Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Hina Kubota Floating Inner Tubes Ocean Beach Day

Barakamon Collected Commentary Notebook (Episodes 1 – 12)

My episodic notes, reactions, and commentary from Barakamon, which aired during the Summer 2014 anime season.

Everything is by and large as it was when I originally wrote them in the Hangers category when the show was airing. They have been sewn together and provided here for the convenience of readers to look back on my feelings on this series specifically, without needing to click and scan through numerous pages of unrelated material.

Check the Notebooks category or the appropriate Index page for additional posts like this one for other series

 

 

 

Barakamon
Barakamon [Episode one]

 

“From the studio who brought you last season’s Black Bullet, comes their newest young girl/s teamed up with young adult male adventure!”

Ah, that is not really fair though, given how studios operate in general. And hey, director Masaki Tachibana helmed that King of Fighters: Another Day OVA where Alba was out rescuing kittens! And Barakamon is probably the kind of anime to encourage rescuing kittens.

The whole “slice of life in the country” thing is a reliable well to draw from, as it is a historically robust means of whirring fish out of water / culture clashes / learning to find oneself / make new friends gears. The natural go-to comparisons most folks are going to make then would be to Non Non Biyori and Silver Spoon, as they have each had anime come out and do well in the past year.

At least in this first episode so far, Barakamon seems to be straddling a sort of middle ground between them, if that makes sense.

Barakamon Seishuu Handa On The Floor Calligraphy Wall Giant Canvas Fun Splatter

The nods regarding the wider social community, professional craft, or Seishuu spouting lines like “Maybe [the sea] doesn’t look pretty because my heart’s gone hard” echo elements of Yugo’s more mood twist moments in the later.

Meanwhile, naturally, some wackiness or timing execution of jokes does seem more in line with Non Non Biyori, to say nothing of the at least two little kids we will be seeing throughout this series. Not that Silver Spoon was not wacky at points, but Yugo going over the top tended to result in him overloading and overthinking himself, while here by the end of the episode Seishuu is cackling and hurling ink all over the room before a giant canvas.

And none of that is a problem! Though, I do hope that going forwards the series manages to carve out more of an identity for itself for viewers to latch on to, and discussions regarding it do not devolve into a series of comparisons to other countryside slice of lifes.

The calligraphy art angle it wants to tout is kind of interesting on surface levels, but this is going to be more of a “has” calligraphy than “about” calligraphy sort of thing, I feel. Unless this is going to pull a Silver Spoon and try to slip in some informative little bits here and there. But that series could get away with it naturally due to the agricultural school, class, and practicum settings.

Barakamon is about a dude living on his own with a bunch of neighbors he will not be able to get rid of, for worse and for better.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode two]

 

After last week setting the general rural slice of life tone and getting our primary leading man and sidekick youngster together for later (mis)adventures, our second expedition out was a bit different.

This is what I at times have called an equipment or gear check episode, in that we need to spend the time adding some things on to better ensure the series will be able to continue. Introduce Hiroshi, Tamako, Miwa, etc.  Let them enter the scenes and get their general characters beats out: Hiroshi’s average at best grades and concerns over talent, folks like Miwa have likely been teaching little Naru words without appropriate meaning, etc.

It is a useful episode to have, particularly early on. One risks slowing momentum in the hope of being able to plant character seeds that will be livier later, but as far as gambling goes it tends to be a pretty safe move in television series production. And in a slice of life show, characters are definitely everything.

Barakamon Misses Kido Kido Yuujirou's Wife Flowers Ocean Hands Clasped Dream

That said, I do think Barakamon did deflate a bit since last week.

