Two chapters into Silver Spoon 8 marks the transition between the autumn term at Ooeza Agricultural High School and the even longer winter term, which runs until Silver Spoon 12.

Silver Spoon 7 ended with the shock statement that Ichirou Komaba never returned to school again after his successful performance in a baseball tournament. As this is Silver Spoon, we can rule out his dying in a car crash on the way home as too sensational for the overall tone, but Hiromu Arakawa teases by not addressing his departure for a while. Instead she moves onto the other burning issue of the day, all of Nakajima’s beloved cheese having been given out during the recent festival. Time to make some more, then. An entire chapter given over to making cheese doesn’t sound dynamic, and truth be told, it isn’t. You’ll learn how cheese is made, but it’s like watching an instructional video, with only the students’ comments adding a little light relief.

After that there’s finally an explanation for the title, as a framed silver spoon is seen next to the dining hall. It ties into the Western saying concerning people born with a silver spoon in their mouth, symbolising that a successful farming graduate should never go hungry. It’s after that optimism that Arakawa finally drops in why Komaba isn’t coming back to school, which isn’t the reason most will have guessed at. It is, however, a lesson about the realities of farming and leads into one of the best sequences in Silver Spoon to date. The sample art shows what’s been inevitable for a while actually happening.

Much of this volume concerns itself with the economics of farming, at least on a large scale. Arakawa lays out ways the system can be cheated, almost immediately explaining why those methods won’t always work, while the balance of efficiency maximising profits weighed against animal cruelty is also discussed. The issue of finance extends beyond farming, as the cost of college also has to be factored in for the students. Because Yuugo is the outsider not from a farming family, what’s almost accepted by the other students is something he finds a profound injustice.

Silver Spoon 8 is a really good volume of a generally entertaining series. It takes in several emotional highs and lows, cements the friendship between Yuugo and Aki, looks back at Yuugo’s ancestors in a clever pastiche of Ronin manga, and has Yuugo come to realisations about his own nature and possible personality flaws. Arakawa working her way around the pitfalls of the plot via providing alternative solutions is very clever, and the series charm never becomes overly sentimental. After the cliffhangers that ended previous volumes, this ending is more natural, but Arakawa’s tied people together so tightly it makes Silver Spoon 9 a must read.