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Old 07-19-2014, 01:13 PM   #1
Doppleganger
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Barakamon



Barakamon
Yoshino Satsuki

Seishū Handa is a pro calligrapher, despite his young age. When the elderly curator of an exhibition criticises his calligraphy for being too unoriginal ("like a copybook"), Handa gets angry and punches the curator. In the wake of this faux pas, his father sends him off for a retreat on Gotō Island, near Kyushu. There, he meets the colourful villagers, interacts with them, and begins to learn.

...

So there's been some considerable interest in this title. I passed it up because on time pressure and I was already watching another SOL anime, Nozaki-kun. Somewhere I also here some vague connection to "Watamote" but there's no way the authors are the same, right?

Still, it seems there's been a lot of discussion around the dinner table about how awesome this anime is, so I've been quite curious about the details. I guess there isn't a lot to spoil beyond that summary so please, bring forth as many details as you can, fair posters!

Last edited by Doppleganger; 07-19-2014 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 07-21-2014, 12:28 AM   #2
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Episode 3 was nice. The main "problem" wasn't anything we haven't seen before, and the solution was also seen many times before, but I still enjoyed it. Episode 3 spoilers
Spoiler: show
Fujoshi was amusing. Not much point in her part of the episode outside of comedy value and possible bonding, but I still thought it was amusing. Everything else was...well typical like I found outside of the spoiler box, but I still enjoyed it. I'd say the atmosphere in this show is just a big a part of the show as the sweet development.


This show remains my favorite of the season.
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Old 07-29-2014, 03:47 AM   #3
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Episode 01: Barakamon is a pretty adorable addition to the pantheon of finding-my-way stories about young adulthood. It's the story of a young man who, aspiring to become a master calligrapher, goes on retreat to a tiny island village off the coast of southwestern Japan. There, the young man is befriended by a number of islanders, including this one rambunctious child in particular.

The final destination seems obvious. Something along the lines of "The calligrapher learns the meaning of life while on the island thanks to the actions of the child. His calligraphy matures as a result, evolving towards the mastery he hopes to achieve." But similar to some other classic anime, Barakamon's appeal appears to be the journey. You quite well recognize what your destination is, but that's okay: this one's all about the ride that takes you there.

I would encourage anyone who thinks that they might like to watch an anime this season to at least check out the first episode. Especially our newest members, some of whom have possibly never seen an anime like this one before. Barakamon features elements of slice-of-life and comedy anime, but in addition to those genres it's also an ... "edutainment" piece? It's like food for the soul and the mind at the same time. It keeps for its company such series as Usagi Drop, Gingitsune, and Gin no Saji.

Spoiler: show

When I first saw the thumbnail that Underwater had posted for Episode 01 of Barakamon, I thought that Naru was a boy. Then as I watched the OP credits for the first time, I still thought Naru was a boy. I was quite surprised to discover then, per her introduction scene, that Naru was a girl. I suppose that this is a testimony to how well the author and the animation studio alike did their job of making Naru seem like a wild tomboy.

It wasn't just Naru's gender which surprised me. Seeing the thumbnail for the first episode, I had thought that Naru would prove to be annoying. I did not expect her to be so. darn. likeable. >_< She's adorable! Whether it's the dialogue, the voice acting, the character design, or more, Naru feels like the tomboy islander analogue of Rin from Usagi Drop.

We don't talk symbolism too often here (or at least I don't), but Naru seems a rather obvious one. She is essentially the walking, talking embodiment of childhood. The naivety of childhood. The wide-eyed wonder. The divorce from worldly adult concerns like paying the bills, paying taxes, finding work, and so on. When Naru gives Handa advice, it comes from a very pure place, unblemished by society. This is represented symbolically not only in the fact that she is literally a child but also in the fact that she is an islander. The island represents a return to Nature for Handa. It exists separately from the mainland, which represents the so-called "real world" from which Handa originates and to which he must one day return. The people of Gotou lead simple lives, in stark contrast to the metropolitan life Handa left behind. This simplicity analogizes to childhood, the urban complexity analogizing to adulthood.


Handa is a mostly familiar character. A young man trying to find his way in the world. An artist trying to achieve respect. An apprentice trying to master a trade skill. We'll have plenty of time to discuss Handa's familiar attributes later, but for now I want to focus on the two features which aren't so familiar.

First is the fact that Handa is a career calligrapher. This is something I've never seen in an anime before that I can recall. We've seen rock stars and waitresses, doctors and pilots, voice actresses and farmers, but a calligrapher ... I think this may be the first time I've ever seen a calligrapher as the star of a story. If calligraphy is only a superficial component of Barakamon, then this may not mean much. But if it's as important to the plot as farming is to the plot in Gin no Saji, then we should be in for a treat.

