January 22, 2017

Gee, I never thought Barakamon would get some sort of prequel sequel. Because Handa-kun tells about the trials and tribulation of that calligrapher during his younger days in high school. So I thought it would be interesting to see the back story of this guy and how he turned out to be an up and coming calligrapher with a short fuse. But then I realize that everything I thought I knew this series would be was wrong. How far I was off the mark. Be warned. This isn’t his high school life that you think it is. When you realize it is pure slapstick comedy, everything is thrown off balance. If I was writing this blog via traditional paper and pen, I would have smeared right across in shock…

Episode 1A
Right from the start we are already breaking the fourth wall with the boys of Handa Force overjoyed that Handa has been adapted into an anime series. So they discuss what kind of genre it will be. They dismiss Yukio Kondo’s idea it will be a normal high school drama since he is a normal guy. Then they realize the anime has already started and nobody recorded it. They call relevant parties but they aren’t really Handa fans. They even call the production studio but were hung up. That is when they decide to do their own Handa series. Yuki opts out as the guys get starting. A few days later we get to see their effort. Let’s just say it is a lame, crappy and cheap effort that you can’t even tell what the f*ck is going on. And if you’re like Yuki pointing this out, the rest will chastise you on how freaking hard it is to make anime. Then they get a special delivery from the studio. It’s not a legal letter to sue, right? Fortunately it is the first real episode of this series. Put it on and let’s play!

Episode 1B
Everyone fears Handa in high school. He is okay with it and doesn’t intend to make friends. Handa finds a letter in his shoebox and thinks it is one of those challenge letters. He throws it away but didn’t realize he did so in front of the sender, Maiko Mori. It’s a love letter by the way. However her big head ugly friend, Juri scowls him for that, blah, blah, blah. Thinking of giving Maiko a chance and it isn’t she can harass him with this crowd around, he lets her speak. Maiko summons her courage to ask him to meet behind the gym. Handa misinterprets this as a challenge and the bad endings he will get. He can’t run now or he’ll be bullied and called a spineless pig. So in a dilemma is he that he ignores class and does his calligraphy right smack when the teacher is teaching. Because Handa doesn’t know Maiko’s name, he needs to find out via Juri but doesn’t want to directly involve her. Juri gets the wrong idea Handa’s stares mean he likes her. To her surprise, he hands her a letter to be read only alone. When she does, she finds his handwriting unreadable! Do calligraphers normally write like this? Trying to fish out some words, she misinterprets some of them like ‘love’. Now she starts thinking he really likes her. Is she betraying Maiko? So when Maiko joins her for lunch, Juri feels awkward but her cutie innocence suddenly pisses her off and come to think of it, Juri doesn’t remember a single good time they had together. Obviously as time passes, Handa gets worried that Maiko didn’t get his letter. He has no choice but to go meet her behind the gym where a large crowd has already gathered. Here for the drama? Handa Force is surprised with the cliff-hanger ending. Well, they wasted the first half of the episode, right? What about their handmade work? They decide to return it to Handa. You can bet he is so creep out when he sees the show and not understanding what the f*ck is happening.

Episode 2A
Continuing from last episode, when Maiko summons her courage to give her real love letter, each time Juri intercepts! You bet Handa can’t understand why these women are ‘wrestling’. Handa thinks he is let off when Juri tells him to go now as she talks about jealousy and the ugliness of the heart. Like hell he cares. Handa leaves as he advises them to take care of each other because friends like them are hard to come by. When Maiko breaks from her Juri’s stranglehold, she manages to give him her letter. However he won’t read it because he saw how lousy her handwriting was! Words mean everything to a calligrapher! I take it. You’re rejected. So the girls cry and lie down till they reconcile. Juri suggests taking up calligraphy so they can write nice love letters to him. After all, they are best friends and love rivals.

Episode 2B
Junichi Aizawa has always been the class rep for ages so it is no wonder he is looking forward to it. But he didn’t expect Handa to be his rival in the runoff vote. Actually Handa didn’t want to be here either. He was dozing of when other lazier boys who didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility nominated Handa’s name. In the end, the votes are tied. Everyone is okay with a simple rock-scissors-paper but Aizawa is freaking devastated this needs to be done properly. But he relents since this is what the people wanted. Handa realizes Aizawa wants to become class rep and their interests aligned. So he tells him he is going to purposely lose by putting up rock. Too bad Aizawa thinks this is some scheming tactic so he goes the other way. And loses! Handa the class rep? Not quite! Aizawa protests passionately and needs more rounds. So the next round he follows Handa’s rule and wins but on the final round, his scepticism plays mind tricks again. And so he loses again. He is crying his heart out of his lack of faith in others. When Handa voices out he resigns from his post, so why the f*ck is Aizawa still not excepting it? Handa felt sorry for him at first. This makes Aizawa realized he learnt an important lesson that he was thinking about himself and not the people. When they check Handa had actually voted for Aizawa, this brings him to tears. If Handa wants him to be the class rep, so be it. However the next day, Handa is the one who becomes the class rep and Aizawa the vice. Handa thought he was screwed. Aizawa explains that after what he said yesterday, everyone ultimately decided he should be the class rep. But Handa doesn’t even know what a class rep does…

