Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 12

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

Back cover blurb

Santa, huh…? Guess each household tends to have its own customs…. Jingle jingle jingle jingle….Christmas has come to the island!Handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa tries his hand at the Santa business for the first time! But could it be that Handa Claus isn’t the only one who’s come to visit all the nice little children…? The love of every dad warms the world in Volume 12 of this hot ‘n’ hearty island comedy!

The Review

Volume 12 opens with two filler chapters, both highlighting the immaturity of our cast, no matter what their actual age. Act 88 has the first graders’ lesson in personal pronouns turning into a three-way challenge between Hina, Naru, and Handa. Act 89 focuses on the middle school kids with Shin Yoshida correcting Miwa and Tama’s misconceptions about Higashino (I thought he was Dash, too, girls!) and farmer Higashino winding up with a worse replacement nickname.

The story then dives into a three-chapter Christmastime arc that addresses one of the long-standing mysteries of the series: what happened to Naru’s parents. As it turns out, the truth isn’t tragic or dramatic at all. It’s so disappointingly mundane that it’s a wonder the islanders, with their supposed penchant for local gossip, haven’t mentioned Naru’s dad Yuuichiro. Despite his infrequent visits home, he’s still considered part of the community, so much so that he can’t take ten steps through the village without someone stopping him to chat.

But even though the reasons that keep him away from Naru are hardly titillating, Yuuichiro does make an exciting entrance when he first appears. His return is preceded by an intense Christmas Eve debate among the children regarding the existence of Santa Claus. Of course, Handa gets dragged into it, and as midnight approaches, readers get to see how Christmas in Japan is like and unlike western celebrations.

With the villagers treating Yuuichiro’s return as no big deal, Handa’s finally able to broach subjects he’d previously assumed were taboo. In fact, Yuuichiro is the one to invite Handa to chat with him. The conversation that follows is an interesting one. Although Yuuichiro does not communicate with his daughter and is mostly absent from the village, he calls Handa, who has been watching over Naru, “an outsider.” This gets Handa thinking about who the insiders and outsiders are in his life, once more causing him to reflect upon the connections he’s made in the village.

Extras include two bonus manga, translation notes, and another installment of “Barakamon News.”

In Summary

Christmas comes to the island! With small children eagerly anticipating gifts, Handa takes on the role of Santa Claus only to get upstaged by Naru’s dad. If you’ve been wondering where Naru’s parents are or if they even exist, this is the volume to get.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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