Hated by everyone around him, Sei Handa goes about his high school life regarded as an outcast—or at least that's what he believes. In reality, Sei is the most popular student on campus, revered by all for his incomparable calligraphy skills, good looks, and cool personality. However, due an endless series of misunderstandings, Handa perceives the worship he receives from his legions of fans as bullying, leading the school's idol to shut himself off from the rest of his classmates.
But distancing himself from his peers doesn't deter them from adoring him; in fact, his attempts at drawing attention away from himself often end up unintentionally converting even the most skeptical of students into believers. Fashion models, shut-in delinquents, obsessive fangirls, and more—none can stand against the brilliance that is Sei Handa.
Barakamon was a series that gave the calligrapher Handa Sei a journey through self discovery on an island village where he was able to create a form of calligraphy that he felt comfortable and happy with. It was a show that garnered a decent following and had a relatively lasting popularity during 2014. And so, to remind us that that series existed, we have Handa-kun, a look into his earlier days in a comedy gag series that...should've never been made.
Story: As previously said before, Handa-kun is a series about Handa Sei in his school days, where he was still as awkward and
uncomfortable as he was in Barakamon (probably even more so), thinking that literally everyone in his school hated him when in reality...he's considered as a god walking among them and that anything he says or does is law. As a result, there's a misconception between Handa and the rest of the school (except Kawafuji and maybe Yukio) and thus, 'hilarity ensues'.
Alright, right out of the gate here, I'll tell you the thing about Handa-kun. It's. One. Long. Running. Joke. The entire runtime of the series is dedicated to some member of the cast (usually new members) coming into contact with the 'divine entity' known as Handa-kun, only to be swayed by his words (as well as taking them in the COMPLETELY wrong way) and changing their entire perspective of life before becoming indoctrinated into the Cult of Handa. That's it.
At first, this seems kinda amusing. For the first few episodes, the awkwardness and overall comedy of the series is pretty funny because of how utterly ridiculous it is. Then it doesn't become funny. Then it REALLY doesn't become funny. Then it becomes eye-twitchingly bad. Good things come in small doses, and when you don't do that and instead use the exact same material over and over again, it becomes unbearable to watch. Handa-kun is exactly that. As the episodes run by, you'll come to expect the same things episode after episode but with increasing ridiculous cringeworthy scenes and even stranger characters, ultimately creating a show that's sad and difficult to watch. (Devoting the entire school festival to ONE student? Changing the curriculum to adhere to what he says accidentally? Making something based on someone without their consent? How can ANY of these situations be considered comedy?!)
By the end of the series, everything does get resolved...in some way, but not enough to salvage this series. Admittedly, there are people who do enjoy this kind of comedy, but just using one joke for what equates to about six hours worth of material is not the way to write a comedy series, especially when the only gag you have is to torture some poor misunderstood individual with daily occurrences that he doesn't understand and is terrified about.
- The entire series is one long-running joke
- Concept gets tired FAST
- Episode writing gets worse and worse with every passing episode
Characters: Oh boy, where do I start with this one? Characters, or should I say mentally challenged individuals are probably the number one reason why I despise this series and think that it's absolutely terrible.
First it's Handa Sei. Now, first off, we don't actually get much of Handa. Yes, the title character of the series probably gets the least amount of screentime out of any of the main characters in this series. In any case, Handa Sei is the same awkward and nervous individual that you saw in Barakamon, just de-aged about 5-7 years. The main reason for Handa's existence is just to be a figurehead of reasoning for every other character's delusions and obsessions. The dynamic of 'I'm hated but in reality, everyone loves me' gets old really fast, and Handa really doesn't do much in the series aside from cower away and wall himself off from the rest of the school because he feels alone and unwanted when in reality, that's not really the case.
Then there're the nutjobs. I'm not even going to separate and talk about them individually; the other characters are all nutjobs. You have the Handa Force consisting of a delinquent, a bishonen, and the stereotypical glasses character who say they're Handa's friends when in reality, they all have barely any understanding of who Handa Sei is as a person, you have the girl who sits next to him who becomes a stalker with a pension for 'erasing people who threaten handa' after she was given Handa's eraser because she lost hers, the handa-kun copycat, the student president who for some reason makes her vice-president who is a burly man dress in the girl's uniform, and other various characters strewn about the series who're just as weird and strange as them. On paper, they sound interesting and hilarious enough to be entertaining and fill the series with life, right? Well...no. The only character trait that have is the oddly stalkerish way of worshipping Handa. Every new one that the series introduces begs to ask the question "WHY?!" because of how strange and borderline sad they all are and/or become.