Episode 2C
Reo Nikaido is a handsome guy who is also a model. It is no surprise girls love him. Only second to Handa. So it is natural he gets worried when girls are taking more interests in Handa because they feel that guy is just more than his looks. Yeah, you don’t know… So he tails Handa after school to find out his charm. Reo sees Handa ‘disappear’ when a group of classmate girls approaching. And then he sees him staring at a cat for 30 minutes. Does he love it or hate it? Reo tries to do the same thing but got scratched. By the way, Handa likes cats but is allergic to it. Finally they end up in a street where famous models are scout. To his dismay, his scouter and model agency, Caroline Yamauchi is here and sees Handa. Reo tries to block her view and is smacked! Caroline approaches Handa, wanting him to wear her clothes and rise to stardom. However Handa puts it on Reo (because his clothes are dirty) and tells them he doesn’t need it and please reach out to someone who does. This is when Reo realizes why Handa is different as he doesn’t flatter others or taint himself in common ways. Reo subsequently was fired by Caroline but he accepts it maturely like a man. He now realizes there is no worth being competitive or having pride. He wants to be a real man like Handa. Unknowing to him, Handa is cursing a lady standing in front of him at the bus stop. Some dark secrets should never be exposed… On an unrelated note, Maiko left a present for Handa on his table. That guy picks it up and puts it on the lost and found section…

Episode 3A
Handa is not pleased when Aizawa has him deliver notes to the class’ truant, Akane Tsutsui. But at his doorstep, this big delinquent guy is him! So what happened to the meek girly boy?! Half a year ago, he was always teased for it. He shut himself in his room and kept blaming himself for being weak. Then he saw an ad to buff himself up. He did it and he turns out the way he looks now as he pounds all the punks in the neighbourhood to become the strongest. Because he is the strongest, he doesn’t think he needs to go to school anymore. When Handa gives the notes, Tsutsui over-reads his reactions and thinks he is giving some kind of challenge. It is making him sweat and shiver! When other punks arrive for revenge, Tsutsui misinterprets Handa is fighting on his side when all he wants is just to pass him the notes and leave! When the punks try to stop Handa, they misinterpret his scary looks. Then they start ‘remembering’ all his legendary badass status. Yeah, it felt like they just plucked it out from thin air. So badass that they decide not to mess with him and run away! Tsutsui is shocked at Handa’s status too. What has happened in school since he was absent? There is a note telling him to come back to school. Thinking it was from Handa, a touched Tsutsui makes a shocking return to class. Nobody expects him to look like this. Tsutsui decides to become Handa’s bodyguard but his vicious stare is making Handa afraid. Did he do something bad?

Episode 3B
Kondo narrates the normal guy he is. Till he is group with Handa and his weirdo ‘friends’ in cooking class to make pudding. Kondo can tell Handa is nervous but the rest interprets it as his absolute order to make something themselves. As usual they get into a fight and it seems Handa then makes a huge fire. While the friends try to save Handa (splashing things on him?), Kondo is the more sensible one trying to put out the fire with the extinguisher. And yet Handa gets praised as they think he did that to stop their fighting. They’re even dumber trying out Handa’s pudding and despite tasting like sh*t, they believe this is his style! There’s room for more and they saved some for Kondo. Join the gang… And so Handa’s reputation grows with rumours spreading that he created a legendary pudding dish with a fire pillar. WTF?! And in reality this guy just dropped the pudding he bought from the store. Sad…

Episode 3C
When Miyoko Kinjo, the girl sitting next to Handa didn’t realize she dropped her eraser, Handa starts thinking she might scoff him if he returns it (feminism?). So he tosses back his brand new eraser. Of course Miyoko is very flattered but Handa thinks she is out to get him as her eraser is dirty and uh, inerasable. Handa believes his only friend is Kawafuji but tries to avoid him in school. But every time Kawafuji’s female friends are in the vicinity, Handa quickly stuck himself in a tight spot? Huh?! Handa notes Kawafuji’s popularity and he treats him the same as everyone else. That is why he is trying his best to ignore him till graduation. Kawafuji narrates Handa’s current personality was his fault. When they first met, he was a nice normal calligraphy loving chap. One day a popular senior girl used Kawafuji as a middle man to send her love letter to Handa. Not amused by this, Kawafuji told Handa that girl scorned his writing. That is when the trauma started and has been ever since despite being told it was just a joke. Kawafuji would love to tell how popular he is but is enjoying every second of it and will let him be for now.

Episode 4A
When girls think Handa is selling his calligraphy poem at the park and paste it up in class, Handa of course knows better that he never wrote such crappy poem. He needs to do something before everyone makes fun of him. Naturally Handa Force (yes, this includes you too Kondo) go out to investigate and instantly find a Handa imposter. You can tell from his bad set of teeth. Kei Hanada is also a Handa admirer and has observed him well enough to seemingly act like him. This means attracting a bunch of girls as well. Too bad they don’t know Handa enough to know he is an imposter. However the attention is too great for Hanada to handle so he shows his teeth and instantly all the enthusiasm dies down. Disappointed. Handa Force cries and feels his pain. They take him back to class to apologize but they see Handa’s writing over the poem that says if he wants to copy someone, be better at it. Hanada is so touched that he breaks down. Kondo is like, WTF. And so in his bid to become like Handa, Hanada starts off by wearing braces to fix his teeth.

