Twelve Days of Anime 2013 – Vension and Pork in Gin no Saji
December 18, 2013 Leave a comment
Gin no Saji presents us with a slightly different take on the high school drama, with an agricultural school setting rather than the normal school in the middle of a town or city. The series main character, Hachiken Yugo, represents the ultimate fish out of water, a city kid who has rushed off to the countryside to escape his parents and leave all of his troubles behind. Indeed, much of the comedy in Gin no Saji is predicated on Hachiken’s over the top reactions and inability to cope with the straightforward stresses of working on a farm. He is a character that has solely focussed on studying for exams, with no real goal in life, and nothing that brings him any real joy. By enrolling in Yezo High, Hachiken is effectively running away from his own problems and trying to push them to one side, but he is also forced to come to terms with his own failures and the uncertainty of his future. We see how almost all of the main characters have their own goals and dreams, mostly revolving around family businesses, something that Hachiken lacks. He may be very good at passing exams, producing the highest marks in Yezo High, but when characters like Tamako and Shinnosuke begin a discussion on the science and ethics of breeding Hachiken finds himself lost. He knows how to pass exams, but these characters are discussing far more complex issues than simple maths problems, they are having a discussion about something that effects farming, and broader debates surrounding to treatment of animals.
So throughout the series we see him trying to come to terms with his own shortcomings and look at what he’s really interested in, including discovering new things and experiences. There is one particular aspect of Gin no Saji that was particularly interesting, and served as one of the series main focuses, the treatment, and slaughter of animals. We all know that in order to have those choice cuts of meat, those sausages, and that bacon, animals need to be raised and slaughtered. However, the processes through which these animals are bred, raised, and killed are largely kept at a distance, they happen somewhere else where we cannot see them – unless you happen to live near an abattoir, or have a local butcher who cures the meat themselves – all many of us see are the cuts of meat in the supermarket, or the butchers counter. As a city kid Hachiken has never had to think about the processes through which meat turns up in his meals, they just appear in their own packets in the supermarket, or kombini. But, by attending Yezo High he is forced to come to terms with these processes, resulting comic, or at times, darkly comic moments where he is confronted with chickens laying eggs, older students beheading chickens in front of him, and the realities that the animals they are raising will all be sent off to the slaughter house sooner or later.
Two specific moments stand out in this series, episodes where Hachiken finally comes to terms with what it means to be a farmer, and slowly realises the amount of time, money, and work goes into preparing the meat he had always taken for granted. During episode six when Hachiken is working for the Mikage’s over his summer holidays – once again find some reason to stay away from his parents – he is confronted with the prospect of skinning, dressing, and butchering a dead deer Aki’s grandfather accidentally hit with his truck. They certainly aren’t going to throw away the deer as it represents a significant amount of meat for both the Mikage and Komaba families, and by getting Hachiken to butcher the deer Aki’s grandfather is teaching him something he would not be able to learn from books, or at school. This also represents the first time Hachiken proactively confronts his own issues, and begins to understand the harsh reality of farming, and eating meat. Similarly, by eating the results of his labour, Hachiken further realises what it means to butcher an animal for food, even though he still has conflicting feelings about the idea of killing something else just to have a good meal.
This particular scene also serves to help Hachiken acknowledge that despite naming and raising Buta-don, it will also be slaughtered like the other pigs at school. By choosing to buy the meat from Buta-don and prepare it himself Hachiken finally understands the value of meat, and comes to terms with his conflicting feelings about the whole process. Using the money he earned by working at the Mikage’s also serves to demonstrate the cost of good meat, and in doing so he has recognises the time and effort that he, and the other students have put into raising these pigs. By preparing all of the meat, and then selling it to his friends, classmates, and other students at the school we see how far Hachiken has come since episode one. These two scenes/episodes helps to demonstrate how complicated the life of a farmer, and students at agricultural schools are, providing the viewers with an insight into their work and daily troubles. They also serve as key elements to Hachikens growth, forcing him to reassess his approach to life, and re-evaluate how he deals with his own problems and insecurities. By sending some of the bacon he made, and by naming all of the new piglets at the farm Hachiken demonstrates that he has come to terms with at least a few of his problems, even if he still doesn’t know what he wants to do in the future.