The material with Hiroshi is fine, and even the antics where Miwa and Tamako try to take back Seishuu’s room as their hangout base seem appropriate enough in-universe for the kinds of characters they are and the dynamic they have. Once things get to the hospital though, I feel the episode stalls out a fair bit. Too many suppositories jokes, pretty much everything involving trying to make comedy out of the young but married nurse misses the mark for me, and so on. Inserting the ghost story aspect, while it makes for a nice moment when Seishuu is speaking with the old man, does also seem a bit like time that could have gone to something else for him to come to a similar conclusion regarding the positive aspects of the lively group around him.

The show clearly wants to be more unchained from reality and wackier in character action, so I do not feel like I am missing that element at all or trying to see the show as something it is not. Sometimes these sort of misfire zones pop up in a comedy series, especially early on when it is still trying to set everyone’s characters up at the same time. So I am not too worried, at least for now, as despite my stated reservations or quirks I had with it I think the episode was fine in the department of rolling more of the cast out.

There will be plenty of time to for them to play more freely down the road.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode three]

 

I have seen various murmurs around about the tonal swings this series has taken even within the span of three episodes, and I can not say I am unsympathetic.

The first was from the relatively heartwarming but hints of manic behaviour school of thought. The second episode was a gear check “introduce these additional side characters” affair, with a second half which fell pretty flat for me. This third episode cranks the wackiness dial significantly higher, through extreme facial exaggeration, vocal loudness ranging from extreme to quiet mumbling other characters need interpret, and so on. In that respect, those hoping and pining for a nice slow rural down home pacing may by all means find themselves increasingly left out in the cold. I can understand if the show they wished for or imagined turned out not to be the series they received.

But, let us look at the show in front of us as it is.

Barakamon Tamako Arai Angry Manga Explanation Face Chibi Seishuu Handa

Seishuu mailing off his calligraphy for competition, seeing he is running out of ink, and running off to the general store for misadventures in hearing via country life elderly ladies?  I liked it. Especially with how far this show actually goes in terms of messing with accents, dialects, and so on. It is a lot of work for jokes that really are not laugh out loud funny at all, but are quite appreciated for where and how the misunderstanding occurs via their own internal wordplay.

The second “bit,” if we can break the episode up like that, landed flat for me. Tamako being both really into manga as well as crafting her own I think is a fine character quirk to give her for a character show like this. Especially for one set in a rural area like Barakamon. And then it gets too, well, insular for its own joke. It is not enough for her to just be into manga, to make manga, to create boys manga, or even violent manga on top of all that. She also has to be giving all manner of frenzied remarks about fujoshi as she switches personalities entirely to someone far more domineering. It is the sort of very otaku oriented joke making approach (ie, Say Lots Of Words And Descriptions About A Thing They Know, Thus Comedy) that just does not amuse me very much. It does not really require much in the way of comedic timing, craft, and so on, and it lasts almost a third of the episode on top of that. To say nothing of the fact that, well, the whole She Loves Boys Love Comics schtick is a one note character joke that got old for me so many years ago I do not even think Tamako would have been born yet within our reality timeline.

The third and final part of the episode then turns to a community celebration over a new boat being acquired and named, and there it aims to turn back to inspirational aspects for Seishuu’s situation again. Him being down about only achieving second place in that most recent competition he had entered, and then even here being unable to catch or pick up any of the celebratory mochi being thrown. He gets some regulation but appreciated advice from one of the elderly women about the value in at times allowing others to pass oneself for later benefit down the road.

It was pleasant, though I feel it does highlight the drastic swings this show will go through from one area to the next even within the confines of the same episodes.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode four]

 

Comedies are so very, very tricky. So much depends on timing, character personalities, let alone any actual writing involved. Then there are matters of personal taste to account for on top of that.

On that front, the front half of this episode by and large just did not work for me. In what was in part me being drilled from an early age regarding the ability to be able to maintain and fix consumer electronics, because they are increasingly essential, the standby “I don’t know how to fix my computer!” joke sort does not work for me with a guy in Seishuu’s situation . The broken cell phone I can give Seishuu a bye on, as that took a dip in the ocean and trying to perform any kind of dark necromancy to bring it back would be little than futile at best.

