Watching Barakamon was like going to a birthday party or a picnic outdoors, chock full of excited children running all over the place, doing what they do best. As an adult (supposedly), you feel slightly out of place but the child in you just wants to jump up and down with them in frantic jubilation without a care in the world. There is a cake too: a black forest with strawberry toppings and as you immerse yourself in the jovial mood, you admit that the feeling of sharing a slice with everyone is sweeter than the cake itself.
And what a slice it was!
For a slice-of-life to succeed, it needs to have a decent premise which sets it up and allows it to deliver a constant flow of quality… well slice-of-lives. For Barakamon, getting the socially inept and awkward “city-boy” Handa to live in a rural island where the residents are both normal and weird at the same time was the perfect set-up. You can already see it in the first episode. In fact, for me the show stepped up a level in the scene where Handa throws out Naru and she is rolling out going “gyaaaah!” in her lovable and unique accent.
And then, we follow the life of Seishuu Handa on a place very new and unfamiliar to him: doing some things for the first time, making new friends, enjoying the beauty of nature, picking fights with grade-school kids, catching beetles and going through a plethora of experiences on the island. All the while, he is searching for his own style of calligraphy. I admit that this was the only part of the show that was sort of a miss rather than a hit, for me at least. This stemmed from the fact that I found it impossible to discern the difference of the quality of the works and how Handa’s Calligraphy evolved as the show went on. However, having said that, it is clear that the island life has a profound impact on it: after all, no one can deny the fact that he is inspired by it.
One of the impressive aspect of the show is the way in which it integrates doses of comedy here and there. In fact, I would say that it is slightly more hilarious than the norm of the genre.
The pacing of the show is wonderful. It is laid-back in general but takes longer strides if need be without rushing itself.
The only rushing in the show is the little Naru rushing to Handa’s house both of whom are totally lovable characters. Handa is surprisingly childish and immature even though he doesn’t realize it which makes it easier for him to connect with the kids and the reactions brought on by his impulsive nature are priceless and hilarious. He is the only one who is significantly developed as the series progresses but that is understandable and okay.
Little Naru is one of the main allure of the show. She is full of energy and life probably more than a normal 7-year old. You could call her a bit pesky but you would be doing so with a loving smile because her peskiness really helps break down the wall around Handa. Her attachment to Handa is cute indeed and helps their friendship blossom leading to more fun and eventful days for both of them. The only qualm here is that she is not as much developed as a character, even as the show goes on. She, more or less remains the same which is not bad as she is great just the way she is but still one senses a lost potential there.
Without going into detail about the other characters, it is suffice to say that they are all sufficiently unique and lovable. From a fujoshi in denial to a lively tomboy to a group of cheerful kids, this show has a slightly large cast. Most importantly though, they are all easily likable even if they do suffer from a lack of development which again is understandable as most of the development is focused on Handa. The best part is their interactions which are top-notch and really help carry the show forward. For instance, seeing a grown man being enlightened by 7 year olds complete with his mortified reactions is quite charming and enjoyable.
Charming is the right word for the art as well. A good amount of light and vibrant colors have been used. The backgrounds are decently picturesque and the character designs have also been neatly done and are easily distinguishable. I liked how they made the faces of the children slightly chubbier to sort of contrast them to the more ‘pointed’ ones of the adults. The different facial expressions of the characters especially of the two mains are also impressive and enjoyable. And the animation is also up to par.
For the sound, the first tick goes to Naru’s seiyuu who is a kid as well. Actually, kudos to the production team for getting child actors for the roles of those cute kids. Plus, they incorporated a unique dialect for the inhabitants of the island which just adds to the atmosphere and overall feel of the show. The BGM were also decent and as for the opening and ending: although they are not really great, they are slightly better than average. The ending especially managed to stay on my playlist for quite some time and was perfect for the show.
This show cannot be recommended enough for those seeking a simple slice-of-life full of smiles and laughs and heartwarming moments. After a long hard day, just get yourself a slice of this cake and enjoy the utter bliss that it is.