Company: Kinema Citrus
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 06 July 2014 – 27 September 2014
Synopsis: After punching an art critic in the face, Handa Seishu, a budding calligrapher, is sent by his father to a small rural island to reassess his life. While there he befriends a number of locals, including a gang of kids that hang out at his house. As they fish, catch bugs and lounge on the beach, Handa learns to appreciate the slower pace of the island and the time spent with his new friends. He uses these experiences as inspiration for his new works, hoping that a new perspective will take his art forward.
Creating art: Shows how fleeting inspiration and creativity can be.
Child characters: Some of the best around; Naru is a gem.
Humour: Simple but effective.
After the credits: Be sure to watch all the way to the end.
Barakamon has an amazing, heartwarming innocence to it. Handa, or Sensei as he is affectionately referred to on the island, arrives feeling as if he has been travelling briskly down a highway all his life only to have hit a sudden detour down a dusty dirt road. He doesn’t know quite what to do with himself, so he ends up following along with the local kids. This youthful energy has a great effect on the normally reserved and withdrawn Handa and, as much as he protests, he learns to like life on the island. He finds he is not only welcomed but loved and cherished by the kids, especially a young girl named Naru who takes to Sensei immediately and never lets go.
Naru is a fantastic child character whose awe and wonder at the world around her are infectious. Unlike so many similar characters, she never becomes irritating. Instead, she bring a great sense of humour to everything she does. But Naru never steals the spotlight entirely. The other kids, including two troublemaking middle schoolers and a comparatively sane high schooler, bring their own wisdom and ideas to their Sensei’s experience. These characters all felt like real people I would like to spend time with. When this crew gets Handa to smile, I couldn’t help but smile along.
The atmosphere remains relaxed yet upbeat, always with a sharp sense of humour. The jokes are simple, but well timed and executed, often using the animation to great comedic effect, especially through Handa and Naru’s facial expressions. Also beautifully animated are the calligraphy scenes with great splashes of black ink flying across the once blank pages. This is tied in well with the opening and ending sequences which both feature ink prominently, demonstrating it as a tool of creation.
This theme of art and creation and, by extension, inspiration is central to the story. Handa thinks in ink and tries desperately to capture his feeling and experiences in the think black lines on his page. He is not always successful, succumbing to the frustration many aspiring artists have no doubt encountered. What he wants is not just a good piece, but to find his own style. The trials and final resolution of this journey is deeply satisfying.
Barakamon is an anime that will leave you feeling warm inside, if not inspired. Sometimes a welcoming place filled with warm people is exactly what we all need to feel whole again.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Kaikyaku