And for the characters I handpicked out, we have Yukio and Kawafuji, the two characters in the series who actually have some decent sense. Sure, Yukio plays the 'I'm average, and everything about me is average, and I like it' card, but at the very least, he plays the straight man in this mess and tries to bring some kind of sense to all of the other characters in the series despite how fruitless it is. Kawafuji's the same way, but he's more akin to a real person and also has common sense on the situation. They help me bring back some sanity from this sh*tshow.
+ Some straight man characters to point out the sheer ridiculousness of this series
- Handa is more of an idea than an actual character
- EVERYONE ELSE IS A F*CKING BASKET CASE
Art: Made by Diomedea, Handa-kun is...average looking at best. The show has the animation that you would consider as standard fare for this day and age of animation, and there really isn't much I can say about this series. I mean, the most they do is add your classic comedic facial expressions in order to accurately express the characters' emotions, but any more than that, and you're asking for a bit much.
Sound: The soundtrack...isn't all that interesting to be honest. I mean, the opening has a rock song akin what Barakamon did for its OP, but it's leaning more towards heavy metal to relate to the sheer ridiculousness of the series. (Which I think is what they were going for.) But in all honesty, the OST isn't really anything to look forward to, and the voice acting is standard at best. Hell, everyone in the series save for Handa sounds so damn happy that Handa is around that I can only say that that's the ONLY expression sound that they can make.
Personal Enjoyment: :) So...what do I think of Handa-kun? Ok, at first, I thought it was funny. Like the overall ridiculousness of the series gave me a few laughs because of how dumb everything seemed and how the overall plotline was about these comedic misunderstandings. Then it got old fast. The show's inherent problems lie with the fact that it was just the SAME DAMN THING OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Think I'm being repetitive in this review? You try listening to characters shout the phrase "Handa-kun!" "Handa-san!" "Handa!" "Handa!" God, that name is like nails on a chalkboard.
Did I like this series?
It's start was ok because the show wasn't so heavy on the misunderstandings or the stupidity of the situation, so it wasn't so heavy and more enjoyable than what came later. Also, Yukio. I really like the straight man in any comedy situation.
What didn't I like about this series?
Ok, take what I said above and subtract that from the series. What do you have left? Everything I hate. Cringe is about the only way I can even begin to describe this series. As mentioned many times before, the series just went on and on with how Handa-kun was great and how Handa's the goddamn messiah to all of our problems while introducing more and more characters that belong to this nutjob high school where I can only shudder to think what they were all worshipping before this poor calligrapher's son. They even have an episode where Handa thinks that he has a stalker, when in reality it's EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CAST STALKING HIM, and they go and assume that they need to protect him from someone who doesn't actually exist! That's not funny! That's not funny at all! It's sad! It's really, really sad!
Would I recommend this series?
No, don't hurt yourself. If you want to watch a series about Handa Sei and all of his glory...just...just go watch Barakamon. This spin-off from hell was a mistake that should never rear its ugly head ever again. It's a much better series and I would honestly say to avoid this dreadful cour birthed from the devil that honestly...wasn't even THAT funny to begin with.
Remember that senile old relative at your family gatherings growing up with an oblivious grin emblazoned on their face, who without fail would tell the same cringeworthy story each time you saw them? Every time they'd start the tale's prelude, "did I ever tell you about the time...?", your parents would shoot you a glance or an eye roll signifying just to let them roll on with the story. It was always better to nod in agreement and force unwarranted laughter than to call them out on their repetitive idiosyncrasies. You almost felt sorry for them in a way, and bit
you own tongue to preserve their blind innocence. Handa Kun is the anime version of this cheeky relative.
Sometimes in television, writers just don't "get" comedy. As I've said countless times, it's almost entirely subjective. Sure, there are some comedies that appeal to a larger fan base, but I don't value the same qualities you do and vice versa. The one metaphoric tightrope writers can balance on is the singular gag. The idea is to create an entire comedic show driven almost solely on one running joke throughout. Again, some may be quick to dismiss the validity of this idea because they don't care for the simplicity or subject matter as humor is in the end, subjective. For me, this type of comedy can succeed as in shows like Sakamoto desu ga? where the fact that Sakamoto was a perfect specimen of humanity allowed the gags to have unlimited potential. In Handa Kun, the running joke is much weaker. Instead, the writers focus on the over-explored idea of miscommunication. Although more commonly visited in slice of life anime, this awkwardness is addressed in the form of "everyone is against me" comedy through Handa's eyes. The result is a sputtering mess due to limited applicability and generic writing.
