Barakamon – 12 (Fin)

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It’s a testament to this show’s quality of characters that I can utterly disagree with Sei’s mom’s position but still love her to death simply because she’s so hilarious and awesome. As worried as she is that her son is being corrupted by island yokels, she’s the one doing childish things like sticking talismans on his door and rains down blows upon anyone who looks at her the wrong way. Mostly though, I can forgive her hypocrisy because she just plain misses her son.

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As the gang (mostly Miwa) goes through an infinite cycle of trashing, cleaning, then trashing his house, it looks like Sei’s mom may get her way by sheer force of her maternal power, but Sei, strengthened by his time on the island, isn’t going to surrender so easily.

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When her husband breaks out albums from when he was on the island, her position starts to crumble, and when the gang mails him the results of his calligraphy tutoring, she loses the moral high ground altogether, which was built upon an ignorance about what exactly he was doing there anyway.

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Seishuu has had a track record of acting impulsively, and be it punching an old man or accidentally buying corn soup on a hot summer day, it often results in painful experiences. But that same impulsiveness allowed him to act upon sudden flashes of inspiration and break out of his conservative style.

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Thus, it’s more about tempering and balancing that impulsivity rather than rooting it out. The best environment for that has been and shall continue to be the island, which he already considers “home.” And even for the gang, home doesn’t feel the same anymore without Sensei.

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When Sei arrives back on the island and the village chief is a no-show, he leaves the airport, wanders, and immediately gets in trouble. But then Naru’s grandpa offers him a ride on his tractor, and he sees the gorgeous ocean that gramps says is “nothing special”, and he’s lockedback into an Island state of mind, where “nothing special” is the best.

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As Seishuu has taught the islanders about calligraphy and entertained them with his cosmopolitan shut-in ways, they’ve taught him that there’s nothing quite like a life lived with cheer surrounded by people you care about. It’s fun, but it’s also good for the soul, and good for his artistry.

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Once a surly, willful wretch that was first exiled to the island against his will, Seishuu’s now a little more mature and content. His eyes are wide open to what the world has to offer, and how best to contribute.

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Barakamon – 11

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“All Work and No Play” – that’s what Handa Seishuu was before traveling to the island. All that work was preventing him from experiencing life and stifling his calligraphy.That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if the director provoked the punch that sent Sei away on purpose, conspiring with Sei’s dad to get the lad out of his hermetically-sealed comfort zone of Tokyo to a place where he would find new inspiration and where his talents could expand and blossom.

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Whether it was all planned or the grown-ups used the punch as an excuse, the gambit paid off nicely, as Handa Seishuu is not only doing far more interesting work, but is also a more humble, caring, present person. Of course his growth doesn’t stop him from splashing tea on his “star” masterpiece just seconds before the director has a chance to bestow a grand prize appraisal of it. In other words, it was good enough for the exhibition, but now it’s ruined, so he must come up with another, even better piece.

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The first we see of Seishuu in this episode, he’s very stern and distant-looking in a suit on a train platform, carrying over the somewhat “stranger-ish” nature of his sudden departure from the island without a word. Thankfully, as soon as he interacts with Kawafuji we see he’s the same old overdramatic overreacting man-child we know and love. And it’s actually not a bad thing to wreck what would have been his exhibition submission, since it challenges him to repeat the brilliance with new constraints of time and location.

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It doesn’t go well at first. At his stately traditional-style family home, surrounded by the bustling city, Seishuu finds he simply can’t write the way he did on the island. Trying to have Kawafuji and Kousuke role play as villagers doesn’t cut it, either. Kawafuji determines the only way to get anything out of Seishuu is to bring the villagers to him…via telephone. Hearing everyone’s voices brightens his mood and sparks his imagination, and after pulling another all-nighter, he seems confident he’s again achieved excellence.

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We don’t get to see that piece yet, but all I know for sure is that this episode achieved excellence for sure. It was an elegant, uncompromising blend of side-splitting comedy (mostly at Seishuu’s expense) and affecting drama—elements not uncommon in any episode of Barakamon but taken up a notch here, and augmented by the fresh setting and hectic circumstances. Seishuu looks to be in good shape for the exhibition, and hopefully he’ll be back in the village at some point during the finale.

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Barakamon – 07

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On Kawafuji and Kousuke’s last day on the island, everyone Goes Fishin’ (well, almost everybody; Tama isn’t around…perhaps she’s still recovering from seeing all those men together?). Miwa teaches the city boys how to catch horse mackerel. Kousuke turns it into another competition in which he’s the best, but he only catches the shoal.

