Comments on Raymond H's Barakamon: The Hardest Part of Making Art

Raymond's debut article contemplates what a slice-of-life anime has to say about the artistic process.

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Arthur B at 11:06 on 2018-04-25
Welcome, Raymond!

So, I have to ask... what do the rest of the characters actually do in this anime? You've described what sounds like an essentially internal struggle within Seishuu and I am not sure how hanging out with a bunch of kids substantially younger than him (all the art I've found looking for an illustration for this article depicts him with a small child and/or high school kids) has much to do with the resolution thereof.

(In particular, if the anime's thesis is as you say that the reason we do art is because of our own personal passion, what does the approval or disapproval of others have to do with that?)
Raymond H at 13:43 on 2018-04-25
Thank you! (And thanks for editing! Sorry, I forgot to include a picture.) I'm glad to be here.

Hm, I guess the best way to put it is that the other characters encourage Seishuu to live life. Drawing back to my making-love-simile (I know, sorry), textbooks and instruction manuals are no replacement for experience and actual interaction. What we see of Seishuu's creative process before coming to the Gotou Islands mostly consists of him being locked in his room and not being allowed out until he completes his art. Basically, his artistic upbringing has focused exclusively on the discipline side of art-making. Discipline is of course vital to making good art, but it's just as important to have lived a life from which art can be drawn. Seishuu has never really made a proper human connection before going to the GI, and thus his art, while technically brilliant, is lacking soul. Therefore, the other islanders, whether it's the yaoi fangirl who ships him with her male friend, the slacker student who learns discipline just as Seishuu learns relaxation, or Naru, the deuteragonist who like most little kids is constantly pestering Seishuu with some new, fun, and exciting thing that they should TOTALLY DO RIGHT NOW, provide him with genuine, human interaction, from which his art is able to flourish. Indeed, the last episode has him writing all the islanders' names to form one larger word (I believe it's "friends", but I would have to double-check), and it's regarded as his greatest work to date in-universe.

I don't think approval of Seishuu's art really enters into the islanders' lives. Mostly they just treat it like some neat hobby Seishuu has. "Oh, you're a world-famous calligrapher? Well I can pee further than you, and I can read katakana! Boom!" As with most kids and old people, their minds just sort of operate outside of the approval-disapproval rat race in the art world, and thus Seishuu learns to think outside of it as well. "Oh, he's a world-famous critic? Well I'll bet he doesn't know jack about sea-cucumber fishing! One time I caught one that was, like, this big! That's so cool, right?"

Did that answer your question?
Robinson L at 15:00 on 2018-06-26
The annals of art are filled to the brim with one-hit wonders, people who captured lightning in a bottle but were unable to make that lightning strike twice.

This, and the discussion of Welles' filmography, reminds me of something I read last year in Originals, by Alan Grant. It's kind of a weird book politically, in that it includes a sections with sympathetic analyses of Occupy Wall Street and Otpor!, and later cites surveillance contractor and archfiend Peter Thiel as a positive example - Thiel also provides a back cover blurb for the book.

But anyway, Originals makes the case that there are actually two sorts of artistic and scientific geniuses (apologies in advance for getting any details mixed up - it's been a year). There's one type, the Wunderkind who has this amazing, revolutionary idea in their early life - late teens or 20s - but then just kind of gets stuck in that mode and finds it very difficult, if not impossible to grow and develop their views or techniques further. (The book cites Einstein as an example from the scientific field.)

The second is the more slow-burn type, who takes longer to manifest their talent, but is constantly evolving and improving their craft throughout their lives. The book compares two poets (I believe it was e e cummings and Robert Frost), the first of whom wrote the majority of his most republished poems before he was 40 or 50, while the second wrote the majority of his most republished poems after he was 40.

Potentially encouraging for any creative types who've spent a decade or more without making their first professional sale. Though on further thought, it now makes me uneasy for Ryan Coogler's future career.

even if catching a big break is not easy, it still isn't the hardest part of making art. The hardest part of making art is to keep making art.

... Which reminds me of an author interview I heard on a podcast recently, observing that the first sale is not the hardest, because then at least you're new and exciting. Which is rather less encouraging to a creative type who may or may not have spent more than a decade working at their craft without making even their first professional sale ...

Anyway, sounds like a potentially interesting anime, with some very insightful things to say about the creative process. At the moment it sounds like something that would be a little too uncomfortable for me to watch, but maybe I'll take a look at it sometime later.
Raymond H at 12:14 on 2018-06-27
Originals. I will remember that for later. It's hard for me to get print books here in Japan, unless I stumble across them in Jimbocho, but thank you.

Funny you should mention the slow-burn type, as Jonathan Carroll is something of a weird inspiration to me. I found him after I'd been teaching here for a while, and the fact that he also taught in the country he calls home before being able to make a living as a novelist made me feel like I could do it to. But then since he didn't get anything published until he was in his thirties, that makes me feel kind of worried...

And I wouldn't worry too much about Mr. Coogler. Maybe like Kurosawa he'll just keep making great movies until he has a falling out with his main collaborator and then won't make anything for several years before turning out a series of increasingly bitter tragedies and then sort of mellowing out near the end.

It's funny you should mention the first sale. I actually wrote the first draft of this back when I was thinking of becoming an Ani-Tuber, after I'd self-published my first novel and suddenly found that I was basically in the exact same position as I was when I'd first started, only with $20.30 in profit, a scathing review from Kirkus, internal discipline, and a small degree of enlightenment. It's true what they say...

You shoouuld! You should check it out. It's really sweet!
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