Barakamon – 06

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Cloudy, with a 100% chance of Kaji.

Anyone who saw the weather forecast for Western Japan knows today was a fitting day for Kaji Yuuki to arrive on the scene in Barakamon.  Like an approaching typhoon his ominous presence has been bearing down on this defenseless island, its residents helpless to do anything but wait for the inevitable and board up the windows.  Indeed, a great wind was coming, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

Well, Typhoon Halong’s Eastern fringes are starting to batter Tokyo at the moment and it’s raining cats and dogs outside my window.  But in truth, things weren’t as bad as some predicted and the islands in the South survived the typhoon more or less intact.  And so does Barakamon survive Kaji’s arrival, for better or worse.  I like to joke at his expense, but Kaji is functionally adequate in the right role, and Kanzaki Kousuke is a pretty decent fit for him.  Kaji’s not really capable selling a line comedically, but most of Kanzaki’s humor is derived from situations rather than dialogue so that’s not a huge issue.

Indeed, it’s actually more interesting for me to see Kawafuji and Handa finally interact, because funnily enough in my mind’s eye I always saw Suwabe Junichi playing Handa-sensei.  Kawafuji and Kanzaki are both important characters but Kawafuji more so by a wide margin – he’s a link to Handa’s past, and the person in the cast who knows him better than anyone else including his family.  Kanzaki is mainly crucial as a device, and I don’t mean that negatively – it’s simply that it’s what he represents that impacts the story and Handa more than Kanzaki himself.  Kanzaki is important for what he is – Kawafuji is important for who he is.

In the broad sense I welcome the arrival of these two, because it gives Barakamon a chance to shift into areas that it’s largely ignored up to this point.  The presence of outsiders (besides Handa) adds a certain tonal diversity to the episode.  As the fresh-faced 18 year-old who deprived Handa of the grand prize he so desperately thought Kanzaki is a threatening figure, and indeed Miwa and Hiro assume Handa will freak out if he finds out who this kid is (of course, he already knows).  Kawafuji has brought Kanzaki here to be the irritant to Handa-sensei’s oyster – the impetus to force him to level up and keep providing the works that Kawafuji can sell at a handsome profit.  And Kanzaki looks the part – he’s a Handa fanboy to be sure, but it’s mixed with that innate cockiness child geniuses often possess.

It is indeed a measure of Handa’s growth that he can deal with Kanzaki as well as he does.  Still, the episode doesn’t quite click for me.  The format the anime is using is starting to feel repetitive – a buildup consisting mostly of madcap comedy and Naru vamping, capped off with a heartwarming moral at the end.  It’a hard to explain exactly why this doesn’t quite work without dipping into spoilers, but it must be noted that the source material isn’t constructed this way at all.  The messages are far more subtle, and it takes a lot longer to work up to delivering them.  In this ep we do get a glimpse of some of the depth Brakamon brings to the table when confronting matters like the creative process and what makes true art, but there just isn’t enough build-up for them to have a real impact.

In this way Barakamon reminds me of what usually happens when American TV chooses to adapt a subtle and subversive work from British television – it’s recognizable and sometimes quite good, but there’s a kind of ironing out the wrinkles, as if the adaptation were done by Medical Mechanica.  In its own way that’s an interesting process to watch play out – though not as interesting as Barakamon itself in its unadulterated and undiluted form.

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  1. g

    I am really enjoying this show! I'm coming from a little different background with Barakamon than you – I haven't read the manga prior to watching, but I have been reading along after each episode. Other than the great chapter 3, there haven't been a ton of things left out…

    I feel like you're suffering from being too close to the source material. I feel the same way with Tokyo ESP and Ghoul – but comparing the adaptations, I think the Tokyos have had it much worse…

    I really liked this episode. I went back and read the chapters this episode came from (19-22ish?), and it seems to me most of the stuff they cut out involved Naru, who you seem to suggest they are concentrating too much on anyway…

  2. m

    I'm a pretty big fan of Barakamon the manga as well, but this episode didn't grate me as much. I guess hearing Handa's past self-important interviews read aloud made up for some of it.

    I'm still reserving my judgment regarding Tokyo Ghoul until the finale, but I have to agree with Tokyo ESP. The anime somehow managed to suck out all the charm and goofiness, most notably with Azuma, who I'd never realized until this moment is actually the core of that series.

  3. G

    Enzo I'm curious as to which tv shows you are speaking of. Is that really as common as you say it is?

  4. Do you mean the American adaptations of British shows? There are lots of examples – probably the best or close would be The Office. The British version is way better, but the US version is also very good. Some have been utterly brutal, like three failed tries at Fawlty Towers. Most are in-between.

    I would guess the total number is over 100.

  5. K

    I was thinking of Life on Mars when you made that comment. That was a travesty.

  6. H

    Quite a good episode I thought. The humor and individual demeanor of each character really shines through when you throw new blood into the mix. I wasn't taken by the Kanzaki character and his obsessiveness towards Handa a bit grating – but I think the show was clearly aware of that. Sensei has matured, hasn't he?

    I get what you mean about the format. Though the heartwarming morals are good (if a bit cliché), the highlights are definitely the eccentrics in humor and characters themselves. This show reminds me a bit of Kuregahime in how it has greatness that is sometimes restrained by a short anime format.

    But really, it's a good show so be happy it's not a trainwreck.

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