Barakamon

April 19, 2015

Oh my. Did they make an anime on the 44th American president, Barack Obama? Isn’t that why they call it Barakamon? No?! It is not you say?! Oh. Since when did Mortal Kombat’s ugly Tarkatan, Baraka get more famous than the fire and ice ninja duo and got an anime series of himself? This is not it either?! Let me guess… Pokemon… Digimon… And now for the new type of monster called Barakamon, a cross between those cute little monsters and Baraka. I am totally way off the mark, you say?! WTF?! I’m getting confused. What the hell could this Barakamon be then?!

Oh… I see… It is about calligraphy. Strokes of words in the form of ‘beautiful visual art’. Doesn’t that feel unexciting? That depends entirely on your taste. Calligraphy isn’t the in-thing these days with technology and the new generation more inclined to using internet acronyms and slangs. The good ol’ traditional ways of writing such beautiful strokes are seemingly fading. So what better way to cultivate some interest via anime? Well actually, this series isn’t really focusing on the art of calligraphy. Despite using its theme, it is about a young professional calligrapher who has won many awards in this industry. A moment of impulse when he loses his cool and attacks an elderly fellow calligrapher lands him in hot soup. Normally it would be the end of one’s career and thus life. However he is sent to a remote village to cool his head. The series chronicles his interactions with the simple villagers. They might not know a thing about calligraphy but he will a thing or two (and even more) as he resides among them.

Episode 1
Seishuu Handa is a master calligraphist. At a prize award reception, the director commented on his textbook style of calligraphy. As though he only writes to win awards. It feels dull and empty. Has he ever attempted to overcome the wall of conventionality? Unfortunately Handa didn’t take that very well. In fact, he punches this old man in the face!!! No mercy! He can kiss his future goodbye. To cool his head down and do some reflection, his dad sends him to a remote island. No signal. No bus service. He is lucky an old farmer picked him up on his slow tractor or he’ll be walking for half a day to this address. Yuujirou Kido the village chief shows him the house he will be living in. Hmm… Looks like there are people in here quite recently… Taking a look around the house, city boy is surprised at the ‘old technology’ amenities in his house. Even more surprising, a little girl hiding in the cupboard! She is Naru Kotoishi, the village rascal and has been using this place as hideout. Every time he kicks her out, she finds ways to come back him and interrupt his calligraphy. Can’t focus. She even has fun trying out calligraphy and praises his amazing skill. Of course Handa is still bothered by the director’s words. Although he could have apologized but Handa still believes in his way of writing. He believes in sticking to basics and that simplicity is the easiest path to beauty. Naru shows him the letters she wrote and doesn’t think hers is as good as his. She hopes he can forgive her but since there is nothing to forgive in the first place, she feels happy.

As Naru takes him to walk along the pier, she starts commenting his writing looks a bit like textbook! He pushes her into the sea! Then she pulls him in! She teaches him how to use his t-shirt for buoyancy to swim to shore. You learn something new every day. Then there is the sunset sky she wants to show him but they have to climb the seawall. He is pessimistic since it is cloudy. But thinking back on the director’s words and that he won’t see anything if he doesn’t climb, he puts his negativity aside and does what Naru says. The most beautiful sunset he has ever seen in his life. Subsequently the rest of the villagers come to help him unpack. Handa meets some of them including Hina Kubota whose crying is her main emotion, naughty boy Kentarou Oohama who does kanchou up his butt and Kazuyuki Sakamoto the school’s vice principal who loves to smoke (bad role model?). That night, he expresses his happiness by writing a big word on a big canvas that probably messed up his entire room. Not so textbook looking. His assistant, Takao Kawafuji calls him and Handa wants him to apologize to the director on his behalf first as he has no guts. He now starts to understand why his father sent him here.

Episode 2
Hiroshi Kido is not happy he has obtained a string of Bs in his exams despite studying so hard although his parents are okay with it. He is forced to bring a bowl of noodles to Handa and he thinks mom should stop pampering that guy. She punches him for not understanding her feelings! With her son not needing her as a mom, this guy is like the tonic she needs to bring meaning to her role as mother and woman. Handa is sleep deprived just to improve his calligraphy. Naru brings high school girls, Miwa Yamamura and Tamako Arai here. They are the ones using this place as their hangout before he moved in. They continue to mess around and of course praise his calligraphy. When Hiroshi comes by to give the noodles, Handa collapses on him. Hiroshi tries his best to explain the meaning of talent to Naru. She then shows him a room where Handa writes and puts up all his practised calligraphy. She then says Handa has always been writing but complains he is not good enough. Does it mean he doesn’t have talent? Naru knows Handa is amazing but she just doesn’t understand what his talent is. This causes Hiroshi to reflect he did things half assed, the reason he always got Bs. He figures the ability to put in a relentless amount of effort is the greatest talent anyone could have. He draws inspiration from Handa to work harder as he wants to go to college. He will also continue to bring food over his mom makes.