Episode 4B
When Handa is spotted with a beautiful lady at the school gates, rumours fly that he has a girlfriend. Naturally this causes all the girls to start getting jealous and the beginning of the Handa bashing. So much so there is a death threat written on his table to die. When Handa Force closely examines it, they deduce it is a suicide note. Turns out that Miyoko was the one who wrote it. She is going to jump from the ledge. And doing a musical about it?! Something about Handa’s eraser he ‘gave’ that made her not able to study because she couldn’t use it (why not get another one?). And something about the guts he had to flirt with another girl when he should belong to everyone. Is Handa public property? Handa has just returned from trying to exchange his new table unaware of the commotion outside. Miyoko thinks she will test his resolve. Of course Handa is talking to his table about how irreplaceable and special it is to him. Guess who took it the wrong way? Yup. Enough for Miyoko to cancel her suicide and come back down crying. However her jealousy isn’t over yet and she still cannot get over his girlfriend. So while she cries herself, she bumps into Handa’s ‘girlfriend’. She is actually Handa’s mother and lost her way to a teacher-parent meeting. Miyoko is so f*cking relieved and that was the end of the Handa bashing. Died down as fast as it came.

Episode 4C
During Handa’s parent-teacher meeting, the teacher told his mom that he lacks sociability but Handa believes that everyone hates him. For some reason. As suggested to be sociable, Handa tries to start up small talks about hobbies and relatable subjects. As we are well aware, misinterpretations are abound. Everyone around him seems to misinterpret in a bad light of his intentions. Are they offending him somehow? Then when Handa is alone in the classroom and Kondo comes in (he thinks Handa didn’t realize they need to change classrooms), a grateful Handa follows him and starts talking about… Japan being a great place? Huh?! Kondo doesn’t even know what the f*ck is going on. Back home, Handa proudly tells his mom that he spoke to a classmate (if you can call that speaking). But seeing mom’s uninterested reaction, Handa thinks maybe this wasn’t as amazing as he thought. Doesn’t his mom always look and sound like that?

Episode 5A
Sawako Tennouji is the student council president whom all the girls love. Despite dressing like a boy, she is a feminist and will make this school a paradise for girls. That is, until she bumps into Handa and his gang and thinks just because he is male, he is trying to form a coalition against her. What I said about Sawako being popular with the girls? I take that back because they love Handa more. So she has her vice president, Rikimaru (cross-dressed as a girl?) to find his weakness. Since there is none, she’ll just make up one! She sends a couple of girls to go seduce him. They are about to go pound on him when it seems Handa might have spotted them! He talks as if he can’t entertain them so the girls leave quietly. Actually he is feeding a couple of stray cats. Sawako is upset the girls failed and even more so they are in love with him! Thus Sawako forcefully brings Handa to her office and falsely accuses him for seducing girls. His punishment is to wear a girl’s uniform for a year as she believes this will change his outlook. He runs away as the student council corners him. I don’t even know how this happened. When Rikimaru tries to put the skirt on him, Handa trips over the stairs and falls over Sawako. The mind boggling part is how the other girls pulled down Rikimaru’s skirt to reveal his ugly (but censored) panties!!!!!!!!! OMFG!!!!!!! Flashback reveals Sawako was often bullied by males when all she wanted was to just play with them. That’s why she hates them and vows a world where only girls rule. When she wakes up, she finds herself on top of Handa. Her underlings explain Handa turned and used his body to cushion her fall. So is Sawako starting to fall for him?! Till she sees Rikimaru’s panties and freaks the hell out, beating the crap out of him. Acting like a real girl now, huh? Aizawa is glad Handa is alright. But something feels wrong. Handa has lost his memories!!!

Episode 5B
Because of that, he is acting all chirpy and thinks he is hell of popular. His cringe worthy act is enough to make his Handa Force’s hair stand at ends. Unbearable. This is not the real Handa! They want the old Handa back! We see Handa trying to flirt around. It even gives the girls the creeps. For those still enthusiastic about him, wait till he wants to offer a kiss to them. They suddenly lose interest and think he is a fake since Handa is not a cheap person. Imagine if Miyoko finds out… Too late. She becomes a monster demanding a kiss from him! As Handa ponders about his popularity, he almost got killed by Tsutsui’s hammer! Apparently this is Aizawa’s method in bringing Handa’s memories back. He read it from a manga. Getting the wrong idea that Tsutsui wants to kill him, seeing other Handa Force members doing the same only reinforces the fact that he may be the school’s most hated person. As he reconciles with this fact, suddenly he snaps. He returns back to his original self but falls down the stairs. Seeing Handa’s ‘evil’ stare and grin that send shivers down their spine, Handa Force can be ‘glad’ that Handa is back. Thank goodness, right? Lastly, when Sawako wants to put a poster to warn others about the dangers of the stairs, Rikimaru scoffs her off and won’t take orders from girls. Is he now a misogynist? Well, thank his memory loss for that.

Episode 6A
Handa hangs out with Kawafuji and thinking he shouldn’t ruin his life, he disguises himself as an American? It gets worse when Kawafuji also invites his classmate, Hasegawa to hang out with them. So while Hasegawa is clueless about Handa (disguising himself under the name Hanzawa), Kawafuji can’t help but silently snigger at all the awkward moments. They play bowling, darts and basketball, all of which Handa isn’t good at and it provides good amusement to Kawafuji. And Hasegawa thinks it’s some American joke. But they manage to win the games and earn Hasegawa straps he wanted. When Kawafuji goes to get drinks and leave the duo to chat, all seems to be going fun (for real? Handa having a real conversation?), Hasegawa’s seniors come by to bully him. Feeling the need to distract them, Handa casts away his disguise. Immediately the seniors become scared and retreat! Hasegawa views Handa as so cool that he forgot who the heck Hanzawa is. Next day in school, Handa’s reputation has Hasegawa fearing him too and this only deepens Handa’s lack of trust in others.

