Going into Barakamon I wasn’t really expecting much at all. I mean I wanted to see it, but that decision was pretty much made on a whim. However the closer I got to watching the show, the more I worried. I hadn’t watched a single Kinema Citrus show before this, and I knew next to nothing about the staff. So when I was watching Barakamon I was pretty much blind.
Oh I had a basic description in the back of my head: Calligrapher dude has a violent out lash so he moves to a secluded island and meets some kid who reignites his artistic drive. Really the thing that worried me the most was how good the actual show would be quality wise, and well I can safely say that Barakamon was actually a very good experience! Now when I say it’s a good experience I don’t necessarily mean it’s a ground breaking show of the highest quality, because Barakamon is definitely not that. What it is though is a surprisingly charming, fluidly animated show with a great protagonist; and for a slice of life show that’s all you really need.
The story of Barakamon is pretty simple, one day our protagonist Seishu Handa, a young and traditionalist calligrapher, has a breakdown and punches a critic in the face. After this his career is almost ruined, and in order to reflect and regain some creative spirit, he moves to the isolated Goto Island, where he hopes the environment will be calm, serene, and quiet. Little does he know that making base in his new home is the young ruffian girl Naru Kotoishi, a child residing on the island who starts pestering Seishu the moment he moves in. He seems to be Seishu’s nightmare in disguise, but as his first day on the island continues he finds the girl teaching him more about creativity and experience than he ever expected.
So as you can tell Barakamon is a cute show about a little kid warming a cold, ill-tempered man’s heart. Basically it’s the kind of story that you see in cheesy religious and family movies. Personally I don’t have much experience this type of story, but my main concern going in would be that the child character would either be too annoying or too perfect and saintly. You know, those kind of kids who are to perfect to exist in this world and reside in crappy movies like the Christmas Shoes? Luckily though Barakamon finds a rather nice balance between the two extremes, making the kid annoying enough to be considered a realistic young child, but also making him cute enough so the audience doesn’t loathe him.
Yes, I’ll admit that a kid like Naru teaching a guy like Seishu to take risks is a little cheesy, but it’s hard to care when the main character is so likeable and has great chemistry with Naru. Seriously Seishu is a boss, and I relate to his struggle hardcore. As someone who could be considered an aspiring artist, Seishu’s issues just speak to me. Sometimes you want to lash out your critics, even when you know what they’re telling you is right. You deny it, and try to seclude yourself thinking you’ll get artistic inspiration from a calm place, when really sometimes you just need to get up and see the world.
The best scene in the episode is when it’s nearing night time and Seishu is walking home with Naru after an unfortunate dip in the nearby ocean. Naru starts to climb a rope on a wall to view the currently setting sun, saying, “Sometimes you’ll never see something’s true beauty until you try to.” This reminds Seishu of what the critic he assaulted said to him, and he to climbs the wall. On the top of the wall Seishu is impressed by how beautiful the sunset really is, and how wrong he was about how you could understand it’s beauty from just looking at the sky.
This moment seems to represent what Barakamon strives to be, a cute, heartwarming, and thoughtful show. Watching Seishu get over his problem with the help of Naru seems like it will be a lot of fun based off this first episode, and I’m definitely glad I haphazardly decided to check it out. There’s a lot of potential here, and I’m looking forward to seeing whether it grows and expands on its simple themes or just stays a cute diversion. Either way I think it will hard to be complain about the final outcome.