Unfortunately Handa is hospitalized as he continues his sleep deprivation. Naru continues to be annoying while the high school girls pay him a visit. His IV pack is almost out and they start to panic like as though he is going to die. He has a little fever now and would prefer normal medication instead of suppositories. Naru is getting ready to press the emergency button because she believes this hospital is haunted. They’re scarier than monsters? Handa covers his ears pretending not to hear anything. Handa is glad when Hiroshi comes to bring his stuffs but it seems he left out the calligraphy set that he is looking forward so much. Hiroshi wants him to rest. Tamako’s eyes start to ‘burn’ misinterpreting their seemingly yaoi interaction. After the kids leave, an old man from the next ward believes his sickness isn’t any ordinary one if all those people came to see him. Because they looked so happy to see him alive and well. He hopes he will get well soon. Next day when Handa is feeling better (although it has not gone yet), he can’t wait to get back to writing. But he got too excited and it worsens his fever. Once he is really better, he is discharged. He wonders where the old man in the next ward is. He is told he is the only patient in the hospital as most people get assigned to newer buildings these days. Oh God… Time to freak out!!! Later Hiroshi notices Handa trying to cook himself. Look at all the bandages on his fingers. And it must have tainted the onions so much that it really looks like some bloodied onion dish!

Episode 3
WTF?! Naru spotting a manly expression?! Just because she just mastered reading katakana words? One step closer to adulthood… She thinks… Handa has submitted his latest work to an exhibition in Tokyo and is confident of winning. He has run out of black ink and goes to the local store to get some. He sees lots of snacks, messes up a package containing needles, cleaning it up and helping another old lady customer to find sewing strings she needs. As there is only a black ink left, Tamako is also here for the same thing so he gives it to her since she needs it for her homework. He will just grind charcoal for his. Because Tamako is into manga, she hopes she can get his opinion although he is not an expert. The first page… Lots of horror! Guts and blood! Is she submitting this for real?! Each time he comments, she turns into some fiery passionate rebuking machine! Scary. She then gives him a bunch of mangas to help him understand the manga world. Oh boy. When Tamako is doing her work, she realizes she might have misplaced her yaoi manga in there. Fearing that rumours will spread that she would be some otaku and worse, a fujoshi, she makes haste to stop the spread of the misunderstanding. She remembers her city cousin sent her lots of manga and she was traumatized seeing her first yaoi manga. She kept it as memory of that day. When she arrives at Handa’s place, she goes into shock seeing him and Hiroshi hugging! Actually Hiroshi was catching him when he lost balance. This shock causes her to temporarily lose her memories. What was she here for again? Got to get back working the manuscript… Manusci… Manu… Man… MAN!!! Oh God! Trauma revisited!

Handa receives news that his work got second place and lost out to an 18 year old. It is no surprise he is in a very dark mood. He starts blaming nothing has changed ever since he came here and he only slacked off. Miwa didn’t take that insult lightly but Tamako believes he needs some time for himself. They’ll come back later. Her reason is that if they give it straight to him, he’ll be more depressed as he has a lot of pride. From now on, let Naru handle things. As he is still frustrated, Naru asks if he is having fun. She brings him to go mochi catching. Seems Kentarou has got a boat named after him and he accidentally spills a load of mochi into the sea. Before the people start catching, Miwa explains to Handa the 2 professionals he need to look out for. Yasuba who always gets the most mochi in the end somehow and Panchi whom they must keep their distance from because if you think you’re going to get one, here she comes snatching it. As it starts, Handa finds it hard to catch one as he gets bumped out. This makes him realize the gap in talent. He thinks it’ll be easier to give up instead of struggling and then fail. Yasuba tells him the secret why he isn’t getting any. Because he is always looking up. He never noticed the ground filled with lots of them whom the people missed from catching. But what if he still can’t get any? What if there’s someone who is better than him and picks them all up? Then let that person take it and find your opportunities elsewhere. Handa gets fired up to join the frenzy but in the end he didn’t get one. When he returns home, he is surprised to find a red bean soup with mochi from Panchi. Although she looks mean, she makes her rounds and delivers to everyone. She also picked up extras to those who can’t make it to the event. Handa thanks everyone despite all that has happened today, he had fun.

Episode 4
Handa realizes his computer is broken. Who is going to fix it on this island? As he is going to make a call, his handphone is dead too! OMG! Panic time? He passes by a house with lots of white cats. He wants to pet them when the house owner kicks them out! They’re strays and they just invaded his fridge. He still wants to hold one so the old man picks up a mean one and lets him hold it. Achievement! Too bad the cat scratches his face. Not only that, he starts feeling itchy all over. Allergic to cats? Looks like no cats for him for now. He makes his way to the shop to call. Naru introduces him to a boy, Akki. He looks familiar. Tamako’s brother! He is impressed the look alike but Akki disagrees. Akki brings out the phone. Eh? A dialling rotary phone! Does Handa know how to use it?! I don’t think he does and has to be ‘coached’, which is a bit embarrassing. He calls Kawafuji about his broken computer but Kawafuji wants him to take a break for a while as the deadline for the Naruka Institute Exhibition is coming up this fall. Handa wants to participate and although he doesn’t know if he could win, he believes he will see the light someday as he is in darkness right now. The kids start laughing over this ‘cool’ line. Handa treats the kids to bubblegum and Akki laughs at the way he interacts with the rest because he thought he was a stiff and uptight person but is actually as weird as everyone says he is. That’s a compliment, right? He hopes to come over to his place next time.