Episode 6B
Koutarou “Dash” Higashino is the school’s top sprinter. As usual, he is one of those guys who hates Handa and blames him for some nonexistent reason. He thinks the only way to resolve this is to request a 100m race with him but he too cowers in fear when Handa walks pass him. Hanada thinks he is another obsessed Handa fan and suggests a few ways to motivate him. Hanada disguises as Handa and Dash really makes a dash! But if he can’t challenge him directly, why not make a situation leading to a race? So he starts a fire in order to make Handa run but he crawls to safety instead. After getting scolded by the principal, his manager advises him not to ruin his future all because of Handa. Think about his team and going for the Nationals! He is about to do just that when Handa runs past him the fastest ever he has ever seen. Triggered, Dash starts running to catch up with him. Suddenly Handa jumps away. Did he give up? Actually he was being chased by a mad dog! OMG! Dash now becomes the victim! But wait. The dog isn’t mauling him. It is copulating with him?! OMFG!!!!!!! And so Dash’s inferiority complex of Handa only deepens. And Handa doesn’t even know this guy’s name… He’s the worst?

Episode 6C
Tsugumi is into palmistry and likes to read palms as practice for her fortune telling. This means she wants to read Handa’s palm and asks Handa Force for their opinion. Handa overheard this and thinks helping out will add to his good karma. So in an awkward position of letting his palm out, Tsugumi reads his palm and finds something horrible… It is freaking normal! The only thing she can read out of it is his extreme paranoia level. Not wanting to put him in a bad light while explaining to Handa Force, she puts it in a way that Handa has a harsh fate. Wait a minute. Handa Force is rejoicing?! Trying to read his future, she is shocked that despite not seeing him getting married, he is surrounded by kids. How should she put this one? He won’t have a decent life! In the aftermath, Tsugumi realizes her arrogance and can ‘thank’ Handa for making her realize she is just a novice. WTF. Later as Handa rues about his fate, Kawafuji tries to put it nicely that she might have good results but purposely say it in a bad way just to trouble him. This gives Handa confidence that he is the most hated guy around. And he is loves it. WTF.

Episode 7A
Reo and Tsutsui fail their test and must take a supplementary one. Thus this is where Handa Force makes Tsutsui’s place their hideout as Aizawa guides the duo to study. However they get sidetracked in discussing if Aizawa is the top in their grade, then where is Handa? Because that guy is number one and can never be number two! Could it be her purposely fail so as not to stand out? That must be it! They’re going to study for Handa! Also taking the supplementary test are Hanada and Dash. Since it is free sitting, they argue whether to sit on Handa’s place. Yeah, it looks like a big responsibility. Everyone is shocked Handa comes in! Is he taking the test too?! Everyone can’t believe he failed and thinks he must have forgotten to write his name. True enough, that was the reason. By the way, he is ranked 25th in the whole grade which isn’t bad. During the test, everyone is more preoccupied in observing Handa from his sneeze and his noisy scratching writing. They even try to emulate him! At the end of the test, everyone has a filled experience with Handa. Huh? In the end, Reo and Tsutsui barely pass as they think it was Handa’s consideration to join them as he didn’t want to make them look like failures. Oh really? And it seems lightning strikes twice for Handa because he forgot to write his name again. Oh, Hanada and Dash failed…

Episode 7B
Kasumi Hirayama is a librarian. The place is losing its shine since nobody reads anymore and thus the budget to buy more books was slashed. However the thing that kept her going is her ‘prince’. Guess who? Damn right is Handa! He is the only one who patrons the library. Obviously she has a crush on him and her sneaky way of stealing stares makes Handa think she is some sort of stalker. She narrates her cheesy love story fantasy about him that includes using whatever budget to buy his favourite books since he is the only one borrowing them. However she hates the Handa Force as she thinks they act like as though they have privilege to be around him. However Handa Force can also guess she is a big fan of him (she would most certainly disagree). Since they are pretty sure of being experts on Handa, they assure to leave the library design to them as they will redesign it according to Handa’s taste. The place looks better now and soon lots of students start streaming in. Kasumi couldn’t be any busier as people now start borrowing books nonstop. Although she feels fulfilled, Handa has never stepped in since (because he doesn’t like being crowded). At the end of the day, Kasumi is surprised that Handa personally came to return a book. For the first time they talk to each other. She thought he was going to praise her but it is to point out the wrong book cover. She didn’t listen properly and misinterpret his words. So when he praises her for her work, she realizes he has always noticed her. That is when she tells him she will no longer order books he likes. She is going to order more book variety so he doesn’t have to come here anymore! Of course Handa takes this the wrong way and thinks he has been kicked out of the library forever when it is actually Kasumi’s twisted wish that she will go to see him instead of him coming to see her. Creepy smile?!

