Episode 9

by Nick Creamer,

Handa's immaturity is the butt of a whole lot of Barakamon jokes, but this episode had to be his lowest moment yet. Pretty much the entire episode was dedicated to him overreacting, being petty, and generally acting less mature than the children around him. It started off with the one and only person who even assumed he'd act like an adult, the village elder, questioning why he wasn't “acting his age” and thinking about marriage - and from there, Handa stumbled down a hill of maturity that featured him being petty about Hiro's superior cooking, freaking out about Hina's childish emergency, and ultimately losing a dignity fight with a trio of elementary schoolers.

That playground fight was the centerpiece of the episode, and was a solid cringe-comedy piece from start to finish. As someone who generally sympathizes with both Handa's art trials and his never-quite-controlled sense of self-importance, basically every line here made me wince. “Well, we can't back down now!” Handa, you're arguing with children. “Now is the time to show some dignity!” Handa, please, please stop. “THIS IS AN ADULT TACTIC!” Handa oh god it's painful let it end. “That's our Sensei! Playing seriously against kids!” was pretty much the final straw for me - there's only so much secondhand embarrassment any man can stand. Brutal work, Barakamon.

The art instinct questions took the back burner this week, and were frankly not quite as well-articulated as usual. The big question this time was one of inspiration - the opening set the tone, with Handa lamenting that “the more impatient I get, the harder it is to write well.” His improvements here on the island have pretty much all come as profound sparks of inspiration, but that's not really something you can rely on. One of the most frustrating things about art is that if you make your passion your labor, you can't afford to wait for inspiration - career artists don't just have “that one work inside them” waiting to burst out, they sit in front of their desk and hammer away, day after day. Handa has been working hard, but the works the show is portraying him as most proud of have all come from specific real-life epiphanies, and that's not a realistic work process.

Ultimately, this episode didn't really push that angle anywhere too exciting. Handa got lost in the woods, spent a moment appreciating the night sky while awaiting rescue, and found his inspiration in that. Once again, his “inspiration” has resulted in a work that's more gimmick than style - an inverted expression of the word “star,” with his ink actually filling the negative space. Even Handa doesn't seem quite happy with it - as he stands back from his work, we do not receive the contented collapse of the earlier episodes, but instead witness a moment of uncertainty, as he seems to question his own work. Perhaps this episode is as restless with its conclusion as I am.

Overall, this wasn't the strongest episode of Barakamon, and leaned a bit too heavily on repeated gags at the expense of a stronger structure and emotional power. But I still had fun, as I always do, and the show is still a charming, competently written little comedy. Barakamon powers on.

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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