As Handa is deep in his thoughts, he didn’t watch where he is going and accidentally spills a box of seaweeds. This yakuza-like guy is not happy. Oh sh*t. He thought he is done for but when he recognizes this calligrapher, he has got a job for him. Can’t say no to that mean face, can’t he? Turns out he is Miwa’s dad and he wants Handa to write the name of his new boat. Handa is not confident as he has never done such a job. Besides, he doesn’t have the right tools. Thinking of practising back home and doing some stencil work won’t cut it as Miwa’s dad questions if he considers himself a professional if he refuses this job. Miwa stops the argument and makes her dad return to her liquor delivery job to let Handa work in peace. The kids give him some wooden planks to work on and to get use to the brush. After he has enough practice and is about to write on the hull, he realizes the curving surface and chickens out. Now he is back to being nervous again. He fears he will mess up when the kids start putting hand paints on it! Now he has to cover it up. Deciding to use bold and flashy writing to cover it up, he gives instructions to the kids on what to do and bring him. As he starts writing, he doesn’t feel the pressure anymore. Miwa’s dad is watching and is impressed that what the village chief said about him is true. He laughs when he works. Although the end product is messy, but at least it is bold and different. Handa is given seaweeds as thanks. Aren’t those he dropped? Handa thanks him for giving this opportunity and it gave him an invaluable experience. However Miwa’s dad still has a bone to pick with him. When Handa practised on the boards, he wrote demonic and gangster nicknames on it. And those planks are supposed to ferry passengers. How is he going to make this up? Run away! How manly… Oh, he dropped his seaweeds…

Episode 5
Handa feels writing is easier now after that experience. An old man gives him some konomon snacks. At first he thought it was too much but when he pops one in his mouth, he can’t stop! He can’t concentrate on his writing and konomon is only on his mind! The girls are here to seek his help for their calligraphy homework. He demonstrates but they note how plain it is instead of his flashy one. Well, learn the basic first. He lets them know about the upcoming competition he wants to win. Miwa thinks he should not worry about the competition as long as he is having fun. Handa becomes a strict demon in guiding them. So for some time off, the girls make him go buy them some drinks. They get curious to know if he has a girlfriend and search around the house. Naru getting alerted and panicky about hearing this? Miwa sees a letter from Kawafuji. A girl? Nope. A guy. Tamako suddenly is interested. Naru then gives a picture frame that is believed Handa treasures most. The girls are going to find out his girlfriend and opens it. But to their utmost disappointment, it is a painting of a historical figure. F*ck this sh*t! They get pissed at him to come back to reality. Miwa gives permission for him to date Naru as she jumps onto him.

Handa is made to supervise the kids who want to go play at the sea. The teens are coming too. To Handa’s surprise, it is the rocky part of the sea instead of the sandy beaches. Because the latter is kid’s play… Handa might want to take it easy since the slippery rocks cause him to fall. Tamako seems to be acting weird as she comes up to Handa to ask his opinion about Hiroshi. At first he doesn’t get it but figures out she must be in love with him. He tries to support them by explaining Hiroshi’s good points but Tamako blows her top and runs away. She blames them for making her having sleepless nights and refuses to believe she is one of those fujoshi! He tries to go after her but slips again. Meanwhile Miwa shows Naru a sea cucumber and lets her hold it to get use. Then she decides to take her to a place where she can ‘become an adult’. When Handa calls for the kids as it is time to go, he realizes Naru is missing. Then he sees Hiroshi and Miwa jumping off from a pier. It’s a little high, don’t you think? He becomes alarmed and tries to stop them. It’s like as though he has some trauma about this scene? But Naru is already making her run. She jumps. He slips. She’s okay. He’s not. In the aftermath, the trio got reprimanded for doing something dangerous. He is serious. Please don’t be mad. Handa admits when he first came here, all he thought was himself. It’s the first time he was worried about someone else. Everyone is so touched as they promise not to do something dangerous to worry him. Group hug! Hiroshi won’t. Handa is so tired from the outing that he didn’t pick up his call. It is from Kawafuji and he has arrived here with Kousuke Kanzaki.

Episode 6
Kawafuji and Kousuke arrive outside Naru’s house. She’s selling seashells and she won’t tell them where Handa lives unless they buy one. Ah. Kawafuji corrupting her with the world of business? How about a card? Naru wants to show grandma about it but Kawafuji won’t let her go. The villagers think they’re trying to kidnap her and bring them along to the meeting they’re going now to explain themselves. That night, Miwa brings Kawafuji and Kousuke to Handa’s place. Seems Kawafuji is drunk. Although they got reprimanded at the meeting, it soon descended into a drinking party. Like the drunk guy he is, Kawafuji’s emotions are like a roller coaster. Sad that Handa didn’t reply (his handphone broke) and then getting worked up at the inconveniences of the countryside. Oh, here comes the barfing. While Handa goes out to get more konomon snacks, Kousuke introduces himself to Miwa and Hiroshi. As he explains he is a rookie calligrapher and accidentally ended up winning that contest that Handa was in, the duo realize who he is. Remember about his depression period? They can’t let Handa know who he is. They try to change topic or whatsoever but fail. Why does Hiroshi gets beaten up after each time? Even worse when Handa tells them to stay for the night as Kawafuji is out. Naru gives her collection to Kousuke since she considers him her friend. It has lots of shield bugs. He freaks out and throws it away. Oops. Opened it. Catch them! Gotta catch ‘em all! So I guess the Tokyo guys have to leave and return to their camping grounds. Miwa and Hiroshi later find out Handa knows who Kousuke is because Kawafuji told him in his mail. Worried for nothing.

