There’s actually a chance Barakamon could sell pretty decently (though there is an event ticket in the first volume inflating numbers), if the Stalker projections are to be believed – which I suppose justifies the fundamental changes Kinema Citrus made in commercial terms if nothing else. As is so often the case of one-term adaptations of longer manga the question of whether a second season is a possibility looms large – there are hints the anime could be headed towards an original ending, but so far the structural changes (though not the tonal) are nothing irreversible.
Since most of the serious themes inherent in the manga have been set aside in the anime, I’m wondering how new viewers are going to react now that they’re starting to creep in. When you don’t earn those with patient buildup they can feel a bit out of character for a show, and that’s been a recurring issue for Barakamon. In any event, as usual the episode itself was pretty good if you don’t concern yourself with those sorts of concerns, though I was a bit disappointed that Akki’s main storyline (in the manga he’s kind of a loner who really wants to join the others at Sensei’s house, but is reluctant to because he figures his sister is causing Sensei so much angst that he won’t be welcome) was officially jettisoned when he appeared in the first scene as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
There are a lot of elements at play here, though most of the actual content of the episode is focused on the slice-of-life side with a matsuri coming up. It’s the usual pleasing blend of comedy and wistful nostalgia for a simpler life – Naru’s interplay with her Grandpa is always appealing (he deftly heists her birthday present from Handa) and Akki shows that despite appearances, he’s a force to be reckoned with where games are concerned, even athletic ones (Handa’s secret talent – that he once read a basketball manga – produces no such brilliance). But underneath this is the secret Handa has been carrying – he’s agreed to come back to Tokyo, as we saw in the teaser at the end of the last episode.
There are three elements of this that I think are especially interesting. The first is that we see the Director – the famous calligrapher that Handa-san punched and thus got himself exiled – cast in a somewhat different light. Here he seems genuinely concerned with Handa not getting the most of his talent, almost as if his mockery at the gallery was an attempt at motivation. Then we have the question of whether Miwa really knew what was on Sensei’s mind when she said “his back speaks volumes” at the fireworks – if so, she’s a pretty astute and insightful middle-school. And lastly, of course, is the fact that Handa left the island without telling anyone, even (especially Naru) and what that says about his character.
I’m not going to predict where this all goes in the next weeks’ final episodes, because even if it were to stay with the manga we’re just now branching into untranslated territory. I can say for sure though that while this development was obviously going to happen sooner or later, it’s happening a lot more on the “sooner” side of the ledger in the anime version. On the assumption that everyone (well, apart from MAPPA) goes into an anime at least hoping it’s going to be a commercial success, I think it’s likely Citrus have left themselves enough of an escape hatch to keep from taking the story past the point of no return.