Gin no Saji is a breath of fresh air in a genre satiated with romanticized rehashes of ordinary high-school life. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it was a breath of fresh manure.
With slice of life anime, it’s difficult to come up with an exact set of criteria to define what separates a good one from a mediocre one. Aspects such as the amount of detail given to the setting and character group dynamics will be critical in most cases, though there is a certain level of subjectivity present here. For instance, some audiences may perceive the pace of a slice of life show to be slow and uneventful if the subject matter is not to their liking. With that said, unless one is adamantly opposed to the concept of farmer boys doing farmer things, Gin no Saji’s (also known as Silver Spoon) first episode excels at what I believe to be the selling points of the genre.
What differentiates Gin no Saji from the bulk of shows in its genre is its rather atypical setting. Although still set in a high school-type locale, Gin no Saji details the rigorous lives of a bunch of agricultural students. Part of the story’s success is that it is told from the perspective of a complete newbie to the field, our hapless, city-slicker of a protagonist, Yugo. In an attempt to distance himself from his parents, he naively enrolls in the trade without realizing the full-extent of the harsh realities ahead of him. We quickly see how ill-adapt Yugo is as he struggles with basic tasks such as collecting chicken eggs, all the while taking courses and running laps, military style. But as they say, it’s all in a day’s work.
Most of the fun of Gin no Saji stems from watching the characters battle the elements and struggle through unfamiliar tasks that they are forced to complete. A bit of viewer sadism, yes, but for many of us with limited knowledge about said agricultural practices, this first episode was also quite informative. Although I wouldn’t go so far to say Gin no Saji was a thorough and accurate depiction of the agricultural industry, there were plenty of small insights that gave the show its flavour. For instance, one of the characters mentions to Yugo how the constrained spaces for raising chickens are criticized in the West, as they do not provide the animals with proper freedom. Without venturing too far into this whole debate, I just found it interesting to see a show dealing with this sort of subject matter, even if it was just as a brief aside. Above all, it demonstrates that the author has a good amount of knowledge of the field, which should hopefully result in a more wholesome experience, as opposed to just mere
surface chicken scratches.
Speaking of the subject matter, the otherwise menial scenarios were kept amusing due to the abundance of comic relief. Throughout the episode, there were many mishaps and instances of quirky exchanges between the different characters, with some completely unexpected moments mixed in. In particular, I was just as surprised as the characters to see a chicken beheaded on the spot. Censored or not, it was just something one doesn’t always see in a TV anime.
Another aspect which I found refreshing about Gin no Saji was the amount of realism present. Aside from some of the exaggerated responses, the character’s behaviours were all quite relatable. For most of us, the transition of moving into an unfamiliar environment would result in a bit of mental stress. Thankfully, there was plenty of attention given to Yugo’s mental state, and in particular, many of the thoughts coursing through his mind. From his general apathy to brief bouts of superiority (due to feeling he had an academic edge over a bunch of country kids), a lot of Yugo’s internal sentiments were expressed in a very believable manner. What was even more impressive was how Gin no Saji used humour to approach this issue and allow the audience to emphasize with Yugo’s struggles. For example, although his brief phobia of chicken eggs was played up for comedic effect, it helped to convey the type of person he was (in this case, someone who is perhaps more apprehensive about new situations). While the attention given to Yugo’s mental state was certainly (and thankfully) not an armchair psychologist’s wet dream, it ultimately provided a great introduction to his character.
Overall, Gin no Saji’s first episode was a pleasant treat and quite possibly my favourite first episode of this season. The unique setting, portrayal of a humorous campus life and attention to Yugo’s internal thoughts all lead to a wholesome experience reminiscent of similar titles such as Moyashimon. I would highly recommend slice of life and comedy fans alike to give Gin no Saji a spin. You may be pleasantly surprised by what comes out of this chicken’s anus.