Story & Art by Hiromu Arakawa
Translated by Amanda Haley
Lettered by Abigail Blackman
Original Cover Design by SHIRAYAMA Hitoshi + Bay Bridge Studio
Yen Press Cover Design by Wendy Chan
Silver Spoon’s final volumes aren’t so much about the end of its protagonists’ journeys so much as the beginnings of a new one. They challenge the final obstacles and decisions facing their high school years and graduate towards a future full of possibilities. They might not have achieved their dreams yet, but they can be satisfied with what they’ve accomplished so far and look forward to taking the next steps on the long road there. Some readers may be disappointed with this lack of finality, but Silver Spoon was always a story about learning and growing, which doesn’t stop no matter how many milestones you’ve passed. The end of the story sees one phase in these characters’ lives ending and another beginning, confidently taking with them the opportunities, skills, and relationships they’ve cultivated over time.
The greatest asset Hachiken and his friends gathered over their high school careers is their connections with other people. The pizzas Hachiken’s company Silver Spoon sells were perfected through the collaborative effort of different people with different specialties. Silver Spoon’s sales at the Ban’ei stadium were bolstered by the support of friends and acquaintances met over the course of Hachiken’s high school career, and they sold in part thanks to the reputation of his school. Hachiken’s successes are as much thanks to the help of other people as much as his own efforts.
This is true of everyone, however. During her college interview, Mikage proclaims that she couldn’t have overcome her fear to pursue her dreams without Hachiken’s reassurance. Komaba relies on Nishikawa’s expertise to choose a good PC and calls Hachiken to hire his brother and sister-in-law to teach him Russian so that he can one day work abroad. Years after having last seen or spoken to each other, Hachiken and Komaba reunite to combine their skills and experiences in a new business venture together. These characters wouldn’t have matured into people capable of achieving what they have without the influence of their peers. Interacting with other people whose experiences and skills challenge and complement yours encourages your own growth, and making connections with other people opens even more doors for the future. Time and again, Silver Spoon shows how having people you can rely on to help you and support you is critically important not just for the sake of networking but because of how transformative those connections can be for your personal growth.
Of course, connections cannot be made without learning to understand other people first. A large part of Hachiken’s character arc was trying to understand where people with different ideals were coming from and find common ground. This culminates with him finally being able to form a connection with his taciturn dad, knowing that while he may never like him as a dad he can trust him as a business partner. By seeing him as just another person and understanding his perspective, he’s better able to hold a conversation with him, which in turn engenders mutual respect between them. Forming a functional relationship with his dad not only helps Hachiken secure a reliable investor, but discusses ideas and gets input that helps him grow his business.
Communication isn’t just limited to speech, and connections can be made in all sorts of ways. When Hachiken enters college, his distorted reputation keeps most of his new classmates at arm’s length from him. However, by expressing his interest in pigs while touring, Hachiken befriends and exchanges contacts with the leader of the S&M club, whose family operates a pig farm. Furthermore, despite learning Russian to live abroad, Komaba’s baseball skills end up being an equally valuable asset as an icebreaker with the locals. By building connections upon shared interests and passions, the relationships between people can blossom into life-changing ideas and experiences, bridging divided perspectives through mutual respect and a unified dream of understanding.
While collaborating with other people is important, it’s equally necessary to be adaptable and diversify the tools at your disposal. Komaba initially relied on his strength to seek jobs and build savings, but eventually, he needed to learn Russian and augment his knowledge to venture abroad. He didn’t plan on continuing his education after leaving Ezo AG, but he nonetheless found he could still be a student outside of school. Similarly, Hachiken initially dismissed the idea of continuing his education before realizing the necessity of being certified as a good sanitation manager and the utility of going to college to acquire one. This story beat is a great twist, demonstrating the value of keeping doors open for yourself to return to as you need. Hachiken had already registered for the center test to report on it for his brother; once again, helping out someone else has helped him in return. Moreover, going to college gives him more opportunities to learn more skills and make more connections that could help him grow his business. Hachiken and friends have learned the importance of being flexible and adaptable, no longer seeing obstacles to their dreams as roadblocks, but detours begetting opportunity.