Episode 8
Handa’s class is going on a school trip with another school, Shiro High. They too have their own popular guy just like Handa, Asahi Ichimiya. And yup, he too has his own squad, Ichimiya Bodyguards. We see the ‘henchmen’ already facing off in the train and almost got into a fight when Handa accidentally tries to throw away his sweet but got stuck in the guy’s hair. Luckily Ichimiya uses his charm to settle it and bring his men back. Even at the shrine, these guys are trying to outdo each other for the fortune reading. I wonder how high their luck can go. Ichimiya tries to talk to Handa but because he doesn’t want to, it gives Ichimiya an impression that he is arrogant. While sleeping at the inn, Handa Force talks about the bloody history and haunted place this inn might be, enough to knock Handa out. It’s a good thing because Shiro High who is staying a floor above them drops a body dummy to scare them. Hand Force thinks Handa is so calm and just go to sleep. The tour continues tomorrow and more girls flock around Ichimiya. As usual Handa Force and Ichimiya Bodyguards have a showdown. Aizawa against Souichi Nagamasa about their nationwide test rankings. Reo against Sousuke Kojika about being the cutest. Yes, Kojika is a cross-dresser whose goal is to meet her cute seemingly cross-dressing idol. Hey, isn’t that the old Tsutsui? He is going to be disappointed… Then there is Tsutsui against Tomohiro Jomoto in a brute match. Even the plain guys have their confrontation. While Kondo doesn’t really care, Tsukasa Komichi is more obsessed in finding his place to make Ichimiya stand out more. Handa takes a picture with Ichimiya when the latter invites. However Kondo realizes Ichimiya has a deep grudge and was trying to stick a sweet in his shirt as payback.

Back at the inn, Kondo tries to distract Ichimiya Bodyguards and not let them know Handa is just under their noses. Literally. Too bad Kondo has to beat him up? He uses Hanada as decoy to chase. But you can’t fool Komichi as he is sharp. He warns Kondo and the rest not to get in the way of their leader. Ichimiya continues enjoying the company of the girls. But when they talk about Handa and how hard to get an opportunity to him, the moment they see Handa, they flock to him. Ichimiya doesn’t like this and privately talks to Handa. He is trying to get Handa to disclose what it is that is bugging him since they have pressure to put up a reputation to others. Don’t be shy, let’s talk as kings. Seeing Handa is sceptical, he extends his hand to make friends first. Meanwhile the henchmen of both sides almost go to war but when they realize the other is pretty cool, they become friends. They look for their leaders and they hear this shocking thing. Handa rejects to become Ichimiya’s friend. Before any world war can blow up, Handa explains he can’t be friends with someone as popular as him. He doesn’t want to be the target of jealousy. He should look around and already has friends. Ichimiya has renewed respect for him because he doesn’t treat his subordinates as subjects but friends. Peace is about to reign for both sides but Komichi will not accept this and tries to attack Handa! While Handa was unfortunately pushed into the river by his own guys as ‘safety’, Komichi is stop dead in his tracks when Kondo slaps him! OMG! Kondo’s mad! Stop this crap right now! Scary. Now Komichi’s crying like a baby… So with both sides even and calling it peace, there is no need to compete to see who is better. They are who they are. But poor Handa is reeling from hypothermia after being picked up from the river. This school trip sucks…

Episode 9A
Hideo Okayama is Handa’s class biology teacher. He is shocked that his frog dissecting is cancelled because of complaints from parents. He thinks if Handa agrees, everyone will follow. Oddly despite Handa doesn’t want it, it is Aizawa who is all for it. He takes it upon himself to get the entire class to approve. It’s either that or pressing flowers! Then they let Handa decide! Handa thinks everyone is mocking him and so he blurts out he loves the bizarre. Because of that all the boys vote for dissection! But what about the girls? They don’t want to do this icky thing. Maybe Handa can convince them? Handa says if they don’t want to do this, then don’t make them. But the girls interpret this as being considerate and agree to do it. In the end, it is a unanimous vote for frog dissection! Okayama is so happy that to show his appreciation, everyone will get a frog each and the biggest frog for Handa! Chaos ensues when the frog touches Handa’s hands. He is semi-passed out and wants to leave (kaeru) but the rest interprets he is being possessed by a frog (kaeru). Seeing the cruelty of this decision, they decide to let the frogs go in the river and just do pressing flowers. Meanwhile Handa is recuperating in the infirmary and is almost suffocated by the big from over his face.

Episode 9B
Aizawa is stalking watching Handa today. Suddenly he runs away and hides. Thus Aizawa believes there is a stalker! Handa Force gets pumped up to find and beat the crap out of that stalker. Since they’re so motivated, Kondo can’t bring himself to tell them they might be the stalkers! They split into groups. Kondo thinks the most suspicious one is Miyoko. Look at her eyes! But Aizawa is relieved it is her because she helps reign in all girls who want to give Handa their presents! She has earned the nickname Eraser! Since when did she level up?! She then captures Kasumi whom she thinks is trying to stalk Handa. Handa knows Aizawa and Kondo are following them and makes a run. This has Dash trying to run after him but lost sight of him since he can’t turn. Sprinters can’t turn a corner at high speed, right? Tsutsui and Reo think the real stalker is nearby but got trapped into some mad dog’s lair. So all our related Handa parties gather to continue searching for the culprit. Handa has to meet Kawafuji and knows is just over this wall. When he climbs over, he sees all of them. Thinking how troubled he has been and the need to see Kawafuji, he yells out to them about them following him every day. What did he do to deserve this?! He is going to lose a friend because of them. Don’t ever follow him again! Everyone is left in shock after Handa leaves. Did Handa just scream out his true heart? Just when you thought everybody should have learnt their lesson, Aizawa thinks Handa has been directing his outburst to the stalker! Everyone agrees! OMFG! And they think Handa referred to them as his friend. OMFG… Handa finally manages to meet Kawafuji. It seems he was the one who was responsible for that mad dog thingy.

