Fans of Satsuki Yoshino’s Barakamon can now get even more Handa-centric comedy. Yen Press has released Handa-Kun, a prequel series which chronicles the high school days of our favorite genius calligrapher. Read on for my review of Volume 2!
Back cover blurb
School life isn’t getting any easier for Seishuu Handa. Try as he might to make himself invisible to his classmates, the rising number of “Handaists” –classmates beguiled by his erratic behavior– make his task nearly impossible. With a new nemesis and girlfriend (??) in the mix, does Handa-kun have even a slim chance of staying off the radar?
The characters introduced thus far, both adults and students, have been weird in one way or the other. Now Yoshino-sensei changes things by bringing Yukio Kondou into the cast. He’s a normal high school student with average grades and interests. In short, he’s a garden variety mob character. But due to the luck of the draw, he gets grouped with Handa and Handa’s top three idolizers for a home economics assignment. Aizawa, Reo, and Tsutsui behave much as they did in Volume 1; Handa completely misinterprets their true intentions; and Kondou is the single normal POV, calling out the other boys’ craziness for what it is. By the way, their home economics assignment is a cooking project, and just as in Barakamon, cooking and Handa prove a disastrous combination.
Afterward, Kondou has no desire to associate with these freaks, but the three Handa idolizers somehow incorporate Kondou into their group. Handa henceforth has a foursome watching his every move: three spouting delusions while the fourth (Kondou) tries to inject reality into the commentary.
Yoshino-sensei then returns to introducing more characters with “HND Syndrome,” and Kei Hanada in Chapter 7 has it bad. Simply put, he’s very similar but not exactly the same as Handa, and the funniest and most extreme aspect of Hanada’s “similar but not exactly” is his face. The reaction Handa fans have when they discover he’s a fake fuels much comedy, and though the real Handa is largely absent from this arc, he does makes a final calligraphy jab at the fake that’s hilarious.
Then to wrap things up, Dash Higashino joins the story. Unlike most HND sufferers, his obsession with Handa began in middle school. While the cause of Dash’s jealousy is a bit of a stretch and his subsequent phobia of Handa is even more of a stretch, the illustrations of Dash trying to conquer his HND with the help of Hanada (the fake Handa) are quite funny.
Extras include bonus manga including glimpses of the Barakamon kids, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”
There’s one panel in this volume where a teacher yells, “Another second-year!? What is wrong with your grade!?” Indeed, everyone in Handa’s year are so out of touch with reality that when a normal person gets added to the cast, he’s the lone voice crying in the wilderness. For the most part Handa himself doesn’t do much to push the action forward; most chapters revolve around other characters’ impressions of him. As such, there’s no overarching plot or goal, but if you enjoy delusional characters, this volume should keep you entertained.
First published at The Fandom Post.