Second, Handa is voiced by none other than Ono Daisuke. While Ono enjoys much popularity on UPN, he usually plays the part of supporting characters. In the Suzumiya Haruhi series, he voices Koizumi Itsuki. In Polar Bear Cafe, he voices Llama. In Magi, he voices Sinbad. And in Minami-ke, he of course voices the one, the only, Hosaka. These are all important characters in their respective stories, yet none of them can be called the main character. So getting to hear Ono's voice in the driver's seat is a rare treat. I feel like his performance as Handa is fantastic. I hope he gets the opportunity to voice more main characters in the future if he wants to.


In college, I learned from one of my Japanese courses that the highest paying job in Japan is that of master calligrapher. At the top of the calligraphy world stand only two or three individuals -- yet it is these two or three individuals who are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the calligraphy you'll see in advertisements by Japanese corporations. Sony, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Honda, Toyota, the list goes on: these companies approach one of the crčme de la crčme calligraphers and ask him or her to provide them with something they can use for their next billboard poster. Consequently, the elite few who stand atop the peak of the calligraphy world make a surgeon's salary and then some.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything online to corroborate these claims. ^_^; I may try looking for it in my third-year textbook later. So until I can find evidence to back up these claims, I'll ask you to take them with a grain of salt. But I am interested to see if Barakamon will corroborate my claims.

Pictured above, I enjoyed the scene where Haru comments that Handa's calligraphy looks "just like" the characters in her handwriting workbook. She obviously intended it as a compliment, not an insult, without realizing that the calligraphy community has judged (or at least that one old man has judged) Handa's work to be too plain, too devoid of that special something which sets a master apart from any ol' person with neat handwriting. Not only were the interpersonal elements of the scene good, but I also enjoyed the calligraphy on display. The poem was nice. I also loved the look of the characters. It's clear that the animation team is working with someone who knows their calligraphy. Perhaps they're even working with historical sources from a renowned master. Regardless, the characters are recognizably calligraphic and look good.


The final character Handa draws in the episode, 楽, carries the meaning of "easy" when read as raku and "fun" when read as tano(shii). Again we have some easy-to-grasp symbolism here: the choice of character was clearly deliberate as it not only conveys Handa's optimism (the raku aspect) but that he is enjoying himself as well (the tanoshii aspect). As Handa comes to life, so too do his characters come to life. You can see it in the brushstrokes. While his earlier poem looked good, his 楽 looks more like what we would expect of a Japanese calligraphy master. It is somewhat messier than his earlier work, but it also has more personality.
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Old 07-29-2014, 03:31 PM   #4
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Episode 02:

Spoiler: show
This episode was cute though nothing too special. It introduced several new supporting characters and covered what I can only assume were two separate chapters in the manga.

In the first story, we meet the two high school girls who were using Handa's building as their hangout before his arrival. We also meet the mayor's son, Hiroshi. The girls insist on continuing to treat Handa's home as though it were their clubhouse, much to Handa's frustration. The mayor's son delivers a home-cooked meal to Handa but insists that Handa must start providing for himself. If it sounds boring, that's because most of the charm in this episode derives from the characters' on-screen deliveries. Plot-wise, it was a rather hollow episode. ^^;


The highlight of the first half is when Hiroshi discovers Handa's private room. Naru leads the way, unaware of or else unconcerned by the fact that she's trespassing, and we discover that Handa has been pasting all of his rejects all over the walls. It looks frightening, but Hiroshi is actually inspired by the room. He sees the dedication that Handa is putting into his craft -- he's not been on the island but a few days and already the walls are covered with used calligraphy paper. Hiroshi has been coasting through life without ever exerting himself, and as he nears adulthood he starts to worry that a life of mediocrity is all that awaits him. He doesn't want that. And so, seeing Handa's eerie private room, Hiroshi decides to redouble his own efforts.


The second half of the episode takes place at the village hospital. Despite being a small island village, their hospital is a fairly large building (multiple stories, solid concrete) and seems to have all of the amenities one would expect of a 21st-century establishment. There's even one point in the episode where the girls remark about the possibility that Handa will get an air embolism if his IV bag isn't changed soon. The nurse then remarks that that doesn't happen anymore since IV bag technology has changed.

