Silver Spoon is an ongoing manga series by Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist fame. This volume covers Chapters 114-122 and continues to follow the third-year students of Ooezo Agricultural High School as they approach their final term and look to their futures in the farming industry.
Volume 14 begins where 13 left off as Hachiken is preparing to sell pizzas at the Ban’ei Stadium where races are taking place. This is occurring at the same time as exams day – 30th November. With this date approaching, Hachiken receives an unexpected phone call from none other than Komaba, who has a request for him.
Careful consideration is being taken as to the sort of bacon they should use for their pizzas – do they try and make the bacon less chewy for the senior citizens who are likely to attend? Is this an opportunity for Yoshino to collaborate with Hachiken’s company via their experimental new cheese varieties?
There’s a lot of fretting about with even Nishikawa losing his sanity over the design and contents for the flyers meant to advertise the pizzas being sold at the racetrack.
Thankfully, the resourceful chef Beppo alleviates their worries slightly by conjuring up some tasty cheese naan, complete with the questionable inclusion of Tokiwa’s patented “Boys’ Bath Yoghurt”.
It goes down a treat but meanwhile we see less success as Mikage struggles with an essay and the topic of discussion once again focuses on exams and future prospects. This brings us full circle to where Komaba is revealed to have gotten himself a laptop and has begun to take online lessons from Hachiken’s tutor brother Shingo.
Now this seems like a lot of content, yet it all happens in just the first chapter of the volume. Mangaka Hiromu Arakawa manages to fit a lot into each chapter and it continues to feel meaningful and progresses the story nicely.
In the build-up to Ban’ei, we see Hachiken and company test out their products during the yearly festival, utilising Beppo’s freshly-churned butter, and bear witness to the birth of The Ookawa Portable Brick Oven (which the manga states will become a valuable source of income for Silver Spoon Co., Ltd).
We also get to catch up with Aikawa and the Animal Welfare project as they sell off delicious Hamburg Steak, showcasing some progress from the other students of Ooezo Agricultural High School.
The actual event itself seemingly goes well as familiar faces like Inada and members of Hidaka Agricultural turn up to sample the pizzas. Meanwhile, Mikage finds herself in an awkward interview which gives way to a wonderful bit of character development.
Elsewhere, the event sees Nishikawa being stone-cold rejected, the pizzas selling out but somehow still coming out in the red, and Ookawa being Ookawa and attempting to gamble away the remaining earnings at the racetracks.
I’ll take a moment here to express just how humorous I found the volume, it had me chuckling throughout and Ookawa’s ever-so-slightly off-kilter antics have yet to fall flat for me as an ongoing reader – especially as his gambling antics result in a semi-permanently and cartoonishly caved-in face.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Silver Spoon unless this humour was balanced out with some drama and character developments and Volume 14 finally sees some resolution in that regard.
Major spoilers ahead but Mikage succeeds in her exams despite seemingly feeling defeated alongside the others. Those who have been reading up to now will recall that Hachiken promised to confess his feelings to her should she get into her college of choice.
Said confession is hindered, however, by some over-the-phone antics as Hachiken juggles his confession, the news that Shingo and Alexandra’s child has been born, Mikage Senior taking over and voicing his disapproval and even Ookawa getting involved.
Whilst this sort of humour rarely does anything for me it is at least a brief yet fun exchange and it leads to Hachiken Senior making an unexpected inspection of SSCL (Silver Spoon Co., Ltd – I’ll henceforth refer to it in this abbreviated form) before we finally get to see Hachiken and Mikage reaffirm their feelings for one another, fittingly with some awkwardness in the process.
Whilst the romance aspect of Silver Spoon hasn’t often been at the forefront in favour of the equally mature themes of future prospects and farm antics of the recent volumes, I do feel that mangaka Hiromu Arakawa has done a great job with the central romance here. I really appreciated that there was rarely any drama that felt cliched and the “will-they-won’t-they” elements fit pretty well into the storyline and how the characters maturely choose to focus on their education/work whilst also supporting each other.
Furthermore, the manga takes the time to reflect on this with Hachiken earlier recollecting how it’s been three years since the story began. It isn’t just the characters who look back but the readers too who have been following along with this series for 14 volumes now, seeing Hachiken grow from being a clumsy screw-up and Mikage from being quiet and withdrawn. It’s a very effective aspect of the volume and makes it one of the strongest so far for me.
Following the confession, the manga concludes with Christmas coming around again, and just as bells ring at the prospect of Ookawa popping off for a job and leaving the new couple to spend the holidays together, Hachiken is lumbered with some factory work, but his employer gifts him some rejected produce that can be used to feed his pigs, so swings and roundabouts, eh?
The winter break is all but gone too, as Hachiken remembers he’s due to take a Center test on behalf of his brother Shingo in return for some extra yen which evolves into him realising that getting into College might not be such a bad idea – but time is of the essence!
To conclude, Silver Spoon Volume 14 is a wonderful continuation to the story with some great humour and emotional highs balanced with the continuing themes of future prospects – both educational and from a job perspective.