If I were to name one show that I’ve stalled for the longest time, it would be this one. I don’t even remember when I heard about it, and whenever I got around clearing my backlogs, this title would just pass me by. I had my reasons: like how I wasn’t used to an all-girl cast, or how this show is sport-themed. But deep down I knew “I really want to watch this”. After finally subjecting to my innermost desires I gave in and gave this series another audience.
Bamboo Blade was adapted from a manga series that spanned one hundred and seven chapters and fourteen volumes. It started in 2004 so it’s been around for a while, with the anime going in production three years after. The anime has twenty six episodes in total. I tried looking for the point where the anime ended in the manga but weirdly enough I couldn’t. That is to say I have no idea whether this adaptation was an off-shoot from the manga, or if it just changed midway (or I just didn’t look for the right chapters)
Genre/s: Sports, Comedy
At first glance, Bamboo Blade looks like your typical school-life series with girls having some fun with Kendo. After an episode or two that’s more or less what you get. It’s pretty straightforward in that it really is about a group of girls (with some boys thanks to Yuuji and Dan) having fun in their Kendo Club. It doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of style and direction that hasn’t been seen yet. To some that might be a throwback. “It’s just like any other.” But to me, and as I believe to a lot of others as well, Bamboo Blade just works. If I had to give a reason I’d say that the show, as you watch it, genuinely looks fun. It draws you in to the scene – be it the comedic antics of Saya and Kirino, or the intense matches of Tama-chan.
The story has Ishida Kojiro, an almost-broke Kendo instructor at Muroe High making a bet with his senpai and fellow Kendo instructor where they both pit their female students in a Kendo match, for a chance to go all-out at an all you can eat sushi buffet. Reality has it that his Kendo Club isn’t even capable of competing with another school. Aside from having his male members as delinquents, he only has the genki club president Chiba Kirino and the eccentric Kuwahara “Saya” Sayako as his female team.
Thus he starts scouting for potential club members. In the search Muroe Kendo Club received the experienced freshman Nakata Yuuji, and the seemingly slow Eiga “Dan-kun” Danjuuro as new male members (much to Ishida’s dismay) along with Dan-kun’s elegantly sadistic girlfriend Miyazaki “Miya-Miya” Miyako, the clumsy but highly versed Azuma “Satorin” Satori, and the team’s eventual secret weapon, the incredibly talented Kawazoe Tamaki as the team’s female members. With five female members set, Muroe High’s Kendo team takes on the challenges of a real Kendo club.
The team’s interactions, as well as their overall chemistry is Bamboo Blade’s strongest point. You’ll have a hard time finding a character that you won’t like (I know, I tried) They each have their own quirks that complement the others so well. Like how Satorin is a klutz almost every time, but she takes Kendo seriously enough to convince Miya-Miya to keep trying harder, and Miya-Miya is probably the hardest to get through to (and is her polar opposite really) given her occasional rude personality. We also have Miya-Miya when she’s around Dan-kun, where all the the dark, creepy, hostile aura around her turns into bishie sparkles, accompanied with her overjoyed face (Dan-kun is a lucky man)
Their developments are also something to write about. Although there were some of them that didn’t get as much as the others like Yuuji and Satorin (and she was so awesome too) the rest of the team really had their own moments where you can say “Wow, she wasn’t like that before”. My favorite developments would probably be Tama-chan’s and Miya-Miya’s. In Tama’s case, we see her slowly enjoying Kendo for how it used to be for her, rather than just being an extra chore she does at her dad’s dojo. To quote a line from the show, “She (was) acting like a normal high school girl” and of course, we saw that otaku side of her go into full-bloom. For Miya-Miya, it was a slight subversion of Tama’s – she was just a high school girl who slowly learned and appreciated Kendo and how it felt to have fun doing it.
I’d also like to mention a thing or two about the girls’ respective confrontations. Again, I think that Tama-chan and Miya-Miya win in this department as well (Satorin!>.<) Miya-Miya had two nemeses in Odajima Reimi and Carrie Nishikawa. Well, she never really fought Reimi, but I admit she creeped me out a bit earlier in the series. It was awesome seeing Miya-Miya ask for her help against her first true rival, the dual-wielding half-American Carrie. I was actually spoiled about this fight but after seeing it again it didn’t matter. Their third and final match was the most epic in the series in my opinion (unless there’s a more awesome fight in the manga) Tama’s rivalry with the equally-epic Suzuki Rin was also very well done. I actually held my breath when it got very silent after Tama-chan’s loss. It was that impact-ful of a scene.
Visually the fights were okay. I didn’t expect much to begin with given how long it was since it first aired, but some fights were actually pretty good. There’s the occasional repeated scene here and there but once you get into it you won’t really notice them that much. The VA’s were also pretty good. The screaming “Men!!” “Dou!!” “Kote!!” takes some getting used to though.
They did gimp us with the finale though. Not that it was bad or anything but, I mean, who is this girl!? (That scene is just screaming “Season 2″)
All in all, I’m extremely glad that I got around to watching this. Sure it’s not one of those highly-acclaimed shows, but Bamboo Blade is definitely awesome in its own right. I totally recommend it to anyone who wants an enjoyable show.