At its heart, Silver Spoon is a story of growth through struggle. It’s about learning from failure and building upon the foundation of what’s come before. Komaba’s arc illustrates this so beautifully. He gave up on his dreams of playing baseball professionally and owning his own farm, the effort he put into achieving it seemingly for naught. Slowly but surely, through hard work and perseverance, he’s found a new path to achieving his dream. Komaba has found an opportunity in not only his tragedy but a natural disaster as well; climate change has defrosted large swaths of Russian land that were once permafrost. While this is a blow to the environment, it’s a gift to Komaba, who is able to acquire these uncultivated fields for farmland. Thanks to the effort he put in, he was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a new business opportunity with bountiful potential. As Komaba eloquently muses, “what we’ve built over time… the ordinary things… they really do work.” The experiences we have, the skills we hone, the connections we make; all of it matters, and they build up.
Komaba isn’t the only character to come back from a setback. Aikawa is set to give up on getting into Ooezo U. but is given another chance thanks to the waiting list. Minamikujo doesn’t get into Ooezo U, but she gets an in with the school by supplying their cafeteria with her family’s sweets. Yoshino turns down the shady company who wanted to hire her, but is able to use her previous student exchange experience to study abroad in France, even getting a boyfriend thanks to learning french from dubbed anime. Finally, one of the most subtle and most poignant moments of dreams being achieved through unexpected means is Shingo’s. Shingo initially set out to be a ramen chef but couldn’t make it thanks to his terrible cooking, instead transitioning careers into becoming a tutor. However, he’s now fulfilling his dream by developing recipes for Beppu’s ramen shop, his creativity complimented by Beppu’s culinary skill. Just because you’ve failed once doesn’t mean you can’t succeed, and going down a different path than the one you set out on can skill take you to your destination in sometimes unexpected, even more fulfilling ways.
This sense of everything coming together in spite of the tumultuous road there makes the ending of Silver Spoon feel oh so satisfying. Arakawa deliberately and literally draws a parallel between Hachiken being lost on the Ezo Ag school grounds as a teen with him being lost in the Russian fields as a young adult. The contrast emphasizes how much Hachiken’s grown; the last time he was lost he lacked a sense of purpose, but this time he knows he’s there for a reason. Hachiken was always willing to lend a hand to friends in need, but it was in part because he felt he couldn’t refuse anything anyone asked of him because he lacked a dream of his own. Now Hachiken isn’t afraid to speak his mind about what he can do and is comfortable with. However, one thing’s stayed the same; he’ll never dismiss someone’s dream. Instead, he responds to Komaba’s business proposal with a challenge of his own, despite the odds being against him. He’s become someone who can return another’s earnestness in kind, facing life’s challenges and difficulties head-on without fear of failure. Hachiken’s journey comes full-circle by the ending of the series, and it’s heartening to reflect on how far he’s come and how much further he can go.
As meaty as Silver Spoon’s themes are, it’s just as much fun to read for Arakawa’s uproariously clever comedy. She has an incredible sense of humor and nary a chapter is bereft of a gut-busting gag sandwiching or punctuating its dramatic beats. She has a knack for comedic betrayals of expectations, eliciting humor by undermining moments you’d expect to be sincere. For instance, you’d think Hachiken’s graduation from Ezo AG would be an emotional moment, but she spins it from a seemingly sincere montage of memories to the characters celebrating their freedom from their backbreaking school life, shedding tears of joy rather than sadness. You also got to appreciate Arakawa’s audacity to interrupt the long-awaited first kiss between Hachiken and Mikage with an extended silent gag of their helmets awkwardly getting in the way, them getting embarrassed and apologizing, taking them off before trying again. It’s still a sweet scene though, and that’s what makes Arakawa’s comedic timing so brilliant. These moments of humor may interrupt the story, but they add an extra twang of humanity to her characters that make them feel even more endearing, and their victories all the more satisfying.
