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Friday, April 5, 2019

Selah's Manga Mania Reviews: Barakamon, Vol. 1 Paperback by Satsuki Yoshino

Barakamon, Vol. 1 Paperback
by Satsuki Yoshino (Author, Artist)
February 21, 2009 – present
Paperback: 208 pages
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, YA
Demographic: sh┼Źnen
Volumes 17 (List of volumes)
First things first.........Visitors are supposed to come in through the front door!! For a certain reason, a handsome, young calligrapher by the name of Seishuu Handa uproots himself and moves to an island on the westernmost edge of Japan. 'Sensei,' as he comes to be known, is a city boy through and through, and has never experienced rural life until now. And by the looks of it, he has much to learn! Luckily(?), he has a willing teacher in Naru, the energetic expert islander, to help show him the ropes. But can Sensei keep up with the plucky first-grader, or will he get schooled?! Here unfolds a heartfelt island comedy about a gruff on the outside, soft on the inside urbanite teacher and his new, unfailingly kind island neighbors!

As much as I love genre titles, I have a soft spot for a good slice-of-life story in manga. It helps me appreciate different cultures and lifestyles, and when a story is well done it just adds a little something to your life. 

Which is why I love Barakamon.

Seishu Handa is a young calligrapher who loses his temper on an exhibition curator when he's called unoriginal. His father sends him to Goto Island to cool off. Not only is he a fish out of water, but the neighborhood kids used to use his house for their fort and insist on still coming around.

The good: I love the interaction between Handa and the kids. Over time, the way he takes to Naru and the more her situation is revealed, it becomes a really nice emotional anchor for the series. It’s also great to see how the kids heckle Handa, and the series is filled with misadventures as he tries to acclimate to island living and being on his own. Just when you feel like he's growing, something will happen to remind you that he's still pretty young, himself, which is a great touch. 

As the volumes progress you also get a sense of how the Islanders feel about Handa, as well as their own daily struggles. There's a constant theme of growth and moving on as kids get older and contemplate life off the island, and as Handa finds himself as an artist and a person. This series balances humor and drama, sweetness and conflict really well.
The bad: Nothing in particular. If this sorry if title isn't your thing, this won't change your mind. The only thing that I noticed was that it's a little hard to acclimate to the choice to emphasize the island dialect, though it backs up Handa’s initial opinion that the Islanders are hicks. Either I got used to it or it softened in later volumes.

The ick: Nothing. This is a pretty all-ages title depending on reading level. Granted, I don't know if this type of title would speak to tweens, but there's nothing questionable in it.

I don't know how much research was done into the calligraphy for this, but everything feels realistic to me. I love the journey that Handa is on, both artistically and personally. Plus, a lot of the chapters are just hilarious. Definitely a great title to curl up with. 

5 sheep

About the Author:
Selah Janel is a writer who is trying to start doing that again instead of reading manga all the time.

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