Barakamon: The Search for Creative Authenticity

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I finally yanked myself away from the more dark supernatural trend of my entertainment diet  (see my reviews of Death Parade and Master’s Sun) despite being in the middle of Gosick which I will get back to at some  point in the near future because I just needed a break from things dying and crying my eyes out. Barakamon had been in my Crunchyroll queue for a while and had all the hallmarks of an excellent palate cleanser.  Short series (so far only 12 episodes) and the premise had nothing to do with death.  Sold!

If I’m honest I didn’t expect much from the show. I hadn’t heard of it before, and had only been mildly interested in watching it which was why I had been content to let it collect dust in my queue.  But this was a mistake. I should have watched Barakamon much sooner. And here is why…

I am a writer, both professionally and as a hobby. My day job is what you’d call “practical” maybe even “technical” work that does not involve a lot of creativity but does require dedication and tenacity which is good for keeping me disciplined with my personal creative writing projects. But after some life events earlier this year I had found that I was struggling mightily with creative block. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, but that the words just wouldn’t come. And when they did they were lackluster.  I felt pressured to produce, something…anything. And the more I pressed myself the more avoidance I had regarding my creative projects. I threw myself into my practical writing because it was safe, it was something I didn’t have to think about, and it required very little creative risk from me. I was still productive at my job because of this (hey a girl’s gotta pay her bills) but, I could feel that I was going through the motions of writing.  The fun was gone and with it I could feel the characters I had labored mightily to create and give voice slowly slipping into a sort of hibernation.  Being that I was in survival mode and trying to just make it through the difficulties of that season of my life I was content with that. That is, until I tried to write again and found myself inexorably paralyzed a couple months later.

So, what does all this have to do with Barakamon?

Barakamon revitalized my creativity.

It is ironic how much I resonated with the main character Seishu Handa. A well-respected calligrapher who tirelessly dedicates himself to his craft. He receives some harsh (but accurate) creative criticism regarding his abilities and his youthful pride gets the better of him and he…uh, physically assaults his critic. While I have never punched someone over writing feedback that fierce protective instinct of my work was something I was well acquainted with, and I could at least understand where he was coming from if I couldn’t agree with his response.

The consequences of Seishu Handa’s impulsive actions were swift and absolute. His father ships him off to a lonely remote country island for him to reflect upon his actions and the criticism of his work. To city boy Handa this seems like a punishment…at first.

The quirks of his new country neighbors are as funny as they are completely charming. And through their simple and uncomplicated thoughts about life, and the experiences Handa has on the island, he finds answers to two burning questions all creatives should ask themselves. 1.) Does this criticism define the limitations of my talent? 2.) How can I foster authentic creative growth?

As Handa challenges himself to overcome his insecurities, and creative block you see him become more human. Especially as he becomes more involved in the day to day lives of his island friends. An ironic twist on the whole trope that creative people create masterpieces in sterile isolation disconnected from the pulse of the rest of the world.  Barakamon is a show that posits (I believe correctly) that in order for art to reflect life…artists need to live genuinely and have simple human experiences.

I wouldn’t say that Barakamon is itself a creative masterpiece. It’s limitations due to the short 12 episode run generally leaves a lot of room for more story, and more character development. But I would say that Barakamon is a show that most definitely lives by the principles it puts forth. Providing authentic, charming and simple  experiences for those seeking a refuge from the sterility,  and isolation of our complicated and often stressful daily lives.