Episode 10A
Even normal guys can get a love letter. That’s what happened to Kondo. Of course he panics. Because normal guys normally don’t get such, right? Can’t take the pressure of handling this, he tells this to Handa Force. Tsutsui thinks it is a letter of challenge since he got one during his pretty years. They called him up and shoved something down his ass?! WTF?! Handa Force is being positive supporting Kondo to go meet with this girl. Who knows, he’ll end up with a real girlfriend. Kondo then realizes despite his normal looks, because he is associated with Handa Force, even he levels up. So when he goes to meet this girl, she tells him to stop acting he is part of Handa Force and is just an average guy. That’s all. Wow… Can’t blame Kondo for feeling heartbroken. Even normal guys can get depressed. Along the way, he bumps into Handa who is suspicious of him because remember, Kondo was the one who ‘tackled’ him during the school trip. From Handa’s words, Kondo can also see he is a shy and kind person like him. Maybe that’s why he keeps getting swayed by others without realizing it. Kondo passes his flower postcard supposedly to be given to the girl as confession to him. However the blot in the ink made the words look like insults and Handa thinks it is some sort of harassment! While Kondo is glad to be part of Handa Force and will never leave it, I think Handa’s relationship with them is getting worse.

Episode 10B
Neo Sakurame, Takoyaki and Dr Psycho are part of the bishoujo club. They draw bishoujo and create bulletins on their favourite topic. All is happy and well till Aizawa on behalf of the student council decides to terminate their club. Well, there is no merit in funding them anymore and not a single of their bulletins were sold. Nobody understands their taste… He just reminds them next week’s paper recycling pickup. Recycle those manga… The trio then brainstorm to do something. How about a gender swap of Handa? They discuss his personality but it ends up sounding like the real Handa. They decide to draw their own interpretations of him and then compare. Neo decides to go talk to Handa to determine his personality. Speaking through his figurine, he tries to bait Handa into talking. Although successful, he then tries to undress his figurine but Handa covers it with his handkerchief. Handa thinks a girl shouldn’t be doing things like that even though she is a figurine. This makes Neo realize he has been treating his waifu as a slut and has found new respect for Handa. A week later as they compare their manga, Neo punches them for drawing ecchi versions of Handa. Because it is like belittling him. Well, it is to be expected if you draw bishoujo, right? Neo shows them his and they simply fall into deep respect that they don’t need cheap fanservice for a great story. The trio decide to go find Handa and seek his approval. Unknowingly they left their work on the recycle table so Handa comes in to get them. When they return and realize it is gone, they rush to chase the truck. Handa overheard this and quickly dash to get the truck to come back. His reason for doing this is because he doesn’t want to be blamed if somebody loses something important. As the trio scavenge for their manga, the wind blows the ecchi pages into Handa’s hands. WTF is this???!!!

Episode 11
You know Sawako is smitten with Handa when she announces during the meeting that the school’s cultural festival be named as Handa Festival. So obvious. Aizawa leads the class to discuss what they’ll be doing. As none can decide, they leave it to Handa to decide. But of course. There is pressure on him not to disappoint and activity choices that he isn’t good at. He runs away from it and while contemplating how he cannot make everyone happy, Sawako talks to him and requests he writes the sign for the festival. This gives Handa motivation to pick the choice he wants. By the time he returns, everyone has gone home. Apparently everyone has decided to mix in everything except calligraphy. Because it’s the thing that Handa is good at. WTF. On his way home, Handa sees some delinquents. Since Tsutsui is around, he tells him to help the victim as Tsutsui uses his all mighty fists. For the theatrical play that Handa’s class will do, Reo and Tsutsui are not happy Aizawa set them up as Romeo and Juliet respectively. They want to do the other’s. Yeah, Aizawa is King Lear. Bringing in characters from other Shakespeare works? Kondo? A normal citizen with no dialogue. As the class prepares, all Handa is made to do is just sit and watch them. And Miyoko serving him? On his way back, those delinquents want to pay back Handa but Handa Force intercepts them. Hanada and Dash’s class is doing role playing eye makeup and wants Handa Force to test it out. Handa sees his calligraphy sign being put up and gets motivated he can get through this. But when he sees the guys with pretty eye makeup, he loses all hope. That was fast. As the festival gets underway, Kawafuji and Hasegawa patron the theatrical cafe and experience a load of weirdness. From ordering ‘poison’ on their menu and watching the odd play of Romeo & Juliet while they dine. Tsutsui is hideous in all that makeup. The typical tragic love story turns into a WTF one when you have King Lear and Othello joining the brawl. It is stopped by Queen Elizabeth I. Handa in drag. Handa is already stumped in this role with no dialogue. Then he sees Kawafuji in the audience. Their eyes met. They feel for each other. Needing to get off the stage quickly, Handa screams out the need to destroy the Spanish Armada. The crowd cheers! Handa Force will go wherever he goes! It’s madness! Kawafuji just feels sorry for him. Lastly, those delinquents brought back more of their buddies for the ultimate payback.

