Saturday, October 25, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 11-12: Going Home and Going Back

This post has been long overdue. Let's go straight into it.

Preferably before Seishuu's mom goes all JoJo on her son.

This post contains moderate spoilers after the jump.

Growth (In Many Ways)

Seishuu has grown in many ways over the course of his time on the island. I've already highlighted many of those reasons over the course of my coverage of this show, but these last two episodes help wrap it all up nicely.

First, his art has grown. The calligraphy director that had once criticized his work for being lifeless said so himself, when he complimented his "Stars" work for actually having Seishuu's own distinctive style to it. It's something that Seishuu has started to strive for himself, as he starts to realize that following conventions won't allow him to grow as an artist. (It is also an indicator that he has started to seek significance over security... yes, that has come up again.)

Second, his ability to relate to others has grown. In contrast to his arrogant, violent self in the first episode, in episode 11 he behaves much more humbly and graciously with the art director, asking for his forgiveness and his honest opinion of his work, and expressing thanks to others for what they have done for him. It's pretty easy to see how his time with Naru and the other people of the island has helped him in this way.

And finally, he has grown in his own character. This is most notable in the final episode, when the results of the exhibition are revealed and it turns out he only came in fifth... but he is okay with that now, because he realizes how he is still growing. This is in contrast to his former obsession with coming in first, and really shows how he is now more concerned about things other than victory.

There are other ways Seishuu has grown, and some ways he still has room to grow (plus some ways he doesn't need to grow at all, such as how he connects with the other kids). But in these last two episodes, this show has done a great job of showing how even an adult already established in a career path can still grow. And likewise, for Christians, especially those that have been in the faith for a while, this is a reminder that even "mature" Christians have room to grow. Whether that is in breaking free of conventions, learning to better connect with others, or simply growing more in gentleness and self-control and all those other Fruits of the Spirit, we are not done growing until God has taken us to be home with Him.

A Place Where He Is Needed

Ah, Seishuu's mom. She's the classic overly-worried mother, who is so concerned over her child that she tries to keep him from going anywhere "weird". If you read my bit in my Hanayamata wrap-up post on being parents that are supportive of children's steps of faith... well, Seishuu's mom is exactly the type of parent we should not be. (For the record, Seishuu's father, who sent Seishuu off to the islands because he thought it would be best for him, did so despite his wife's disapproval.) But as much as she can be possessive and overprotective, she is not unreasonable, and knows when she has to let her precious son go where he needs to go.

What finally convinces her to let her son go is when she finds out that Seishuu had been teaching calligraphy to others on the island. She realizes then that, more than the Gotou Islands being where her son wants to be, they are where he needs to be, and that in turn, makes her realize that keeping him back is really just selfishness on her part. She might not like it (and it looks like, in the story's continuation, she'll be going to the islands with her husband, likely leading to all sorts of hijinks), but she knows it is the right thing to do.

For the audience, and especially for Christians, we can take from this that if there is any opportunity where we can give back to the community we live in, especially in a regular, constant way, we should take that opportunity. Whether or not such service actually means we are needed, it's just a good way to give meaning to any given place we find ourselves in.

Learning from Children

It's interesting to see how the most powerful force of change for Seishuu throughout the show are the children, especially Naru. There are various reasons for this: Seishuu had in some ways grown up too much and needed to go back to discovering the innocent wonder in children's eyes, and Naru's simplistic and childlike love was necessary to give him the grace he needed to overcome his self-defeating thinking.

From a Christian perspective, I am reminded of Jesus's words on how only those who receive the Kingdom of God like a child can enter it. While that's not exactly the same as saying that children have the power to teach adults what is important in life, Jesus clearly saw something important in children and their particular way of thinking. In a culture where children were considered immature and were only a necessary annoyance to deal with while raising up a new generation of working adults, Jesus dared to suggest that children had something important that most adults did not.

Ultimately, it is a lesson that we can learn from all sorts of people, and that definitely includes children. Seishuu found this out in his encounter with Naru and the other kids of the island, and his life had not been the same since.

The Third Part of the Story

In my wrap up post for Hanayamata, I talked about how that show could be considered just the first part of a greater story of a person's walk in life, with that show representing when that person first steps out to do something in life. Barakamon represents the third part of this story, when this person, having established himself in the life he has chosen, runs into a wall as his reliance on established norms works against him, and he realizes how much he still has to grow. It's a very important part of this greater story, because by and large, fiction likes to focus on the first and second parts of this story, where the person is discovering what he wants to do and honing his skills in that area. This makes sense; there's a universal appeal to character growth, and it's easiest to see how that growth happens when they're just starting out. In contrast, with a character established in something, it is easy to think that he has nothing to learn and nowhere to grow. We oftentimes know better, but even then, it's a great thing to have shows like Barakamon that show just how much even adults have to grow--even if they have to learn them from six-year-old children.

All of this, on top of the many reasons I already love shows like this, is what makes Barakamon easily one of the best shows of this season and of the year (tied with Hanayamata in my opinion). The show does seem to have been at least a decent success in Japan, enough that a second season is more than a longshot possibility, and I would most definitely welcome that. In the meantime, for anyone who has been following this show along with me and wants some more now, Yen Press will release the first volume of the original manga next week, with more to come later, so there's that to look forward to. In the meantime, thank you for joining me in looking at this absolutely wonderful show, and here's hoping that we'll be able to return to Naru and the Gotou Islands again.

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