Handa-kun is a prequel series set 6 years before for the wildly popular Barakamon anime series. Barakamon was the slice of life tale of a narcissistic calligrapher Handa and his exile to the rural Goto islands. The series was hailed as one of the best slice of life to ever be produced with a heartwarming story that taught people to look at the world differently and a great sense of gag comedy. While I for one have thoroughly enjoyed both Handa-kun which I regard as one of the best anime comedies to be released summer 2016 and Barakamon being my definite favorite slice of life , I was naturally hyped for this prequel and it has so far not failed to blow me away each episode. There has been some negative attention with people not liking Handa-kuns development into a full gag anime compared to Barakamon’s slightly more subtle comedy.
Handa Kun is an manga adaptation much like the original Barakamon was with the same author and artists working on it , the adaptation began publishing in 2014 five years after Barakamon started. The spin off manga was picked up by studio Kinema Citrus and produced by Funimation , studio Kinema is responsible for hit series ranging from slice of life series l , Kumamiko to shounen action like Black Bullet.The only changes between series production were between the director and main staff. Which is a understandable if Handa kun was trying to distinguish itself from Barakamon.
Set six years prior to the events of Barakamon, detailing the life of Seishuu Handa as a high school student—and a very interesting life it is.
In Handa-kun, Seishuu Handa is admired by his peers as a calligraphy genius and given the utmost respect, but Handa-kun himself is under the mistaken impression that the deference and attention he receives from the other students is actually bullying. Handa just wants to live a quiet life, but hilarity ensues as one character after another challenges his position as the school idol, and somehow comes away as a fan all while Handa is horrified and clueless.
The story premise at a first glance is extremely simple but the setting and wide range of characters sets up for an incredibly wide range of situations.
The comedy varies wildly from typical high school scenarios that are flipped upside down to hilarious 4th wall breaking segments which clearly address that Handa-Kun is an anime. The gags for which Barakamon is well know are amplified up to a hundred with great animated and visual jokes.
The script is literally packed with jokes and if one scene doesn’t make you laugh then the next probably will.
Despite the comedy is fairly relaxed with easy to get jokes which is a plus for casual watching but also meant that not a lot of them stuck with me after watching.
Despite my initial thoughts previous knowledge of Barakamon isn’t required to enjoy Handa-Kun , since the characters are well explained purely through their actions
.The OP is rivalled only with Mob Psycho 100 for my favorite this season with a great song that doesn’t fail to get me both hyped and laughing each and every week. The visuals are great and the animation stellar. Not only does it perfectly encapsulate the show feeling and themes in 1:30 minutes as any great opening should but it’s also jam packed with humour.
The OST is fairly mindless and easy to enjoy but similarly to the humour it's ( asides from the OP ) very unremarkable.
The VA’s have all done a great job portraying their characters with performances that are both over the top to fit the gags but not too outlandish at the same time , a tricky balance to strike.
Handa-kun has a very striking animation style , preferring blank or fully white backgrounds to emphasize the actual animation but also to add a artistic contrast to the black ink that Handa uses for his calligraphy. The movements are swift and fast when gags are required and the art director did a fantastic job with multiple different styles for each kind of scene
The freeze frames used for gags are hilarious each time not to mention incredibly detailing holding on for just enough frames to garner every last laugh out of you.
Handa was not only a fantastic hilarious character in Barakamon with a touching story arc to boot, young Handa-kun is on par with that level of quality. His comments ,internal monologue and bleak victimized outlook on the work are utterly fantastic. He’s a complete different character than he was in Barakamon but I think that was a great move in keeping him fresh but it’s also done in such a way that we can realistically see him become who he was in Barakamon 6 years down the line.
The side character roster is incredibly rich and full of hilarious characters , the 4th wall commentary and idolization of the Handas dedicated fan-club is hilarious on its own but also adds a layer of contrast to how Handa see’s himself.
Designs are all of a high quality with a sharp art-style that instantly defines their character and keeps them fresh even if they may just be one-off episode characters.
Handa-kun is a fantastic comedy not only if you’re a fan of the original Barakamon but I’d suggest to anyone look for a light gag anime this season to dive straight into Handa and then check out Barakamon on its own later ( or the other way round who knows ?)
My perspective on a Handa season 2 is that I don’t really see it happening , sadly. My reasoning is that much like Barakamon Handa can effectively tell it’s character study story in a single run series , an extension to a second cour could happen and for sure some BD/DVD OVA specials but I’d be hesitant on season 2.
Another reason why I think Handa-kuns chances might be hindered is by the very fact that Handa-kun is a prequel which may deceive newer viewers into thinking they’d need to see Barakamon first.