So far my favorite show of the Summer anime season is Barakamon (Funimation). That surprised me a bit. The descriptions I read didn’t make it sound all that interesting–a sort of slice-of-life, coming-of-age story about a troubled young man exiled to a remote farming community.
But what makes a show great is the execution, not the premise. As it turns out, this show is both charming and very funny.
Seishuu Handa, the protagonist, is a promising young caligrapher. He’s obsessively dedicated to his craft, determined to work hard and become a great master.
Unfortunately he is anti-social and hot-tempered. At a prestigious awards banquet an elderly man criticizes his work, and in the heat of the moment he throws a punch and knocks the old guy down.
Now he’s disgraced and untouchable. His family sends him to live on a remote island off the coast of Kyushu.
It a strange place with very strange people who speak Japanese with an accent that is almost incomprehensible. They’re mostly good-hearted people but they act nothing like the urbanites he is used to dealing with.
(Actually to a foreign viewer they don’t seem all that different from other Japanese people–but to Handa they are strange and alien.)
He is greeted by the Mayor, who gives him the key to the run-down old-fashioned house that his family has rented for him.
But when he unlocks the door, it doesn’t have the pristine, unoccupied look that one would expect.
One might almost think that someone had been using the house as a secret base.
A quick search of the house revels a grubby little girl hiding under the sink. This is Naru, the other main character of the series.
Handa has no time for grubby little girls. He kicks her out of the house, cleans up the mess…
…and starts to work on his calligraphy.
But a locked door is no barrier to a resourceful child like Naru. She is fascinated by what he is doing and wants him to explain it and let her try it herself.
He kicks her out again, only to find her in the kitchen, explaining something to the mayor. It seems that, like it or not, Handa is going to have her underfoot (or climbing on top of him) much of the time.
Naru is not one of those cute angelic little girls, so common in anime, who can melt the heart of a villain and lead him on the path of reform. She’s more like every bachelor’s nightmare. She doesn’t listen, does whatever she wants, and is always up to something.
New characters come thick and fast. Hiroshi, the mayor’s son, regards Handa with resentment. An undistinguished student himself, he feels jealous of this sophisticated outsider who is supposed to be gifted with that mysterious quality called “talent”. He dislikes the solicitous attitude of the other community members toward Handa, and he particularly resents it when his mother tells him to bring the artist home-cooked meals.
Miwa and Tamako are middle school students who had been using Handa’s house as their base. They indignantly demand to know what he has done with their stuff.
Handa accuses them of being a bad influence on Naru, but they are unperturbed.
Tamako is an aspiring manga artist. Unfortunately her tastes run to graphic violent horror comics. (She is absolutely, definitely not a fujoshi. She just keeps that stuff around for reference.)
Handa does not like scary stuff at all, but somehow Tamako gets him to agree to look over her work and critique it. It appears that Handa, grumpy as he may be, is putty in the hands of anyone who is female.
In spite of such obstacles Handa is determined to rededicate himself to his work and attain true mastery.