Episode 12
Handa Force learns those delinquents from Kuro High are here. They need to find them before trouble starts. But they have bumped into Handa already. Or at least Hanada. And a bunch of Handa clones?! Hanada’s makeup skill… They threaten him to reveal Handa’s whereabouts. Although Hanada kept his mouth shut, Dash accidentally blurts his location. On their way, they bump into Tsugumi who keeps annoying them and wanting to read their bad fortune! When they arrive at the theatrical cafe, nobody is around so they wait. Actually Handa is around but just sitting behind the props. Guess who comes in too? Ichimiya and his entourage. Both sides have bad blood and before you know it, they start fighting. Handa Force also enters by this time. If you’re wondering why Handa didn’t say anything, it’s because he is focusing on his lines. Thinking it is his turn to show up, Handa pops out from hiding and screams for everyone to stop fighting! Handa returns embarrassed realizing he screwed up. But the rest take this as Handa overhearing them and thus wanting to stop them. Everyone feels guilty for being childish especially Kuro High guys who wanted revenge on Handa because they have become so weak that they lost their delinquent status. Before we even know it, the war ended and everybody reconciles.

After the festival ends, Sawako announces the best class for the festival. Naturally Handa’s class wins. Only Handa doesn’t expect it like everyone else. As the representative, he is ushered up to take the samurai helmet prize. However Handa is fearful thinking this is some prank move. That is when Kawafuji comes up and wants Handa to give it to him because his class also deserved to win. Handa is shocked of this move because it will let everyone know they’ve been friends. However everyone else doesn’t think this jerk could be Handa’s friend even if he admits it. This makes everyone think that if Handa doesn’t want the prize, they can get it. Wow. A massive brawl now. Kawafuji’s plan is so that Handa can get off stage and not be further embarrassed but Handa is still worried everyone will know they are friends and thus ‘endanger’ him. Kawafuji tells him to take a good look around. He sees everyone cheering his name although he doesn’t understand what is going on. It means you’re popular. Handa then takes off the helmet. He proclaims it is not his and not Kawafuji’s either. It belongs to everyone who worked hard for this festival. Wow! Blinding angelic light! So godly!!! Sawako sees this coming and unleash a giant mikoshi of Handa to celebrate. Yeah, we don’t understand what the hell is happening anymore. Handa Force wants him to get on it but then it catches fire! And when they say how beautiful it burns, Handa better not over-think they were trying to kill him! Next morning when Handa meets up Kawafuji for school, he is unsure how everyone will treat him now. Just take a look around you. Everyone wishes him good morning. See, not that bad, right?

Haven’t You Heard? It’s Handa-kun
Well, I didn’t really expect this series to turn out like this. As I have mentioned in my opening paragraph, I was expecting this to be Handa’s back story, one that is directly related to Barakamon. However it turns out into a pure slapstick comedy so much so it feels like there is nothing that would connect this series to Barakamon. And that they just borrowed the character’s name and his love for calligraphy. That’s all. Everything else is unrelated. And you might just think Handa here and Handa from Barakamon are just accidental coincidence. Well, not to say that it is a bad thing. Although I love how funny this series is, but sometimes it feels like deception (maybe that word is too strong to describe it) because of how different it is. Maybe this is what really happened in Handa’s school days for real. However the differences in the setting between both series are so vast that one might easily think they are different stories only with the main characters having the same name. Because this comedy series turned out okay and enjoyable, the reason why it isn’t panned as bad had it done badly otherwise.

Watching the series somewhat reminds me how similar Handa-kun is to Sakamoto Desu Ga but yet so different in ways that are so opposite to each other. Both titular guys are popular but Handa is unconscious and doesn’t know that he is popular to begin with. He thinks he is the worst and everybody hates him. Unlike Sakamoto who knows what is going on and knows what he is doing. Both guys exude an aura of coolness but in Handa’s case it is because everyone else around him has this misconception but for Sakamoto he himself knows he is cool and thus makes everyone around fawn over him. And whatever these guys do, they will always seem cool in the eyes of others no matter how negative that situation is. Cool guys can never go wrong, right? However, Handa may seem more realistic than Sakamoto because the latter can do impossible stuffs and thus everything feels so exaggerated. It makes him look like an alien hiding under a human skin whereas Handa is more relatable. I mean, haven’t we all have that deep burning hatred of not wanting to be sociable? Do we?!

The characters are lovable as they are funny. It is with mixed feelings that there are quite a number of side supporting characters. They too are likeable but with their cameo appearances now and then, sometimes I feel like it is a waste. I would love many of them to be regulars like Handa Force but the limitations of time and space don’t allow for it. Of course if all of them get their equal screen time, it would just dilute the worth of Handa and Handa Force. So I suppose in a way it is good that many of the side supporting characters make sparing cameos. Because also in a way it makes it look like Handa has a whole different bunch of followers to. With everyone being idiots and quickly jumping the gun, after all the chaos and misunderstanding everything will somehow be resolved without Handa even lifting a finger or getting involved. And he doesn’t even know it too.

Handa as the main character feels so much different from Barakamon that I expected but then again, this could be me coming up with my own perceptions before I started watching the series. Handa is still unsociable and thanks to everyone being an idiot, both sides often misinterpret the situation, leading to Handa hating and being annoyed by everything and everyone else in awe of this super cool dude. It works both ways. There are always 2 sides to a coin. Maybe that is why when Handa grows up as a calligrapher, that single moment of frustration he took it out on a VIP when his works was criticised. Not sure if Handa has put a lot of thought into what he is going to say or do but it is always open and prone to misinterpretation. Thus leading up to hilarious consequences that Handa would loathe to be.