Handa is admitted to the hospital on account of heat stroke, sleep deprivation, and poor appetite. He's discovered at his apartment by Naru who immediately cries out for an ambulance. This girl is so attached to Handa it's beyond words-adorable. She stays by his bed the entire time, as long as is allowed, and shows as much concern for his well-being as though he were family. The high school girls also pay Handa a visit, which is pretty nice of them to do considering they hardly even know Handa at this point.


The highlight for me in the second half of the episode is when the girls find Naru hiding under Handa's bed. She's clutching the emergency call button and trembling. When they ask her what she's doing down there, she says that she's not going to let anything happen to Sensei -- no matter what, she'll press the button for him if they need the nurse again. Awwwwwwwwwwwwww. Though the awws are short-lived: Naru's explanation soon gives way to talk of a ghost that roams the halls, haunting the hospital. It turns out that she may be trembling more to do with fear of seeing the ghost than fear of something bad happening to Sensei. While she admits to being scared, Naru tells the high school girls that she wants to see the ghost with her own two eyes at least once.

Pictured two above, of course, is that very ghost. I thought the encounter was fine but a bit silly and even misplaced in a series like this. I dunno, it's the author's story, he/she knows best what sort of story Barakamon is to be. I just thought it felt out of place to have Handa meeting a bonafide ghost.


Naru continues to steal the show for me. While Ono Daisuke's Handa Seishuu is good, the little Kotoishi Naru played by Hara Suzuko is quickly becoming the unofficial star of the show. She's just too cute. Casting an actual child to provide the voice of Naru was a smart decision. They did the same thing with Usagi Drop as well, casting Matsuura Ayu to provide the voice of Rin. Child actors are notorious for being bad at their jobs, but when you can find a good one, they're worth their weight in gold. I really wish that more anime series would cast real-live children to provide the voices of main characters below the age of 13 -- Clannad After Story, I'm looking at you -_-; -- and so far the decision seems to be paying off smashingly for Barakamon. Little Hara brings so much authenticity to Naru that the combination of her voice and the character's written personality make for a solid winner.

I'm interested to see what direction the show plans to go in as far as Handa's and Naru's relationship is concerned. By the end of the series, will they become like surrogate brother and sister, separated by some fifteen to twenty years? Will they become like a sensei and a disciple? Will they become friends, ones whose friendship transcends the gaps in their ages and cultural experiences?

I hope that the author of Barakamon has the balls to wrap this story up when it wants wrapping up. Don't keep Handa on the island indefinitely in a state of training. Either have him return to his life on the mainland or else have him commit to living on the island as a permanent resident. I can easily see the latter happening. There's a lot of rich romanticism to the idea of, looking back at it from the POV of someone in the year 2070, the famed calligrapher Handa Seishuu having moved to Gotou at the age of 23, fallen in love with the place, drawn his inspiration for his distinctive calligraphy from the place, and having made it his home all these many years. I dunno ... there's just something which feels right about a calligrapher leading an ascetic life out in the wilderness or in a small rustic village. Regardless, though, I want the story to wrap up dutifully. Whether that's in eight volumes or eighteen, I hope that the author will not pad the series out with more stories like Episode 02's second half. A few here or there are fine. I just hope that Barakamon won't be fifty or sixty such stories, as I feel it has more potential as a poignant 13-episoder or 26-episoder than it would as a never-ending serial.
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Old 07-30-2014, 09:08 PM   #5
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Yeah I think I remarked to someone somewhere that the child actress' inexperience with voice acting shone through in the first episode, and that helped convince me her performance was all the more genuine.

That said, while I like Barakamon, I'm not feeling it as the best show of the season material...if you ignore my Akame bias, I don't equate it on funny value above Nozaki-kun. If anything, it's more drama a la Asukara than comedy a la ToraDora!.
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Old 08-07-2014, 09:37 AM   #6
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So I'm all the way up to 5 for Barakamon, it's definitely an entertaining watch. It's really sweet and yet at the same time it's hilarious. It manages to present a "dramatic" atmosphere at times yet not compromising the comedy aspect.

Naru is a show-winner for me. Man, is she cute and sweet! I liked how many values and presented through an innocent, young and a little tomboyish girl. Her interaction with just everyone was cute as well. I think her VA (which according to Talon's post is a child herself?) is really fitting for Naru and definitely portrays her immaturity well

Also
Spoiler: show
HiroshixSensei
so cute.

Anyways, compared to Nozaki-kun... I can't. I'm enjoying both shows just as equally, and those two's comedy styles are a little bit different so it's a bit hard for me to compare. Though let's hope both shows keep up the good work and don't crash somewhere in the middle, hehe :p
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Old 08-17-2014, 03:22 PM   #7
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I've still been watching this, but I have no real complaints, so I have difficulty finding something to say. Though one scene did kinda get me. That freaking scene at the end of episode 5. My lord!

