Episode 11

by Nick Creamer,

This week's Barakamon was unsurprisingly the most plot-focused, as the show worked to pull all of Handa's maturation into a coherent final conflict. That made it necessarily lighter on the comedy, and that plus the near-total absence of Naru and the other islanders means it's unlikely to be anyone's favorite episode. But in spite of that, I think this episode did a very solid job of pulling the show's art-instinct and coming-of-age ideas together, and has put us in a great spot for a more relaxing finale.

This episode started with Handa awaiting the judgment of the director he initially punched, a tension Handa handled with all the grace we've come to love him for - that is, he had a small panic attack and decided his current submission was “too good for him." I got some awkward recognition chills from more than a few of Handa's lines in this scene - when his friend commented that his piece was “big and grand,” Handa's "is that the only noteworthy thing about it?" immediately reminded me of some of my own less-than-graceful responses to criticism. And Handa's fear of his current work being better than he can actually create, or not representative of any truly stable maturation, was a natural continuation of the inspiration-related questions the last two episodes have tackled. This time, Handa ended up actively articulating the issues I've mentioned for the past two weeks - if all his works on the island were experimental flukes, can he really say he's found an actual style? It's nice to see Handa recognizing the fragile nature of his advancements, even if he only reaches that clarity because he's looking for any reason to panic.

Handa's real maturation became apparent once the director finally arrived. As the director moves to take a seat, Handa realizes he has a bad back, and helps him onto the sofa. The Handa of the first episode would never have done that - though Handa's been self-involved all show long (not the most uncommon trait for an artist to have), his time on the island has helped to provide him an actual awareness of the world around him. Even if his current successes are flukes, this maturation is a process that will eventually bleed back into his work. As was made clear last episode, one of Handa's central problems as an artist is that he simply lacks human experience - but the island has made him a more open and outwardly focused person, a gift that will undoubtedly influence all of his future works.

The last act of this episode involved Handa desperately trying to bottle lightning again in order to replace his defaced “trial submission.” This scene probably had the most overt jokes of the episode - I particularly liked Handa's assumption that all he needed was to recreate Naru's pigtail in order to recapture that “island inspiration.” My hope/assumption is that Handa's final project will combine the inspiration he's gained from his connections on the island with the classic “Handa style” he really does enjoy. I still remember the eagerness in his voice when, after being tasked with rewriting the names of the villagers, he commented that he hadn't gotten to do classic calligraphy in a long time. Given that, his final project being a callback to that assignment makes it seem very likely the show will end with him taking his first step on the road to a style he can actually call his own. Either way, here's to hoping for a finale that brings the whole cast together one more time - it's been a lovely ride, and I'll be sad to see Barakamon go.

Rating: B+

Barakamon is currently streaming on Funimation.

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

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