But then him in turn trying to use a rotary phone by pushing the numbers rather than spinning the requisite parts, when he already said he had seen these before in media, well that also misfires for me. I fully get what these bits are going for (it isolates him a bit more, recognition of influx of technology versus country life, etc), I just think the jokes would be funnier were they more characters based. Having Seishuu as a young adult embarrassingly needing the children to teach him how something as seemingly archaic or simple as a rotary phone works, for instance. Which they do, arguably, as he makes the call eventually, but that goes on off screen and between cuts.

Make more of an inter-character connective bit out of those sorts of moments on screen, is what I am saying. It makes for a sturdier comedy experience, I feel.

Barakamon Seishuu Handa Miwa Yamamura Naru Kotoishi Hina Kubota Kentarou Kenta Oohama Dock Pier I Alone Am Holy Boat

Our second half primary bit then involves Miwa’s scruffy liquor selling dad and his brand new boat. Which he has named as “I Alone am Holy” for, uh, reasons of remaining imposing as if his eyes could shoot celestial fires of divine incinerator judgement towards those he thinks may have intentions with his daughter, I assume. Whose name, incidentally, Seishuu inquires about if that was going to be the name of it originally due to tradition, so he is certainly retaining those tidbits from the other week.

This half of the episode I enjoyed significantly more, as it presents our perfectionist calligrapher with a more extreme and out of left field conundrum to navigate. How on Earth to ink a name on the side of a curved boat body, without using lettering stencils because the owner desires it to have a more freehand and personality driven unique look. In turn, our lead gets one shot and no retries, since ink is as ink does. With a combination of carefree children running around underfoot as well. They naturally play in to the vision he ends up pretty much by necessity needing to create in an effort to fix the errors they introduce to the equation with their grubby hands, and in this way we again speak to Seishuu’s need to let go more and go with the flow of things rather than attempting to create clinical results in his art form.

By all means, I would not want the show to be all calligraphy all the time, much like how something like Polar Bear’s Cafe was not always about the cafe. But Barakamon does seem to have a better hit rate for me so far when it builds its comedy as character moments around that, than some of the other efforts it has made.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon
Barakamon [Episode five]

 

The episode where Naru, Tamako, Miwa pull their “Teach us calligraphy!” card on Seishuu. Or, at least an episode where that happens, as I can not imagine this will be the last time such an event transpires.

In this case, we turn then to how our sudden penmanship professor can not be in all places at once, and needs to leave the room for a bit while the practice on with what they deem to be repetitive writing exercises. So things turn to questions of if Seishuu is dating, who he would be dating, or perhaps even married to, and our trio of girls generally turning some of his possessions inside out in search of an answer. Antics go as could be expected in this situation, in that even the most promising of potential leads turns up empty. Everyone is very much caught red handed, as opposed to being perhaps a bit more spattered with black ink, and at that I think the scene delivered. Naru freaking out as only a little kid would at the thought of someone dating, the two older teenage girls having their more level headed inquisitive-with-intent-to-embarrass-the-new-guy modality, and so on.

Just a nice little amusing character moment for all those involved, which I appreciated, especially after my previous concerns over the show generally not being as funny in the non-calligraphy moments. Though, perhaps this was arguably still one of those, in that they were supposed to be writing but chose to stop after a while.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Hina Kubota Floating Inner Tubes Ocean Beach Day

The second half revolving around the beach brings those same concerns a bit more up to the surface again though.

I still do not really find Tamako’s “I’m not a secret fujoshi!” character bits all that funny, which is not really a deal killer since it is only a single character and Barakamon has a wider cast to lean on. But, I really do not think the show needed to break out the sea slugs and have characters jerking them off like “Doesn’t this remind you of anything, audience?” Complete with pixelated fluid excretions being generated by grade school girls rubbing the slug.

