Silver Spoon 13 ended with the cliffhanger of former Ooezo Agricultural High School baseball star Ichirou asking Yuugo for a favour, something anyone who’s followed the series knows doesn’t come easily to him. Hiromu Arakawa teases over the first chapter, only revealing what that request is right at the end. Don’t set your personal expectations high, but it’s simultaneously a great piece of characterisation, as what might be ordinary for anyone else is built into something larger because of how Ichirou is. It won’t thrill, but nails Ichirou’s personality.

We’ve now reach the autumn term, and Arakawa has signposted that the end of November is important for three reasons. There’s Aki’s college entrance exam, the big race festival where Yuugo intends to launch his pizza business, and another equestrian tournament. Two of the three are seen on the imposing sample art. In a way both are terrifying steps into the unknown, where failure won’t be life-changing, but certainly a setback, and Arakawa brings through the tension that generates. All the students are there to support Yuugo’s racetrack pizza stall, but Aki has to face the tests alone, and that leads to another fine moment, the revelations during the interview process.

Because the drama is so finely presented, it can fly under the radar that Arakawa has a wonderfully developed sense of comedy timing, which comes into play in several places. One is when Yuugo expects a phone call from one person, yet gets another, with equally good news. When the call he’s expecting comes Arakawa treats that amazingly as well. She cascades misunderstandings and setbacks, and just when Yuugo feels things can’t possibly become worse, Arakawa ends the chapter by showing us they can.

There’s a brief note about how rice farmers need to be adaptable, but the educational aspect of Silver Spoon now seems to be in the past. The characters are well enough defined, their strengths and eccentricities now established, and Arakawa is letting the drama flow from that. She’s still able to surprise, and this is a real joyful volume, with a strangely contemplative ending. It’s a shame the series ends with Silver Spoon 15.