Tag Archives: Barakamon

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 13

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

Back cover blurb

Tagging along on Handa-sensei’s visit home, Naru finally arrives in Tokyo! Trains, tall buildings, the zoo-the big city’s full of amazing first experiences! But what will Handa decide when his dad asks him to come back to Tokyo? Volume 13 promises growth, courage, and farewells!

The Review

The tables are turned when Naru joins Handa on a trip to Tokyo. Now he’s the regional expert, and she can barely comprehend her hectic surroundings. But while she makes an atypical guest in the Handa household, this arc is less about her and more about the interactions Handa has with the adults of Tokyo.

For starters, Yoshino-sensei introduces Ojou, a college student working part time for the Kawafuji business. She’s also the girl Handa was asked to consider as a marriage prospect. After Handa turned the proposal down, I didn’t think she’d be mentioned again, let alone make an appearance. However, she is quite unlike her photo and, despite certain shortcomings, can hold her own in the art business world. Except for Kawafuji, Handa hasn’t had much opportunity to hang out with people his age, and as he and Ojou interact, we get a pretty good idea why he doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Then on the professional end of things, Handa meets the representatives for the major hotel project his father is working on as well as a young calligrapher just starting his career. Because Handa has been producing commissioned works and participating in contests (and is the son of a master calligrapher), I assumed he knew what a career as a calligrapher would entail. This trip to Tokyo shows just how much he doesn’t know about the art business. While Naru does have the opportunity to cause her particular brand of mayhem away from home, these chapters are less about her city experience and more about Handa’s reflections on the trajectory of his life.

However, the village isn’t completely left out of this volume. Kanzaki runs away to the village, supposedly to get away from “society’s strictures,” and Handa gives the kid permission to stay at his house while he’s in Tokyo. Thus the island gets another city boy in Handa’s absence. Kanzaki though is less of a clueless urbanite than he is an annoying, whiny one, and poor Hiroshi gets saddled with the brunt of Kanzaki’s damage.

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

In Summary

Handa finally gets his chance to show one of the villagers around his home turf. However, this arc winds up less about city versus county life and more about the direction of Handa’s life. Naru displays some of her usual kiddie antics, but for the most part this arc is an intriguing glimpse into the demands on a professional artist and the relationship possibilities for Handa’s personal life.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 5

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 5. (Click here for reviews of other volumes).

Back cover blurb

The class trip has begun, but now it’s not just his own classmates Handa needs to worry about. When a rival school ends up going along for the ride, isn’t it a given that Handa-kun’s going to run afoul of a whole new set of kids? The Handa Army have met their nemesee…nemenisee…neemessss–their rivals! There is no way they will allow their beloved Handa to be diminished by the white shirts! Meanwhile, poor Handa-kun is trying REALLY hard just to fit in…

The Review

Volume 5 covers the class trip that Handa’s been anticipating as an opportunity to make friends. Although it does include the usual misunderstandings and failed attempts at bonding with classmates, most of the plot is dominated by students from another school. Nicknamed the “White Shirts,” they get along with the students of Handa’s school like cats and dogs. And this rival school has its own charismatic leader and minions to match Handa and his army.

By “match,” I do mean match. Ichimiya’s bodyguards are comprised of a burly delinquent, a bespectacled nerd, a pretty fashionista, and a no-name ordinary guy. The most entertaining of them is Sousuke Kojika, who goes to interesting lengths for the sake of beauty and has a unique connection to the delinquent of the Handa Army.

As with Handa and his Army, Ichimiya’s Bodyguards operate largely independent of the leader they idolize. So while Handa and Ichimiya are touring Kyoto’s sights, the Army and Bodyguards are waging war, which alternates between group efforts and individuals facing off against his equivalent. Much of this fighting is just a hyped version of the usual Handa Army antics, but the big surprise is the clash between the average guys. Kondou has been a levelheaded observer for most of this series, but it turns out he’s not completely dispassionate when it comes to Handa either.

A major challenge Western readers will have with the arc is the Kyoto backdrop. In keeping with the tourist spots they visit, characters dress up as Japanese icons and make historical references in jokes and insults. If you’ve studied Japanese history or watched one of the many anime or Japanese dramas about the Shinsengumi/Ryouma Sakamoto/Bakumatsu, you have a decent chance of enjoying these chapters. If not, the translation notes in the back of the book provide a lot of information, but it will require much flipping back and forth.

Extras include the title illustration in color, bonus manga, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”

In Summary

It’s delusion insanity squared when the Handa Army clashes with students from a rival school during their class trip. While the Kyoto setting allows for fun props and samurai cosplay, these chapters are heavy on historical references, which will go over the heads of most Western readers. And although most of the Handa Army’s hijinks are predictable, the trip brings out a surprising side of Kondou, who isn’t as immune to HND Syndrome as previously thought.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 4

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 4. (Click here for reviews of other volumes).

