Barakamon Vol. 4 - Manga Review

The story of a serious calligrapher from the city living in an island villages continues! Will Handa ever be able to get used to this new life?

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Barakamon follows handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa as he moves to a small Japanese island after a falling out with the calligraphy community. However, Handa finds that rural life is not quite what it seems as he adjusts to his quirky but kindhearted new neighbors. Soon known as “Sensei” throughout the town, Handa quickly finds himself beginning to change as he learns to adapt to his new setting.

Following the visit from Kawafuji and Kanzaki, Handa’s life on the island returns to normal... if that’s what you call normal. He may be trying to focus on an upcoming calligraphy competition, but the daily antics of the villagers continue and Handa once again finds himself caught up in all of the craziness.

Slice-of-life fans will find this series appealing, as Barakamon embodies many of the traditional scenarios the genre follows with its own twists.

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Following the events of volume 3, life on the island has more-or-less returned to normal for Handa, meaning more ‘incidents’ with the villagers as well as more antics from the children in particular. Most of the comedy and daily interactions that make Barakamon feel profound are still present and continue to explore the characters of both Handa and the other locals as Handa continues to grow into his new home.

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In continuing the shenanigans with the villagers, the narrative does introduce new characters from the island, such as Miwa’s dad, who all have their own personalities that lend well to the new situations that Handa gets into. By continuing to involve new characters, Barakamon not only manages to keep its comedy fresh but also creates a more realistic-feeling setting as Handa gets involved with the large variety of people that would be sure to be found in any real life locale.

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Even when the segments of story don’t focus on new characters, Yoshino continues to create a set of diverse and interesting scenarios for Handa and the kids, from honoring ancestors’ shrines to Naru babysitting a younger child. The panel layout is shifted during a couple of chapters as well, and instead of the usual dynamic manga paneling, Yoshino instead uses two columns of four square panels per page. The temporary stylistic shifts were a clever change in pace, and made the scenes they rendered stand out to me.

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One of the most interesting elements of Barakamon as a series for me personally has been the disconnect between Handa and the more rural setting he finds himself in due to the relative cultural differences. This is something that is incredibly difficult to translate properly to another language both because of the technical difficulties, such as homonyms, and because of the difficulty in capturing the social differences in a way that makes sense to English readers who are unfamiliar with both urban and rural Japanese cultures. Yen Press does an excellent job in handling the translation of culturally complex chapters, and the translation notes at the back are both detailed and informative, providing western readers with a premium look into different facets of Japanese culture.

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While there isn’t anything particularly of note to complain about in this volume, I wouldn’t say that there are any elements that stand out in particular either. If you want more Barakamon, that’s what you will get. However, there isn’t anything special such as Handa’s friends’ visit from last volume that makes volume 4 stick out from its predecessors, so while the quality of this volume is still good, it is more or less standard fare for the series.

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Barakamon continues to be a fun series in its fourth volume. The previously established characters, as well as newly-introduced villagers, are always a source of comedy and continue to push Handa into changing his ways. The cultural aspect also continues to be a highlight of the series and helps augment this set up providing unique and entertaining moments. Although volume 4 does little to differentiate itself from previous volumes, if you have enjoyed Barakamon previously then I highly encourage picking this one up as well.

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What do our scores mean?

Barakamon Vol. 4 was authored by Satsuki Yoshino and published by Yen Press on April 21, 2015. Barakamon is an ongoing series in Square Enix’s Gangan Online magazine, and received a single-cour anime adaption by Kinema Citrus in Summer 2014. Volume 5 is currently available in English for North America as of June 23rd.

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For more reviews, keep an eye on AniTAY as well as Taykobon, our new page for reviews of manga and light novels. You can also follow us on twitter @taykobon for more updates! If you’ve read this work or have any questions or comments, we would love the hear from you in the comments below!

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*Copy provided for Taykobon by publisher
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