Anime Review: Barakamon (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 15.08.2017

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Barakamon (UK Rating: 15)

Barakamon was originally a manga series launched online as Gangan Comics, a free portal for web manga and light novels from Square Enix. This place has launched some great series recently, including Monthly Girls: Nozaki-kun and the mouthful series No Matter How I Look At It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, otherwise known as Watamote. This series from Satsuki Yoshino follows a struggling artist from Tokyo who swaps the big city for the quiet country life to try and revitalise his work. This complete collection comes courtesy of All the Anime and is out now.

Seishuu Handa is a famed calligraphy artist, but his latest exhibition is not well received, with the Director of the gallery commenting that his work is mediocre. It lacks its own original voice and instead relies on the boring fundamentals used specifically to placate judges and without any real heart. Handa takes criticism rather poorly and One Punch Mans the elderly director in the face, watching his cane clatter off before removing his shoe and smacking him with that, too… It's not a particularly wise decision and one that ostracises him from his community. He uses the event to jolt a major change in his life, travelling at his father's behest to a little island named Goto, where a tight-knit little village welcomes him into its life.

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He's set up in a little house that had been the secret base to a group of kids - two high schoolers, named Miwa and Tamako, and, most importantly, a six-year-old girl named Naru whose childish charm and sense of wonder transforms Handa. That's getting a little ahead of the story, though. Handa's time on the island is filled with little moments that give him a glimpse into a world he never experienced, and this world is a heartwarming glimpse at the ideal rural Japanese life. Everyone in town knows each other, there's mochi throwing, fishing for crayfish, rotary dial phones and nights out under the stars.

While Handa just wants to be left alone to work on his art, the people of the town force themselves into his life. The high school girls, a local boy who's close to graduation, and Naru are constant companions, while the people of the village pop in and out giving life lessons and showing off a place most of the audience would kill to live within. There's no great narrative developing over the course of the series. There is no antagonist. There is no real drama. It's just Handa growing closer to his new community and working on his art, planning to use the experience and then return to Tokyo but finding something worth sticking around for, while also reaching a point many artists will associate with. The difficult decision between developing one's own style and identity, or using generic established techniques that will win awards but lack the artist's voice.

The art style does a great job of capturing the rustic appeal of the country, the lush greens, the gorgeous sunsets, the beautiful ocean... The creators crafted a world that really could inspire an artist like Handa. The cast look great too, the kids especially. The animators do a fantastic job of capturing the kinetic energy and innate joy in everything the kids do and it feels truly real. The children's voice actors in the Japanese dub are flawless, starring real children from the area of Japan the show is set; this authenticity gives a new level of quality to the series. The English dub is serviceable and enjoyable but this is really one to see in Japanese, for Naru alone.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
There's a good reason Barakamon is so well regarded; it's a series filled with heart and charm that presents an idyllic world that is somewhat disappearing today - a simple, happy and wonderful story, mixing equal parts warm comedy and touching moments. There are just 12 episodes here but that feels just the right length to tell this story; it feels like a complete story that doesn't need a sequel and especially not a prequel (which it received in manga form…) - just this.

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