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BARAKAMON Review: A Strong and Leisurely Spun Narrative

Despite its lack of any obviously exciting qualities, Barakamon is a somewhat unnoticed beauty from the summer 2014 season. Barakamon is happy to tell a tale of daily, sometimes uneventful life on Gotou Island. As is usual for a slice-of-life, little truly changes about the story’s setup even after the run of the entire show and there is not much in the way of a gripping plot to follow. Still, Barakamon remains an exciting and entertaining show through both the beauty of its characters and their growth.

Even for its genre, Barakamon is pleasantly surprising with its setup of an exiled calligrapher to a rural area. Although it ends up that calligraphy is not really a major focus of the show, Barakamon does manage to use it well as a narrative device to express the growth in its main character, Handa. The show is content to be told at its gentle pace, consequently allowing its own strengths to be expressed best.

Story

The story of Barakamon is set into motion when the prideful Seishuu Handa punches a curator who criticizes his work for being unoriginal. Heeding the words of his father, he heads to Gotou Island to cool off. There, his experiences with the villagers and life help him grow in both his calligraphy and as a person.

After the story is set up in this fashion, there is no real over-arching plot for the rest of Barakamon. Of course, this is indicative and typical of any show in the slice-of-life genre. Barakamon is content to chronicle Handa and his interaction and changing relationships with the villager, every so often documenting a breakthrough in Handa’s ability to express himself through calligraphy. Virtually all of these creative breakthroughs come at the heels of a realization catalyzed by his interaction with the people of Gotou Island. So, the story is very clear in emphasizing its progression through Handa’s experiences with the people around him. The breakthroughs and growth are not limited to only his calligraphy as Handa receives wisdom that helps him mature as an individual through his interaction with those around him as well.

In particular, this comes across as a strong point for Barakamon. The growth and maturity of its principal character, as the work is mostly concerned with the growth and change in Handa, is conveyed in a way that is subtle and implicit. There is a respect for the audience in the way that Handa’s change over time is handled. It is respectfully realized in the background and as a slow result of various things coming together over time. This mature growth coupled with well-handled relationship between Handa and Naru greatly allow the audience to invest in the direction of the show.

Despite its slice-of-life nature, Barakamon does keep its story suitably tense with various conflicts dotted throughout even its short run as an anime thus far. The conflicts, while related in nature, are diverse and do not reek of the typical conflict-of-the-week styling that is sometimes employed. That is, even though the conflicts have to do with Handa and his calligraphy, such as when a young calligraphy genius comes to the island, they are unique and distinct from each other in a way that allows the show to create actual tension.

One of the show’s larger conflicts is when Handa is given the choice to leave Gotou Island to further his calligraphy, forcing him to make a choice between the typical avenue for success and the progress he had made in calligraphy through the people of Gotou Island. Ultimately, Barakamon is excellent in capturing just enough tension in its slice-of-life paced narrative and conveying the humanity behind its characters through their growth and changes.

Source: proxer.me

Source: proxer.me

Characters

In a narrative as deeply character-driven as Barakamon, it is almost fair to say that an evaluation of the characters is an evaluation of the show. Whilst Barakamon healthily supports a diverse and interesting cast that adds to its overall value, it is made clear from the onset of the show that the relationship between the two main characters is Barakamon’s driving force and central appeal. The relationship of Seishuu Handa, the talented and recently exiled calligrapher, and the young, vivacious Naru Kotoishi is a driving element of the show in the way it promotes Handa’s development and growing maturity as a person.

In a way, Naru’s relationship with Handa is indicative of how Handa interacts with the island as a whole. This hurricane force is suddenly thrust into his life and he is forced to deal with it in some way. Of course, Handa ultimately finds the good in this, and is able to properly learn from it all. In the way that the people of Gotou Island promote the change in Handa, it is Naru, with whom he most interacts, who catalyzes these changes and realizations in him the strongest and most frequently. Naru, acting almost as a collective representation of the effect Gotou Island has on Handa, is important in that aspect of Barakamon.

The show is also excellent in conveying the relationship of Handa and Naru, as well as Handa and the others he encounters. The way the narrative conveys his interactions with them is very honest and human. There is a subtle beauty in all of their interactions that is very sincere. Barakamon is good in consistently representing its characters as it wants to: as people.

Other than the two main characters of Barakamon, the show boasts an appropriate number of supporting characters. Barakamon does not overwhelm its audience with a large and forgettable cast, but allows each character introduces to take an appropriate amount of time and attention in the show. That is, Barakamon properly allows for villagers who only show up for an episode or two, but are still valuable and important for the screen time they have been allotted. On the other end of the spectrum, the characters deemed important enough to remain constant are just the right size to receive a balanced level of attention from the show. Usually a difficult balance to strike, Barakamon has a good grip on the way it leverages its cast of characters.

Art

Kinema Citrus is the animation studio behind the quality of Barakamon’s animation. The character designs from the anime come across as adapted faithfully in look and in spirit from the manga. Further, the art does well in conveying emotion and personality through the variety of character expressions throughout the show. The color I scenes feels well-balanced and is pleasant to look at. The warm and expressive use of colors helps convey the cathartic mood of Gotou Island. The animation is consistent and good in quality ranging from the peaceful scenes indicative of the show’s slice of life genre to the more dynamic scenes, such as Handa’s plot-starting punch. Overall, Barakamon’s art is clear, faithful, and vibrant and serves as a point of allure for the show.

Overall

Barakamon really is sort of a quiet work of quality. It does not obviously or outwardly possess the qualities one might search for in an anime for a given season. But it is undeniable that there is a bevy of qualities present in Barakamon if one only allows themselves to check. The show’s subdued narrative and colorful character interactions are perhaps its strongest and most quickly obvious selling point. Barakamon is a good example of a show that can be appealing simply by presenting itself well without the extraneous.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

 

Cover image via

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Categories: Anime Reviews

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3 Comments on “BARAKAMON Review: A Strong and Leisurely Spun Narrative”

  1. 03/28/2015 at 2:21 PM #

    I’ve been curious about this anime for quite some time now. I’ll watch it one of these days. When I get in the mood. From what I get from your post, you’ve enjoyed it. I wonder if I will, too. . .when I get to watch it.

  2. 03/28/2015 at 7:49 PM #

    I enjoyed Barakamon, although I’m really fond of the slice of life genre to be fair. Hopefully you get around to watching it one of these days, but it’s definitely the kind of a show that some people nee to be in the right mood for.

  3. 03/29/2015 at 8:05 PM #

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. It sounds interesting, but it’s not in my priority list right now. But thanks for reminding me about this series. Keep on blogging. Cheers!

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