Never has there been as many instances where an anime was successful in showing nostalgic sentimentality with regards to making us feel homely inside. This once in a blue moon example, that is boasted with sentimentality, shows some of the strangest goofy humor that wouldn’t normally be in a show like Barakamon. Yet, like all surprising gems, what Barakamon does is not simply retread the slice of life with a different style to make it seem different; but instead, breathes all new life with that different style and makes it its own unique identity.
From the moment Barakamon starts, everything is peaceful and serene from how the setting feels intricately subtle in its atmosphere. The art plays a great role into making this possible. There isn’t any brush-stroke style artwork present in it like many shows of this nature, such as Usagi Drop, but it definitely has its influences of say, Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. Not only do the characters and their vivid facial expressions have some influence from that, the environments are neatly crafted in that old-school Studio Ghibli aesthetic.
Going back to what I mentioned previously, many people like to point out the various similarities between Barakamon and Usagi Drop. One main similarity is how the characters are portrayed and express emotion. You have the main male protagonist who is likable, but at the same time can be a bit of a pain for people around him. Then you have the cute girl that everyone adores because of how cute and realistic she comes across in her actions and humorous dialogue. But there is a clear distinction to be me made from both of these shows. While Usagi Drop had its comedic moments, it wasn’t a full-on comedy show and more of a slice-of-life, whereas with Barakamon, it is the exact opposite.
Not to say it is all comedy, but the majority of the time we spend with these characters involve hilarious situations involving the protagonist, Seishuu, and the main little girl, Naru. Even with what I said earlier, just like in Usagi Drop, the chemistry between the two main characters is nothing short of brilliance, but on a different spectrum than in the aforementioned show. Because Barakamon heavily relies on comedy more, the show’s lighthearted story adds a fresh element for us to gander upon. These two play off as complete opposites, personality wise, and over the course of the narrative, they start to grow into each others own rational mindset and become friends in the process.
Its pacing helps in building up Seishuu and Naru’s friendship as a slow process to garner a credible realistic story given in context to its overall tone. With its lack of story, all that it really has going for it is the characters’ growth and how Seishuu is more accepting to the snotty kids that give him a difficult time in the island. While I feel as though the adult characters seem weaker on this aspect than the children, they still feel more serviceable to the show than actually making an enormous impression. Nevertheless, all of the characters at least have one comedic moment that proves to be an instant joy that will seer into your memory after watching it.
Any story fulfilling a slice of life show like Barakamon can be second nature depending on the context. It does at least try to convey a narrative that involves Seishuu trying to succeed as a local calligrapher in this new local town he is in. However, it does not really emphasize it as great importance since it pales in comparison to the comedy in terms of sheer value and consideration. What does make it less of an issue is that the comedy is actually great to get through, so there is always something to look forward to amidst most of the drab story that they shoehorned in.
One aspect of the story that does not venture slightly off of a cliff is the character development in the cast. Every character has a distinct characteristic, while maybe cliched in a few areas, that ultimately makes them unforgettable. Their comedic interactions certainly help in sealing this asset, thanks to the brilliant comedic timing the writers definitely put their effort into. Honestly, the best parts involve the children and the way the writers portray them as genuine kids and not the typical sensational ones we often see in Romantic Comedy/Ecchi animes that we’re used to. Now that doesn’t signify as a bad thing for those particular genres as they are unique in their own right and context, but it is a nice change of pace to see an anime that does try to take it on a pragmatic level.
Delightful and sentimental are two definitive words that can describe Barakamon as a whole. Think of it as a journey through your inner childhood and how you viewed the world as this happy-go-lucky place to live in. As you grow older, you don’t think that way anymore, and this is where Barakamon really hits home on setting a subtle message. When we look through Seishuu’s viewpoint, we can empathize his pain of going through rowdy kids like Naru as an annoyance at the first encounter. Then, at the same time, we spend some time on Naru’s rationale and can also relate to how we’ve all been as little kids. It doesn’t nearly take a side on how we should treat each other, but merely just a general examination.
For the naysayers who complain that slice-of-life in-of-itself is a boring genre where nothing happens, I can assure them that there is a lot to experience in Barakamon that can convert even the harshest critic. Not only are there things that actually happen, but they can be entertaining even without the context of slice-of-life in its name. While I wouldn’t classify this as the best one in the genre, I still hold that with Usagi Drop, as it does have some problems related to a dry plot, that shouldn’t be a huge issue in an otherwise subtle slice-of-life show. If Naru-chan never makes you smile with sheer goofiness and hilarity, I don’t know what will.