[OWLS Blog Tour] A Calligrapher’s Renaissance: Barakamon

Hey hey hey fellow ani-lovers and ani-friends!! It’s Archi-Anime’s turn to contribute to  the OWLS January blog tour. OWLS: Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, is a group that hopes to spread the important message of respect and kindness to every human being. Our monthly blog tours reflect this message of tolerance and self-acceptance, through various analysis of the anime medium; although it is not limited to anime.

January’s theme is “Revival”:

A new year implies “new beginnings.” Yet, rather than discussing the “new,” we will be discussing the “revival.” “Revival”  has multiple definitions, but the meaning we will be focusing on is the improvement, development, or refinement of something. Our posts will be about characters that undergo a positive or negative transformation and what we can learn from them.

The life of an artist is a precarious path, and the same could go for us content creators. We all start from zero. We start with the basics and once we’re comfortable with that we start to add our own view, our own flourishes to make our content our own. Some people are born with natural talent while others have to work really hard. We’re inspired by others and strive to be like them so in a sense we also start to mimic those as well. We’ve all at some point hit a wall, a plateau, that hinders us from creating, this is usually the time we have to start changing things up and find new inspiration.

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In the case of Barakamon, Handa Sei is a naturally talented calligraphy artist bound for glory in the same steps as his father, another renowned Calligrapher.  Handa is quite proud of his work, it’s perfection in it’s subtlety, and its grounded in the foundation it was built on, the influence of his father and the basics he’s known all his life. He’s comfortable in thinking he’s the best, until one fateful competition that breaks him. What happens afterwards revitalizes him via his own renaissance and a better understanding of himself.

 

Crash & Burn

For one still so young, your calligraphy is highly conformist. I don’t know if it’s better described as copybook-style, or made simply to win calligraphy awards. Did you even attempt to scale the walls of mediocrity?” – Director

At the beginning of the series, we see a manically laughing Handa practicing calligraphy, or more like splashing black ink around on an canvas before he flops onto the ground satisfied with what he sees. Until we enter a flashback scene from the latest competition in which his work was displayed. We see his art being criticized by a big wig, a director of the gallery. The above quote is what he says about Handa’s work on display, basically saying that his work is basic and is missing something. So, as a response, instead of talking, he uses his fists and knocks out the Director.

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Rejuvenation 

After having punched the lights out of the Director, Handa is sent to the island of Fukue to cool his head and take a break from his work. What Handa has failed to realize what the director is saying is that while Handa’s work is beautiful in it’s foundations of basics, where is Handa in his work? Where is his style of calligraphy? What does he want to convey outside of pretty calligraphy?

On the island, Handa is adverse to socializing with the community at first; hell-bent on solely focusing on trying to better his calligraphy by thoroughly practicing everyday all day with the thoughts of the director swirling through his head. But throughout the duration of his stay, the community worms their way into his life and eventually his heart thereby causing a noticeable change in his work ethic.

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Enter Naru Kotinishi, the biggest thorn in his side due to her pestering nature. However, her pestering nature cuts through to the very center of who he is without her knowing, reiterating what the director has also noticed about the very truth of his work ethic, and who Handa is as a person. At first he despises the child, but he can’t fault her for speaking so frankly – she’s a kid. She only knows how to speak the truth and speak on her mind. Handa is too stubborn, too caught up in his ways and his ideals of perfect calligraphy, that he doesn’t know how to have fun or to let loose. Naru interjects spontaneity into his life with daily events, and unplanned life anecdotes and becomes an unlikely friend that sparks the catalyst to his renaissance.

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After his first day on the island he’s inspired to write, which is a call-back to the beginning of the first episode. He’s laughing like a crazy person as he “writes”. But as he looks as it the next day, he says he can’t claim it as his style, because as wild and spontaneous as it is, is that what represents him?

Rising from the Ashes

Due to his encounters with the locals and having spent loads of time with Naru, Handa learns to let loose a little, learns to have fun. This hits a switch inside him, he goes home and practices his calligraphy, but instead of doing it in his usual measured and perfect way, he has fun. He tries to capture the feeling of that word based on something he experiences that day on the island. He ends up producing large pieces of work. Wild broad strokes fill up the canvas before him, random splatters here and there, there’s nothing clean and nothing perfect about it but it’s painted with feeling.

 

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There’s a particular scene that stands out as the turning point of Handa rising from the ashes. His reputation as a calligrapher is known to all the villagers on the island. One day, he’s asked to paint a name on the side of the boat. The boat is brand new, pristine and sparkling white. He’s hesitant to write on it and mess up the perfection in front of him, so he takes to practicing on wooden planks. When he think’s he’s ready to paint on the boat, he hesitates because that first stroke will determine perfection. He starts to create excuses as to why he can’t paint just yet and that he needs more practice. Naru sees his hesitation of the blank canvas, so she takes the initiative and dips her hand in the ink and sets a handprint on the boat which caused all the other children to follow suit. Handa starts to panic and freak out as he realizes he has to abandon all his planning and use splotches of bold black strokes to hide the small handprints.

