No, this is not "BarakObama the anime." Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!... Ha........... uh........ Ahem. Fuck you.
Barakamon is one of the quietest, most laid back, and sometimes one of the silliest shows I've seen in a while. It's about as harmless as they get, and if you pay attention it actually teaches a lesson in the end to people who are too tightly wound.
Barakamon is another one of those (ugh, I hate the term, but can't think of anything closer to the point and just as short description) "slice o' life" shows wherein nothing really ever happens except characters doing normal, boring, daily shit. But unlike 98% of the SoL series out there, Barakamon is actually entertaining. This surprised the hell out of me, especially since the lead character's main job is as a calligrapher, and we get lectured in the art of calligraphy every episode as if we're school children who actually WANT to learn about calligraphy. I assure you that I am not, nor do I want to.
Things start out when Handa Seishu (aka "Sei," the young professional calligrapher I just mentioned) gets sent to some hick Japanese island by his rich daddy after he punches the fuck out of an ancient, well renown, art gallery curator who called Handa's newest work "unoriginal." Sei has issues, and daddy hopes that by sending the uptight kid to this laid back island (populated by the strangest natives that Handa has ever met) he might find what he needs to elevate his style and artistic abilities to the next level... Or at the very least find some peace inside himself and not go slugging any more grandpas who shit on his shit.
Finding this peace is hard for Sei though when he's got 6 year-old native Kotoishi Naru, and middle schoolers Yamamura Miwa and Arai Tamako constantly dropping by, all hopped up on what appears to be goofy-juice, but which is probably just sugar. Every day is filled with Sei (whom the islanders nickname "Sensei") trying to inspire himself to create the next great work of calligraphic-art that'll wow the world, which gets interrupted by the kids inviting themselves in to his small rental shack, or volunteering him to help them do something for the small town that he finds himself an honorary member of.
As trite and unimportant as these diversions are though, the characters sell it, and their interactions always made me laugh. There was the time that Sei was kind of tricked into painting a name on the side of one of the kids' yakuza-like father's fishing boats, another time when Sei spent his afternoon trying to find a rare bug to give to the little tomboy Naru for her birthday, and that other time when Sei's manager showed up on the island and we got to see someone with even more culture shock than Sei experience the country bumpkin life for a little while. This thing is fluffy-light, but still delicious. Barakamon is essentially an anime marshmallow.
I liked Barakamon for many reasons: the characters were diverse in their personalities, the location was fairly unique and interesting, and it wasn't just a bunch of talking heads in a classroom like most "slice o' life" shows tend to be. The people in this anime didn't just talk about homework, or their shitty music club, or the boys they like; they did jack shit, and yet the plot actually did progress (ever so slowly over the course of its run) to the point where Sei grew noticeably between the opening episode and the last. We got to see him realize that the world did not revolve around his entitled ass, and start to think about other people as people (and not conveniences to his own life), and it was great to see him become a bit more chill when it came to his career, which as the first episode showed he was a little uptight about (slugging the elderly in their brittle skulls usually indicates this).
There's only one thing I truly didn't understand about this series: Is calligraphy really such a huge deal over in Japan? To the point where it's a career for hundreds (if not thousands) of people and their calligraphy managers? Who actually HIRES people to write ultra-artsy calligraphy anymore? What with computers and shit. Nobody else in the show is surprised to learn that Sei makes his living crapping out only one or two pieces of calligraphy a month, but this is the very first I've heard of this in over 25 years of watching anime and Japanese live-action shows and movies. I'm just curious and confused is all, but that's nothing new... Seriously though, I don't think that anybody who makes art, layouts, posters, etc. in English has painted any of the alphabet outside of Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop since 1995.
Talk abou crazy island life in Japan! Oh yeah! I once had to live with my cousins on small island several hours South of Kyoto by boat, for the summer. That place was filled with kids who thought my clam-shell phone was futuristic, old people who had never ridden in a car, and houses that were lucky if they had more than a single electrical outlet in them.
Also, they had no idea just how open the rest of Japan truly is. I tried to tell them it was perfectly normal to want to take a bath with one's sexy older sister, even if she's 20 and you're 18. Water conservation is important to my family! They also seemed to be a little confused about the video cameras and surveillance equipment I brought with me, but this was my only chance to see my beautiful Kim-Chi disrobe and then dress into a classic kimono, in a real 6-tatami mat room! I had to hide those recording devices and motion-sensored micro-cameras myself, but I didn't do a good enough job. It was very much worth the public shaming and whippings I got. Who knew that was still a thing in this day and age?
Luckily I had made some digital back-ups of all recordings. Those village doofuses thought that just by breaking the CD they banished my videos forever into the demon world or something. Hilarious!
I really enjoyed this show, but not because it was about calligraphy (*yawn*), nor because the main character was drawn handsome (he kind of was), but mostly because of 6 year-old Naru. You see, Naru is this precocious kindergartner who loves running around collecting bugs and having fun. Her fun mostly comes at the main character's chagrin though.
Naru is super adorable, but she has no off-switch. While this plays for good comedy in an anime like this, I will freely admit that if she were a real child and I were stuck on a kind of backwater island the lead guy, Sei, was with her.... I'd probably kill her. That's horrible, I know, but she constantly breaks into Sei's house, steals his food, gets into tons of trouble, and gets Sei into lots of trouble too... I would have enough of her shenanigans the third time she B&E'd into my abode. I'd have grabbed her by her ankles, swung her around a few times, and then face-planted her into a support beam. No jury in the world would convict me. I'd just have my lawyer show the jury this Barakamon show.