Handa Seishuu, a 23 – year old guy and a son of a great calligrapher considers himself a prodigy. He is young, good looking and has great calligraphy skills just like his dad.
But after receiving that ‘highly conformist’ and ‘copybook – style’ comment from a renowned director of a calligraphy exhibit, he felt his pride being trampled and ended up punching the old man in the face.
To cool his head off, his father sent him to a remote island. There, Handa swore to immerse himself in writing…..and to prove that nothing’s wrong with ‘being faithful to the fundamentals’.
I feel refreshed after watching this anime 3 hours ago so I’ll try a different format for this review. We’ll have the ‘THINGS I LIKE’ and ‘THINGS I DON’T LIKE’ categories.
To start off….
THINGS I LIKE
I can think of many things that I like about Barakamon, but they can all be summed up to the theme, characters and the screenplay.
Theme. While the entire story revolves around Handa Seishuu and his journey to becoming the best calligrapher in this generation, the story was not really focused on the technicalities of the art.
And while it was established that Handa’s a talented guy, we are presented with this side of his personality that struggles to keep abreast of the competition in his field. I think the theme that dominated in this 12 – episode series is perseverance and maturity.
It was not mainly about calligraphy. We are not even shown the proper strokes in writing Kanji characters. The story is about a guy, who is angry and insecure, seeks inspiration in a far off island and ends up learning things more than that of calligraphy itself.
It this case, calligraphy is not a constant factor but rather a variable. Change it to something different and the story will still stand strong.
Characters. I love the characters – all of them. (I even like the ghost!). Handa’s character is a fit for the protagonist role. He’s got the talent but is immature. He looks manly, but has these tendencies to behave like a kid. His character is a pack of contrasts. Add it up the funny gang he has on the island and you’ve got a great company on board.
Now let’s meet the gang…
NARU – a cute and bubbly little girl who’s got a talent in pissing off our main guy. She started calling him ‘Junon Boy’ attributing to his good looks. Her carefree attitude is what makes her a great company for Handa. While he stresses himself out to get some things done, Naru makes things look easy and insists that they play.
TAMA – a megane gal who is an aspiring manga artist and is a close friend of Miwa. She claims to like literature and the novel type of writing but is actually hunted by thoughts of BL manga after accidentally reading one. She thinks Handa and Hiroshi have a ‘thing’ for each other.
The old guys in town were also a great recipe to the story. Some of them really dropped great thoughts to Handa just like during the mochi-picking event when grandma Yasoba told him:
It’s not good if you’re always looking up. Wait patiently and take it once it hits the ground.
A lot of the characters we know in the anime are either dumb and unmindful or overly intelligent and cool. Handa is neither. He’s got the skills but is immature and too insecure to realize what he’s capable of. He’s likable that way.
Screenplay. Good characters should be coupled with good lines. Barakamon succeeded in this area by providing a combination of funny and witty dialogues that are sure to give you a good laugh.
Even Handa’s sentimentalism looks funny. They appear exaggerated but that’s it, anime exaggeration looks fun!
There are also a lot of notable lines that deserves to be thought of. Here are some of my favorites:
“Rather than struggle, wouldn’t it be more gracious to stop trying altogether?” – Yasoba
“For me, calligraphy is luring myself into catharsis.” – Handa
“The sea’s worth seeing especially when your heart’s gone hard.” – Naru’s grandpa
“Being able to work hard is the best talent of all.” – Hiroshi
“The role of the young ones is not to fear failure, but to seek new frontiers.” – Handa’s father
For a twelve episode series, I’d say it is well thought of. Kudos to Yoshino and Sugiura – sensei for the great lines! It’s short and concise but the message was well conveyed. More importantly, it’s inspiring. This, is what makes Barakamon special.
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
After watching the series, it is easy to see what the story lack. I didn’t like…
The absence of conflict from antagonists. I’m not even convinced that you can call the old director and Kanzaki as antagonists. There wasn’t any enough tension between the characters to merit a more intense action and reaction from both sides.
Handa punched a popular director, but there wasn’t any retaliation of some sort. Perhaps it’s because his father is equally famous but still, being sent to an island as a punishment looks kind of lame.
Kanzaki may be a good source of conflict. He is younger than Handa, vibrant, and good looking. More importantly, he defeated Handa in a calligraphy contest! And the fact that Kanzaki claims to idolize him only adds up to the tension! Rivalry should have been born, and-
But that’s it. Handa welcomed him just fine and acted cool. He dreaded that he got second and the eighteen year old got first but he immediately got over it. He’s cool, I know. It even shows that he matured. But it would have been good if there was some sort of heated rivalry between the two. The resolution can come after.
Limited emotion that it stirred. Other than giving me a real fun time, there wasn’t any other emotion that it managed to draw out. The absence of enough conflict prevented the story to stir emotions like anger and sadness. There wasn’t a good catalyst for these feelings. This is also the reason why I think some will find it difficult to root for Handa.
It’s easy to like his character, but standing by him is a different story. This isn’t easy when you don’t see him fighting and clawing for victory.
But then again…
I respect the approach that the creators made on this story. Barakamon is an anime under the slice of life genre after all. If I am to interpret their reason why they ditched off the conflict, I think it’s to give a light appeal to the story.
It doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be intense. It’s fun, clear and short…and I love it just the way it is.
RATING: From 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, Barakamon is a brilliant 8 !
How was your experience watching this anime? Let’s hear them out on the comments!