That said, it’s also amazing when Arakawa completely detours from the plot to focus on comedy instead, like spending an entire chapter showing Hachiken’s dad hanging out and eating eggs with Tokiwa’s family. In general, the gags Arakawa mines from undermining Hachiken’s stern-faced dad with goofy comedy is delightful; the sinister smiles and shadowed faces he makes while enjoying the Tokiwa family’s egg dishes is a wonderful juxtaposition of his appearance and emotions. Doubly clever are the detailed illustrations belying each step of his mealtime journey, each refrain further detailing the journey of the earth; starting from it being formed from a collision of matter to the birth of early organisms and sea life, to the extinction of the dinosaurs, to the ice age escapades of cavemen and wooly mammoths. It’s a smart and funny sequence communicating how much his culinary appreciation evolves with each taste of Tokiwa’s dishes, made even funnier because of how scary-looking his expressions of joy are and how that sense of menace is completely lost on the oblivious Tokiwa family. That Silver Spoon is filled with clever comedic sequences that build on each other playing off both the characters and the readers’ expectations like this just speaks to Arakawa’s incredible chops for comedy.
Hiromu Arakawa is just an incredible artist. Her characters have a lively elasticity to them that allows her to exaggerate them in the most cartoony of ways. Even so, her sense of form is so strong that she can always make her characters look cool or dramatic; as Hachiken’s dad demonstrates, all of her designs are incredibly versatile in numerous contexts. The fact the characters at once exist in a grounded world but engage in frequent slapstick hyper-violence makes the reality-breaking moments of the comic all the more incredible. For example, Hachiken’s been no stranger to getting sent flying and kicked around by other characters in comedic gag violence, but it’s understood that these moments are exaggerations and he hasn’t really been hurt that badly. So when Arakawa has Hachiken get hit by the car at the end of a chapter, the expectation’ has been set that this is just a gag and he’ll be fine by the next. Instead, Arakawa plays on these expectations and has Hachiken getting hit be an actual plot point with lasting injuries he has to recover from in the following chapters, which is a delightful subversion.
My favorite moment of her reality-breaking visual comedy, however, is when Toyonishi kicks Ookawa’s face in for gambling all of Silver Spoon’s Ban-ei profits on the horse races. The impact of Toyonishi’s kick causes Ookawa’s face to fold in on itself and get scrunched up, with his face basically looking like a bunch of wrinkles spreading out from a hole in the center of his face; appropriately enough, looking kinda like an asshole. Thing is, Ookawa’s face isn’t like this for just one panel; Arakawa draws him this way for the entire next chapter, even showing him using a straw to drink through the hole in his face and his word bubbles wriggling out from it. His face remains like this during an important conversation where everyone is seriously evaluating the successes of Silver Spoon’s business day at the stadium. Arakawa’s willingness to experiment with visual gags and run with them during otherwise serious story beats is just a flex of her versatility as a comics artist. There are so many other incredible art moments in the series, especially Arakawa’s crazy faces like Yoshino’s black-hole eyes of despair when lamenting her joblessness or the crazed expressions of Hachiken and friends as they anxiously watch the horse races Ookawa gambled all their profits on. Arakawa’s vivacious, charismatic art and comedy truly make Silver Spoon a feast for the eyes and food for the soul.
Throughout the course of its fifteen volumes, Silver Spoon told a story celebrating the wondrous, unpredictable journey of life. It’s fitting that the characters don’t reach a conclusive “happily ever after,” that the door is left open for them to explore further opportunities and embark on new adventures. Instead, Arakawa leaves the story off poetically musing over the legacy Hachiken left behind. Sakuragi-sensei and the other teachers describe his stories to students interested in the entrepreneurial path, explaining that before he came along they’d have no precedent of someone who took that road right out of school and succeeded to point to. Hachiken not only innovated a new path for himself and his friends, but has left behind a trail for others after him to follow and build upon, much like his predecessors and alumni at Ezo Ag did before him.
Likewise, Hachiken’s story can serve to inspire the readers who’ve followed his journey, learning from his example and taking the series’ messages to heart. It’s bittersweet to say farewell to the series after following it for nearly a decade, especially after all the breaks it took along the way. I’m thankful to Arakawa for drawing it and the team at Yen Press for their loving localization; Amanda Haley’s knack for adapting comedy is always spot-on, and Abigail Blackman’s lettering always compliments the energy of Arakawa’s art. While Arakawa might’ve taken longer than she expected to finish this story, the meta-narrative of Silver Spoon aptly reflects the message at the story’s heart. Life is a road with many paths that you can take your time traveling, enjoying the experience even if you don’t know where it’ll lead and when you’ll get there. It can be daunting to take the first step into unknown territory, but if there’s one thing the series teaches above all else, it’s this; “you never know until you try.”