The second entry in beloved series Barakamon’s spin-off has arrived, and with it more unfortunate situations for Handa.
Seishuu Handa’s continued popularity also continues to get him into trouble. With an increasingly large motley group of fans watching his back, he still finds himself in awkward situations with little understanding of why. From nasty rumors to false calligraphy impersonators to just trying to survive cooking class, Handa is in for a rough ride.
Following a stellar first volume, Handa-kun returned for a successful second round, this time with a few changes to the formula. While the previous volume’s chapters followed a sort of pattern of Handa’s enemy trying to thwart him, Handa somehow preventing them by accident, and the enemy coming to worship Handa, this volume moved forward in plot structure. While I found the first volume incredibly appealing, it was definitely true that the series would have to find a way to stay fresh long term. Thankfully, the second volume capitalizes on the characters it established previously and uses them in new ways.
In the previous volume, three characters in particular were added to Seishuu Handa’s “harem” of sorts: Junichi Aizawa the class representative, Reo Nikaidou the model, and Akane Tsutsui the delinquent. Ironically, their individual fights with Handa turned them into super fans, and they now admire Handa from the shadows. The creation of this harem of guys is hysterical for obvious reasons, but their usage throughout the second volume is what really makes the grouping quite clever. Despite their witnessing of what the audience sees as Handa being antisocial, the group continues to venerate him to an absurd degree, with each member using their particular traits to accentuate the comedy with their individual personality.
As I’ve said before, a lot of humor in Handa-kun comes from the disconnect between Handa and his classmates’ perceptions of different events. For the audience, both sides seem to have bizarre interpretations of fairly mundane happenings. As it turns out, we aren’t the only ones who feel this way as self-described “normal” student Yukio Kondou seems to have a fairly decent (although imperfect) grasp of what is going on as well. Kondou is more or less the default high school student, but his unfortunate pairing with Handa and his harem in culinary class leads to his involvement with the whole crew. Kondou works well both as a straight man for the comedic punchlines and because he’s pretty easy to identify with as the only character with a semblance of being reasonable.
At the end of the day, the important thing is that Handa-kun is funny, and it is. The scenarios Handa is thrust into continue to have the hilarity of the ones from previous volumes due to both the similar elements and the new concepts introduced. Handa tries to cook in culinary class, is unknowingly challenged to a race by “Dash” Higashino (shout-out to fans of Barakamon here), and at one point the entire school becomes filled with the rumor that he has a girlfriend. Each chapter has absolutely hysterical situations, all of which are just barely navigated through by Handa through coincidence and misunderstanding. My personal favorite was the introduction of the Handa impersonator, Kei Hanada. He perfectly embodied the students’ insane infatuation with the calligraphy prodigy and drew some fun reactions out of the equally infatuated Handa Harem. What really makes Handa-kun work so well is how wonderfully it glorifies itself in the bizarrely insane. The characters all have wonderfully overdone reactions to the mere concept of Handa, and their attempts to interact with him in their own way are hilarious.
Handa-kun glorifies in the melodramatic. Its second volume is, arguably, more of a perfect example of the irony in Handa’s high school situation than its predecessor was. The shift in the roles of previously introduced characters work well to keep things fresh along with the introduction of new ones. Plenty of the same style of humor is present throughout the volume, but the transitions keep things fresh after the first few chapters. While I was prepared after the initial shock of how surprisingly hilarious the first volume was, the second volume still definitely delivers and is an excellent second entry in the series.
Handa-kun Vol. 2 was translated by Krista Shipley and Karie Shipley and will be released physically in English by Yen Press on April 26th. Handa-kun was recently announced to be receiving an upcoming anime adaptation. It is a spin-off of the manga series Barakamon and began serializing in Japanese in October, 2013 in Square Enix’s Monthly Shounen Gangan imprint. The second volume is scheduled for release on June 18th.
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