Heart-warming, relaxing, and hilarious - is how I would define this anime.
An award-winning young calligrapher, Seishuu Handa punches an aged exhibition director in the face, when the old man accuses the calligrapher's work of being too dull and lacking originality. Since childhood, Handa had been a perfectionist and only accustomed to praise. So when the bitter truth is served on a platter, he doesn't handle it well. Handa's father, who is also a calligrapher, sends him off to an island as punishment for the insolent behaviour.
Handa being a city boy, and that too somewhat of a hermit, is initially frustrated by the lack of privacy and the backward technology of the island. But he gradually begins to befriend the people and learns moral lessons that help him to grow as an artist.
Barakamon is a slice-of-life anime in its truest sense. There's no fast paced action, or unnecessary fan service. It is not there to revolutionise story-telling. This anime shows us the charm in heartfelt, childish humour. The innocence of the characters is something one begins to appreciate from the get go.
The anime's overarching theme revolves around an artist's struggles and joys throughout the creative process. It is essentially a character study of the protagonist. Handa is extremely impulsive, self-critical and goes through a phase of deep self-loathing when he's second best. On the other hand, when inspiration strikes him, his emotions take a 180 degree turn, transforming him into an artistic maniac. Although his reactions may seem over the top, anyone who tries to pursue a creative endeavour is all too familiar with the bouts of sleepless nights, moments of extreme self-doubt, nervous breakdowns and so on.
Upon reaching the island, Handa constantly tries to find his own style and focus on his work. But he is almost always interrupted by the antics of the children and teens of the island, particularly by a seven-year old girl named Naru. Naru stands out more prominently than any other character in the series. She is rambunctious, mischievous and downright adorable. The gleam in her eyes and the excitement in her voice single-handedly inspire Handa to get out of his shell and try out bizarre new things. The island exposes Handa to things he wouldn't have experienced in Tokyo. The anime portrays the simple and laid-back lifestyle of the country side. It shows us how sometimes a change in the environment is all we need to ignite that creative spark.
By the end of the series, Handa does not only mature as an artist, but also as an individual. He learns to care and be responsible for others, he begins to value his relationships and finally, he realises that he does not need to be “number one” in order to be happy.
Barakamon does a great job at depicting its side characters. Apart from the characters of Handa and Naru, we come across other lively characters that have their own unique personalities. The voice acting in this anime deserves applause. In most anime, children's characters are voiced by older female voice actors, making them somewhat irritating to hear, but in Barakamon they are actually voiced by children. In addition, the soundtrack impressively captures the essence of the Japanese country side.
Barkamon is an anime that will be most relatable to creative folks who have undergone similar struggles as our main character at some point in their lives. However, you will enjoy it just as much if you want to give your brain a break from nerve-racking psychological thrillers, or simply want a light-hearted watch for your summer vacation. I personally re-watched it after a disastrous semester and it did a damn good job in cheering me up.
Farah Masud is a humanbean and that is all you need to know about her. Please don't try to contact her anywhere, especially not in person.