I mean, hell, there are people who read this blog who know me in real life. They know full well I am not against dropping innuendoes or the like for charged comedic purposes. But, well, I also think this little bit was kind of out of line for a show like this. I do not think Barakamon needs to lean on little girls yanking This Is A Dick Ejaculation Joke style comedy, as it has such a large swath of other and more robust character material it can pull from.

Silver Spoon and Non Non Biyori each made use of their country settings in their own ways for instance that made them really enjoyable for me, and I could show them to non-anime watching friends and family with no fuss. Barakamon feels a lot more otaku oriented for now, sadly, which is a shame.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode six]

 

If you have been reading my opinions on this series for the last several weeks, you have seen my relationship with it has been on the back and forth side.

There is a lot Barakamon has going for it. The rural island community atmosphere is a good mix to want to play with, especially against other recently successful countryside anime like Silver Spoon and Non Non Biyori. Characters have a level of, for lack of a better word, fluidity in movement (not that the actual animation is more frame heavy, but rather favoring sweeping, speedy gestures and such befitting a calligraphy comedy series). It has some good character personalities to deal in and take us out for a ride with. My issues so far then have come primarily from chunks of the show just missing the mark for me on the amusement front, lurching from ghost events in the hospital to fujoshi snipes to having little kids jerk off “Doesn’t this look like a dick!?” marine life onto each other. So I end up liking a half episode here and there, then it wobbles off somewhere. But, I do not think it has been a bad show so far on the whole.

So, that all being said, if you have been keeping score with Barakamon yourself at home, you would have probably seen this episode by now. And you would likely think I would like it a lot more than some of these other episodes so far.

Assuming I have done a reasonable enough job in conveying my opinions in the past to get you that far, then yes, you would be right!

Barakamon Seishuu Handa Kousuke Kanzaki Naru Kotoishi Hina Kubota Standing on the Roof Flying Paper Airplanes

I feel this has been the strongest episode of the series since the very first one, and not without good reason.

The episode relied on a very classic standby of comedic set up, wherein some of our characters attempt to obfuscate or otherwise interrupt information about another for the sake of someone else. In this case, the likes of Takao and Kousuke coming to the island, and as Kousuke is the teenage calligrapher who managed to beat the more experienced Seishuu in a previous competition Hiroshi and Miwa attempt to ensure Seishuu does not realize who he is actually dealing with. It is all character based, effective humor mechanics that does not depend on more strained or insular otaku gimmicks, and it is when Barakamon I feel looks its very best as a program. As a rural comedy series, having wider reach or more relatable techniques is I feel part of what one signs up for picking such a show up. In my case, this is part of the delivery I have been hoping for over several weeks now.

That Kousuke is already a known figure to Seishuu, so all the efforts of Miwa and Hiroshi are for naught, is also itself useful. It means rather our leading calligrapher can deal a bit more directly with issues relating to why he is on the island, this younger admirer of his work thinking Seishuu’s time on the island is actually damaging his technique somehow, and all that. It transitions well between these first and second thematic halves, which has been a definite issue for the series I feel when it has made its more extreme seesawing elsewhere.

It was a nice, solid episode about where the source of calligraphy only Seishuu can write may lie, and I hope we see more like it going forwards.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon
Barakamon [Episode seven]

 

Takao and Kousuke have already hit the end of their vacation? Well, that is a shame.

I am sure we will end up seeing more of them before the series is through of course, but having them arrive at the island community last episode only to have them leave by the end of this one seems a little abrupt. Another episode, or half an episode, could have been made of their trip I would say. It would space things out a bit more, especially for an episode like this. It so wanted to have both its incredibly manic stages like Takao powering up like he was a Drangonball Z character as he mimicked their esteemed calligraphy director while also shooting for personal moments like being inspired by the day at the pier with friends to do a large calligraphy work with fish as the brush.