Kousuke visits Handa the next day and reveals he is a big fan of his. Why, he even brought all the books he could find about him! He is even quoting embarrassing lines he said. A voice recorder too?! Handa thinks he is here to mock him. However Kousuke is not pleased he is hanging out in the countryside and should come back to Tokyo and take up calligraphy seriously again. Meanwhile Hiroshi and Miwa talk to Kawafuji about his relationship with Handa. They were best friends in schools. Handa was socially awkward and gets depressed easily to a point he forms some barrier therefore somebody needs to be there to cheer him up from the sidelines. He thought Handa would come back immediately but looks like he is having fun. Of course before a friend, Handa is his livelihood. As an art dealer if he doesn’t produce good results, Kawafuji will be in trouble too. But Handa is confused and unsure of what he is looking for. So in order for people to grow, they need rivals. Handa further explains to Kousuke he is here to fine tune his calligraphy and can’t go back without producing results. Kousuke reveals he has been doing boring calligraphy since young till he saw his work. Those were beautiful characters. So if results were what he is aiming, it is a reason why he lost to him. It’s like he has an overdose of his individuality. He doesn’t even know his skills are decaying. He should be writing calligraphy that people acknowledges. This causes Handa to go crazy. He won but was told it’s dull. And now that he writes good ones, he didn’t win. He doesn’t know what to do now. Suddenly Naru and Hina are seen making and throwing paper airplanes. All from Kousuke’s materials. It opened Handa’s eyes. He is going to write calligraphy only he himself can write. Going back to Tokyo on his word feels wrong. He wants to change himself. He wants Kousuke to walk down the road and wait a little bit longer. Kousuke wanted to record this nice saying but instinctively Handa knocks him out. Since Naru has given those materials to everyone in the village, they’re hounding him for an autograph. Yeah. They’re quoting his lines too. Feel like going back to Tokyo?

Episode 7
Our Tokyo guests are complaining that they are brought fishing instead of sightseeing. What’s there to see here? Of course the city boys have trouble with their rods and baits that it is just unbearable. Handa caught some fish and Kousuke thought he could too. Unfortunately he fished up the earth. Naru’s mischief with the wharf roaches scares the hell out of Hina and this causes a chain reaction of mishaps to the guys. Kousuke complains that they should be practising calligraphy but Handa refuses thinking that Kousuke would say bad about his writing again. Kawafuji learns about it and lectures him about only looking at things from his own perspective, the reason he is in a slump now. He adds that Handa’s writing didn’t get worse or else he couldn’t even have got a top placing. Kousuke is very much influenced by Handa’s style and was shaken up when Handa changed it. In fact it is exactly the same simple and plain style. And finally Kawafuji’s line that nails it: Don’t bring him awards, bring him profits! The guys laugh at Naru’s multiple bait hooks. She gets mad and pushes all of them into the water. Hiroshi is trying to fish for some hisaniwo fish. Thinking they can get a great sashimi meal out of it, the other guys support him to catch one. They waited long enough and none showed up. It’s time to go but Kousuke stays a little longer. Something is tugging his line. It’s a hisaniwo! They help to fish it up but the hooks fall apart. Fish back into the water. Everyone starts laughing how funny that was. At least they can have mackerels that they caught a lot. More than enough that Handa could use the surplus fish to make a word out of it on his canvas.

Kawafuji and Kousuke are about to board the plane back to Tokyo. Kawafuji must be giving the goodbye speech to himself since the rest are more interested in the souvenirs. Kousuke gets a handphone strap for himself since he has no friends. Naru begs Handa to buy this funny glasses set for Kawafuji. Approved! When he checks in, the metal detector goes off and everyone starts laughing. They were waiting for this moment, eh? Something in the set? Then there’s this emotional goodbye speech from Kousuke for Handa too. When he passes through the metal detector, it rings. More laughing. They love this, don’t they? Naru remembers she forgot to give grandpa’s gift and rushes in. The alarm sets off. Can’t stop laughing. Countryside people really find this funny and entertaining, do they? It’s starting to feel lonely although the guys have only been here for a few days. It is not that Hiroshi wants to go to Tokyo but he thought that everyone here might eventually leave this place. Because he is already in his senior year, he should take these things more seriously. Naru ruins the mood and accidentally pours juice over his shirt. Hiroshi and Miwa are forced to drive back since Kawafuji’s rented car is already at maximum capacity of 4 (the village chief, Handa, Naru and Hina). No squeezing business. Chief wonders if Handa will be lonely now that his friends are gone. On the contrary, he is excited thinking about the next time they will meet.

