There are a few rare occasions in which you will find me enjoying a, what could be termed, “slice of life” series. In Barakamon, the combination of comedy, small town life, and just a hint of forward progress for Handa makes the series absolutely endearing.
When young, master calligrapher Handa takes a swing at a critic, he is pushed off to the countryside by his manager until things blow over. While there Handa actually thinks about the critic’s words and begins to rediscover who he is as an artist.
This is all facilitated by Handa’s interactions with the many colorful people of the town chiefly elementary schooler Naru who is the first person to befriend “sensei” driving him crazy with her rambunctious antics. There are high schoolers and best friends Miwa and Tamako who are charming in their mildly malicious tricks. And semi-delinquent Hiroshi who probably comes closest to being a peer and friend to Handa. Plus, a whole array of other semi-recurrent eccentric folks for Handa to play off of.
Satsuki Yoshino does a great job of changing up the pace of each story. Sometimes is centers around a calligraphy project of Handa’s, sometimes is a problem one of the townspeople is having, sometimes unexpected visitors arrive, sometimes we learn a bit about the past, sometimes it is a lazy day, and so on and so forth. Whatever it may be the comedic timing always pulls it together.
At the same time, there is always an undercurrent of sentimentality only coming to the forefront in single passing moments. It is there just enough. This let’s Barakmaon feel like more than a situational comedy.
I always catch myself smiling about Barakamon long after I’ve finished a volume. Barakamon is a true delight.
At one point in time most of us have wondered what if one author did a title in a genre they don’t normally work in or did their own take on an established or popular premise. You might wonder what if Kaoru Mori did a science fiction series or what if Mitsuru Adachi did his own version of Princess Nine. I have seen that question asked on various podcasts as well as our own podcast. It is a fascinating what if that that just generates speculation naturally. We have even discussed it here as well. So it is always interesting to see what happens when it actually occurs outside the space of pure theory. It does not always work out for the best. Sometimes artists work in their chosen genre for a reason. A novel concept by one author can seem like nothing more than an also–ran when the same idea is used by another person a little later. But it can also lead to some wonderful variations and unique stories that show you an unexpected side of a mangaka. It does not matter if it is a success or failure. It always is an informative experiment.
I bring this up mostly because Giganto Maxia distinctly feels like what if Kentaro Miura did his own version of Attack on Titan. It is not a 100% copy-paste but it is fairly clearly inspired by the former. (At least I would be shocked if that were not the case.) So the question is can Kentaro Miura outdo Hajime Isayama in writing stories about humans fighting giants in a post-apocalyptic world or should he stick to the adventures of Guts and less than merry band? (Or should he stick to playing THE iDOLM@STER if you want to be SUPER bitter.)