Kazue FukiishiShido NakamuraSho AikawaNaomi Nishida
Silver Spoon (live-action film)
Also known as: Gin no Saji (live-action film)
Medium: film
Year: 2014
Writer/director: Keisuke Yoshida
Original creator: Hiromu Arakawa
Keywords: Silver Spoon
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Kento Nakajima, Alice Hirose, Tomohiro Ichikawa, Haru Kuroki, Sho Aikawa, Kazue Fukiishi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Renji Ishibashi, Shido Nakamura, Naomi Nishida, Riki Takeuchi, Ryuhei Ueshima
Format: 111 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3110014
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 6 September 2015
It's clearly not as good as the anime, but it's okay. I don't mind it.
It's a live-action film based on Hiromu Arakawa's manga about an agricultural high school in Hokkaido. I watched it having seen half the anime (i.e. its 2013 season but not its 2014 one) and I also haven't yet read the manga. It's on our bookshelves, but Arakawa hasn't quite finished it yet. She had to slow down because of health issues in her family.
The problem, obviously, is the running time. 111 live-action minutes will always struggle in comparison with 22 x 25 = 550 animated minutes that I'm sure were a pretty accurate adaptation of the manga. If you're looking to choose between the two versions, it's a no-brainer. The anime's better. That goes without saying, really. The filmmakers could have made their lives easier by only adapting half the story, which worked well in the anime's first season... but no. They're doing the whole thing.
It's like dog years. One minute of live-action is the equivalent of five in animation.
Of course a brilliant movie-maker could have turned this into a virtue by focusing on the heart of the story, but that's not a word I'd use of Keisuke Yoshida. He's made a decent film. I liked it, but I think it's missing some important character work.
I'm going to split this film into two halves, because that's how I think of it. The 2013 half adapts the material I've seen and the 2014 half adapts the material I haven't yet. Each half has two main dramatic thrusts, of which the human one works well (in each case involving a local farm) and the other is missing something.
The first half has Pork Bowl. Obviously you couldn't possibly omit Pork Bowl, but Yoshida hasn't realised that Hachiken's relationship with the pig is more important than his relationship with any single human. In this film, Hachiken does nothing for Pork Bowl! He doesn't encourage him to eat. He doesn't mix water into his feed. He notices that he's the runt of the litter and gives him a name, but then doesn't interact with him until, at the last minute, suddenly doing [SPOILER DELETED]. Admittedly after that he starts cleaning out the pig stalls, but that's too late to bring any emotional weight to his already-made big decision.
Then the second half has the ban'ei. (In reality, ban'ei is declining and only takes place at one racecourse in Hokkaido. It's nice to see Arakawa giving it some publicity.) Even if, like me, you haven't seen the anime or manga versions of that story arc, you can tell that something's missing. Mikage's love of horses hasn't been set up strongly enough. Heartwarming scenes fall slightly flat.
While I'm being negative, incidentally, I don't much like Kento Nakajima's performance as Hachiken. He starts out negative, sullen and almost hostile to human contact. He's not likeable. Obviously he's going to thaw later on and in principle I approve of the movie deciding to reinvent its characters, but this still strikes me as a thinner and less interesting character than the anime's Hachiken. Nakajima's currently best known for singing in boy bands, by the way.
Oh, and the Bitch is unconvincing. She has a name (Ayame Minamikujou), but her plot function is to be the Bitch and she came across to me throughout as a cartoon.
Those are all my negative comments, though, apart from the bit where Mikage shouts "bicycle" as Hachiken sets out to walk a distance he doesn't know is eight kilometres, but then doesn't go after him when he doesn't hear her. It's still Silver Spoon. It feels like a faithful adaptation, covering all the important material even if a few side bits have been tidied up (e.g. we don't meet Hachiken's brother). It's basically a decent film.
It can be funny. It's not as funny as the anime, but the sledge-painter, the prurient classmates and the chicken decapitation made me laugh. (Don't worry; there's no on-screen killing. The film is family-friendly, although the trip to the slaughterhouse still strikes the right note of being unpleasant and kind of disturbing anyway.) The film's heart is in the right place and it's educational.
In addition, the casting of everyone except Hachiken is impeccable. They look perfect, even paradoxically when the manga originals don't look human. Arakawa's Headmaster's head looks like buttons sewn on an egg, while Nakajima-sensei is Buddha. Nonetheless, the film's actors feel right in those roles. Amazing. Meanwhile Japanese fans were awestruck at the actress they found to play Tamako, who's not only embodying the role perfectly but is the right kind of fat. (Tamako's a thin person inside a fat body, if you know what I mean.) Alice Hirose is simply adorable as Mikage, although she doesn't make her seem like the deepest person in the world.
Hachiken's classmates fare better than you'd think, too. They don't get much screen time, but they come across quite clearly and they're indentifiably the same people.
It's not a great film, but it's not a bad one either. It's quite nice. It's not as heartwarming as the anime and the character work's nowhere near as strong, but it's certainly not a waste of time.