It’s strange. I was so scared a moment ago. But the pressure’s completely gone and the brush is moving easily, just because of those little handprints.” – Handa

At the end of the job, it’s messy, but it works. The client actually loves it and thinks it fits the boat perfectly. Naru is there pushing Handa’s boundaries and making him break the mold that he’s so accustomed to, and because of this refreshing outlook, he can’t help but adapt to the idea of having fun in doing calligraphy.

Handa’s Renaissance

Handa abandons perfection. He abandons the basics. He never realized how happy calligraphy actually makes him until he does it more free-form.

Another scene comes to mind when this realization comes to fruition. Handa enters a competition from the island, but comes in second place. This throws him into a short depression, but soon he gets over it. His best friends/manager comes to visit him on the island, bringing along a new face. Turns out that this character is the person that won first in that one competition. He’s come to save Handa from himself, as he saw the entry and didn’t find it beautiful and representative of who Handa was, and wanted to bring Handa back to Tokyo as his art was being tarnished by living on the island. Claiming his new wild style is forced and not like him at all, and that being on the island is not helping him gain anything.

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Handa has a mini-breakdown with his rival badgering him to return. He’s confused as what’s expected from him. If he wins an award he gets told its boring, but if he writes something he likes and is actually good it doesn’t win a prize. Naru interrupts by flying paper airplanes made of magazine cutouts of Handa and she tells him that he’s flying. I think Handa takes this as a hint; that he’s free to do what he wants.  He has a moment of clarity that settles his inner demons and realizes what it is he really wants:

“My calligraphy that you call pretty is well-behaved calligraphy, written the way my dad told me. I don’t mind if you get mad. I want to write calligraphy only Handa Seishuu can write. I don’t know what the right answer is, but letting your words goad me into returning to Tokyo is wrong.  I want to change myself, here.” – Handa Seishuu

 Lessons Learned

When I watched that particular episode of Barakamon, I was reminded of my own struggle with the blank page. I’ve always been obsessed with that the first stroke of the pen, pencil, marker, brush had to be immaculate. It’s really a hard habit to break, so I understood Handa’s struggle. Nothing is perfect, and that perfection could lie in the imperfections.

On the other hand, he reminds us that in throwing caution to the wind with our pre-meditated thoughts and breaking the molds of tradition are also the catalysts for our own personal renaissance. Or maybe there’s one person out there that can make you realize the change that needs to be made, whether that be a friend, a significant other, or even a lover.

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Through trial and error, we find ourselves and our passions. Through trial and error we find what works and what doesn’t work. But, without trial and error, the catalyst for a renaissance will never arise. I take this to heart, because this blog has gone through it’s own Renaissance, and has finally flourised in the content that is what I can only write.


That just about wraps up this month’s tour here at Archi-Anime. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Feel free to leave any in the comments!

And don’t forget to check out Zoe’s (Let’s Talk Anime) OWLS post about ReLife here.

And look out for Naja’s post on her site: Nice Job Breaking it, Hero.. where she looks at Samurai Flamenco.

Also, if you haven’t don’t forget to follow us on facebook as well as our twitter @OWLSbloggers and our official blog and our Facebook page  as well as our YouTube channel! And if you’re interested in becoming an OWLS member, you can contact us here.

45 thoughts on “[OWLS Blog Tour] A Calligrapher’s Renaissance: Barakamon

    1. Aw, thanks! And yes, I agree. Barakamon is always a great rewatch! I had to make myself not watch full episodes, just tried to pin-point what I needed for the post. and Handa-kun is just so different in comparison.

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  1. This was such a great post. This anime really fit the theme this month perfectly and I loved how you expressed it. Barakamon was one of those anime I really liked in way (even though it isn’t my usual type of show) because I could really empathise with Handa staring at the blank canvas or the boat and just not being able to take that first step. I experience this feeling often when I open a new word document even if it is for work. And much like the kids sticking handprints on the boat, I’ve found the best way to move forward when I’m stuck is to close my eyes and bash the keyboard before pressing enter and then starting what I need to start. I just need to remember to go and delete the first line later.
    Thanks for sharing this post. It was a great read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Karandi. That feeling of looking at a blank page is indeed daunting, I personally just write something small to get me started. I end up crossing things off anyways, so in the end it doesn’t matter, but that pressure of filling up something blank goes away rather quickly once you see something there.

      Thanks for commenting and reading Karandi, I’m glad you really enjoyed it. Your enjoyment of this post makes me more happy than you know! That goes for everyone that reads and comments too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I remember starting this anime and was so shocked at the punch!

      Till this day when I re-watch, I laugh obnoxiously loud! And thanks Auri! ❤ I'm glad you loved it, that makes me feel really good about my writing skills.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! There’s always room for improvement, and if you think you’re “done”, you’re really not. So many opportunities are out there to grasp onto. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and showing some love! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting choice. I never seen this anime but after reading this, it looks like it’s something wroth watching. I do draw or paint but I know the pressure of being judged and handling opinions back in school. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! Your analysis of the character’s struggle is thorough and you bring up some very interesting points. I especially liked your into connecting these changes to us all as creators, and your conclusion connecting his experiences to your own. Have you ever had a moment where you realized that your own personal style needed to change so that you could do what you love?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, actually I had a post about it coming up! It’s related to this blog, and how this blog was born. I’ve undergone several changes looking for something that allowed me to combine two things I really love.