Episode 8
Handa is trying different tools for his calligraphy (feather, spoon and butt on bowl?) when Miwa and Tamako come by (oh dear) to tell him about the surprise birthday party they intend to hold for Naru. Thinking the kind of present that would suit her, a beetle would suffice. He seeks Kentarou and the young boys to help him catch one but they are reluctant since they are planning to give the same present. Can’t bribe him either. What? 10 Yen only ? Handa borrows their net to catch one. However Kentarou is faster climbing and catching with his bare hands. Handa tries to act like a know-it-all-adult but he sucks in bug catching. He brings his trusty ladder but can’t bear to touch the beetle with his bare hands. It lands on his face and causes him to panic. When they spot a Giant Hercules Rhinoceros Beetle, the boys get excited. It fetches 20,000 Yen market price! Kentarou can’t reach and seeks Handa’s cooperation and ladder. He manages to catch it but their joy causes him to fall off the ladder. Don’t worry. The beetle is still alright. Hey, wait a minute. It’s not moving. It’s dead!!! His hand must have squished it when he fell. They blame him and even start crying for real about their loss! So precious this bug that they even hold a decent burial. Kentarou gives Handa the earlier rhinoceros he caught. He seems fine holding it till it starts biting his finger. Ouch! When they get back, Handa’s home as been turned into a party throve. So this is how everyone can always get in: Tamako duplicated 5 sets of his key prior to him settling here! As they wait for Naru to approach, Tamako’s peacock feather tickles Handa’s nose. He sneezes and their timing is off when Naru comes in. Oops. Surprise! They force Handa to give his present first. It is a one-time only voucher that she can ask for anything. Everybody starts laughing but is shocked when Naru treats it like it’s gold! Yeah. Seeing her getting this excited is scary…

Naru brings Handa to pay respects to her grandma’s grave. He is not used to the very odd traditions but it’s not like he often visit graves either. Parachutes of goodies float down the sky. As he is going to catch one, Miwa bumps him out to grab it. So he makes the evil eye to force Miwa and Tamako to help them out with the grave cleaning and preparations. They witness a group of veiled dancers doing their ritual dance in front of the graves. After it ends, one of them gives Handa the stare. He turns out to be Hiroshi and was helping out since they’re short of men. Miwa’s dad and Akki reprimand Miwa and Tamako respectively for skipping their jobs to come hang out here early. As night falls, more and more people come to visit Naru’s grandma’s grave. As explained, Naru’s grandpa is always busy so Naru has to keep watch on the lantern lights till it burns out. It occurred to Handa that he has never seen Naru’s parents before. When she thanks him for being here, he notes although he has always seen her with someone, sometimes she too can get lonely. When the last lantern light goes out, does it mean it is time to go home? Not yet. Because Handa lights one and calls for a time extension. Naru is happy and believes her late grandma is happy too because her candle fire is ‘dancing’.

Episode 9
The exhibition is 2 weeks and what better way than to relief the anxiety than taking a hot bath. The heater system isn’t working… Oh no. Stress levels increasing… As the chief suggests, go pick up firewood for a traditional hot bath. Handa thought he could relax with Naru blowing the fire. Then Miwa and Tamako had to show up. Oh no. Citing child abuse and inviting young girls to see his naked body? The girls leave him in hot boiling water. Hiroshi is here to cook for him. Handa thought he could handle it himself but the similar dish they made turns out so different. No prizes to guess whose is inedible. Then Hina turns up crying. It’s literally a pain to see her hurting herself. Yeah. Knocking her head on the wooden floor! She is screaming for help that Naru is being bullied by kids from the next village. The guys arrive and it seems there is an argument about using the playground. The bullies can tell Handa is a wimp and he really is one. Hiroshi thought he could be the cool adult but they continue to piss him off and he almost resorted to violence. Remember, hitting a kid is against the law. It’s like child abuse. Handa becomes sneaky and threatens to call the police and thus ‘ruin’ their lives if this ever gets out. Isn’t he acting like a child? However they hit away his handphone and it ends up in dog poo. The bullies are confident a couple of strong girls on their side (I think I know who they are) and the guys still cannot use force. Then they get an idea. The bullies can continue to do whatever they want while they will use the playground too. They’ll play dodgeball. With Naru and the kids running around, it gives the guys a reason to throw the ball at the bullies. They’re in the crossfire, right? When Akki comes by, the bullies decide to go play with him since he has cool new video games. The playground is all yours. And everybody realizes Akki is the one who is most adult-like…

The kids take Handa to play Tarzan. This means swinging by a dangerous vine over a river. Even if Naru gets into a little blooper, Handa thinks it would look embarrassing for an adult instead of cool. He knows the vine will break under his weight and worried about the kids’ safety, he tries to break it. The kids won’t let him and during the tussle, Hina accidentally pushes everyone. Into the river… Handa has a little flesh wound and the kids panic as Naru tries to make some mugwort remedy on the spot. Well, I don’t know if he’ll get infected this way. On the way back, Handa got the inspiration when he sees the setting sun. Too happy that he slipped and fell down the slope. The kids think he went off on his own. But when Naru returns to his house, Miwa and Tamako note that he didn’t show up as they have been waiting here since. So he might be eaten by a forest giant? Actually he is lost. And he is in between panic and calm. He might die. Or not. Please. Somebody help. He sees something shiny in the grass and finds a key. A similar one to his house and remembers this is the spare that Miwa had lost. He starts laughing that he got worried for getting lost behind his house. He then sees the magnificent starry sky. Ah, a shooting star. He makes a wish for his bath to be repaired. Make that, hope he can get back home. And that’s when the girls find him. Tears of relief. Thanks to that, Handa is full of inspiration writing his calligraphy. But something gloomy looms. A call. He is going to have to come home.