Back cover blurb

The trials of high school life continue to vex poor Handa-kun. This time he’s drawn the attention of the school’s wannabe manga creators and a passive aggressive library rep, but the true horror high school has in store for him waits just around the corner…

The Review

Of the Handa Army, Yukio is the only one who isn’t delusional. He’s also the one member who doesn’t actually want to be part of the group. But the others won’t let him go, and it’s only a matter of time before Yukio’s reputation is affected. Thus, we have Chapter 16: Handa-kun and the Mundane, in which Yukio experiences a classic high school manga scenario, the letter in the shoe locker. But instead of romance, it turns into a parody, thanks to his association with the Handa Army. While the Handa Army’s commentary on the subject is predictably off the wall, Yoshino-sensei does a good job of setting up Yukio’s expectations and then pulling the rug out from under him.

Then the story moves on to introduce new characters. In Chapter 17, we meet the Beautie-Girls Art Club, an otaku mangaka club. Although they make Handa the subject of their next bulletin in hopes of boosting sales, this chapter mainly pokes fun at extreme geek culture and mannerisms, which, for some reason, include an inordinate amount of puking. To add to the club members’ already unstylish appearances, Yoshino-sensei doesn’t seem to put much effort into drawing them. And despite devoting a 38-page chapter to the club’s creative efforts, we don’t actually see any of the Handa-centric manga they make.

Chapter 18 follows with yet another new character. Kasumi Hirayama is a more typical personality in that she is a Handa fan who admires him from afar. And as library representative, she does most of her admiring amid the bookshelves. However, just as Chapter 16 was more about Yukio’s interaction with the Handa Army than Handa himself, Chapter 18 winds up more about the Handa Army’s impact on the introverted student librarian than her interactions with Handa.

Then as if to showcase all those who’ve fallen under Handa’s spell, Chapter 19 offers a massive convergence of HND-sufferers stalking–I mean, lovingly watching over him as he walks home. The funniest is the most recent evolution of Miyoko Kinjou, whose nickname Eraser is surprisingly fitting. For the most part, Handa avoids direct interaction with his classmates but under such an onslaught, the chapter culminates in a rare moment where he directly addresses the fanatics (but gets completely misunderstood as usual).

Extras include bonus manga, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”

In Summary

A little Handa goes a long way. Although his actions are minimal in the first three chapters, they’re still enough to save a club and revitalize the school’s neglected library. We do experience a bit of Handa’s thoughts when fanatics descend en masse after school, but even then, the focus in more on the victims of HND syndrome than the angsty teen himself.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 3

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 3. (Click here for reviews of other volumes).

Back cover blurb

With the masses conspiring against him, wasn’t it merely a matter of time before poor Handa-kun came to grievous bodily harm? But maybe a bout of amnesia is just what the doctor ordered. Forgetting himself, won’t Handa-kun escape his greatest enemy of all? Uhhhh…maybe not.

The Review

In the previous volume, Yoshino-sensei introduced a couple new male characters; in this volume, we get new female characters. The first is Sawako Tennouji, the student council president. While it doesn’t look like she will be appearing as regularly as the self-declared “Handa Army” (i.e., Aizawa, Reo, Tsutsui, and Kondou), that doesn’t make her any less wacky. An extreme manhater, she wears a boys uniform and commands the admiration of the student council and all the girls at school. Not surprisingly, she sets her sights on destroying Handa, but she’s interesting in how readily she uses slander to take him down. It’s inevitable that she’ll fall victim to HND syndrome, but things take an unexpected twist when she inadvertently causes Handa to lose his memory.

In most manga, this would result in consternation; in Handa’s case, it’s a chance to see the student he would’ve been if he didn’t think everyone hated him. While he no longer has a persecution complex, Handa’s delusions take another form. Tennouji quickly drops from the foreground to be replaced by the Handa Army, who are unable to cope with the perky new Handa. The funniest part of this chapter is when the entire school rejects Handa because they think he’s another fake.

After the amnesia chapter, we have a chapter with Kawafuji, the one person who sees Handa as he actually is. A trip to the game center starts as an attempt to help Handa recover from the extreme methods used to recover his memories, but it quickly devolves into Kawafuji laughing at his friend’s expense. The Handa of Barakamon is notoriously inept at anything but calligraphy, and this chapter brings some of that physical humor to Handa-kun.

Then another person gets a glimpse of the real Handa. Enter Tsugumi, a schoolmate with a talent for palm-reading. She, like Tennouji, looks like a relatively minor character, and most of the energy from this arc comes from the reactions of the Handa Army. However, her reading of Handa’s future and how she interprets it should be hilarious to Barakamon fans.