I touched on a lot of this last week in particular, as I rather enjoyed that episode, but when the series veers into its more manic stages is when I tend to be the least interested in what is going on. I do not feel the show tends to handle the transitional bridge between its amped up and heartfelt scenes with much grace. And it usually comes at the expense of the latter, which is why I would rather prefer this show to pick a comedic tonal speed and stick with it.

If a show wants to just run speedlights, that is one approach, but it is then in more extreme danger when it then aims to lessen its resolve on that front and slow down in the middle of the intersection than if it had just kept going, as it were.

Barakamon Takao Kawafuji Island Vacation Imagination Location Bubbles

Unlike a case like Space☆Dandy, which is an episodic and creative reset each and every time, Barakamon is a more linear character comedy.

So I feel the need to pick at Barakamon more, as it seems like it wants to be two separate kinds of comedy shows at once, but they are fighting for space and territory. And in a set of circumstances where the show is not constantly resetting itself, or is not long enough to know it has the time for both, that conflict keeps boiling up in ways that end up falling flat for me in the laughs department. Polar Bear’s Cafe had plenty of manic out of left field moments for instance, and I enjoyed it immensely, but they were punchy because the show was also long enough to know it had plenty of time for the heartwarming scenes as well. In turn, it could provide ample attention for both, and over the curve of the show all these events felt like they were each within the same series.

I find that a nice amount of my Barakamon reflections tend to be me comparing and cross examining it against other comedies, which can come off as if I hate it more than other comedy series I am watching. Which really is not the case: Tokyo ESP is far worse, for one, and Gundam-san is very lukewarm for me and that is only because I am a Gundam fan willing to give it rope to play with. But, Barakamon more often than not tends to be in a range where I am not physically or mentally laughing at what it is up to, while also not being perturbed on the same level as I am by Tokyo ESP.

Takao speaks this episode of potentially having wasted his vacation, and that would be a pretty terrible sentiment to have towards this show in the end should I still feel in this weird neutral zone several weeks from now. I mean, even a bad vacation tends to at least generate some stories to share with others.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon
Barakamon [Episode eight]

 

“No actual live insects were harmed in the production of this television episode.”

Anyway, I had heard from some who are far more enamored with Barakamon than I that this was a lesser week of the series before I actually started it. I can see where they may have been coming from, I suppose. Seishuu going bug catching and the arguments that ensue does not have the same particular level of energy one would be able to suss out had it been the Seishuu – Naru vector, for one thing. Of course, the entire reason for her being removed is due to the insect catching in question being for her birthday, so she can not be involved in obtaining her own intended present. And, on a certain level, it is nice to see more of these less prominent younger characters, who tend to come in and out of various scenes but usually get overshadowed by other personalities.

Perhaps that is a similar situation the creative staff found themselves in however, as Kentarou is the only one able to carry any kind of presence here. There really is not anything wrong with the actual situational comedy scenario they are in, really, catching bug as they are. Harmless (unless you are a beetle), and none of the more insular quirks that sometimes take me out of the moment in other episodes. But, I could see it being a little on a less memorable side I suppose, in trying to see what the fans of the series see. As again, I do not think it is necessarily a bad show so much as its humor tends to just run off of me when it is in those more hyped up antics.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Tamako Arai Miwa Yamamura Oban Festival Fireworks Sparklers Grave Visit Kimono

The grave visitations and celebration second half of the episode coming to line up around the Obon season is a nice little nod. I’d have loved to see this episode bumped up to last week, actually, when Mastutaro even took off for it over the weekend, though I know the actual calendar time of the holiday varies on locale.

The actual scripting I think is a little on the awkward side. Statements like “Are you sure you want an outsider like me at your family grave?” and “Sensei’s gradually starting to fit in here” flow strangely to me, despite them being completely grammatically sound. As if the characters need to harp on the themes of the series to the outside viewer this late in the game or something to make sure nobody misses them, that sort of thing. But, tonally, I do like what it is going for. Local area customs such as the onde dancers, the general progression of the lighting to indicate the passing of time and how long the characters are actually there at the graves for the duration of the day, and so on. Some nice fireworks and community offerings, etc.