Episode 10
The director is seen talking at Kawafuji’s office. The former is impressed with the impressed with the progress he has made and can’t wait to see the calligraphy style that only he can write. If forgiving him is what he needs to get him to return, it’s time for that. While Handa is having trouble deciding the word to submit for the exhibition, Naru screws that and uses her voucher to follow her orders. However her grandpa snatches it from her and has him help him make rock walls for the typhoon. Then he wants him to rewrite on the wooden board of the names of those who donated in founding of the local shrine. As he takes the board back, the other kids come by and he leaves it with them since there is a call from Kawafuji. The one where Handa agrees to come back. Handa gives his final calligraphy lessons to Miwa and Tamako. Now they think they should win something under his guidance. Since tonight is the festivals, Handa agrees to go out with them since it will be the last time hanging out. He has never been to one before because there are always others who on his behalf said he was busy for an exhibition. Yeah. This is going to be his first time. So don’t blame him for sucking big time to catch one. Then there is this basketball shooting competition in which Akki and the bullies are teaming up against Miwa and her softball girls. Since Tamako is away buying a new manga (she will be very disappointed that there is no stock), Miwa drafts Handa to be part of their team. Everybody shoots perfectly. And those girls play softball? I guess in a small town, every club helps to cover other clubs so they’re good in lots of things. When it is down to Handa’s turn, he flops big time although he thought he could pull it off like some basketball manga. Don’t worry. There are still prizes for second place. Handa’s pride won’t allow him to be treated by Naru and Hina (they’ve got the money and flashing it!) so he buys cotton candies for them. Cheapskate. As everyone prepares to go watch the fireworks, Handa gets separated from the kids by the crowd. Luckily Tamako is here to guide him to where everyone else is waiting at the beach. Handa wants to tell everybody something but the fireworks begin. Next day, Handa packs his bags and leave. When Naru comes knocking, there is no answer. Creeping in from the secret entrance, nobody’s home.

Episode 11
Handa is back in Tokyo and at Kawafuji’s office, a sample of his submitted work for the exhibition. We see Handa going through a roller coaster ride of emotions. Lots of worries. Lots of anxieties. Lots of stress. That shoots up when the director comes in. A bundle of nerves. However he gets his act together when he sincerely apologizes for punching him. Should he be forgiven? Well, the director didn’t plan on forgiving him. He wanted to lure him back with this and lecture him about moral and ethics but screw that. He is forgiven but never act on impulse again. Ah, yes. Handa is now able to move on. The director would love to see his work. Oh no. Handa already acting nervous. Before he can comment, he splashes the coffee all over it and his face!!! Apologizing mode again. What did he say about acting on impulse? Kawafuji trying hard to hold his laughter… Anyway, the director sings praises about it and believes this work is worthy of the grand prize. He looks forward to see more of his work in the future. That expectation put stress on Handa… As he leaves, Kawafuji offers to call him a taxi but he has his own ride. Kawafuji recognizes that car as Handa’s father’s. He is a bad driver… I think that old man is going to get a heart attack… Kawafuji visits Handa back at his home. Seems Handa is in a slump. Like a shut-in and calligraphy practice works strewn all over the floor. As usual, more complaining and b*tching for whatever. When Handa’s mom walks in, she sees her son tying up Kawafuji and Kousuke! Since when did he go into bondage play?! Mother is so sad… Even if this was meant to make them look like Naru and Hina for him to get inspiration, it just didn’t quite cut it. Then Handa gets a call from the village. Actually Kawafuji called them to call him since he is lonely. Yeah. Everyone fighting for the phone to talk to him. Taking turns to speak. Noisy. Hey, he’s popular, right? Handa could click with Akki since he knows about him being down. Finally there is Naru who hopes he would come back since it is boring without him. Everyone shouts for him to come back soon. This gives him inspiration. He remembers bringing back the village’s registry and starts working and burns the midnight oil. By morning, this has become his greatest masterpiece ever. He calls it Stone Wall. Meanwhile, Tamako and Miwa are confident their calligraphy can snag top prize. However only Tamako gets first while Miwa is second. The latter becomes depressed. How can she face sensei now? There is a big difference, you know.

Episode 12
In order to get ready for Handa to return, Miwa rallies the kids to clean his home although she is the biggest culprit who made the big mess. However Handa might be having trouble coming back. There lots of ‘curse talisman’ in his room telling him not to return! His mom is against it! She is adamant his home is here and not the island. OMG. Mother giving her son lots of combo punches! Since Kawafuji is here to tell him his calligraphy has been safely delivered to the exhibition, Handa tries to use him as an excuse to escape but mother won’t allow it and immediately initiates a discussion. She begins about his hospitalization and cat allergy and Kawafuji takes her side since if he has got his groove back, why not remain here? She also argues about his different speech manner and the odd friends he has made. Father who has been quiet all the while supports Handa. If mother is worried about the inhabitants, he can assure her they are all good people. Because he once lived there before. I mean, why would he send his son there if it wasn’t in the first place, right? The village chief is his good friend and he has lots of photos to show down. Time for a trip down memory lane. Mother blows her top. That’s it. She’s had it. They never consider the stress they put on her. Father receives her combo punches and Kawafuji is not even spared! Father says although he sent him there, this time it is his decision if he wants to go back. If he finds inspiration there, then by all means, go. Handa is weighing his options and although Tokyo seems like a better place, how come it is so hard to decide?

