Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 8

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

Back cover blurb

Miwa and Tama leave the island on their middle-school class trip! While the girls are away, handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa attempts his first island broadcast, helps Kuroshi (formerly Hiroshi) prepare for an interview, and completely neglects his calligraphy! And in the middle of all this bustle comes the sudden appearance of an ambulance?! The eighth volume of this heartwarming island comedy is full of bittersweet persimmons, souvenirs, and good-byes!

The Review

“I’m being utterly contaminated by the island!!” is what the back cover screams, and that does appear to be the case for Handa. After four months, he and the islanders have grown accustomed to one another, which means less opportunity for “clueless city boy” themed humor. As such, Yoshino-sensei continues using alternate characters as the butt of jokes, and in Volume 8, that role gets mostly saddled onto Miwa and Tama.

While it’s nice to see these two troublemakers suffer for a change, the situations are hardly original. Their cake baking disaster is a scenario done to death, and Miwa gets tiresome as the annoying classmate on the middle school trip gone wrong. The giving of their pathetic souvenirs isn’t much better. Fortunately, Hiroshi’s unsettled career path continues to provide laughs and an opportunity for Handa to play the immature adult.

Then there’s a sudden shift in mood with the passing of the elderly islander Kiyoba. Handa gets roped in to help with the funeral, and the fact that his neighbors are relying on his help is another indication of how he’s become a part of the community. Even so, he’s greatly unfamiliar with their rituals, and readers learn along with him how this village pays its last respects. It’s similar in many respects to the Obon Festival arc, where Handa goes in with certain preconceptions that end up shattered. Like most things on the island, the funeral isn’t a gloomy affair so laughter and yelling coexist amid the more touching moments as Kiyoba gets her final send off.

Extras include a bonus one-page manga, translation notes, and another installment of “Barakamon News.”

In Summary

There’s not much calligraphy but lots of immature goofing around in this installment. Middle school antics dominate the first half with Miwa, Tama, and their class trip to Nagasaki. Unfortunately, most of their situation comedy is so unoriginal it gets tiresome quick. However, the second half becomes much more engaging when Handa helps the village pay final respects to one of its oldest members.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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