I think this was one of the stronger episodes of the series, really, even if I may sound sort of hedged on it. Its the sort of thing that perhaps does not play as well to lengthy discourse, but was a generally pleasant experience in the actual viewing. It stuck to a more even tone than some of the wilder diversions and tangents the show gets into a points, and so I feel the overall flow was all the better this time for it. It is interesting to me, then, how some folks who I see on Twitter or on blogs seemed perhaps a little less enthused by it this week, while for me I would mark it as more of an upswing.

 

 

 

 


Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode nine]

 

Of anything I am watching this season, this series tends to be one I tend to worry about the most.

I mean, this is as close to “The Feel Good Rustic Comedy Hit Of The Season!” as one gets from the crop of shows this summer. And I enjoy those, by and large! But, I feel as if it is perhaps only now getting into a good stride with me. Which is concerning if only because I want it to maintain that sort of progress rather than take a step back towards the more manic “I’m not a fujoshi!” humor or the like which is displayed in its earlier rounds. Sometimes the show works for me, other times not so much. I just hope to ensure I can leave with racking up more positives in my pocket, you know?

We have two in-universe weeks until Seishuu’s next exhibition participation then, which almost but not quite lines up with there only being three episodes of the series after this. As such, the actual show could either be the finale, so as to wrap things up there. Or perhaps the more likely option would be to use it as the second to last episode such that any aftermath and “You know, I want to stay on the island” feelings can be executed on in that last episode. Either way, he does not have a whole lot to show for the, well, show at the start of this episode.

But that is a problem for future Seishuu to deal with.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Hina Kubota Hiroshi Kido Seishuu Handa Bullies From Other Town Crying Playground

Our down home island shenanigans this episode essentially are a collage of the kinds of things a series like this is best at trying to pull.

The gas bath does not work, so we need to switch to firewood. Leading man from the more metropolitan areas? Has no idea how to build a fire, collect the right wood, etc. He requires people outside of the bath to maintain it, and thus a natural vector for other character involvements. Some simple cooking recipe tips (I might get some of my own mileage out of the cucumber miso dish dealt with here), before having the meal interrupted because bullying is afoot among the children. Tarzan swings over a river. Getting lost going home and seeing the stars at night.

It does not really dwell on any one particular thing for too long, which is perhaps to its benefit. It keeps the scenes tighter in focus and pacing, and allows fewer opportunities for it to derail itself. Now given, one could also say this episode had quite a bit of a mid-season feel to it. At least, this is the perspective I walked away from the experience with, due to that more sampler platter progression model as opposed to its tendency to often have two distinct halves to an episode. Not needing to delve too far into any one area, just a spread of characters across different locations and circumstances with situational humor to fit the bill that can play off their personalities a bit.

Perhaps also though I would prefer this being around the middle stage so I could be taking it all as a sign of having so much more left to build off of this material, rather than some of what I considered to be weaker episodes earlier. Then also knowing in the back of my head the series is nearly over, and so it does not have a whole lot of time left to capitalize off of this kind of episode.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode ten]

 

This follows one of the two blueprints I had laid out not that long ago, and what I had deemed the more likely scenario at that. The idea Seishuu would indeed leave the island, the second to last episode will deal with anything related from that, leaving room in the last one for him to return / realize where he belongs / come to terms with what his calligraphy and he himself needed in life / etc.

We need to get to that penultimate rollout of potential melancholy and sadness though, and so here we are with trying to put some finishing touches on things regarding our leading man’s time and experiences on the island.