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When Kawafuji hears that Kousuke bashed Seishuu’s new work, that’s when the truth comes out: Kousuke is the one in a slump. Having virtually copied Seishuu’s old, “fundamentals-first” style, when Seishuu changed style, it was as if his fish had dropped the hook and sploshed back into the sea, leaving him with an empty line.

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Kawafuji brought Kousuke to the island not to light a fire under Seishuu’s ass, but to try to get him to look at things from a perspective other than his own. Like the Seishuu of old, he think’s he’s the best and if anyone disagrees, they’re wrong. That attitude stifles artistic growth, and Kousuke is too young to be settling into anything.

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The message coming out of this episode is that it’s up to youth not just to carry on their elders’ traditions, but to come up with some of their own, sometimes out of the most unlikely places. But one can only come up with stuff if you’re out there living and experiencing new things, meeting new people.

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Naru gets things started by creating an avant-garde line made up of dozens of hooks, which looks comical but does end up snagging a rock snapper, which is what Hiro was after all along. It breaks up in mid-air and the big catch escapes, but that’s just another symbol of how innovation doesn’t always net concrete results, but the attempt, and the momentary flash of success, still has value. “Lose the battle, win the war,” and all that.

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After five days of clashing with Kousuke, now that he knows what’s really up with him, Seishuu is no longer threatened or annoyed. When the day of fishing is over, he reports to Kousuke the periodic flashes of inspiration he’s gotten ever since coming to the island. This culminates in writing calligraphy using a mackerel as a brush, his most “unconventional” piece yet.

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Not surprisingly, Miwa and Naru think its also his best. It’s probably not exhibition-worthy, but for someone once so firmly stuck in convention, it’s another huge leap forward in his artistic growth. When Kawafuji and Kousuke leave, merely being on that plane gets Hiro and Miwa thinking about how one day that could be them; the older inspiring the younger to go forth and find their own way in the world.

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Barakamon – 06

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This week Seishuu’s open-ended self-finding country island retreat is suddenly interrupted by fresh outsiders: his longtime friend Kawafuji, accompanied by Kanzaki Kousuke, the 18-year-old who beat him in the last exhibition. As his dealer, Kawafuji believes showing up with a rival will get Seishuu motivated, and no one knows how Seishuu works more than Kawafuji.

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In the process, however, through a misunderstanding the villagers think Kawafuji tried to kidnap Naru, so they take him to the elders meeting, which turns into a drinking party. It’s fun to see how a “normal” city slicker like Kawafuji interacts with the villagers. He’s less a “lamb in the woods” as Seishuu was, but nevertheless ends up incapacitated from alcohol for most of the episode.

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Kawafuji originally had Seishuu go to the island—a place where he’d have to form social connections—as a kind of punishment, expecting Seishuu (who is bad at socializing with people) to give up quickly, return home, and shape up. After all, if Seishuu isn’t on his game, Kawafuji doesn’t make money. But contrary to Kawafuji’s expectations, Seishuu has embraced the community.

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Kawafuji’s drunkenness and hangover mean Kousuke gets time alone with Seishuu (or at least with Seishuu, Naru, and whatever other villagers happen to be hanging around). Kousuke is a dyed-in-the-wool Handa Seishuu Groupie; something Seishuu himself never thought existed in the first place. He’s mortified when Kousuke produces all the literature, photography, and quotes related to Seishuu he could find.

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He even thinks Kousuke is having a laugh with all this, but that’s not the case: Kousuke genuinely admires Seishuu, or at least the Seishuu who made the caligraphy that inspired him to get into it himself. Now he thinks Seishuu’s “vacation” is having an negative effect on his work; using his own win over him as proof.

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But at the end of the day, only Handa Seishuu can define what he is and how he writes. The fundamentally-perfect, textbook work Seishuu produced in the past belongs in the past. He’s trying to find a new Seishuu, one just as legitimate as the last, even if it makes admirers like Kousuke mad. Admirers have to step back and realize they can’t tell an artist what to do. The artist knows best, and Seishuu is staying put.

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Stray Observations:

  • Sawa and Hiro both assumed Seishuu would react a lot worse than he does if he knew who Kousuke was, but he turned out to be more mature than that, to their shock.
  • Seishuu managed to created an A.T. Field back in school. Neat!
  • “Don’t console me wordlessly!” —Seishuu to Hina…perhaps the line of the episode.
  • The three guys crashing at Seishuu’s house are simply too much for Tama, who is, despite what she says, a classic fujoshi.