Episode 5 spoiler
Spoiler: show
The scene where the main guy turned around all teared up was great.
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Old 08-26-2014, 11:21 AM   #8
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Like BBB, I haven't had much to say about the show other than "this is cute". Episode 08 was especially all kinds of adorbs though. <3

P.S. Is it weird I kinda ship HandaxNaru now? *shot*
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Old 09-13-2014, 06:51 PM   #9
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Barakamon is probably my favorite of this season after a good number of episodes of other shows.
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Old 09-28-2014, 02:59 PM   #10
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I give Barakamon an 8.5/10. It is the slice of life type of anime that I really enjoy watching. The character interactions + growth of Handa was good for me.

Definitely my favorite of the season.
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Old 09-28-2014, 06:03 PM   #11
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Finished watching this myself. The ending was a bit weak, but overall it stayed the heartwarming show that it started off as. The characters are fun, and I really enjoyed watching the main guy warm up to the island. This gets a 8.5 from me. I would love to read the rest of the story, but of course it suffers from obscure manga syndrome. Only a few chapters are translated.
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Old 12-15-2015, 08:19 PM   #12
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So! I put this show on hold while waiting for Underwater to sub past Episode 02. Then when they released 03 thru 05, I kept it on hold, waiting for them to come back and do the rest. And now it's been, what? A year and a half since this show first aired? ^^; O-o; And I still haven't finished it. Well! Time to fix that. Let's have Barakamon be one of the first of my many tabled projects to get finished.

It's a small world, so I'll leave this message here -- Daiz, if you're reading this: I would warmly welcome an Underwater conclusion to Barakamon. I really valued your translator's ability to understand what the heck the islanders were saying, and I valued just as greatly your team's efforts to localize that island speak into a cultural equivalent for native English speakers. If other teams did just as good a job at this if not better, and you don't feel the need to continue the project, then you needn't waste your time or efforts. But if you want to finish it, and/or if you think you can bring something to the table that no other team has yet brought, then at least know that one fan would be happy to see your continued efforts on this series.

Alright, with that out of the way ... let's discuss!


Episode 03:

Spoiler: show
Tama, Miwa's glasses-wearing friend, gets quite a bit of character development in this episode. We learn that she's an amateur mangaka who dreams of going pro. We learn that she has deviant tastes. And we learn that she doesn't want to admit that she is becoming or has become a fujoshi. In my notes for this episode, I summed up this section in two words: "funny fujoshi." I think that's sums up what we got here.

We meet a little boy this episode who is the same age as Naru and Hina. The episode makes it quite clear in little time that the boy has a childhood crush on Naru (or at the very least yearns for her attention). What happens next is something I can relate too. ^^; orz *sigh* Oh well! That's life for you. :')

I liked the scene at the end of the episode with Naru and the crayfish.

Her yaoishipping aside, is Tama crushing on Sensei? I kinda get a faint vibe that she has a crush on Sensei. Guess we'll see as time goes on.


Barakamon frequently excels when it relates to its audience through Handa's specific hurdles as a young professional calligrapher. Few of us have ever taken up East Asian calligraphy, much less are calligraphers, but we can relate to the story time and time again because the author does a good job of presenting a problem specific to Handa's career path and making it clear, through careful selection of word choice and island events, that what Handa is experiencing is something most if not nearly all of us experience at one time in our lives or another.

Having explained that, then, I can go on to cite one such instance that stood out to me from Episode 03. It was the part where Handa says someting along the lines of, "Calligraphy is my life. If I can't get 1st place, then what's the point!?" This is something I think a lot of people can relate to. Our society and our families frequently tell us when we're growing up that we should always strive to do a good job, that we should strive to be the very best in our careers, etc. "Don't settle for mediocrity." And Handa takes that lesson very seriously! He doesn't want to settle for mediocrity. He does want to be the best (or at least among those collectively labeled the best). That's why it stings that much more when he loses to some 18-year old in a low-stakes calligraphy contest. What's the point in being a calligrapher if he can't even beat an 18-year old?

