It's the second series of Hachiken, Mikage and their friends at farming school in Hokkaido! The more I watch this series, the more I love it. It's likeable, killingly funny and brutally honest about the challenges of modern farming life.
I also found it interesting to watch this after the live-action movie (released between episodes 8 and 9). Mind you, the anime's so obviously superior that one almost feels bad to be making the comparison. I don't envy the filmmakers. This isn't a plot-driven story and much of what makes it wonderful is simple moments and scenes that don't advance the story. It's about exploring the characters and their lives. That's all. Plot, schmot. It's teaching us about farming and about these people. Thus the anime's running time is its unbeatable trump card, as seen in, for instance...
1. Ayame Minamikujou isn't a one-dimensional bitch in the anime, but instead one of the show's best and funniest characters. She gets an entire episode devoted to her introduction, you see. She's gloriously blind to her own ridiculousness. I also loved the way Mikage never seems to notice Ayame's attitude, instead talking to her throughout as an old friend and eventually making us realise that that's what they are.
2. Dad. We meet Hachiken's dad. Bloody hell. Every time Hachiken has to speak to him, he goes away boiling in acid. Suddenly you understand why both of his sons could be said to have thrown their lives away to spite him, although that's a terrible way to describe "going to agricultural school".
3. Hachiken vs. animals. (The film hadn't even spent any real time on his relationship with Pork Bowl the pig, so one could hardly expect it to make up for this with season two's less prominent beasties. This matters! It's a story about livestock farmers. Admittedly live filming with animals poses its own problems, although it's not as if rendering all these detailed, realistic animals would have been a task to tackle lightly in anime either.) Anyway, Hachiken isn't a natural with either dogs or horses, although as always he'll practically kill himself trying to overcome this. The puppy isn't too difficult. Horses require a more drastic shift of perspective on his part, but he gets there too in the end. Mind you, it doesn't help that his usual horse, Marron, has more attitude than Ayame.
4. The laughs. This show is often funnier than full-blown comedies. I almost keeled over at the Hachiken-Mikage platonic relationship, for instance. (Things are moving forward, but at geological time scales and most of their friends are almost irritable at their failure to hurry up and get together. The girls in particular are capable of violence to protect a potential Hachiken-Mikage date.)
I also got a clearer view of why I prefer this Hachiken to Kento Nakajima in the film. The anime's Hachiken isn't inward-looking. He worries about other people's problems and will work himself into the ground trying to take everything on himself. (At one point, he drives himself so hard that he ends up in hospital.) The character also seems plugged into the world, since he reacts strongly to everything instead of shutting out his surroundings and hiding behind his glasses.
The dream theme is smacked hard against reality. Dreams aren't guaranteed to come true. Hachiken was beating himself up over not having any dreams and simply coming here to run away from his father, but another character's fate demonstrates that being focused on your dream isn't enough to keep you from being crushed. Even the show's title is ironic. "Silver spoon" is a reference to the English saying "born with a silver spoon in your mouth", i.e. wealthy and will never lack for anything. Ooezo Agricultural High School's headmaster likes to think that this reflects the fact that a farmer will never go hungry. Dinner is growing outside the window. However wealthy and high-status these people are absolutely not. Most of the farming families have debts. Some are going to go bankrupt. Mikage would like to make a career in ban'ei racing, but that's an industry whose very survival is in question. (It would have gone already if it hadn't been for Softbank starting its sponsorship in 2006.)
Dreams don't all get crushed, though. Sometimes people help you try to achieve them.
This is a relaxed series, often sort of ambling along. It's charming. There's an innocence to how worked up everyone gets about a baseball tournament or a school festival. (Sometimes there's a more serious edge hidden under that innocence, mind you.) It's more dynamic than a slice of life show, though, and its characters certainly don't get much time to relax, what with getting up at 4am every morning and so on. It's a deceptively simple show. It's very funny and the more episodes you watch of it, the fonder of it you get. Underrated.