Barakamon is a work of art. However, it’s more than just calligraphy as words alone cannot describe the exact nature and discovery of Barakamon. For instance, the show takes place on an island involving a young man named Seishuu Handa. Coming from a more urban based background, his life changes forever as he finds his new life on the natural island of Goto. Of course, this doesn’t happen after he delivers a sucker punch to an elder curator. When someone throws a fit like that, it’s easy to guess that consequences are destined to follow. But can we really call a journey to Goto Island as a consequence? Perhaps it’s the beginning of a new life for Seishuu Handa. Barakmon explores that new life in this wonderful and charming series that is guaranteed to bring satisfaction through discovery.
Adapted from the manga written by Satsuki Yoshino, the series has a simple premise. It adapts a slice of life tone hence depicting it like a narrative style with Seishuu as the main protagonist. It’s simple to realize the show has its charm in the beginning with laughter. Seishuu’s exile to Goto Island makes him the new guy in a brand new world. While the setting still takes play in the modern world, the inhabitants and surroundings contrast of what he is used to. For instance, there are no expensive cars or fancy skyscrapers where businessmen work during their workaholic hours. Rather, everything feels natural with a derivative from civilization. In essence, the show is about learning and discovery for Seishuu because he must adapt in this new environment. Now, that’s not a pushover.’
From the very beginning, the show has the ability to maintain a balanced atmosphere. We see Seishuu and his frustration yet also curiosity on the island. He discovers how simple life yet can be difficult at the same time. It’s a stark contrast to how his former life used to be. And as a master calligrapher, he is all about creation. With that in mind, Barakamon has this mercurial elegance with the style of its characters. Many of its characters live a simple life whether it’s the villagers, neighbors, or kids. They don’t rely solely on advanced technology as evidenced by the old fashioned phones and their way of fishing food. Yet, they also choose to use tools beyond the Amish norm to adapt and survive. For Seishuu, he is like babyface ready to learn everything that needs to be learned.
When it comes to characters, there is a noticeable age gap between certain groups. We have kids such as Naru, Miwa, and Tamako. Then, there are others within Seishuu’s age group such as Kazuyuki. It’s certainly an interesting factor to see how Seishuu develop relationships between these characters. Perhaps the most prominent relationship explored throughout the show is Naru and Seishuu. Having over a 15 year age gap doesn’t seem to make the duo compatible to watch at first. However, there’s a certain charm to this relationship as Naru often inspires Seishuu to climb out of his stoic self. Although he is made fun of at first by the kids with nicknames such as “Junon Boy”, there is also a strong attachment between them. In due time, Naru refers him as sensei, as a sign of respect for his brilliant skills in calligraphy. Similarly, Seishuu begins to see the kids in a different light. Despite finding him to be a nuisance, he also learns more from them to adapt with culture. The “new guy in school” tone has a presence when kids greet him with curiosity. It’s like an escapist adventure for Seishuu rather than a punishment for being exiled. To label it as a consequence could actually be the wrong term since the show offers tons of discovery for Seishuu thanks to his new life.
One of the strongest aspect of Barakamon is its ability to tell a story without complicated angles such as cliché rom-coms or battle shounens. Each episode itself is a story that cleverly show Seishuu’s life rather than tell. Indeed, they also tie in with Seishuu’s calligraphy skill as it plays as an influence throughout the show. Furthermore, the show has a heartwarming atmosphere and innocence. As much as Seishuu is curious about his new surroundings, the kids too are eager to learn. Through Seishu, they learn more about him and essence of the outside life. Remember, these kids are young and wishes to learn beyond school textbooks. With sensei there as a guidance, the kids get a lot out of his presence. It also creates an incalculable attachment as each episode brings them closer in that intimate way. They become like a family, one that in that Barakamonish to the core.
The show is also wise when it comes down to forming friendships. Seishuu makes friends with other characters including high school students and residents of his own age. Seishuu finds friendship in an authentic way through interactions. Surprisingly enough, some of their skills doesn’t differ from his own. Take for example, 14-year old Tamako Arai’s dream is to become a manga artist. Through her interactions with Seishuu, she is even more inspired to make that dream into a reality. Of course, the show also spice up some comedy between the characters as the kids play him as the fool. It’s what friends do after all. You make jokes, laugh at them, and have fun while doing so. It creates connection in that lighthearted way with realism.
Speaking of realism, there’s plenty of that. The show takes place on island so the atmosphere feels natural with energy. The cool breeze and surroundings offers a lavish theater for its backgrounds. Furthermore, it brings about a feeling of escapism for the hardships of civilization such as poverty and crime. In essence, it creates a relaxing setting for our characters to enjoy in. And by standards, most of the characters puts on a smile every day. (perhaps in Seishuu’s case though). They greet activities such as calligraphy, fishing, and swimming with pleasure and enjoyment.
Comedy is welcoming into the series too without shock values or senseless fan service. Rather, it relies on practical jokes, references, and imaginative tropes to deliver its message. However, the comedy sometimes feels abused when it comes to ideas such as BL; often generated by misunderstandings. It creates a repetitiveness that can be bothering to watch on occasions. Some other gags also quickly becomes old when it’s played over and over. Characterization also isn’t a big strength and feels flat with the younger characters. We only realize their general backgrounds without too much insight on their personalities. Perhaps the show is also a bit too simple as even rivalries (Seishuu and Kanazai) comes off as dull. Indeed, the series doesn’t craft its story thoroughly with plot devices or progression. Instead, it relies on narrative scenarios with the life of Seishuu.
Produced by Kinema Citrus, the show has a very natural taste of its backgrounds. Mountains, rivers, and the neighborhood are structured to look as realistic as it can be. Similarly, characters are crafted out of simplistic designs. The girls doesn’t have heavy makeup nor are the guys decorated with bishounen artistry. They all look who they seem to be with their matching personality. It’s like a breath of fresh air with its realistic character designs. There’s also no fan service or awkward camera angles to raise eyebrows. An added bonus is the calligraphy itself for theme and symbolism of art. It’s downright simple, realistic, and portrays slice of life at its best.
When it comes to soundtrack, Barakamon can be dry at times. Yet, it is fluid when you examine it with its conventional music. The OST offers a well-balanced tone with its fashionable soundtrack. The coordination of the music also stands out when it comes with comedic scenes and pacing. Similarly, Seishuu’s voice mannerism is portrayed quite well with his emotions ranging from frustration to joy. I also give praise to voice acting to characters such as Naru and Hina. They talk exactly like kids with their goofy remarks and laughter that inspires a curious LOL moment. The OP and ED songs are decent with unique backgrounds.
This show is morbidly gratifying especially if you had one of those tiring day. Its simplicity will take your mind off of life. And speaking of life, we get to see exactly how people live on the island of Goto. For Seishu, it’s entertaining with a handful of new discoveries he finds in his new life. But as a gift for the viewers, you will discover a whole lot more than just an island and its people. You’ll discover an honest show about a colorful cast of characters for their worth. And to be honest, it’s worth it.