The first episodes were actually pretty funny to me. A troll of a girl with an elephantitis head, over exaggerated scenes between characters and awkward exchanges of dialogue looked promising. Various companion characters and antagonists were introduced as well. Unfortunately as the episodes progressed, I soon realized Handa Kun was written to be a one-trick pony... and not a very funny one. What Sakamoto desu ga was able to do that this series could not was keep the element of surprise. Sakamoto's comedy was limitless and unexpected, as Sakamoto himself would adapt to the scene in order to maintain his perfectionist status quo. In Handa Kun, the entire episode is often formed around a general misunderstanding between characters. The result is truly boring after a few excerpts, and honestly I couldn't wait for the episode to be over once I knew exactly how it would play out. I will say, Handa Kun does have better supporting characters... but that's like comparing Trump to Hillary. Nobody wins here.
OMG! CAVE-CHAN, AREN'T YOU GOING TO ADDRESS BARAKAMON!?
I would be lying to you if I said I wasn't looking forward to a legitimate prequel to Barakmon, one of my personal favorite anime. I thought it would be an endearing SoL with a clear plot and relatable characters, perhaps even exploring more of Handa's past with an outlook on why he got into calligraphy or something of that nature. After struggling to make it through this anime's brief 12 episodes I can assuredly say I feel ripped off. It's like asking for a sweet action figure for Christmas as a kid and getting the Great Value brand with a lopsided face and without the "Kung-fu action grip" (not that I'm speaking from experience, love you mom!) Handa lacks virtually all of his charismatic and likable features from the original and turns into a lame, meeker version of himself. It's almost enough to ruin the image of the series in my mind.
Hell I can't complain too much, Handa Kun and Barakamon aren't even produced by the same studio. Just do yourself a favor and temporarily leave the review to check out Diomedea's impressive resume. Literally almost everything they've made is a lackluster pile of poop. The directing in Handa Kun is not much better. Everything looks sort of bland and lacks anything really eye-catching. The first two episodes were handled well (except for the 10 minute broken 4th wall bullshit), but I think it may have been a pitched pilot for the studio and everyone kind of sat on their creative asses afterward. Perhaps Kinema Citrus, Barakamon's studio saw the source material's limited potential and ran for the hills. Though I'm not familiar with the manga for Handa Kun myself, but based on a few notes from my peers... It's not much better.
The characters in Handa Kun are not very memorable, except Akane. That dude's bad af. This isn't really an issue because of the comedy genre the anime follows. Most tropes are covered here, with an added bonus of elephantitis head girl. Like seriously, who decided this was a good idea!? Kawafuji's remergence was a brief refreshment, as I think he may be the only small semblance or similarity to its parent anime. I have to admit that some scenes really made me laugh at the beginning, but the lack of variety in the series took a toll on my patience towards the end. The same jokes are only funny so many times. Except Borat, that movie gets me every time.
Most times, the art and composition can save an otherwise train wreck of an anime from the depths of mediocrity. Aside from a catchy OP and fitting ED, Handa Kun falters again. The art is nothing to get excited about. It's average by today's standards... something that seems rather par for the course where Diomedea is involved. The character models are relatively unattractive and most lack originality (sans elephant girl), and by far the best use of animation is found in the show's OP. Background music is too often recycled and left me saying "oh, that track again?" Voice acting was actually pretty decent, but this aspect has never saved an anime for me.
Ultimately, all that really matters to the person watching a show is whether or not they enjoy it. I've watched plenty of critical duds that I've revered as guilty pleasures, but alas Handa Kun is not one of them. It's few positives are overshadowed by the overall lack of effort the writers seemed to put into its creation. It's not an awful show, but so lackluster I kind of feel sorry for it. It's certainly not the prequel that Barakamon fans need nor deserve. As patient fans, the best we can ask for is an original series expounding on the first installment. I won't hold my breath any longer than you will. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check out the rest of my Summer '16 reviews!
Handa kun has a very simple but reasonable setting that purposefully made for the sake of the comedy rather than its story or moving the plot forward. And dont judge this anime based off from its sequel (barakamon that came out first), because, you know, both of them is a slice a pretty typical slice of life anime with comedy as a mix to it. Since slice of life's essential facet is to add the comedy into them. All slice of life are like that, even if the greatest slice of life anime in the UNIVERSE like Barakamon that delivers its theme, character development, relationship,
and philosophy for success in life and shit.
