Tag Archives: handa-kun

Manga Review: Handa-Kun Vol. 6

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

Back Cover Blurb

Handa-kun and company have survived the class trip, but now the culture festival is right on top of them! Will Handa get to contribute to the festival preparations, or will the culture festival be his biggest high school frustration yet?

The Review

The previous volume mentioned that this would be the final volume in the series. As it turns out, Volume 6 is the penultimate, not the final volume. The Handa-kun News at the end of the book explains that, due to popular demand, a seventh volume with an extra arc will be released as the last in the series. However, the structure of Volume 6 is very much that of a finale.

A single arc focusing on the school’s annual cultural festival comprises this book. Three chapters are about the festival preparations, two chapters about the event itself, and one about the festival after-party. Because the entire school is involved in preparations and the festival is an open event, it provides the perfect setting to revisit the impact HND-syndrome has had on the cast, even the White Shirts from the rival school. Thus, seemingly everyone, from fortuneteller Tsugumi to the carnivore girls, gets a cameo, like in so many manga and anime finales.

The setting also lends itself to some comical visuals, ranging from various Handa themed games to the fake Handa’s Handa Clone Army. In addition, we get the novelty of seeing Handa’s class in period crossdress for their drama cafe.

Unfortunately, the plot is lackluster. Yoshino-sensei has relied heavily on Handa and his fans misinterpreting one another throughout the series for laughs, and getting more of the same at this point is rather tiresome. The drama cafe play is an inane interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with a badly selected cast, which is a situation that has been done to death in anime/manga. The introduction of the “black suits” makes things interesting for a while, but then it just gets confusing when they reveal why they’ve come to the festival.

As for the conclusion to the arc, Kawafuji’s remorse and efforts to rectify the situation are believable. The final resolution is not. After several volumes of reinforcing Handa’s paranoia of his classmates, the sudden collapse of the “Handa wall” feels like cheating.

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

In Summary

It’s not the final volume of Handa-kun, but it’s definitely written like one. The school festival provides a recap of Handa’s impact on his adorning fans. However, many gags are just variations of jokes we’ve seen before. A seventh volume follows this one, but it already feels like the series has gone on too long.

First published at The Fandom Post.

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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: 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: 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.