Slice of Life, Comedy
Number of Episodes
12 and a prequel anime called Handa-kun
A manga written by Satsuki Yoshino.
Seishuu Handa’s a professional calligrapher who lives and breathes his art. He’s never made much time for friends or having fun; all he knows is calligraphy. At his latest exhibition, the elderly curator called Handa’s submission mediocre. Handa snapped and punched the curator, landing him with a one way ticket to a remote island to cool down. Living in the country won’t be easy though, especially with so many pesky kids running around using his new house as a secret base. It’s up to him to draw inspiration from nature and create a new style of calligraphy that’s all his own.
The Theme in One Sentence
Don’t act so impulsively and learn to enjoy the little things in life.
First things first, no matter how much I love Barakamon, how the heck can it start by the main character punching an elderly man walking with a cane? He not only punches him, but he kicks his shoe at him for good measure! Later he admits that the shoe was going too far, which makes it sounds like the punch was perfectly fine. Handa definitely feels awful for his actions though and confronts the elderly man eventually.
To some people a show about calligraphy might sound boring, but I love the written word so I was on board right away. The main focus is actually more on Handa learning to function in the country and interact with the villagers. He doesn’t have much experience with either of those things so that’s where a lot of the show’s comedy comes into play.
In the beginning, Handa’s a pretty horrible adult. He doesn’t communicate well, he loses his temper with kids and elderly people alike, he can’t cook for himself at all, and he doesn’t really seem to know much of anything besides calligraphy. It gives a great reason to explain things to the viewers though and I felt like I really got into the life on this island. Plus, it adds to the humor since the kids constantly outsmart him and show him how to do simple things like use an old rotary phone. He acts like a kid himself most of the time which is probably because his own childhood was so focused on calligraphy that he wasn’t allowed to just be carefree and enjoy himself.
Barakamon has a large cast of characters, but they feel surprisingly well rounded and developed for only 12 episodes. Even if you only see a character for a bit in one episode, they’ll probably be back in a different one. A young girl named Naru meets Handa on his first day there and automatically takes a liking to him. Naru, on the other hand, takes a little getting used to especially since she knows all the secrete entrances into Handa’s house. This initial meeting lays the groundwork for the style of humor Barakamon shines at: charming, a bit sassy, and often ridiculous.
I admit, I don’t always love anime with a lot of children in it, but the younger characters in Barakamon are really well done. I never thought it would be better without them. Actually, the opposite happened. They made the show better and provided a way for the main character to grow as a person.
Naru changed Handa’s personality the most, I think. She’s constantly convincing him to do things he would never normally do and even succeeds at dragging him away from calligraphy many times. The fact that Naru is only 7 years old allows Handa to see the world in a different way: through the eyes of a child. Their relationship brings out the best side of Handa, showing how kind and caring he is. He quickly feels like an older brother character for Naru and soon the rest of the village children flock to him as well.
In terms of calligraphy, he’s always trying to improve his art to overcome the wall of mediocrity the curator criticized him for. That’s difficult for him though since whenever you change your art style, you need time to develop it. He’s going for a more fun to look at style, which is rougher and artistic, instead of looking like a textbook. He doesn’t always get the results he wants and is prone to depression over bad results. Getting past that creative slump is hard for anyone so it’s completely relatable.
There aren’t really huge story arcs in Barakamon, but there’s definitely a lot of progress made in just 12 episodes. Each episode feels like a solid story by itself so they don’t usually end on cliffhangers, but they all link together. The overarching plot is all about Handa growing as a person and the rest of the characters are the driving force behind that growth.
Main Character – Seishuu Handa
Handa is a pretty relatable and hilarious main character. His lack of confidence as an artist is something I can relate to as a writer. He goes through slumps and highs just like I do, so he’s a great main character to root for. He also has the most character growth, which is to be expected from a main character, but isn’t always the case. One of my favorite scenes is him laughing like a lunatic and splattering ink everywhere while drawing a calligraphy piece as big as his wall. It shows how much he loves his work and how fantastic inspiration feels.
Handa’s style of humor isn’t intentional, but it’s extremely funny. He is quick to assume things, usually incorrectly, and is easily manipulated by somebody praising his great calligraphy which leads to fun situations. With all his humor, he’s also a very serious character. Calligraphy is his life and his main goal is to improve himself. That’s respectable in my book.
Favorite Secondary Character – Hiroshi Kido
Hiroshi is a completely average character, which is a running joke in Barakamon, but in this case average is fantastic. He’s the closest person in age to Handa so they end up spending a lot of time together. Actually, he usually feels older than Handa since he seems pretty level headed most of the time and way more responsible.
I’m going on a fangirl tangent here, but Hiro and Handa seem so good together. One of the female characters accidentally got it in her head that they were dating and after that moment I’ve thought they’d be the perfect couple. They compliment each other so well and Hiro takes care of Handa whenever he can, noticing things most people don’t. Alas, I think it’s just a good friendship, what a shame. Ok, fangirl moment done, on to the rest of the review!