Fundamentally, this episode is thematically / topically sliced in half as many of them have been in the past. Here though, given the overall goal here is that this will be Seishuu’s last day in this community, it does allow opportunity to show different sides of that. In the first part, we receive attention on him getting roped into assisting the process of building a typhoon wall, in addition to rewriting a net set of commemorative signage for those who originally donated to construct the area temple. While at the time of these activities he does not yet know this will be his last day here, it jives well with the notion of how he has managed to integrate himself (even if that at times has been either against his will or to his embarrassment).  Likewise, these are each pretty gosh darn important tasks to have someone assist with, one being for physical protection and another a kind of cultural preservation, so there is a degree of trust implicit in these interactions and requests as well. Heck, that Seishuu turns out to be really rather good at assembling and sliding together a sound wall out of the haphazard collection of area rocks even speaks to his eye for having extremely precise, formal calligraphy.

So, while that had gotten him partially into this whole relocation mess to begin with (after having felt insulted and punching out the Director and all), it does even here have outside applications beyond his traditional trade.

Barakamon Seishuu Handa Tamako Arai Miwa Yamamura Curled Up On The Floor Backsides

The second part, dealing in the festival as it was, is essentially our more personable approach to the matters at hand.

We get all the classic sights and sounds, ranging from goldfish scooping to food booths to fireworks. It is a sentiment I have certainly expressed before elsewhere when they have come up, but I really do enjoy festival episodes. Regardless of if they are pleasant affairs or an instigator of a larger dramatic point, they tend to be visually colorful while also acting as a gear check for all the character interactions and relationships thus far. On a thumbs up versus thumbs down level in viewing an overall show, they provide ample opportunity to see a sum of its parts acting together in quick succession. Essentially, while I was colder on what Barakamon was up for a number of episodes, this is a chance for me as a viewer to reflect back on things a bit early before the end and gauge how much I may or may not have warmed up to it over time.

And I feel I have, in ways.

And I would rather start off a bit nonplussed by a series which then grows some on me over time in small aspects here and there as opposed to a number of other ways a piece of media could go. With this direction, I have more faith and confidence it should not botch the ending, which I would have been far more questionable regarding back during episode two and three or so.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode eleven]

 

For our change of scenery episode, we have ourselves a non-standard opening focused on the more clinical cityscape environment Seishuu has returned to. Not much to be said in the way of music or the like, and indeed far more quiet than how this series normally starts.

It should, appropriately I think, feel a bit more alien or foreign.

Of course, any awkwardness factor does also seep in through Seishuu’s actions, which is where the episode is going to succeed or fail for many. Personally, as I have wavered back and forth a fair amount of this series (I have never outright thought it below average, but it had to struggle to get me to higher levels over time), my feelings for Seishuu here are rather mixed. I can understand, for instance, his immense nervousness at meeting the Director again after punching her out the last time they met. Even his being nervous about showing off his work to him after the long exile, I can get behind the fear that would exist for him of if his time away would be seen as worth it or not and trying pass of his “Star” calligraphy as a test work rather than a prized final product.

But whatever moment was supposed to be him grandstanding and launching tea at the big canvas to ruin or destroy it did not really do anything for me, comically, as a character moment, or otherwise.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Tamako Arai Akihiko Arai Hina Kubota Kentarou Oohama Miwa Yamamura Calling Over Phone Fighting
This goes back to my tonal struggle with the series earlier on, where it seems to want to maintain a more realistic mode of operating with its comedy and then tries to pull more extravagant whiplash moments. And those parts of the show have always, even now, just sort of broken down for me. I never really laugh at those moments, am sold by the intimidation they may try to sell, or what have you. They seem more jarring or out of place to me than anything else. A series like Polar Bear’s Cafe pulls similar “quiet situation of the heart suddenly cranked up” stunts I end up enjoying, but my mental abstraction level is on a different plane because of talking animals running food establishments. Similarly, the bondange misunderstanding joke used this episode also did not hit where I feel it should have, as it took what I would have definitely laughed at had it maintained the uncomfortable tone and instead ramped itself up to lots of excited screaming and yelling.

