I put this off until the last minute as I do every year I’ve participated and I didn’t think I’d be able to finish this show on time. However, I ended up marathoning the whole thing in one day because it was just so relaxing and enjoyable.
One thing I had assumed about Barakamon was that Naru was a boy. I was certain I had seen someone refer to her as such so when I watched and saw that she was a girl, I was floored. It’s always kind of nice when something you assumed you knew about a series you start to watch ends up incorrect. It may sound bad of me but I think this fact helped my enjoyment a lot. I wasn’t interested because I thought it was a tale of brotherly camaraderie. I think seeing such a little girl be so rough and tumble and fearless was way, way more interesting.
And it’s not as if older man befriends young girl is creepy in any way. Strangely, it’s a believable enough relationship and seems to just make sense given the community they’re in? He ends up friends with a whole bunch of kids with Naru at the centre. It reminded me a lot of always being the older child and being surrounded by children. You kind of just go along with the things they do even when you really don’t want to.
I think the reason I was able to enjoy this, a rural slice of life show, was because of it’s adult characters. Handa, Kawafuji, and even Hiro at times all have relatable adult moments, sometimes mature and often times not. Yet they were constantly believable as adults. (Miwa and Hiro being regarded as adult characters but still being irresponsible teenagers who don’t realize the impact their actions have on kids was a great scene and I loved the beach episode a lot)
Handa was a great main character. Way better than I expected from the synopsis of the show which made him sound way more like an ass than he was. (Incidentally, Naru was also far cuter and likable than I expected)
He gets used to island life and warms up to it’s inhabitants incredibly quickly. Which is good since if half the show was him trying to get rid of everybody, it would have been way less enjoyable. It was because he went along with things that there were so many great moments. Daisuke Ono did a fantastic job as well and constantly knocked it out of the park. 1
That isn’t to say the younger characters are bad. On the contrary. They’re very cute and entertaining in ways different from the adult characters. Then again, every character in this show is great and likable. Even characters you think you’re initially meant to dislike end up being endearing in some way. That’s an impressive feat but crucial to a show like this.
And everybody has such interesting relationships which each other. I guess that comes with growing up in such a rural community that you get to know everyone.
Still, seeing how Miwa and Tama aren’t above goofing around with kids or how fast the kids latch onto outsiders made this show feel so filled with love. Really, there’s hardly anything negative in the show at all.
A fantastic detail was the casting of actual children for the young kids, like Naru and Hina. It’s such a small thing but gives so much character and makes the kids feel so much realer. They were already pretty believable kids but man, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed the show as much if this were different.
Miwa and Tama were an interesting parallel to Naru and Hina as well. I found myself constantly wondering what Naru would be like when she got older, how much more different she would become from the child she is now. Then, of course, I realized she would just probably be a lot like Miwa. An obnoxious but really good person. And it made me happy knowing that.
That thought alone though kind of highlights a theme I realized through the series. Well, theme might not be the correct term (that would be more like how Tamako Market’s overall theme is unrequited love) but it’s an idea that’s constantly present. Not directly addressed until the end but always lingering there.
As in, Hiro reflecting that he’ll and perhaps Miwa and Tama will be leaving the island soon or Handa realizing that Naru will grow up even if he’s not around. That all being said, I was oddly happy when that’s the final line of the show (Handa saying he needs to enjoy the time he has right now).
I absolutely never would have watched Barakamon had it not been for this rec. Which is a shame, really. I ended up enjoying it a lot. Definitely not enough to be a favourite, maybe even not enough for it to be really memorable. But in the moment, it was definitely a treat that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. That’s worth a lot to me, anyways.
- It may sound weird but the sound design was fantastic in the show. It made a lot of jokes pop just by being done so well. ↩