Guess who’s on a major anime marathon spree? Luckily, I finished a lot of tests this past week so this weekend is dedicated to catching up on anime. I personally don’t watch series that haven’t finished, so I’m delighted that the summer season is coming to an end. After P4GA I started watching an anime highly recommended by a a few friends. I kid you not, I marathoned the twelve episode Barakamon in a single day and I enjoyed every moment of it. Barakamon is possibly one of the best slice of life anime I have seen in a long time. It’s sweet, innocent, and heartwarming.
== Character Relationships ==
It’s not often a genuine kid is part of a cast. Usually, the youngest main characters, I feel, start from the lower teen years. Barakamon not only features a hilarious younger character, Naru, but also numerous children with distinctive personalities that separate them from the rest. Naru is the main child character, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just adorable watching a couple children simply playing. Even the voice actors and actresses themselves are actual kids. There’s none of that “Japanese female voices are so high pitched you cannot tell what their age is,”
The Main Duo: Handa and Naru
The definitive duo of the main cast, Handa and Naru are complete opposites. Handa is a male 23 year old calligrapher who has worked tirelessly on his writing since he was a child, both due to his own dedication and his parents’ forceful upbringing. Naru, on the other hand, is a dumb, kawaii kid who cares about nothing but having fun. It’s through Naru that Handa is able to learn how to relax and enjoy life.
Handa at the start is an uptight, immature asshole. The main character of the story, Handa, or Sensei as many of the kids call him, begins the series by punching a famous and well respected senior calligrapher in the face. Full force. This cane-using old man just eats it. Handa’s father, who is also a well established calligrapher, forces Handa to live on a far away rural island in hope that Handa learns some manners while away. This is especially difficult because of his textbook tsundere nature. Because of this, Handa is extremely immature at times. Add to this a huge, to the point of stubborn, sense of pride and you have an extremely rough-around-the-edges main character.
Then enter the unstoppable ball of energy, Naru. This kid never stops; she is a rambunctious little kid who constantly wants to have fun. Ranging from collecting bugs to bothering her Sensei, Naru never stops. She’s the complete opposite of Handa, who never enjoys anything in life. To Naru, everyday alive on the island is a new adventure. To Handa, everyday alive on the island is a day on a backwards “not Tokyo.”
Watching Handa, a pure-bred city boy, struggle and adjust to his new rural life is hilarious, Watching Handa slowly adjust to Naru and develop as a character is heartwarming.
I don’t want to spoil too much of Handa’s maturation other than the fact that it’s drastic and for the better good.
Naru is the epitome of innocence and it’s refreshing to have someone like this. The slice of life genre usually pairs with “comedy” and “romance.” Very often, the genre is a main hero, one or multiple potential love interests, a male best friend character, and a couple side characters. While Barakamon follows this formula somewhat, Naru, who would be the main heroine, is far too young to be a love interest. Therefore, nothing that Handa and Naru does is ever awkward or fake. All of their actions, reactions, and words are completely genuine towards each other and it’s great to watch how their relationship develops.
Boys Will Be Boys: Handa and Hiroshii
The favorite ship of one of the characters, the fujoshi/manga lover Tama. Handa and Hiroshii form the older males of the group. Whereas the relationship between Handa and Naru matures over the course of the entire series, the relationship between Handa and Hiroshii stabilizes relatively quickly. In this case, it is Hiroshii, not Handa, that changes for the better; in the beginning Hiroshii is quite the delinquent who half-asses everything he does. But when he sees how dedicated Handa is to his work, Hiroshii turns over a new leaf and becomes one of the most dependable characters among the cast. While the transformation is a bit fast, it still feels quite natural and well-done. Especially because Hiroshii is a side character, I’m not too bothered by his stagnation during the latter half of the story.
Where Naru is the unstable anomaly of Handa’s life, Hiroshii soon becomes a stable constant, bringing Handa his cooked meals (Handa is atrocious at taking care of himself) or even teaching Handa how to cook simple meals.
Another aspect of this duo that is hilarious, which I touched upon before, is the numerous times Tama mistakes and desires the two to be a yaoi, or gay, couple. Handa, being the clumsy man he is, falls down into Hiroshii’s arms? That excites Tama just a tiny bit.
The Fearsome Female Middle School Pair:
Tama and Miwa
Unfortunately, the older female characters are not as interesting as the other characters. Tama (glasses girl on the left) is comic relief at best with her fujoshi tendencies and over-the-top rejection of her preferences. Miwa (tomboy girl on the right) starts off as the lazy jokester who tries to tease Handa in terms of his romantic interests, but again, the age gap between Handa and the other characters make such attempts fall flat. I feel these two were introduced solely so that Handa does not have to deal with every child at one time, a feat I deem impossible for the tsundere calligrapher to handle.
== Final Verdict ==
Barakamon‘s story and setting is not all that impressive. It’s a slice of life anime for a reason. There is no world to save; there is no overarching implication; and there is certainly nothing special with where the story takes place. Yet the realism of the characters and their development is enough to make me develop feelings for these characters and connect to them. I wanted Handa to succeed in his calligraphy. I wanted to see what wacky things Haru would do next. It’s these two and the rest of the cast that paints the vivid world of Barakamon and pulls itself straight into my heart. It’s innocent. It’s joyful. It knows exactly what it is and tries to be nothing more and nothing less than that. There is no thought-provoking questions during and after the series, and that’s okay. Barakamon is a wonderful treat that I savored during my viewing session and was left wanting more, yet content.
A light-hearted series anybody can enjoy, Barakamon proudly deserves a spot amongst one of my favorite animes. It is one of the few that had made me genuinely laugh and giggle. It knows exactly what it is and embraces it. It feels good to watch characters grow up and become better people. It’s only twelve episodes. Go watch it. Your life will be better after.