Series in a Sentence
After punching an art director for criticizing his works, professional calligrapher Seishu Handa is sent from Tokyo to live on Goto Island as a form of self-imposed exile and self-reflection.
What I liked
Barakamon is the perfect example of a balanced story about self-discovery. By that I mean that character development is naturally paced, comedy lands and is not forced, characters themselves are unique yet believable, and the lessons that arise do so as a perfect culmination of the prior factors. The warm island setting, coupled with its quirky and engaging set of characters, provides the perfect initial contrast to Handa’s cold and uncaring character. Likewise, the traditions of the people on the island give it life deeper than its characters, and the way that Handa partakes in traditional activities and the day-to-day life of the island residents just feels uplifting. The series wastes no time with getting Handa into interactions either, choosing to immediately start his growth rather than dwell on his initial attitude about rural life for too long. The stand-out interactions are, of course, with another pivotal character: Naru. Naru, a rambunctious village child, serves as this story’s way of forcing Handa to grow. Essentially, she is the catalyst for Handa taking part in all of the previously mentioned aspects of the show (the island, the cast, the tradition, the pacing, etc.) and the chemistry between the two characters is undeniable. Having such an innocent guiding character, again, added to just how earnest this show really felt. Beyond Naru, other standout characters included the middle school duo of Miwa and Tama (with the latter being one of my personal favorites), the high school aged Hiroshi, and Naru’s friends (Hina and Kenta being chief among them). What was truly impressive, too, was that the majority of the supporting cast all had subtle issues of their own, but I’ll talk about those in-depth later since some of these issues are the subjects of some really great gags.
What I Didn’t Like
If there is one thing that I would have to point out as a negative it would be that this show was just too short. As I mentioned before, it is all about self-growth and self-discovery and, while Handa’s character arc wraps up nicely considering the length, the other more subtle characters do not have such closure. This is not really an issue since the show never really establishes these, but having read the manga I can say that the stories of the supporting cast are part of what makes this series such a special one. I guess what it boils down to is that this show falls into one of my least favorite categories: shows that are meant to get you to go out and read the source material because there will never be another season. Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing inherently wrong with these shows. Furthermore, Barakamon is the exception to my dislike of incomplete stories being told through anime: The developments and quality were just that high spec. However, it might be an issue for some that character arcs are teased but never addressed and even the stories of the main cast that are addressed merely scratch the surface of their characters.
I’m writing this review after having rewatched the series so I might sound a bit biased, but Barakamon is a modern classic in my eyes. The way that it portrays some really emotionally charged moments and lessons through a combination of heartfelt writing and laugh out loud comedy is remarkable in its balance, the world it portrays feels extraordinarily alive, and the cast is as a whole very likeable. The way that characters grow and realize their own potentials in this show is truly inspiring, and as a feel-good story I cannot think of any one series that is better. I highly suggest that anyone take the time to watch this show regardless of what genre you like: You’ll feel some really good vibes from this show and sometimes that’s what a lot of people need. You might have to take risks to better yourself so don’t be afraid to try.