I don’t know whether to call Handa Force as dumbass idiots or just super positive people. For the oddest and funniest reasons they become Handa’s unofficial followers. And they become one without Handa ever realizing he has his own groupie! He never did. From the seemingly smart Aizawa to the brutish Tsutsui who was formerly a pretty boy to the now pretty boy Reo, these guys only seem to add fuel to the fire and make it worse for Handa at times. You can’t blame them for being the only ones as dense. Handa in a way is partially at fault to. It takes 2 to tango. Though, it can be mostly seen as these idiots who are the ones aggravating the situation. Kondo despite being your typical normal character is the most sensible of them all. He is probably the wisest. Forced into Handa Force, this guy is the voice of reasoning that nobody listens to since he can actually see what is happening and going on. Just too bad he will forever be labelled as a plain dude.

The rest of the other characters are pretty funny too like Miyoko the self-proclaimed fan of Handa has slowly turned into stalker material and possibly voluntary servant-cum-slave at the end and by the time it ends, we’ll all know her as just Eraser. Then there is the knockoff Handa who by far is ironically the one looking the least like the real deal if he applies his makeup skills and Dash who just wants to compete running with Handa. His running joke (pun intended too) seems to be unable to completely say Handa’s name. Doing so makes him vomit. Shy and reserved Kasumi could be mistaken for a certain famous Japanese ghost if she doesn’t clean up her hairstyle. These people and more feel like an extension to Handa Force instead of part of the main team. Even Ichimiya and his entourage despite being rivals, they respect Handa for who he is. It would be good to have them ‘officially’ in Handa Force but it is good to sometimes see them operate independently of our usual idiots. The only character that is seemingly not a Handa supporter is Hasegawa. This guy seems to be like Kawafuji’s lackey. Something about Okayama remains unexplained till the end: Why and how the heck did he grow beard and moustache like as though he lived as a caveman from birth?

Art and drawing aren’t anything special. Especially if you are being drawn away and focused by the slapstick humour, the art doesn’t matter. Really. It is simple and bright enough just hovering above average. With some good looking boys and girls as well as odd looking ones (Juri feels like she came to the wrong anime). But other than that, there is basically nothing much to complain about. This series is animated by Diomedea who also did Shinryaku! Ika Musume, Akuma No Riddle, Mayoiga, Sola, Kodomo No Jikan, Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu and Kantai Collection.

Another major reason that compelled me to say that this series is totally different from Barakamon is because they even changed the seiyuus for the character who voiced Handa. In Barakamon, the gentleman voice of Daisuke Ono graced Handa. But here, we have Nobunaga Shimazaki (Makoto Sunakawa in Ore Monogatari) as the titular character. It is only right seeing if they used the same seiyuu, it might have really feel out of place seeing the genre the character is put in. Even Kawafuji’s character who was voiced by the suave Junichi Suwabe in Barakamon is now voiced by Kazuyuki Okitsu (Nagare in K). There are a few recognizable seiyuus too like Tetsuya Kakihara as Reo, Yu Kobayashi as Sawako and Kana Ueda as Tsugumi. The most surprising one is Rie Kugimiya as Kasumi. I did recognize her but it feels a little odd because having her without her trademark tsundere high pitch voice just feels weird. I’m so accustomed to her in such roles. So as Kasumi, you just take away that tsundere voice and go monotonous all the way. That’s how her character sounds. Though, this isn’t the first time she voiced a character that isn’t of her specialty trademark.

Due to the nature of this series, there is a large cast of characters playing a lot of cameo characters. I’m just going to name a few notable ones. They are Yuuta Hirose as Aizawa (Daichi Norita in Cheer Boys), Yoshimasa Hosoya as Tsutsui (Arata in Chihayafuru), Daiki Yamashita as Kondo (Touya in Log Horizon), Kaede Hondo as Miyoko (Kukuru in Fushigi Na Somera-chan), Yusuke Shirai as Hanada (Io in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love!), Makoto Furukawa as Dash (Banri in Golden Time), Kenichi Suzumura as Ichimiya (Sougou in Gintama), Yoshitaka Yamaya as Hasegawa (Sugino in Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Miku Itou as Maiko (Mafuyu in Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou Ii Desu Kara), Kimiko Saito as Juri (Chieko in Kuragehime) and Gou Shinomiya as Okayama (Yajima in Linebarrels Of Iron).

As epic and funnily delusional they want to make this anime, I think they did all the crazy stuffs in the opening credits animation. While the hard rock tune of The Liberty by Fo’xTails sings (and screams) in the background, we see characters adorning our titular character as well as Handa and his groupies turning into what I believe are video game characters to take on the non-existent evil in the series that is threatening to destroy the world. Epic, no? It is more toned down for the ending theme, Hide And Seek by Kenichi Suzumura. However you do notice that there will be more characters-cum-followers of Handa as the episodes go by. So when he started out as a loner walking all by himself, at the end of the series he has amassed a great deal of people behind him. Whether or not he considers them as friends is another matter but safe to say that all these affected people are now his believers.

Overall, this is one of the funniest series of the season. You will either love it or hate it depending on what you expect from this series. Of course, major disappointment from purists who wanted to watch a real serious back story on Handa but instead got pounded by the slapstick humour. But for the rest who don’t care about this, it decently tickles your funny bones whether or not you know or watched Barakamon in the first place. I don’t mind watching if they churn out another sequel. Because it may look like I am a sadist for wanting to see Handa and the rest of the gang getting into trouble and misinterpreted situations, but could it be that I am unconsciously a Handa follower now? Sure, I might not love that guy so much but I don’t hate him either. Interesting things always happen around him. Why? Because simply, haven’t you heard? It’s Handa-kun after all.


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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