Handa-kun's comedy is a pretty unique and peculiar one to me as an anime "watcher", or as a fucking Otaku. Like really, just call me an otaku coz you all are one as fucking well. But why is it peculiar? That style of comedy though, through the excessive uses of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and characterization or ascription of godly, so fucking pro and badass characteristics to the MC. This anime may seem like an identical fucking anime to the Sakamoto Desu Ka series but it's really not. Just some of the theme, character's position and other facet are, but not its entirety. The side character or minor and the support character are alot more "good looking", or suitable for the role that they have in the anime. With some addition role that hasn't been introduced to Sakamoto Desu ka ofc. Like the horny ass otaku who draws shit loans of ecchi shit, or reverse gender of someone.
The earliest part of the anime is pretty funny in my perspective, but as the anime progresses, i just find its forced comedy, repetitive uses, and the lack of character development abit too much now. This is not fucking Re:zero for christ sake, it doesn't makes it ok to spend the 16+ (in this case it's 12 episodes) for a character development or realization to happen. Barakamon has done a fine job in that, but to see the prequel to fail to do so, this is just sad to me as a hardcore (presumably) Barakamon fan. Coz that shit gotta be one of the fucking best slice of life anime in the fucking universe no doubt. Plus they also took a real local kids to voiced each kids character, it's fucking nice. You could definitely feel the bond between the voice actors and the character simultaneously as you watch the anime, and that's what makes this anime so great. You should definitely check that one out. I wouldn't recommend you to compare or watch Handa-kun first, then go to Barakamon. Just pretend that this anime has really nothing to do with Handa Sei in Barakamon. But this is just a comedy with no real contribution to his character (aside from being a loner, unsociable, but wanting to interact with others kinda person). In the later episode or halfway to the end of the series, comedy may not even be funny to you anymore. You know why? Just fucking watch it if this kind of comedy is within your alley of interests. While people have different idea of humor when it comes to these kind of anime. Just so you know, our sense of humor can never be the exact same and you gotta respect that. Some might rate this a 1/10, or a fucking 10/10 for crying out loud. But tbh, this anime isn't quite bad. Sure the quality of the comedy drop in the half way through the existing episodes (just like Sakamoto Desu Ga). But for real, it was a funny show lmao. Give it a go.
Handa-kun has a problem...and no, not just Sei Handa's problem of misunderstandings of his classmates...as in the anime has a problem AS well as Sei Handa's problem of misunderstandings of his classmates. Here's LA's beef with Handa-kun...
For what a good-meta first episode of the Handa Force gave LA, Handa-kun quickly turned into a repetitive comedy anime without a reason to watch Handa-kun other than seeing the same thing happen to Handa-kun and the Handa Force and EVERY OTHER CAST MEMBER getting misunderstood sans Yuki Kondou and really the first episode essentially told LA further down the line what kind of anime this was gonna be,
Handa Force having almost 80% screentime with Handa himself having 20% from the anime itself...ohhh boy...this is gonna be a sit...let's get to one of LA's grips about Handa-kun.
So who's the Handa Force?...they are Reo Nikaidou voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara a classmate of Handa and the fashionista and model, Akane Tsutsui voiced by Yoshimasa Hosoya a delinquent and another classmate of Handa, Junichi Aizawa voiced by Yuuya Hirose the smart guy and another classmate of Handa and finally Yukio Kondou voiced by Daiki Yamashita, the only genre savvy guy who doesn't say much besides the obvious in his head (but that doesn't help much due to the paranoid misunderstandings of Handa-kun and the obliviousness of Handa Force in general even when Yukio speaks up), an audience surrogate of sorts. At first their introductory episodes of each of these characters were fine, until they finally formed Handa Force and continuously misunderstood Handa (though even in their intro episodes, ALL OF THEM sans Yukio misunderstands to get them to love Handa and eventually stalk him). Why are they grating on LA?...because they are one of the major causes to the "misunderstanding" to the entirety of Handa-kun's comedy. Yes LA knows that Takao Kawafuji voiced by Kazuyuki Okitsu is the one who initiated this onto Handa but the Handa Force are the ones who misinterpret Handa's actions or words EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Sure Handa himself misunderstands ALOT but the Handa Force are the ones that reinforce the repetitive misunderstandings that get out of control of Handa's hands. Here's the thing, this is Handa's prequel anime to Barakamon as to how he became like he did in Barakamon and although we quickly see how Handa became how he is...Handa-kun doesn't feel like Handa's prequel backstory...it's nothing but a repetitive comedy anime of misunderstanding situations where Handa is the reactant to most of the things that occurs and Handa is not in the forefront of the anime...the Handa Force is...IT'S EVEN SHOWN IN THE ANIME POSTER!!!. For a prequel comedy anime, Handa-kun could have been another good Sakamoto desu ga?, what with the central character being the "centre of attention" and causes most of the comedy, but Handa-kun is huge miss in that kind of direction because as much as Handa Force likes to think that Handa is the centre of attention, it's easily overshadowed by the Handa Force themselves and them doing the same repetitive misunderstanding comedic skits EVERY SINGLE EPISODE...it becomes annoying and it got to the point LA started HATING on the Handa Force much like Handa did. If there was ANY character LA liked...it was the librarian character voiced by Rie Kugimiya but she quickly got replaced by the genre savvy Yukio Kondou from the Handa Force by default.
