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#9. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKsTkTEQkac
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Watch this series on Hulu/Funimation: http://www.funimation.com/shows/barakamon
My vlog about the themes in episode eleven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCmwKsMHPfI&list=PL2KmdJLQ6OfoRumaa4t-TghKeZ1pcYUeE&index=3
While I may have earlier praised Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun as the funniest anime of 2014, Barakamon comes through at a very close second, and even contains perhaps the single most memorable joke of any anime in 2014. However, where Barakamon really shines is in its ability to use comedy on the way to delivering an emotionally resonant narrative which, while at times kind of cheesy and certainly not horribly original, is nonetheless highly effective.
It tells of struggling twenty-three year-old artist Handa Seishuu, who moves out to a backwoods southern island of Japan at his father’s demand after getting himself in trouble by punching out an art gallery director in Tokyo who criticized his calligraphy. On the island, Handa slowly makes friends and finds a place among the villagers, mostly through the help of a rambunctious little girl named Naru, who provides a lot of the show’s energy and comedy.
The central theme of Barakamon is that, “the struggle is real”–the artistic struggle I mean. The series expertly rides the line between acknowledging how silly and dumb and privileged Handa is to be having these sort of post-adolescent artistic crises, but also admiring his work and admitting that, however silly it may look from the outside, the conflicts and revelations that one undergoes as an artist can have very real effects and meaning.
While the main narrative focus is Handa’s quest for inspiration and evolution as an artist, all of the comedic and occasionally heartwarming scenarios surrounding him are what ultimately affect the changes in his personality and capabilities. Actually, it may be that the real theme is how an artist is fundamentally a part of their environment. (For more of my thoughts on these themes, I’ll link a vlog in the description that I did on episode eleven earlier this year.)
While the central themes are sure to be relatable to anyone who’s ever struggled as an artist, the main pillar holding this series up is the strength of its characters. Handa rides the perfect lines between being an idiot and a genius–a nice guy and an asshole–a whiny city boy and a legit artist–so he fits into all kinds of comedic scenarios and remains wholly likeable as a character. It helps as well that Daisuke Ono delivers one of the best comedy voice performances of the year portraying him.
And on that subject, the most notable vocal performance in the series must be that of nine-year-old Hara Suzuko, who knocks it out of the park playing Naru with consistent hilarity. I would expect that comedy is one of the hardest things to perform as a voice actor, since your timing and manipulation of your voice have to be spot-on to nail a joke just right, and hearing a little kid nail both of those things on her very first voice role was highly impressive.
Rounding out the main cast, there’s Miwa and Tamako, the two middle-school girls who hang around Handa’s house and provide an important middle-ground between Naru’s immaturity and Handa’s other brand of immaturity. There are a number of other supporting characters, some of whom are pretty funny, but none particularly memorable.
Barakamon may have been a little bit cheesy or convenient at times, but never in a way that made it lose believability for me. I always found myself relating to Handa’s conflicts and quirks, and laughing consistently throughout the series, so for my money Barakamon was not only the single best anime comedy series of 2014, but also a gripping emotional tale as well. You can watch the series legally for free over on Hulu and Funimation.
So what did you think of Barakamon? Let me know in the comments below, and in case you missed them check out my videos on #8, Baby Steps, and #9, Inari Konkon Koi Iroha, and stick around on my channel to see what my sixth-favorite anime of the year will be tomorrow. Also, if you find yourself wondering something like, “why is #7 a day late,” it’d be a good idea to follow my twitter where I make announcements like, “too drunk to finish today’s video on time.”