He receives a package from those villagers. They packed everything they can in it, huh? Mother thinks this is some form of bullying… Getting paranoid again… The turning point is when Handa sees the calligraphy sheets he thought Miwa and Tamako. Mother reluctantly allows him to return because if he is needed, that means he must return. Otherwise being stubborn too long means she would be just selfish. And since Handa’s return is confirmed, Miwa rallies the kids to clean up his house again. But no progress is made… They continue to fool around till Hiroshi comes to supervise and get the house clean spick and span. Handa arrives at the island. The village chief is supposed to pick him up but instead of waiting, he starts walking, hoping he’ll bump into him along the way. He didn’t. His streak of bad luck starts when he spots a vending machine. He trips, drops his coins underneath it and accidentally selects the hot drink. Then here comes Naru’s grandpa passing by on a tractor. Wanna hitch a ride? Just like déjà vu, the first time he came here, eh? Everyone gets ready to surprise Handa but Akki comes by to tell him that he is at the shop answering a call from Kawafuji about the exhibition results. When Handa returns, they start to panic about the surprise (they were this ill prepared?) and crash into him. Miwa and Tamako think he is fine seeing his good mood but Naru had to ask about it. They shut her up but Handa hints it was a good result. He got fifth placing (Kousuke got seventh and he is depressed). Handa and everyone eat together and as Naru puts it, lots of things happened but it is more fun when everyone is together. Handa couldn’t feel more at home before since it is these times that they should cherish the most.

Back To Basics In Life
Ah yes, it was indeed a heart-warming story after all. It makes you want to just stop your mundane daily routine and go do something differently just to get back on track. Sometimes in life you need a little distraction and detour to move ahead. It may not necessarily be something flashy or sophisticated. Something that is simple and straightforward to turn your fortunes around. Though it might seem like taking a step backwards going back to a backwater village but as you can see, Handa has leapt many steps forward as a result of it. And this is the biggest lesson in his life that he and all of us can take from watching this anime. Sometimes when you are too focused that you can’t even see the thing right before your eyes, it is always best to make a deviation and have a fresh scenery to refresh the mind. Though I won’t classify this anime to be on the same par of ‘cleansing’ as Tamayura, this is one of the few animes that will make you have that refreshed feeling after watching it.

Therefore the biggest character development goes to Handa himself. Although he is still pretty much the impulsive and insecure guy, we have witnessed to how much he has changed from when he was at the beginning. He still isn’t a perfect person but much better than before. Handa’s position may be a stark reminder of how much stress and expectations have crept into our lives. With so much advancement in technology, simple and back to basic stuffs are deemed as things of the past. It is a good thing that Handa decided to give his new life in the remote island a chance. I mean, there is no use b*tching about it because he is going to be stuck here for who knows how long. Slowly as he adapts to his surroundings and learns about the simple everyday life that the villagers go through, something inside him also begins to change till he finds the much needed inspiration he is seeking for. So sending Handa to a remote village was probably the best choice after all. Like his father said, they deprived him of his childhood with all those calligraphy practices and competitions. Now it is the time for him to explore himself even if it means going back like a kid and all they can do is just watch over him. In the end, despite having lots of pride, it is not the end results or placing that is everything. How much enjoyment did he put into his work make the outcome more satisfying.

No man is an island and Handa’s transformation could not have been possible without the wacky residents of the island. They play a great supporting role to his development if I should say. In fact, they are all to a point likeable despite some of their mischievous and odd ways. Naru may be the village rascal and her cheekiness is as expected to come with someone of her age. If you have observed, Naru may not understand about the city life and expectations but she knows what she knows for a kid her age. In that simplicity, Handa learnt a thing or two from all that honesty. So you could say that Naru is Handa’s life teacher. Because sometimes the simplest things brings out the best joy. You don’t need all that complicated stuffs for that. All you need is an honest to goodness heart, something that Naru has. Adding colour to the pack are teens Miwa and Tamako. Miwa is more of the tomboyish side and her teasing sometimes feels more like bullying. Although blunt at times, you can bet that like the rest of the villagers, she cares deeply about Handa. Sometimes it feels that there is a running joke about Tamako’s closet fujoshi fetish. It’s like each time she sees any kind of guys together (especially if Handa is involved), she will start going crazy and think this is some kind of test from God. Therefore I think she can’t go to any cities with lots of guys. She’ll die of a heart attack… Well girl. Don’t deny them! Accept your fujoshi mania with open arms!

Of everyone in the village, Akki feels the most mature and most adult-like. Even the adults are seen acting like kids when they start arguing. Maybe it is because he is mostly seen without any emotions. So much so you might thing he is born lacking that. Not forgetting Kawafuji who has been with Handa since school days so he knows this guy inside out. Though, there is a very fine line between profit and friendship. But I don’t think this guy would totally abandon Handa if the situation turns for the worst. In many ways Kawafuji is still a great friend and helps him in times of need. After all, he has invested a great deal in him and has placed his future on him. Oh yeah. Always comes back to money, huh? So in short, if Handa’s transformation could spur and motivate others like Kousuke, even normal guys like Hiroshi who is average on just about anything is encouraged to do the best he can. Hiroshi is after all the next maturest guy after Akki (though he still gets into a childish act from time to time) and more responsible than Miwa and Tamako since he has already started thinking about his future and the likes.

