Barakamon (2014)

After the disappointing trash that was GJ-bu, I was in a supreme mood for a good comedy to help me find a reason to live (again). After a few minutes of debating with the pink monkeys in my mind on whether I should re-watch the first season of ‘Working!’, I suddenly remembered the little white shirted brat from some show called ‘Barakamon’ people could just not get of back when it released.

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COMEDY!

Thank you, white shirted kid who I thought was boy but I turned out to be a girl who kind of sounds like the son of a helium container, Barakamon was downright hilarious.

Synopsis From MyAnimeList: Seishuu Handa is an up-and-coming calligrapher: young, handsome, talented, and unfortunately, a narcissist to boot. When a veteran labels his award-winning piece as “unoriginal,” Seishuu quickly loses his cool with severe repercussions.

As punishment, and also in order to aid him in self-reflection, Seishuu’s father exiles him to the Goto Islands, far from the comfortable Tokyo lifestyle the temperamental artist is used to. Now thrown into a rural setting, Seishuu must attempt to find new inspiration and develop his own unique art style—that is, if boisterous children (headed by the frisky Naru Kotoishi), fujoshi middle schoolers, and energetic old men stop barging into his house! The newest addition to the intimate and quirky Goto community only wants to get some work done, but the islands are far from the peaceful countryside he signed up for. Thanks to his wacky neighbors who are entirely incapable of minding their own business, the arrogant calligrapher learns so much more than he ever hoped to.

As the synopsis shows, Barakamon is a slice-of-life comedy with just a tad bit of drama to start things off.

Handa is a brilliant and arrogant calligrapher who has won many prizes. One day, after receiving harsh criticism from an oldie calligrapher, Handa goes haywire and decks him withe rage of a thousand ones and a half. He is then kicked onto a remote island by his dad so he can reflect on his actions. When Handa arrives at his new home and meets the resident rascal, white shirted Naru, he can’t even imagine how loud and crazy his life is going to get.

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This is Naru.

And that’s pretty much it. There’s no over-arching plot or any visible goal that the anime’s story wants to go towards. Even though this is slice-of-life to a tee, the setting is somewhat unique so major props to that in an industry where slice-of-life comedies are as common as atheists in a Neon Genesis Evangelion forum.

There are no melodramatic events or scenes that reek of cheap laughter. Barakamon is a finely thought-out comedy centered on a creator’s re-invention of his style and the environment that helps mould his transformation. The gags are creative and plentiful. They don’t feel like they’ve been set up for laughs: they occur naturally as how they would in real life. A kid performs kancho (butt-stabbing) on Handa when he arrives at the village and gets told off his dad. Naru’s misunderstanding and repetition of bad words she hears the people around them say. Handa sulking childishly in a corner when he loses a competition. They feel real and illicit genuine laughter out of you. So in the comedy compartment, Barakamon excels with flying colors.

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Handa has his priorities straight.

The many different events that happen over the course of Barakamon develop and flesh out the characters and the village as a whole so the storytelling is also top-notch. Even the very minor subtle things happening in the background of various scenes tell you a lot about the characters and the way they interact with other.

Speaking of characters, the cast of Barakamon is absolutely lovable and the characters reel you in very quickly with their debut appearances. Well, except for the kid who does kancho on Handa in the first episode. The supporting characters are based on stereotypes but are fleshed out so well and given individual attention so much that they don’t even seem like supporting characters by the end of the show.

Handa goes from a downright narcissistic busybody ‘no fun allowed’ impulse driven man-child to a lovable person who deeply worries about and cares for the people around him on the island – while growing as an artist and learning about the joys and pains of an unrestricted life. Naru is boisterous and mischievous to the core and really enjoys annoying Handa and making him play with her while Hina, Naru’s friend, usually cries and is rather clumsy.

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Rare moment of Naru not being mischievous.

The children feel like they are actual children. From their voices to the way they behave with both each other and the grown-ups of the show, you know a lot of heart and soul went into them and also because they are voiced by actual children – who have actual voice acting talent! They are VASTLY different from the usual fare of kids present in most anime.

Even the three teenagers of a rowdy girl athlete, a fujoshi, and a mature guy who is somewhat worried about his future after highschool are extremely fun and their personal fears, craziness, and quirks are given a spot in the light.

The animation is done by Kinema Citrus studio of ‘Tokyo Magnitude 8.0’ and ‘Yuyushiki’ fame. It bright and vibrant with a nice and warm contrast with colors and the backgrounds. The animation can go from very detailed to chibi-ish depending on what’s happening in a scene. It’s good stuff.

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The animation will go from this.
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To this.
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And then to this!

The background music… well, I don’t remember the background music which is kinda weird since I binged the show last night. I guess that means it was forgettable. The moody country-esque Opening was a delight to listen to. The quite straightforward Ending that sounds like a blast from 2001 highschool rock bands takes some getting used to – which isn’t a bad thing since the warm watercolor visuals are just calming to look at.

I really REALLY enjoyed Barakamon and it’s now in the top 15 of my list of anime comedies to recommend to people when they ask for suggestions. The problem I have with the show is that Naru should have had a much larger impact on events and more screen-time in the last two episodes (describing this in last paragraph as it’s a spoiler). Because of that and the thing with the background music, Barakamon is a swift 9/10 show for me. Highly recommended.

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Handa vs. Alciel from ‘The Devil Is A Part Timer’. Just who is best waifu?!

In the last few episodes, Handa leaves the island out of the blue without saying goodbye and then returns in the same fashion. During his absence and after his return, Naru’s presence is pushed back to that of a background character’s. She gets relatively very little screen-time and the few lines she does say don’t have as much impact as they should for someone who was the main force in aiding the change in Handa’s calligraphy in personality. I feel she should have gotten a much more major role in the last episodes since she’s very important to Handa and vice versa. Just saying. This doesn’t mean that how the ending is handled isn’t bad by any means. It’s actually very good. It just could have been… much better, in my opinion.

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