Barakamon
Episode 12

by Nick Creamer,

This week's episode was essentially one long goodbye, as Handa first demonstrated his new conviction and maturity to his parents, and then slowly made his way back to the island that has become his home.

We started off this week with a continuation of Handa's mom's worries from last episode. Whereas last week's episode framed her unhappiness with Handa leaving more as comedy, this week it was a legitimate conflict - as usual, Barakamon managed the neat trick of tying its jokes to the underlying natures and concerns of the characters. It's pretty easy to imagine how Handa grew up sheltered within the context of this family, and he's always been a sulky and reclusive person, so it's not surprising that his overprotective mother would balk at him suddenly showing a desire to leave the nest. Lines like “you never used to make a fuss, Sei-san!” sharply revealed the child she still sees him as while also demonstrating how his current personality came to be. There were still some great gags throughout this argument, though, and Handa's mom somehow managed to be as adorable as any of the actual kids.

In contrast to last week's conflict, where Handa had to demonstrate the changes in his calligraphy, this time Handa had to elaborate the changes in himself - how he's matured through his time on the island. His own arguments on his behalf were typically weak and Handa-esque ("I don't have any friends here!"), but he ended up accidentally convincing his mother when he demonstrated the concern he's developed for the islanders' own calligraphy work. Handa certainly does make a lot of dumb decisions, and he's far from mature, but just like his actions with the calligraphy director last week, his concerns here make it clear that he's become a far less self-focused individual. Even if he makes mistakes, he's ready to engage with the world.

In the episode's second half, we finally got to see the island gang again. I was somewhat hoping this episode would indulge in more of the vignettes that defined the middle of the series, but instead, pretty much the entirety of this half was dedicated to a classic, drawn out denouement, with the islanders preparing for Handa's arrival as he slowly retraced his steps from the first episode. As in that episode, Handa is forgotten at the airport, and ends up hitching a ride on a tractor in order to get into town. His first-episode dismissal of the ocean is thrown back at him, and when he's told the view is “nothing special,” he replies “it's best when there's nothing special.” That's actually a key point, and one reflected in his final calligraphy piece. That piece isn't infused with any soaring bolt of inspiration, and isn't reliant on some visual gimmick - it's a combination of his classic style and the new energy he's found. It's sustainable, and reflective of the person he's becoming. It's a step forward.

This wasn't Barakamon's best episode - it was too self-indulgent, and didn't seem to possess enough substance to justify its own length. But it was still a fine goodbye to a lovely show, and it still reminded me of all the reasons I've enjoyed this series. I'm gonna miss you, Barakamon.

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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