The episode then seemingly diverts to a tangent: Naru takes Sensei out to the docks where she encourages him to take part in a mochi-catching festival. Handa begrudgingly agrees to participate but finds himself unable to retrieve any mochi at all. Towards the end of the event, he has a conversation with an elderly woman who is the village's best mochi gatherer. And she gives him, as is so typical of Barakamon, a lesson which is worded in just such a way that it doubles as both an acute lesson re:the mochi grabbing and a more global lesson re:Handa's (and our) concerns about out future achievements. She says to him, Don't always look up towards the sky trying to catch the tossed mochi. Look down at the ground as well from time to time. She doesn't spell it out for him, or us, and she doesn't need to: it's clear that the mochi-catching lesson applies to Handa's concerns about career goals, that she's basically teaching him, "Set smaller goals for yourself and work your way up. It's well and good to have a big end goal in your heart that drives you forward, but you can't set your sights on it out of the gate. Otherwise, you'll just be setting yourself up for failure."

As if that wasn't good enough, the author doesn't even stop there: we also get a second lesson from Granny, this time about how Handa should handle the 18-year old who beat him. The grandma tells Handa, with respect to mochi-catching, that he ought to graciously say, "It's all yours" when someone beats him to it. Don't squabble over it. Don't get ugly. Congratulate them. It's yet another veiled (but not too veiled) message to both Handa and the audience: Handa should be gracious to the 18-year old who beat him, maybe even send out an e-mail saying, "Congrats! ", and we should too. Being gracious is good in and of itself, but even if you want to look at things selfishly, offering congrats like this could open doors for Handa in the future. Maybe the 18-year old will become Handa's friend and help pull him up the social ladder of the calligraphy world. Maybe the 18-year old's grandfather is the old man Handa punched in the face. Who knows. The point is, he should be a good sport and congratulate the teenager who beat him instead of sulking.



Episode 04:

Spoiler: show
Another cute episode. So far, Barakamon hasn't been a terribly exciting series. But it doesn't try to be nor have to be. It's peaceful and cute, warm and fuzzy ... it's like a mild warm tea that soothes the soul.

This episode introduce's Miwa's father, a local fisherman whom Handa convinces himself is a member of the yakuza. In the episode's second half, Handa is entasked by Miwa's father to paint the name of his boat on the hull -- without stenciling or delay. Handa will only have one shot to get this right. He feels immense pressure, begins to buckle under it, and then Naru saves the day by vandalizing the hull ^^; , kicking Handa into Instinct Mode where he just goes to town painting over Naru's and the other children's handprints with large, broad brushstrokes. The final product looks professional and satisfies Miwa's dad.

We also meet Tama's young brother, Akki, in an earlier scene in the episode. Handa notes the strong physical resemblance and ends up saying something later on which makes Akki blush intensely. Given what we saw in Episode 03 with Tama, something tells me that the author is setting us up for a "Tama spies her little brother interacting with Sensei and fantasizes about the two of them in a yaoi setting" scene. We'll see.


Finally, there's the episode's opener: Handa is a huge cat fan but has forgotten that he is allergic to them. The scene is cute fluff. Not much comes of it but it is amusing to watch. (That grumpy white cat! )

I don't have too much to say about this episode. The series continues to teach lessons applicable to all our lives via Handa's very specific circumstances, and it continues to do so with the energetic Naru and the other kind-hearted islanders.
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Old 07-09-2016, 12:10 AM   #13
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Handa-kun is out and the first episode is hysterical. Had an absolute blast with it.
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Old 09-18-2016, 04:33 PM   #14
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Put show down unintentionally while writing a post for Ep05. Fast forward nine months. Now through Episode 08. No red carpet posts or I'm never gonna finish watching.

Spoiler: show
Series continues to be 10/10 cute while only 8/10, at best, overall. Naru is adorable and I enjoy watching Handa's interactions with her, but too little happens.

Then again, Episode 08 does introduce Naru's deceased grandmother and draws attention to the fact that we've yet to meet Naru's parents, Naru speaks of living with Grandpa all the time, etc. Perhaps we're heading somewhere big. Perhaps Handa will choose to remain on the island if it means becoming something of a village uncle to Naru. Might even eventually adopt her should poor Grandpa pass away in the near future.
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Old 06-24-2017, 10:16 PM   #15
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Is Handa-kun good? Not sure if anyone has been watching/watched it.
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Old 06-25-2017, 03:13 AM   #16
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I watched it. I personally really liked it. Handa-kun was stupid and awesome.

I don't think I can really take Barakamon seriously because of it.
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Old 06-25-2017, 11:24 AM   #17
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Lil' Bluey

Handa-kun is in an extremely different humor/story style than Barakamon, so don't go in expecting something similar. Honestly it was very difficult for me to get through watching due to sheer discomfort level of social awkwardness/second-hand embarrassment for the main character (like, worse than WataMote). I'd recommend steering clear if that kind of thing makes you uncomfortable.
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