      But outside of that, in my career yes. After graduation, I was really picky about the time of architectural firms I wanted to work for, but that didn’t last long. I needed to find a job, so I went with a more corporate-centric firm. And low and behold – I still fell in love with my work, and more importantly I fell in love with the company I work for. It’s also provided me opportunities to teach community college classes as a teaching assistant, and also made me realize that I loved the technical aspect of architecture more than I had originally thought.

      I hope that kind of answers your question?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s awesome to hear that your second choice explorations turned out well. It’s really a sign that you picked the right field when you can pick an aspect that you’re not as excited about and end up loving it anyway. I look forward to seeing your upcoming post.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an amazing post, wow!! Seeing as how I am an artist myself, I really resonated with Handa’s struggle to draw (or paint?) that first stroke. There’s nothing more daunting than an empty canvas. I’ve always wanted to get into this series (Barakamon and Handa-kun) and I’m not sure why I haven’t yet, honestly. You did such a great job with the show—and I can tell this without having even watched it! I loved your wording, especially towards the end. Emotional stuff right there. While I feel as if I’ll never find my own style, like Handa did, I’m sure that with every post or every piece of “art” I’ll get closer to what I want to create, to my own style.

    You’ve outdone yourself again with yet another incredible post, awesome job!! (Also, did you create the header image? Cause that’s what first caught my eye ^.^)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Taku!! Really? I’m surprised you havent seen this one yet! Aww, your kind words humble me. Maybe emotional writing is my style…? But then again, Barakamon is an incredibly heartwarming show! Technically, Handa hasn’t found his style yet. He was still in the process of finding it towards the end of the show, I don’t think he had a definitive answer, but he was still looking for one.

      😀 And yes, I did create the header image, i took a screenshot of a scene in the show, and then used a font app on my ipad. I didn’t have access to a computer for photoshop, but i think it turned out really well! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice!! I think I started watching this one like a year or two ago but now that I’m thinking about it I never finished it?? I need to finish it and omg I also have this blank page fear!! Not so much for the blog but as an artist, I’m always afraid that what I make won’t be good enough and as the years go by I feel like it gets worse. It’s something I hope to get better at :”) And It’s nice to see that for you its also getting better? I mean, you do have some great posts afterall 👌👌👌

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  6. Came here from Karandi’s link… and realized that though I’d read it, I’d managed to not comment! (Stupid me.)

    Is it just me, or could Handa’s arc also be mapped onto the Hero’s Journey?

    And like so many others, now I’m in the middle of re-watching Barakamon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yeah, that’s a good point! lol when I was writing this piece I was like hm, why does this feel familiar but not, then I started thinking about deku from BNHA haha makes sense I guess I was subconsciously thinking about it without even realizing it! Ahh yes me too I’ve been watching barakamon off and on! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Barakamon is one of those series which I had no idea of how it would turn out, but I have to say, I was highly impressed by the end results. Your post completely fits with the theme and the amount of detail you put into it helped me relieve all those funny and amazing moments once again. Truly a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ryuji! 😀 I had zero expectations when I started Barakamon, but omg color me impressed. It was funny, yet incredibly heartwarming and also super relateable! It’s now one of my favorites. lol.

      Like

  8. I have never heard of this anime, but after reading your post I think I’ll be adding it to my “to watch” list. I love the idea of breaking from perfection and letting imagination and creativity take over. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what will look proper and clean rather than what you really like and feel. I’ve learned that in my blogging experiences that I should just write what I want rather than what I think others will click on. I’ve even gone outside of what I intended my blog for just because I wanted to write about that topic. I can definitely relate to this, and I loved your personal experiences tied in too! It was a fantastic post Zel!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I totally read this when you posted it originally. Glad you put it up for the showcase because I realized I forgot to leave a like and a comment letting you know that I loved this piece! 😀 Barakamon is fantastic and I really enjoyed reading this piece that celebrates it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I never thought I’d ever see an in depth post on Barakamon of all things, especially given most of the things I see about it tend to boil down to “it was a nice and relaxing watch with feels”, but you did a great job tying the series in with January’s theme.

    Perhaps Barakamon is due a rewatch with all this in mind.

    Very solid post, and sorry that I missed on it until now!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am proud to say I read, “Hey, hey, hey” in Bokuto’s voice ❤ But seriously what a great post. As a person and a parent I can really relate to this. I like the idea that as a parent I may set a foundation for my children but THEY are the ones that build the house. They take those skills and make them their own. Creating a new style and identity all of their own. It can be so hard to break from tradition and find your own voice. Once again the writers of OWLS have given me another anime to add to my ever growing list!

    Liked by 1 person

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