Earlier this year, anime publisher Funimation Entertainment released the slice-of-life comedy series, Barakamon, in a Blu-ray and DVD combo pack, and with how much I enjoyed the manga, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to check out this entertaining anime.
Based on the manga series written and illustrated by Satsuki Yoshino, Barakamon follows the journey of Seishu Handa, a young and promising calligrapher. During an exhibit, Seishu loses his temper, striking the director of the exhibition; putting him in hot water with the rest of his community. To help smooth things over, Seishu’s father, a well-known master calligrapher, sends him away to the remote Goto Islands, in the hopes that a tranquil environment will help him improve his craft.
Upon his arrival, to what seems like the middle of nowhere, Seishu finds that the islands are anything but peaceful. This is mainly due to the kids in the community, who had been using his new home as their hideout, and they have no intention of giving it up. Add the middle and high school kids, with the younger ones, and poor Seishu has a house full, and his hands full, especially with Naru, a high energy and curious elementary schooler who is fascinated with the calligraphy prodigy.
The thing about Barakamon, is that like the manga, the story feels more like a series of separate little adventures. The anime ties everything together a little more, but most of the time, you feel as though just about every episode could be enjoyed separately.
Seishu moves to the island, and while he does still do his calligraphy, most of his time is spent running around on different little adventures with all the kids. From taking them to the beach to swim, to teaching Naru, Miwa, and Tamako calligraphy, and trying to find Naru a birthday present. Seishu’s life is filled with interesting, though not very spectacular, moments.
The most entertaining moments in the series, come from Seishu and Naru’s interactions with one another, which can be sweet, like staying with her during the Bon Festival, or funny, like when they first meet and she keeps sneaking in to his house, resulting in him physically throwing both her, and the village leader, out. Naru knows exactly how to get under Seishu’s skin, and everything from her wrong use of slang, to odd facial expressions, provide some good laughs. Another thing that makes for a laugh, is Tamako’s fujoshi side, which slips out every time she sees Hiroshi and Seishu together. It also doesn’t help that they do find themselves in some awkward situations, every time she is around.
After watching the series on both DVD and Blu-ray, I really didn’t notice a big difference in the quality, except that the menus are better on the Blu-ray version. Aside from that, the animation on both versions was smooth, and the color was vivid. The series is a little slower, so there is less action to keep up with, but what it misses in high speed movement, it more than makes up for in the facial expressions and reactions of its characters, Naru especially.
The series includes Japanese and English audio options, and I typically watch a series half and half, unless I prefer one to the other. With Barakamon, the Japanese voice cast was great, but I found the English cast to be just as good, so I did watch a few more episodes in English than usual. The subtitles also had good flow, while remaining on screen for a decent length of time, and being easy to read.
The packaging for Barakamon was one of my favorites from Funimation recently. It is still a standard Blu-ray case, with slots to store both the DVD and Blu-ray versions neatly. What made it appeal to me more however, is that it also had a slipcase, featuring Seishu and Naru, with a rough texture, that gave the feel of its manga counterpart. Included as on-disc extras, were the usual trailers for Funimation releases, the clean opening and closing, as well as commentary for episodes one and twelve.
Barakamon might not have a story that pulls you in for all twelve episodes, but it does offer a fun and lighthearted daily life adventure. The episodes are tied together, but not so much that you feel lost after not watching for a while. The characters are the main draw for the series, each is unique, and all their interactions with one another are worth watching. It does have some dirty jokes, but nothing that would really be over the top. It makes for a nice slowed-down type of series, to watch when you need a break from something action oriented or dramatic.
If you enjoyed series like Sweetness & Lightning or Bunny Drop (the anime, and the manga before the time skip), then Barakamon is a series worth considering. The manga version of Barakamon is currently published in North America by Yen Press, along with the prequel series, Handa-kun. The Handa-kun anime has also been acquired by Funimation Entertainment.
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Runtime: 300 minutes
Number of Episodes: 12
Languages: English and Japanese audio, English subtitles
Age Rating: TV-14
Release Date: Aug. 9, 2016
(A review copy of Barakamon was provided by Funimation Entertainment.)