Least Favorite Character
Hmmm, this is a hard one since all of the characters are so well done. It would probably be the two random kids who are never named. They don’t seem to serve much purpose besides making sure Kenta has friends around. They’re also a comedic element since Handa is never told their names and he doesn’t want to be rude by asking for them. In the end, he never finds their names out and they don’t have any character development. They still seem to show up pretty often though.
Barakamon is a beautiful anime. The characters are all distinct so it’s easy to tell everyone apart right away and the animation flows well. Often Handa is inspired by nature and those scenes are given extra detail, like sunsets or a starry sky.
None. The manga even has a joke about how the beach episode has no fan service at all since the girls wear gym clothes instead of swimsuits.
After the Credits
There are scenes after the credits so don’t just skip to the next episode. Usually they involve some of the characters catching crayfish and are used as a short comedy section.
This is one of my favorite dubs actually. The voices fit the characters well and the children’s voices sounded childlike without seeming like an adult trying to sound like a child. They’re also all unique sounding instead of the same voice I’ve heard in twenty other shows.
Ending – No Spoilers Don’t Worry
I was worried Barakamon would end on a sad/unresolved note that would taint the rest of the wonderful happy feeling the show had given me, but thankfully that didn’t happen. It was satisfying, even if it felt a tad rushed. I think if it had gotten even one more episode, the ending would have felt more complete.
The Bottom Line
Barakamon is probably my favorite slice of life anime. It’s such a feel good show. The comedy is spot on and there’s real character growth with a good, relatable, plot. It’s laugh out loud funny and it doesn’t get old. What more can you ask for in a show?
Possible Reasons Not to Watch
One of the characters is a bit focused on pairing Handa with other males in her head, so if you are absolutely against any hints of yaoi, you’ve been warned. It’s not a huge aspect, but it’s there.
Nobody is physically violent to the point that people get hurt, but there are some violent jokes against children. For example, Handa literally throws Naru out of his house multiple times and you watch her roll away. Or he throws seat cushions in her face and she falls over. It’s never done in a mean spirited manner though and nobody gets hurt, but again, it’s something in the show that not everyone might care for.
Sweetness and Lightning – Another feel good anime with a young girl as the main character. Plus you’ll learn all about how to cook various foods.
Silver Spoon – Great slice of life anime that centers around the main character learning to adapt to a new situation and eventually growing to respect the new lifestyle.
In Reference to the Manga
Where Does the Anime Leave Off?
For the most part, the anime is really similar to the manga. There are a few side stories that aren’t animated, but the parts they did animate are the same. I recommend reading the manga since it’s great and does add to the story, but if you want to pick it up from where the anime ends, you could probably start with the 7th book.
Biggest Differences Between the Anime and Manga
The spoilers are pretty small, mainly just little sections that weren’t in the anime that I noticed and wrote down when I was reading. They don’t change the anime, but are neat tidbits. If you’re not going to read the manga ever, feel free to scroll down and take a look. If you’re going to read the manga, stop here and just read it so they’re surprises for you. I’d hate to spoil anything for anyone.
Spoilers for the Manga are Below
When Handa leaves the island for the competition: The villagers think he’s left them so the kids all get together and hatch a plan to go to Tokyo and get him. Good thing Hiro knew that Handa would be back soon so the kids calmed down.
Broken computer: Handa’s computer broke in the anime without an explanation, but in the manga there was a huge storm that zapped the computer. Naru and her grandpa came over and helped him weather proof the house. They also stayed and told scary stories for a bit.
Naru’s secret entrance into Handa’s house: This actually bugs him quite a bit in the manga. He actively tries to figure out how she’s getting inside his house and boards up all the holes he finds. She still gets in somehow though. He even worries about what would happen if somebody else broke in. It’s eventually explained, but I don’t remember how far into the manga that was so I don’t want to spoil it beyond where the anime ends.
Dead Frog: At school, Kenta ends up killing a frog which he thought was a nice thing since it was going after Naru’s unicycle I think. Naru is really upset and everyone tries to teach Kenta to respect living things more. He feels horrible for upsetting Naru since he likes her so much.
Unicycle: The school headmaster is really awful at riding a unicycle and basically dares Handa to do it, assuming he’ll be awful too. Turns out, Handa can do it right away.
Abducting Children: This was hinted at in the anime when people thought Kawafuji was trying to abduct Naru, but in the manga it’s a whole side story. There are signs that say “help residents to protect our children”. Naru thinks the kid in the picture looks like Hina and she accidentally thinks Handa is abducting Hina and tries to save her.
Tama’s Manga: Tama actually tries to submit her manga to a competition, but she’s worried about it bending so she puts it in between two huge boards. In the end, it doesn’t even fit in the mailbox.
The nurse’s young child: The child gets lost with a little riding scooter thing. Naru finds the child and acts like an older sister trying to be a grown up and be responsible. She ends up saving the day.
Hina’s Hair: Handa has a lot of fun putting Hina’s hair up in different cute styles, or so he thinks. Really he makes her cry with the ugly hairstyles. There’s more of a difference in the manga about how cute he thinks Hina is and how she’s much different than Naru. He sends Naru out for flowers to add to Hina’s hair, but in the end Hina just wants her hair like Naru’s.
Mud: Naru shows Handa how to make mud balls and mud art. He gets pretty into it and has way more fun than you’d expect.