Episode 10

by Nick Creamer,

A somewhat bittersweet episode of Barakamon this week, but if Handa has to go home, he went out on a great note. This week covered Handa's supposed final day on the island, as he reflected on what he's gained here, freaked out a little bit over what he's submitting to the competition, and joined his new family at their summer festival.

We started off this week by continuing the exploration of “inspiration” that began in last week's episode. As I said last time, comments like Handa's “I've found lots of inspiration here!” always strike me as a somewhat childish perspective. He comes off like a college kid first experiencing the wide world, not someone who's legitimately discovered their mature artistic voice. Everything he does seems innovative to him, but it's all stuff like “use the imprint of fish to create a larger fish calligraphy” or “create the word ‘star’ through negative space” - it's a series of gimmicks, not a coherent style. This episode went further than last week's, and had Handa actually come to something of a realization on this. As he panicked over his submission to the competition, he wondered to himself “Can I really call this calligraphy mine? If it's calligraphy I only could do because I came to the island, I don't know for sure if I could write the same way in Tokyo.” He's been using these sparks of “inspiration” as a crutch, and he'll need to develop a stronger voice than that if he wants to gain something lasting from his experiences.

The second half of this episode focused on Handa taking the kids to the summer festival. I really, really enjoyed this segment - it was much more laid-back and less gag-focused than last week's episode, and leaned heavily on the existing relationships that we've seen constantly articulated between all these characters. This show has a tremendously likable cast, and so when it transitions into slice of life mode, their clear camaraderie and Handa's childlike glee at the center of it can do all the work.

Handa's reaction to the festival lent some poignant context to the quest for inspiration he's set for himself. As Naru and Hina dragged him between all the classic festival attractions, he expressed legitimate joy and surprise at each new experience, giving his all to whatever he was doing. The issue of Handa's calligraphy coming off as too formal and textbook-style begins to make sense as you realize his dedication to his work has denied him an actual childhood. All the inspiration he's found on this island, all the various revelations that seemed so profound at the time - they're essentially making up for the fact that he never had his own set of childhood experiences to draw on. Craft is important, but to truly express a voice, an artist must draw from life experience, and Handa's had a whole lot of life experience catching up to do.

The episode ended on a melancholy note, as the main cast reflected on the end of summer with fireworks exploding in the distance. It's a classic scene, but the tension felt real - the relationships between these characters have been illustrated in wonderful detail, and concerns like Hiro's mixed feelings about his job search are universal. With two episodes left, it's more than a little unlikely Handa's time with his new friends will end here, but this episode was still a lovely summation of the series so far.

Rating: A-

Barakamon is currently streaming on Funimation.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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