I had mentioned before I felt the series was a bit more otaku-oriented in its rural humor antics than Non Non Biyori or Silver Spoon, and that still feels about right. It leans harder on being louder and more directly trying to tell the audience this is a big funny part in certain showpiece sections, rather than more indirectly trusting the character dynamics.

But, humor is as always pretty much one of the hardest things when it comes to individual tastes. Trust me, I am never really all that pleased when so many other folks whose opinions I trust are having such a grand time with a slice of life comedy series, and I just can not manage to get into it on quite the same heights. I am sure others have perhaps thought the same of me at points, when I may have clearly enjoyed a comedy they just can not click with in the same manner.

I can say that as a character moment it does make sense to me how frustrated and lost Seishuu is after he has destroyed his “Star” work for the show and needs, due to his own mouth, to make something even better. And failing at it so badly in his different (well, returned to) environment from his time on the island. So as a storyline, the phone call reminding him of the people he knows and the connections he now has there, that is still going down the route I would expect and hope for from a series like this. His final work, unseen in this episode but whose display is looming, sure to include those memories and people associated with them.

So I am not dreading the finale, not at all. It will be nice to see what the series considers his artistic culmination of thoughts regarding all of the day to day misadventures that have made up his previous weeks.

 

 

 

 

Barakamon

Barakamon [Episode twelve]

 

Nothing much left to do but get Seishuu back to the island, make sure his place is ready for when he (re)arrives, and find out where his finale calligraphy project places in competition. Nothing wrong with that.

Emi Handa, Seishuu’s mom, gets a lot of understandable focus this episode. She was around last week as well of course, but her presence here stands out all the more in the series of family events and interactions to see if her son is allowed to leave again. Namely, well, she is tonally really amped up and hyperactive compared to everything else. She can not just be against her son going to the island again, she needs to plaster his entire room in small signs to that effect. She needs to hurl hundreds of punches like a cartoon character (she is a cartoon character, but work with me here). When the other three people of the four involved in the debate regarding if Seishuu gets to leave again, and they are all presented as more level headed guys (including Seishuu’s dad), she just comes off to me more as Anime Mom over Seishuu’s Mom. It is not a huge deal, but the dissonance of her character portrayal against how the others come off make her viewpoint regarding keeping her son at home much harder to identity with. Then again, it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that Seishuu will be going back. But, I do have the feeling it could have made warmer humor of her reactions rather than making her seem like a crazy person if they were not as extreme compared to everyone else. That could be more of my own sense of humor speaking though.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Tamako Arai Akihiko Arai Hina Kubota Kentarou Oohama Miwa Yamamura Daisuke Yutaka Pose Cleaning Room

But dad was on the island back in his day and has the photos to prove it and reflect on, and in conjunction with the care package from the islanders for Seishuu him mom changes her mind and we are on our way back. Same old airport, same oceanside tractor ride back to town, and all the same faces we have been used to seeing this whole time. And Handa is ok with that, despite coming in fifth place in the competition he had entered with his special calligraphy of everyone’s names. And they are ok with that, insofar as they only want to know if he is happy with how he placed, and he is. Long will their adventures continue into the future.

I have been back and forth a lot with this show over the course of the season, which has been gnawing at me as I know for numerous others Barakamon has been amongst their surprise favorites of the season. It never really sunk down too deep on my internal scales though, so I can not say I was ever too dire in my opinions of it. It just never soared for me like it did for many, especially when it is held against recent rural slice of life anime series competition such as Non Non Biyori and Silver Spoon, both of which I enjoyed more.

That said, I think it is a nice above average show, and I do not regret watching it.

Barakamon Naru Kotoishi Tamako Arai Akihiko Arai Hina Kubota Kentarou Oohama Miwa Yamamura Hiroshi Kido Jumping To Seishuu Handa Return Confetti

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