It is not hard to find an anime that has a good comedic focus. Anime like Nichijou and One-Punch Man are pretty recent additions into the medium, and are masters of their craft. Not only sporting better animation than most action-focused shows, their setups and punchlines are in a class of their own. However, if you want to find a great comedy with an actual story to it, it’s a bit harder. Me being the story snob that I am, I tend to swing towards comedy that also has good characters and a decent plot. I love One-Punch Man and Nichijou, but when it comes to great comedic stories, there’s one that sticks in my head.
Barakamon is decently popular, it definitely had some time to shine, but I never felt like it got the attention it should’ve. This anime is actually from last year, so it isn’t a recent thing either. However, since the anime to its prequel manga, Handa-kun, just received its own anime treatment, and since Funimation is giving an English Dub to Barakamon, I think it’s the perfect time to give this anime a little light.
Barakamon follows the story of Sei Handa, a young calligrapher with a bright future. Well, he had a bright future until the curator for the calligraphy event insulted his work and he straight up decks the old man. At the strong suggestion of his father, Handa’s then sent to an island out in the rural areas of Japan to cool his head. But instead of settling in and taking in the pristine beauty of the countryside, he is harassed by a little girl named Naru. Naru’s a born and bred hick, which contrasts Handa’s city-like upbringing, so it’s safe to say that Handa isn’t really used to this sort of life. It only gets more hectic because it seems the rest of the village people are the same level of strange. But after a while he begins to get shocks of inspiration and begins to write calligraphy like never before. Now he desperately tries to discover his new style, all while living life with the extremely colorful townspeople.
Barakamon draws a lot of its humor from the ill-comfort of a city boy like Handa being in the wrong neck of the woods, and a lot of it pays off. Maybe it’s because, I myself being brought up in a small community as well, I find enjoyment out of a city-dweller flopping around in a panic. But I can also say that this village is pretty authentic. There’s the super-friendly old farmer, old women that are somehow still alive, the children causing havoc and spreading myths to scare other kids. In addition to all this is Naru, who is undoubtedly the best kid character in an anime ever. Handa’s ill-comfort is pretty funny, but Naru’s constant misadventures and hijinks being the source of it makes it even funnier. She really is the village goofball, and her ridiculous antics are usually followed by other kids and even adults. At the same time, the whole village feels connected, which helps lend to the homey and laidback ideal that the show is trying to get across. Handa’s demeanor of course changes gradually the longer he’s there, and the drama plays into Handa’s battle between being steady or overcoming mediocrity. It definitely pulls it off with some great laughs along the way too.
Matching up with the humor is the presentation. This show is definitely well-animated, with a lot of motion and exaggeration to both get a good dramatic moment and help with the delivery of a punchline. Not only that, the design work for the characters is not only good, but gives a sort of elasticity to them, especially concerning Naru. The variety of expressions you get from the characters gives the characters more realism. Speaking of which, the voice acting is very well done. Handa’s actor can show moments of coolness and moments of fluster to sell a joke. Naru’s actress also helps a lot of the jokes because of her realistic little girl sounding curiosity, which makes sense because she actually is voiced by a child actress. It may sound a bit deadpan at times, but that’s just how kids talk. The soundtrack is also very whimsical and upbeat, and is a joy to listen to whenever I’m working on a project.
Barakamon is a very interesting and whole-hearted anime. The multitude of characters that are thrown at you all have their part to play, and they all at least get one good scene each. But the strongest aspect of the show is the relationship between Handa and Naru. Handa’s clashing ideals with the country-folk provides some great comedy, and Naru’s honest stupidity and rambunctiousness makes it even better. I highly recommend Barakamon, as it truly is something to write home about.