Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 4

The contrast between city and rural life has been a source of entertainment since the time of Aesop’s fables. It remains a popular subject in manga and anime today, and joining the ranks of Silver Nina, Non Non Biyori, and Silver Spoon is Yen Press’ series Barakamon. Read on for my review of Volume 4! (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Aiming for an autumn calligraphy exhibition, handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa sets out to get in touch with his creative side. Meanwhile, a man whose appearance screams “yakuza,” landing him well out of place on the peaceful island, puts in a “request” to have Handa write the name on his boat…?! Kick back like a local and enjoy the fourth volume of this heartwarming island comedy!

The Review

Volume 3 left Handa with no means of communication following a powerful typhoon. I thought it would be a lead-in for another extended arc like the Tokyo visitors one, but it merely flows into a single chapter about Handa’s laughable attempts to use a rotary phone before switching back to Barakamon’s usual pattern of standalone chapters. The content is pretty entertaining though as Yoshino-sensei expands beyond the kids-getting-in-Handa’s-way storylines and into territory where Handa and Naru are collaborating on something. I found the fish preparation chapter especially funny, having dealt with overly lively fish myself.

However, Volume 4 does have a new feature: chapters rendered in four-panel style. Chapter 29, in which Handa and Naru catch dragonflies, and Chapter 32, which features a calligraphy tutoring session with the local kids, use this format along with a simplified character design. Because of this style, these pages have more of a gag manga feel. The humor in Chapter 29 is mostly visual so it translates pretty well, but the kanji-based jokes in Chapter 32 may require a visit to the cultural notes. In general, though, they’re pretty amusing, and except for some yaoi allusions, everything stays in “All Ages” territory.

The volume closes with a chapter on the Obon Festival. In addition to showing Gotou’s particular take on the Japanese holiday, it also touches on a subject I’ve wondered about, namely Naru’s parents. We’ve seen plenty of her grandpa, but her parents have yet to make an appearance. For a community that’s so unnecessarily well-informed about their neighbors, it’s a little strange Handa’s yet to learn anything about them, and I’m guessing that will provide fodder for future chapters.

Extras include a bonus three-page manga, translation notes, and information about the story’s island setting.

In Summary

After the extended arc in Volume 3, Barakamon returns to its pattern of standalone chapters. Themes range from Handa painting the name onto a local’s boat to managing the food gifts lavished by his rustic neighbors. The volume ends by touching on Naru’s family situation. Until now she’s been a pretty simple character, but the story hints that the boisterous, free-spirited kid might turn into something more complicated for Handa.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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