I am not a person who has any slight interest in calligraphy. Therefore if you personally ask me, those are just strokes and great big black lines combined to seemingly look like a word. Those may sound like blasphemy to you calligraphy lovers and I’m sorry if it sounded offensive. I don’t really know how to appreciate this kind of art so when Handa or other characters start writing on a piece of paper, they look pretty much the same to me. Except that with Handa as the professional, his writing gets to be more stylish and creative with lots of slanting and curves and the likes that sometimes I think it is akin to doctor’s handwriting. Yeah. Why don’t doctors become calligraphist anyway? They would be a big hit. So if you ask me to judge, I wouldn’t know how because even the plain ones look fine to me. Sure, calligraphy makes the words look grand and I myself can’t decently write Chinese or kanji characters (I can write a few common ones but not that it would be approved by calligraphists anyway) but it takes a person with a lot of deep passion and interest to appreciate this kind of works.

Moving on from the art of the words, the overall art and drawing feels pretty standard but sometimes I thought the kids in the village look a little cartoonish maybe because they aren’t grown up yet or hit puberty. They don’t look as ‘gorgeous’ as the young teens or adults around so sometimes I thought they just came out from a comic strip or something. The background mostly look like water colour painting (which is effective in reflecting the simmering heat) but since you won’t be paying your attention to it most of the time, I guess you’ll get by. Of course being in the remote island, the simplicity of the scenery still beats all those neon lights of the city so in a way it is nice to see such backgrounds even though it may not be the best around.

Daisuke Ono as Handa is perfect. Funny too. A veteran in voice acting and with many roles under his belt, his voice brings out all the emotions from the character from insecure moments to inspirational heart-warming moments. Suzuko Hara takes on the role of Naru and it is quite impressive that this is her first role in voice acting. She is only 9 years old when she took on this role and thus Naru sounds very realistic as a little bratty girl instead of an adult trying to sound like a kid. Another 9 year old, Rina Endou also makes her debut in voice acting as Hina as well as Seiya Kimura as Kentarou. It is no surprise that their characters too sound as realistic as a real 9 or 10 year old kids. Other casts include Nozomi Furuki as Miwa (Ellen in Nanatsu No Taizai), Rumi Ookubo as Tamako (Saki in Isshuukan Friends), Kouki Uchiyama as Hiroshi (Ichika in Infinite Stratos), Junichi Suwabe as Kawafuji (Archer in Fate/Stay Night), Yuuki Kaji as Kousuke (Eren in Shingeki No Kyojin) and Megumi Han as Akki (titular character in Mushibugyou).

The opening theme is Rashisa by Super Beaver and flows to a rock beat while Innocence as the ending theme is sung by NoisyCell and is more of a slow rock. I am not sure if the rock themes are suitable for this slice of life anime but at the same time I do not feel it is inappropriate or anything. Thinking if a slow ballad would be suitable for this may not be right either since it might put us to sleep. Seeing the energy and liveliness of the villagers, probably something rock is fitting as motivation for this series.

Basically watching this series, you can learn a lot of things. It teaches us about simplicity and going back to basics. Because basically that is what we all humans are in the first place. You don’t need to be caught up with the latest technology, gadgets and what is trending right now to stay entertained. This people of a remote village can show you how it is done. Therefore this show sometimes reminds me of Non Non Biyori but with a more heart-warming concept. Even the most stubborn and hardened fool would have all his armour torn apart after spending some time in such a place. Well, unless you are hardcore but that is a different story. It goes to show that the power of simplicity is a powerful tool enough to motivate one and spur to greater heights. It goes to show that such places still exist somewhere on this planet. Places that you don’t mind throwing away all those artificial happiness just to come back and experience it again. See what it did to Handa? He came back for seconds, right? Whether or not his stay is permanent, everyone is glad to have him back. I mean, how else would they have fun and somebody this easy to pick on? Hehehe…

Acceptance. This is also what I believe is taught to us here. Handa accepted the villagers and their ways and in turn they accept him for who he is. Though, it is not like they treat him differently or anything. And because of Handa’s steely determination (sort of), even his mother gives her (reluctant) approval for him to go back to the place that she thinks is the root of his change. She accepts her son has grown into a man. The bird is finally ready to fly away from his nest. They grow up so fast. Sob, sob :p. Of course not forgetting the power of forgiveness. It is essential if all sides need to move on. What is done in the past is done. You can’t change it. There is no point holding grudges forever although it is basic human nature to do so. But if we are to ever move on and grow, we have to learn to let go. So I think it was a pretty important part that Handa got the director’s forgiveness because he wants to see him grow and improve further. What is the point of still hating that might just impede Handa’s growth?

Overall, this show has its charm in its simplicity of nicely developed characters, many moments that would make you break into a smile that makes it worth the fun and watch. Even if you don’t feel like going back to nature or to your own remote village (if you still have one), after a hard and tough day at work, this series has enough magic to make you whisk away back to your childhood days where everything was much simpler then. You’d smile at the magic of nostalgia remembering those good ol’ days. Okay, at least for ‘old’ people like me. Kids will always be kids. And for every adult there is always a kid inside us. You don’t need to wait till you’re old enough to have a second childhood. So what do you say, people? Put down those iPads and iPhones, get out from your couch and from that TV set. Let’s go outside and play and take a deep breath remembering those simple times. Oh… Reality hitting back at us. Time to return to our boring mundane daily lives, I guess… :'(

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