*Major spoilers ahead for the final volume of Silver Spoon*
Silver Spoon is a manga series by Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist fame that ran from 2011 to 2019. This final volume covers the last nine chapters as we bear witness to the conclusion of the story.
Hachiken decides to make an impromptu last-minute decision to try and get into college, namely Ooezo University of Animal Husbandry, following an eventful winter break which has seen his relationship with Mikage blossom at last.
Hachiken finally goes back home where he’s introduced to his new niece (who’s already being raised on spooky Russian nursery rhymes) as his father begins a discussion as to why he’d want to go to the college. The reason is pragmatic: get verified as a Food Sanitation Manager to benefit the business, and whilst Hachiken senior approves of the decision, he still gives his son a hard time (old habits die hard, I suppose.)
Mikage is spending her New Year with a peculiar house guest in the form of Ookawa, whose family relationships are strained. As she ponders how she could help Hachiken with his studies the same way he helped with hers, Ookawa provides a handy but messy means of doing so, which I won’t spoil here but it got a chuckle.
As the day of the Center Test dawns, Hachiken and his fellow alumni like Aikawa and the haughty Ayame feel the pressure (well, Ayame is too confident for words as usual) whilst big brother Shingo is getting praised for his tutoring skills by Ayame’s family in a scene featuring a crowed video call that feels all too relevant at the time of writing this review.
With the final term ongoing, we get to catch up with some other characters including Sakuragi-Sensei who treats the new happy couple to a nice meal as a reward for Mikage’s success at getting into college. This ends up becoming more of a field trip as they sample various meats and cheeses at a Street-Stand village and make acquaintances of some experts in the craft.
Of course, Hachiken manages to somehow injure himself and has to be wheeled into his exam, though is still less the worse for wear than Aikawa who is (literally as humorously illustrated) wasting away before the clock has even begun.
Following a visit to the Tokiwa house food by Hachiken senior, which features some majestic reactions to the food on offer, we get some poignant introspection as during the graduation ceremony Hachiken reminisces about the three-year journey that both he and the reader have taken throughout Silver Spoon.
A strength of the manga has always been its ability to pair the serious with the silly and the following realisation of freedom from the students quickly turns comedic as whilst some have plans ahead, Yoshino is unemployed and moving to France – thankfully Nishikawa has some unorthodox training material in the form of a French anime (Japanese translation and all).
Throughout Silver Spoon, mangaka Hiromu Arakawa has carefully crafted a wonderful cast of characters, all of whom have their personalities and quirks and the story benefits from its smaller and more slice-of-(farming)-life aspects. Even the nameless Equestrian Club underclassman introduced in an earlier volume is explained as a sort of avatar for the aspiring reader who may have taken up farming as an education.
Tokiwa’s rumour-mongering causes a stir and almost leads to a clash of the Titans between the Hachiken and Mikage seniors, but from there onward, the story winds down into the final chapters as we go from graduating ceremony to entrance ceremony.
Time passes and as we get to catch up with what everyone has been doing, Hachiken is stranded in rural Russia without a phone signal but happens upon an unexpected reunion with Komaba, who thankfully gets some presence for this final volume.
Looking at the final chapter itself, I admit I was a bit underwhelmed when I initially read it as there are details I wish had been explored a bit more, such as how Hachiken and Mikage’s relationship has progressed, their tenure at college or how the business developed in such a way that it has led to his ending up in Russia
The final volume spends a lot of time focusing on Hachiken getting into college but I wish it could have dedicated an additional chapter or two to the timeskip ending, especially as the recent volumes felt like they had covered quite a lot of ground without feeling rushed.
With that being said, Silver Spoon Volume 15 still manages to provide a solid ending to a wonderful manga series full of personal ups and downs as we followed the students of students of Ooezo Agricultural High School and the lessons they learned, both from an educational and a life perspective.
Overall, Silver Spoon has had some great development over its final volumes and though the story may now be over for us as readers, it’s all just begun for this loveable cast of former students.