Handa-kun could have jumped the chasm of repetitive comedic skits that got old fast, but IT could have, with either ACTUALLY went into a bit more detail on Handa's backstory or went batshit crazy non-repetitive formula anime like Sakamoto desu ga? did...LA continued to watch it just for something new and that came rarely.
Really Handa-kun's biggest sin it did even for the fact it's suppose to be a COMEDY was becoming boring to watch with it's repetitive running gags and nearly every single character misunderstanding things INCLUDING Handa himself. Sakamoto desu ga? works as he works as he is the catalyst of his batshit crazy antics and methods for the other characters to bounce off of and be reactants to Sakamoto's antics, Handa-kun is the exact opposite, the supporting cast are the catalyst and THEY do the crazy misunderstanding skits and Handa is the one who reacts to himself and then the supporting cast have to bounce off THEMSELVES and be the reactants once again, the flow of comedy ends with Handa all due the misunderstanding and his shyness and doing this routine over and over and over and over again is what makes the comedy stale VERY quickly. The second biggest sin is that as LA watched Handa-kun, it made LA question as to whether Sei Handa from Barakamon was ever a genuine and investable character to begin with if his backstory almost literally has him at the whims to his own misunderstandings, his shyness and little backstory shown in his highschool days to get him to who he was in Barakamon. Handa-kun had the material from Barakamon to make a good comedy based on Sei Handa's life, instead we got a wasted potential that has little to do with the main character the anime's title is named after, if your SUPPORTNG CHARACTERS (Namely Handa Force and any other character that gravitates to this group) have more screentime than the MAIN character the anime's title is named after, your kinda missing the point of a prequel of pre-established character, hell the anime might as well be called "Handa Force and Thier Misunderstandings the Anime" than "Handa-kun".
In terms of animation, the animation was "decent" overall using pastel colors and a vibrant character cast to go with it. The animation does have some good bits such as Handa's Wall for instance as well as the comedic "moments" of over-exaggeration at times does make the scene transition well. On speaking of which the transitions used in Handa-kun (the calligraphy brush wipes) were also a nice detail. The animation done by Diomedea is overall decent to say the least but the animation CAN'T be the only thing good about it if the comedy can't stand up to it.
In terms of voice acting, well as a good of voice cast as this was, LA had a few annoyances, mainly from the Handa Force especially Junichi Aizawa voiced by Yuuya Hirose as his misunderstood eccentricities were annoying and LOUd to say the least and the rest of the Handa Force weren't much different, at least the majority of the voice cast did some well done reaction grunts/remarks or fanboy/girling that was ok enough. Sei Handa's voice actor Nobunaga Shimazaki, as much as it was "in character" for him to be shy and paranoid, it just felt that was ALL he was doing. The voice cast for LA is slightly mixed but LA's favourite voice actor goes to Miyoko Kinjou voiced by Kaede Hondo for her schizophrenic fangirling over Handa at a flip of a switch...she was really unexpected...seriously.
The ending FINALLY deals with Handa and his misunderstood paranoia and LA really LA just has to say "IT TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH", the ending pretty much was what LA wanted to see...SOMETHING NEW...slight though but with Handa's revelation, it helped at bit, but not enough for LA to redeem Handa-kun for his comedic sins it placed on the anime and Sei Handa as a character...the ending was good, but the payoff was well enough not worth it.
Really aside from the very good-meta first episode, the intro episodes of the Handa Force members and the finale to it's decent animation and voice acting, these strengths can't outweigh the immense amount of character and comedic flaws LA just kept seeing on repeat and yes LA knows that comedy is subjective but that was just what LA saw watching Handa-kun.
Handa-kun isn't the best comedy anime this Summer 2016 and failed to be funny as it thought that it's "one joke wonder of misunderstandings" could make the anime and nothing else, hell even Kono Bijutsubu ni wa Mondai ga Aru! this season knew to shake things up from time to time!. Now Sei Handa...please DON'T MISUNDERSTAND this review...LA WANTED to like this anime...LA doesn't hate Handa-kun...just disappointed.