Anime Review - Barakamon

 

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Barakamon follows the story of a young calligrapher, Seishuu Handa, who moves to a remote island near Kyushu, and his life with the people of the village he lives in. This series falls under a genre known as ‘slice of life,’ which doesn’t have too many major plot points or conflict, but follows ordinary, everyday experiences of individuals.

The plot of the anime is faithful to the manga as it retains the main and supporting characters, as well as the simple, quirky antics that make the series what it is. The countryside feel was highlighted better in the manga, due to the style of Satsuki Yoshino, the author, but is still well-represented in its animated form.

Daisuke Ono provides the voice of Handa, who is affectionately called ‘Sensei’ (teacher) by the rest of the village. As someone who read the manga series before watching the show, Handa’s voice felt slightly jarring to me at first--he sounds much older than a man who is in his early twenties. However, Ono is an old favourite of mine, so my bias may overrule this jarring. He is able to make his voice fit well with Handa’s personality, which is that of an adult who attempts to be calm and mature, however, that entire persona flies right out of the window in the first episode, when he punches a gallery curator.

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The other protagonist of the show, Naru Kotoishi, is a lively six-year-old affectionately called “the village rascal,” who visits Handa’s new house every day to play. Before Handa moved in, the house was a hideout for Naru and a group of older girls, who were unwilling to give up the house to a “Junon boy” as Naru first calls Handa. What is refreshing about Naru is that she is a child who sounds like a child. Some anime that I have come across feature children who sound like adults (because they have adult voice actors). Naru, however, is voiced by child actor Suzuko Hara, making her character quite believable. Naru’s cheerful and energetic personality quickly becomes a regular part of the show, which feels eerily silent when she or her friends are not wreaking havoc in Handa’s house.

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Miwa and Tamako are two middle school students who were among those using Handa’s house as a secret base before he moved in. A scene with them begins with the village chief assuring Handa that nobody has lived in the house before, while they sneak out quietly.

Perhaps the character I could relate to most in both series is Hiroshi. The village chief’s son, Hiroshi is a high school student who is “average” in everything he does, and puts in only so much effort and no more. This is in stark contrast to Handa, who spends hours at a time practicing calligraphy and never feeling satisfied with his work. What distinguishes Hiroshi’s character is his “average” personality and behaviour. He is completely ordinary, but seems to take some inspiration from Handa’s work to try a little harder. He may not overwork himself like Handa does, but does consider how complete devotion to something can be a talent in itself.

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Barakamon is quite reminiscent of Gin no Saji, another ‘slice of life’ series in which a ‘city boy’ goes to the country to start afresh. However, Gin no Saji is a school story, while Barakamon looks at the village as a whole.

There are some deep moments in this show, but these moments are often presented through simple, everyday instances, or maybe through little Naru’s eyes. Whether it is an encounter with Naru’s grandfather, half the village coming to Handa’s house to help him move in, or being roped into some childish plan by Naru, there is usually some larger idea that is in the background, but isn’t hard to miss. It’s one of the most common themes in ‘slice of life’ series, and this is perhaps better shown in anime than in manga--it unfolds gradually through movements and colour as compared to black-and-white pages.

Barakamon is definitely worth a watch--making you laugh and introspect at the same time. There are twelve episodes in total, along with a spin-off series called Handa-kun.

Rating: 4/5

Edited by: Gauri Jhangiani

 

 

Sabah is a third-year undergraduate at Ashoka University, majoring in English and Journalism. She is passionate about writing, going by the name cha_O_s on the writing site Wattpad, and enjoys creating stories in the genres of fantasy, romance, slice of life, teen fiction, and sometimes fanfiction. She is also keen on journalistic writing, especially in the fields of sports and culture. 

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