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Anime Reviews

Looking for that elusive anime gem: Of Barakamon (ばらかもん) and Handa-kun (はんだくん) [Part 1 of 4 Parts]

While my preferences for Japanese movies are the historical, grand epic family-centered ones, I love my anime to be school/ slice of life (preferably comedic and light) series. Though it’s not a good thing to limit one’s preference in anime, especially when there are so much to choose from! 

Anyway, when I first saw the cover for Handa-kun, I switched to overdrive- watched the initial episode and got ready for a marathon.

Based on the manga written by Satsuki Yoshino, Handa-kun, I later found out, is a spin-off of Yoshino’s earlier work – Barakamon. Someone even labeled it as “barakamon-based fan milking” which I disagree, though there is some truth to it.

Here’s a backgrounder:

Hated by everyone around him, Sei Handa goes about his high school life regarded as an outcast—or at least that’s what he believes. In reality, Sei is the most popular student on campus, revered by all for his incomparable calligraphy skills, good looks, and cool personality. However, due an endless series of misunderstandings, Handa perceives the worship he receives from his legions of fans as bullying, leading the school’s idol to shut himself off from the rest of his classmates. But distancing himself from his peers doesn’t deter them from adoring him; in fact, his attempts at drawing attention away from himself often end up unintentionally converting even the most skeptical of students into believers. Fashion models, shut-in delinquents, obsessive fangirls, and more—none can stand against the brilliance that is Sei Handa. [ source ]

The initial episode sets the mood – the Handa-kun self-appointed squad was on the offensive as they discovered that a 12-episode anime was launched already and they did not even know it. (An anime within a reality wrapped in another reality?)


Handa: Everyone is hating on me as usual

But I don’t worry… I have no intention of being friends with you all. No intention at all.

Boy 1: I was finally going to speak to him today, but he has walled himself up already.

That’s the rumored Handa wall.


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Yup! 

So Sei Handa is a second-year high school student and the son of a famous calligrapher. On his way to class, he opens his locker and saw a letter – of course; it was a love letter! But for him, it’s a challenge letter which he got plenty of previously. With his current mindset, he immediately throws it in the trash, right in front of the girl who wrote it. This act sets a chain of events that may appear to be both gloomy and tragic for Handa. But wait, it turned out to be one of the hilarious scenes of the anime ever!

What I like about Handa-kun is, you get to reminisce your high school days experiences, via the characters surrounding Handa himself:

  • There’s Junichi, the class rep, always regarded highly for his sense of leadership;
  • Reo Nikadou, the good-looking, male-model type member of Handa’s squad, who was jealous of Handa for being so popular;
  • Yukio, the regular “average” guy who don’t excel at anything;
  • Tsutsui, the truant who changed his ways upon meeting Handa. He used to be bullied and looks effeminate, but trained himself to become vigorous and masculine;
  • Kei Hanada, the comely Handa version
  • Asahi, the reigning prince of a rival high school

There’s also the council president who hates men and wants Handa to wear skirts.

In every episode, no matter the agenda, Handa always managed to turn it into a sort of ‘Idol’ worship – that whatever ‘evil’ plan, it turned to his favor.


The spotlight on calligraphy is subtle since – maybe – it has been explored fully in Barakamon, but still – there is this particular mystique about it.

Japanese calligraphy (書道 ) is a form of calligraphy, or artistic writing, of the Japanese language. For a long time, the most esteemed calligrapher in Japan had been Wang Xizhi, a Chinese calligrapher in the 4th century, but after the invention of Hiragana and Katakana, the Japanese unique syllabaries, the distinctive Japanese writing system developed and calligraphers produced styles intrinsic to Japan. The term shodō (書道) is likely derived from Chinese origin as it is widely used to describe the art of Chinese calligraphy during the Chinese Tang dynasty period. [ wiki ]

I watched Handa-kun before Barakamon and immediately after viewing the first three episodes of the latter, I realized the big difference between them. Handa-kun is funny but not as heavy and well-regarded as Barakamon. That is not to say that Handa-kun is inferior to the first anime. It only meant that it serves as an introduction – in more ways than one. 

In Part 2, let me dwell deeper into the world of Handa, the calligrapher and mentions of both series’ unforgettable characters and funniest scenes!

 

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