Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 7

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 7! (For my reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back cover blurb

With the exhibition behind him, handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa returns safely from Tokyo. Between a full-moon night spent with the islanders, a grade-school recital, and a discussion of Hiroshi’s career plans, life is plenty hectic as autumn arrives at the island! The evening sun warms straight to the heart in Volume 7 of this super-popular hot ‘n’ hearty island comedy!

The Review

Now that Handa’s gotten things settled in Tokyo, it’s back to the village and Barakamon’s usual format of stand-alone chapters. Yoshino-sensei also reverts to standard formulas for several scenes. Act 53 has Handa at his most city-boy-in-the-country hapless/helpless as he settles back into his home. In Act 54, the instant Handa’s window shows up in the story, it’s pretty obvious glass will break by the end. And Act 55 is a series of four-panel comics capitalizing on Handa’s unfortunate attraction to cats.

However, the volume manages to branch out beyond the clueless sensei humor even as Handa humiliates himself time and again. When the kids practice their school play, it’s a given that they will cause grief for Handa, but the big surprise is Hiroshi’s mom. Stage mothers aren’t just limited to the city, and her particular passion for drama is an unexpected source of hilarity. The other person who gets a lot of attention in this volume is Hiroshi. He might not be a character out of his element, but as the villager who carries the label “ordinary” like it’s a curse, he suffers plenty of mortification in the name of comedy. By the end of the chapter, he winds up with a new hairstyle and new nickname that just gives the others more ammunition to tease him with.

Still, it’s not all silliness. Hiroshi’s concerns about his future career reflect the quandary many small-town young people face. Amid the rambunctiousness of the village’s version of Halloween is a touching portrait of the respect and affection the youngsters have for their elders. And as the elementary school students conclude their school recital, Handa once again wonders about Naru’s family circumstances.

Extras include a bonus four-page manga, translation notes, and pictures of a Barakamon limited-edition figure (which is sadly only available in Japan).

In Summary

I would have thought that Handa would have a clear picture of Naru’s family circumstances by now, but Yoshino-sensei only drops another tiny hint and sticks mainly to comic episodes. The Handa/village kids interactions are getting predictable, and Yoshino-sensei changes things up by giving some of the villagers a little more panel time. Hiroshi in particular winds up the butt of a lot of jokes, but his  “ordinary” complex starts to get a bit stale by the end of the volume.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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