Extras include bonus manga, translation notes, and an installment of “Handa-Kun News.”

In Summary

A man-hating student president and a fortune-telling classmate join the cast, but it’s still the wild comments of the Aizawa, Reo, Tsutsui, and Kondou foursome that carry this series. However, a bout of amnesia changes things up by bringing out a completely different side of Handa, and a trip to the game center with Kawafuji provides a refreshing break from the Handa-enthralled masses.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 11

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

Back cover blurb

Damn it!! I’m getting married and leaving this crazy island!!!! (teary)

Handa’s parents’ true motivation for coming to the island is made clear-an arranged m-m-m-marriage?!!

Will handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa find the resolve to meet his fate?!

Add in a fight with the neighboring village’s own handsome young guy, Kazuma Higashino, and Hiroshi’s spate of delinquency, and you get the super-chaotic Volume 11 of this hot ‘n’ hearty island comedy, Barakamon!

The Review

The last volume left readers dangling with Handa’s parents springing a marriage meeting on him. It was the sort of event I thought would launch a new multi-chapter  trip to Tokyo for Handa. As it turns out, the whole marriage meeting issue gets resolved in a single chapter. While I’m surprised it wrapped up so quickly, the villagers’ reactions to the prospect of Handa marrying are pretty funny, and Yoshino-sensei does an excellent job of keeping readers intrigued about the woman who wants to marry Handa.

Then the focus switches to Hiroshi. The uber-ordinary teen has been sharing the role of anguished young man with Handa of late, and when he receives the results of his job interview, he gets super-charged fuel for despair. The ever-suffering Hiroshi generally doesn’t blow his top so to see him unleash a once-every-three-years rampage upon Miwa, Tama, and Handa is a hilarious sight.

After torturing Hiroshi about his future, the plot shifts to Handa and his past in an unexpected encounter with a former middle school classmate outside Handa’s house. “Dash” Higashino and his grudge against Handa over Handa’s house is a lot funnier if you’ve read the Handa-Kun prequel. However, even without knowing anything about their history, readers can still laugh at the way Dash goads Handa into a bet. Handa once more devolves into clueless city boy as he attempts to prove he can grow vegetables, but there is a shift from other Handa the Idiot episodes. While he still plays the fool, his actions this time are motivated by the attachment that’s grown between him and the village.

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

In Summary

The threat to Handa’s carefree bachelor life disappears almost as soon as it arises. While the marriage meeting arc is disappointingly brief, Yoshino-sensei follows up with a hilarious Hiroshi wild phase episode before launching into an arc involving a former Handa classmate. While it’s entertaining even if you aren’t familiar with their past relationship, it’s a lot funnier if you’ve read the Handa-Kun prequel.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Barakamon Vol. 10

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

Back cover blurb

The cold north wind sets in on the island and handsome young calligrapher Seishuu Handa longs for his winter clothes. But instead of Kawafuji making the delivery, Handa’s parents decide to make their island debut–and come bearing much more than just winter clothes!

The Review

Our young calligrapher has been on the island a while now, long enough for the seasons to change. Volume 10 opens with the approach of fall and some goofy fun in preparation for cold weather. Then Handa makes the seemingly innocuous move of requesting that his winter clothes be sent to the island. The next thing he knows, his parents make that delivery in person. Thus, the island gets another invasion of city folk.

While there are the usual comic elements of rural life assaulting urban sensibilities, interactions go beyond simple culture shock thanks to two tagalongs. Apparently, when you are a master calligrapher, you can’t go anywhere without your agent watching your every move, and Seimei Handa’s agent just happens to be another member of the Kawafuji family. With Takao Kawafuji rounding out the roster, we have two artist-agent teams of different generations plus two parent-child relationships that provide plenty of fodder for insight, strife, and insecurity. The father-son calligraphy battle in the schoolhouse is particularly fun and clever. Not only does it demonstrate the differences between Handa and his dad as artists, it also brings the islanders in as participants.

Inserted in the midst of the Handa/Kawafuji family trip, we get a completely Hiroshi-centric chapter. Those who follow the Handa-Kun spinoff will not only enjoy the similar four-frames per page format but the string of misinterpretations that characterize the narrative. Given all the grief Hiroshi suffers at his village, it’s nice to see him appreciated at school (even if he doesn’t realize it).

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

In Summary

It’s family bonding time on the island! Mrs. Handa provides an even more extreme level of Tokyoite-meets-country shock, but bumpkin humor aside, Yoshino-sensei explores our wacky characters from an intriguing new angle as parent-child relationships and expectations takes center stage.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 2

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 Review

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.”

In Summary

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.

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.

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.