Creators: Yoshino Satsuki (manga), Kinema Citrus (anime)
Release year: 2014
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Genres: slice of life
My rating: 5 out of 5
Handa, an uptight self-absorbed shodo-ka from Tokyo punches out a super important gallery director when he criticizes Handa’s work, and get shipped off only partly voluntarily to Goto Island, a remote and isolated island near Kyushu. In Goto he makes unlikely friends with the locals and begins to discover his own style of calligraphy.
This series heart-warming as fuck. Easily the best thing I’ve watched all year (OK maybe Into the Spiderverse ties, but far and way the best anime of the year). I want to be friends with Naru, who is easily the best character (in a cast of fantastic characters, all of whom I would love to be friends with!)
I… this show never really gets dark, which feels so rare these days. It’s incredibly invested in being honest though. It’s a very real-feeling depiction of what it can be like to be a creative artist, especially when struggling with impostor syndrome and self-doubt and block and feeling like a plagiarist and wondering what your own style or art looks like.
Sure, it’s a story about a spoiled rich kid whose parents ship him off to the country side so he can learn humanity and authenticity from the locals, so that’s shitty… but it’s also a story about someone whose just… lost in the city finding real human connections and being willing to discard his prejudices and join the community he’s moved to. Handa is definitely a spoiled brat, but he sure as shit stops being that when he sees what community can be.
I love the moments when the show takes the piss of out itself too. Early on, Tamako, one of the village teens, becomes obsessed with the misconception that Handa and Hiroshi might be… gasp, yaoi and it goes full on heightened realism in a way that is gently mocking her reaction (which isn’t homophobic, more questioning her own attraction to the theme in manga and now irl), whilst never making her appear less. Or the two characters she (incorrectly) suspects are gay and into each other.
It’s still a gay joke, and there’s definitely a lot in anime that can do better with that, but this feels more like a joke about a girl misunderstanding a social situation because she loves yaoi manga, rather than being a joke at the expense of homosexual folk. I am however, saying this from a reasonably comfortable position as someone who gets to pass for cis whenever they want, so I’m not going to stamp this. Like I said, anime has a rough relationship with queerness.
The episode where Handa ends up in a bug-catching contest with Kentaro trying to find the best present for Naru’s birthday is amazing. Handa keeps going for it, and keeps getting grossed out. It’s sweet that he is so invested in getting Naru a present she’ll love that he’ll keep going after beetles. It’s also hilarious that he gets so competitive with Kentaro, a 6 year old, over who can catch the best bug (Kentaro, no contest!).
Which, I think, is really the heart of the show. Sure, there’re moments where people dispense wisdom to Handa, but it’s really about seeing what friendship can be when people just… hang out. Handa, Naru, Hiroshi, Miwa… they all become family. And it’s just so damn heart-warming.
It’s an anime that stays on my shelf. It’s so damn good.