Nothing motivates a man more than free sushi for a year, much to the chagrin of the girls kendo team.
What They Say
It didn't take long for pint-sized Tamaki's lightning reflexes to catch the eye of starving Kendo instructor Toraji. This second-rate sensei is an embarrassment to the sport, and his Kendo club is running out of members. His only hope for redemption - and a full belly - is to get Tamaki to sign-on as his star pupil.
Unfortunately, this sword-wielding prodigy is a serious anime addict, so it'll be a challenge to get her to step away from the television and into the dojo. But once she feels like a part of the team, Tamaki has the skills to turn any bunch of misfits into a fearsome sisterhood of the bamboo blade!
Contains episodes 1-13.
FUNimation has put together a pretty good bilingual presentation here by including the original Japanese stereo track, encoded at 192kbps, along with an English 5.1 mix encoded at 448kbps. The Japanese track is pretty solid by all expectations with a good design layout that does use some directionality across the forward soundstage at times and gives us a good sounding series of fight events and general silliness. The English mix takes all of that and ups it a little, mostly with a louder base volume I think, but also with some added clarity and dynamics when it comes to the kendo matches where the swords seem to feel like they connect more. Both tracks are good and represent the show well while having no problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2007 and into 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection contains thirteen episodes spread across two discs in a seven/six format with no noteworthy extras taking up space on either volume. The series has a very good look to it with lots of bright and vibrant colors, particularly in the skies and some of the other backgrounds, that gives it a very big life. The colors are well handled here with only some minor noise in some of the busier scenes or a few areas with really large swaths of a single color. The animation is very fluid throughout and that comes across well during the busier scenes as well with no noticeable break-up or blocking. Cross coloration is non-existent and there’s only a few brief moments where some line noise during a panning scene is visible.
Bamboo Blade puts it all out thre on the front cover with a look at the five girls that make up the Muroe team in their full gear with a green bamboo background behind them. While it does get to be fairly obvious who will be on the team as the show goes on, this is one of the downsides to a collection in that sometimes things are given away that take time to build in the show. The character designs are all good here and each of them are appealing in their own way while wearing fairly nicely detailed outfits. You know what you’re getting into with a cover like this. The back cover uses the same kind of background but adds in a large shot of Tamaki eating in the foreground next to everything else. That everything else is a brief but cute plot summary for the show and a series of six small pictures of various character moments. The discs features, volume and episode count are all clearly listed as is the small technical grid that’s found along the bottom under the production credits. No show related inserts are included but there is a reverse side to it with an orange bamboo background that has a sword on the right and a listing of the episode numbers and titles by disc on the left.
The menu design is very cutely done where it has the green bamboo background from the front cover with a dash of orange through it which is where we find the logo and navigation. To the right of it is the character artwork, with the first volume using the artwork of the front cover while the second has an expanded piece from the back cover with more of the characters enjoying lunch together, all of which is set to some light and silly instrumental music. Navigation is a breeze with the standard layout that FUNimation uses but it also introduces the familiar lack of reading player presets and noting what the actual language selections are when you’re in that menu.
The only extras included are on the second volume with a clean version of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga series by Masahiro Totsuka with artwork by Aguri Igarashi, Bamboo Blade is a series about the spirit of getting fired up for something and following through on it. There’s a lot of character material to be had in here overall, but the core theme that I took from the first thirteen episodes is the scattered talk about how kids have changed and getting fired up and into something has fallen out of favor, leaving an impression of laziness about things as fewer and fewer kids take up various activities, especially the more cultural ones like Kendo.
The series is an ensemble piece that revolves around a young kendo prodigy of sorts named Tamaki, but Tama doesn’t really take center stage for a bit as the initial setup for everything is elsewhere. That focus is on Toraji “Kojiro” Ishida, a part time teacher at the Muroe school where he also serves as the coach for the kendo team. Kojiro was once a good kendo student himself and he won a trophy at one point that has led to contention with a friend from those days and the two still compete in different ways. Because of his status and being single, Kojiro doesn’t eat well so he easily takes up Kenzaburo on his offer for free meals at his old mans Edo-style sushi restaurant if Kojiro’s kendo team of five can take on and win against his own.
Unfortunately for Kojiro, he really only has one kendo student right now, the team captain named Kirino. Kirino is a great upbeat young blonde girl with a happy look to life and just having fun with kendo though she is pretty good at it. With this new energy behind him though, Kojiro is fired up and he starts tacking down more people to join the team. Over the course of the first thirteen episodes, he gets the first four and manages the fifth at the end, some time after the match against his friends team, and he has to use them for a new kind of motivation that involves his job. The second half of the season looks to be more about making sure that the team makes a name for itself while also really discovering why they like kendo.
The first half is filled with a lot of fun though as we’re introduced to all the characters. Kirino is the ideal starter character because of her friendliness and she easily welcomes to the team Miyako Miyazaki, a dual personality character who is all sweetness and sunshine when most people see her but she also has a fair amount of “Black” in her with an evil energy vibe that makes her one of the more dangerous members. Amusingly, she comes with two other characters that become the only boys on the team with Yuji and Danjuro. Yuji is your basic all around unattached good guy who is very good friends with Danjuro, a very small stereotype caricature of sorts who is actually dating Miyako. Miyako’s personality is hilarious in that she hates pretty boys and falls head over heels for the unusual types. The relationship between the two is priceless to watch because it’s so feel good and unaffected by any possible opinion of others.
Where Kojiro’s plans really come to fruition is with the arrival of Tamaki. She’s not interested in joining the club at first since she’s not exactly enamored of kendo because of her family dojo, but she sees a wrong in front of her with a male kendo student who only uses it to beat up others so she gets involved and slowly drawn into the fun dynamic of the group. Tamaki’s hard to classify as the lead but easier to view as the catalyst and the one through which we see a lot of things. Her arrival brings back another member, Saya, who went off to focus on other things. She’s good but undisciplined and that gives her a lot of room to grow. And as the show goes on, it starts to introduce their fifth member as well, Azuma, who has her own bad history with kendo but is drawn back into it. It’s a pretty nice group of girls overall with enough quirks to them, though Miyako certainly provides enough for the entire group all by herself.
The animation production is done by AIC A.S.T.A and they’ve done a really nice job of adapting the manga here. The character designs have a fair amount of detail to them, more so when they’re wearing their kendo gear than other times, but you don’t get a sense that the characters are all carbon copies with a minor tweak or two. They’re all different enough in their design to stand out even when they’re wearing their garb. And nicely, when they do have the masks on, they change the opacity of it so that you can see their faces through them while still providing some line work for it. The kendo matches have some really good moments as well when it comes to the fluidity of the animation as it’s very smooth and you can see the action taking place rather than a series of poorly done quick cuts to other angles. They found a very good balance overall that lets you see everything while still being stylish and intense.
The first half of Bamboo Blade sets up the traditional sports style storyline with a team that’s nowhere near a team, adds motivation, brings in more characters and lets the bonding ensue. It’s very well done and what sells it is that it at least plays in a different realm, namely with kendo, and because the characters are all fun and entertaining. It also avoids any serious fanservice for the most part as I’m hard pressed to remember anything even remotely lurid or pervy in nature after watching it. Bamboo Blade gives me everything I want from this kind of series with good animation, a solid setting and characters that are quirky yet avoid being annoying as they all work towards a common goal. While it kicks off with a silly premise for winning, it changes into something more interesting as it goes on that makes it a show worth watching.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.