind-hearted’ or ‘bad’ people. They are human beings with their own traits and flaws. It’s also nice to see an anime that actually focuses on the adult characters, too, instead of conveniently erasing them through the ‘overseas trip’ cliché. I’ve had quite enough of that.
Silver Spoon is a joy to watch even if you have no interest in the agricultural lifestyle. The activities that the characters participate in is very insightful, and there’s a good chance you will learn a few things about farming along the way. The only problem is that the comedy is very hit-or-miss. It is completely and utterly Japanese filled with exaggerated reactions, slapstick, and other things that western audiences are unlikely to find amusing. It feels repetitive and uninspired, almost like the manga threw these jokes in simply to have jokes.
That said, the art is of a consistently high quality throughout. Even during the last third of the season when animators tend to make the most mistakes, Silver Spoon still manages to look just as clean as it did at the beginning. There is a sort of ‘chiseled’ look to the characters’ faces which also gives the show a distinct visual style. Which I think looks pretty cool, it’s a little different when comparing to what you typically see with character design. Silver Spoon = sharper lines, other anime = more fluid, round-esk shapes.
The music verges from great to completely out-of-place. There are some beautiful tracks but they are hampered by poor usage. The last few episodes of the second season, for example, contain several scenes with nice classical music playing while two major characters argue with each other. The piece itself is nice but did it really have to be used in this particular scene? The more quiet tracks, the ones that are less noticeable are what carry the majority of the emotion. It truly feels like a slice-of-life.