The Muroe team faces several challenges in their quest for the Nationals that threaten their very existence as a team.
What They Say
Having a fierce swordswoman like Tamaki at practice every day gives the girls of the Kendo club reason for hope, but this team still has a long way to go. Their sensei is one false move away from losing his job, the team's facing a suspension, and even Tamaki is about to experience the bitter taste of defeat. So will the girls pick each other up and stick together as a team – or will they crumble under the pressure and go their separate ways?
During his team's darkest hour, it will be up to Toraji to inspire his warriors and teach Tamaki that sometimes, only a crushing loss can stoke the flames of competition.
Contains episodes 14-26.
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 there on the front cover with a look at the five girls that make up the Muroe team but unlike the first cover it lets them shine with their school uniforms and maybe an interest or two of theirs. With the whole team together at this point, the cover doesn't offer any mild spoilers which is a minor plus. The character designs are all good here and each of them are appealing in their own way while wearing fairly nicely detailed outfits. The back cover uses the same kind of background but adds in a large shot of Tamaki sitting in her gear holding her shinai 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)
The second half of Bamboo Blade brings us back into the lives of the girls (and the couple of guys) of the Muroe high school kendo team. The first half of the series worked well in setting up some of the basic events and introducing all of the characters. We got teased towards the end about a larger issue involved Kojiro and his being potentially dismissed from the school over an incident with a neighbor of the principals. With his position not terribly secure, the option has been chosen to try and get the team to the Nationals and show the principal that he has value and shouldn't be let go.
This half of the series works on a couple of tracks, some more enjoyable than others, while other aspects get the short end of the stick which is really quite unfortunate. The main track of the series revolves around the continued goal of getting to the Nationals. Bamboo Blade takes an interesting approach when it comes to this part of the series as everyone is motivated to win, but they play it fairly realistically in that some have more challenges to overcome than others. Even more surprising is that they don't actually win any of the competitions they get to, but we see the continued improving of their relations and bond together, which is at its core what Bamboo Blade is all about. And it's an element that we see coming from the way the other teams watch the Muroe team after the tournaments in how they laugh and enjoy each others company even after defeat.
The challenges within the matches are interesting as they play out. Tamaki has a face off with a new friend she's made named Rin who shares her love of the Brave Blader series, though she's more interested in Shinraider instead. The meeting of the two is something that needed to happen as Rin is the one who will teach Tamaki the most important lesson for those who have excelled in any area, and that's to feel defeat and understand it. The two girls get along well enough and they share several episodes together in relation to the Brave Blader series, and the result of it all is really quite good as it adds tension to some of the matches while also giving Tamaki the education she needs. What bothers me, and I know I'm probably the odd man out in this, is that it uses the whole Brave Blader aspect. I can't think of a single show within a show that I've ever liked and Brave Blader is no exception as the whole thing feels too corny and forced at times. But I will admit that I liked how the team captain, Kirino, uses some of the sentai elements to reinforce the bond of the team later.
A similar challenge is faced by Miyazaki as she ends up getting into a confrontation with another kendo student, a foreigner named Carrie. Miyazaki's having the hardest time of the group as she's not been winning any matches at all Carrie only makes it worse as she puts more insult into it when she does win, putting Miyazaki in her place and making sure she really realizes it. Obviously there's the intent to inspire her to more, but it's fun to watch her grapple with this and the way that Dan helps out and gives her comfort and encouragement. They continue to be one of the odder couples out there but it's refreshing to see it done so earnestly and honestly, without any hint of guile on their parts. While Miyazaki certainly has an odd personality, you never get the sense she's doing something she doesn't want to do.
The threat side of the show doesn't play out too often as the issues that Kojiro is facing doesn't get brought up much. His attitude makes up for it though as he pretty much feels like he can't teach the kids anything and he doesn't have the confidence to really do anything. Kojiro's an unusual character in that he's not really sabotaging himself but rather he's not participating fully, even before this push for the Nationals. So when the two young men who are part of the team but have never participated outside of the first couple of episodes end up in trouble, putting the whole team at risk, Kojiro leaves the decision in the hands of the team itself. He doesn't get directly involved as he feels he's already on the way out and anything he could do would only make it worse. Kojiro's personality is rather frustrating and his almost hands off approach to teaching the team makes it hard to really fight for him to stay on as an advisor.
Bamboo Blade does suffer from being a show that was done before the manga was anywhere near complete. The ending to this series is one however that does work well as the end to a particular chapter, though they do a six month leap before it which really is unnerving at first as you try to piece together everything and figure out what's going on. The introduction of some of the next class members that will potentially join up is well done though and ties well to the past while it's also really good to see some growth among the current class of students who are still able to participate since they're not graduating anytime soon. In the end though, the epilogue-ending we get here is really quite good as it leaves you wanting more, and that's the sign of a good series if it can close out on a good note like that, leaving you satisfied but still craving to see more stories.
Bamboo Blade is a series that I liked but it was one that didn't exactly capture me completely. I like the cast, I liked the situations for the most part and I liked the humor of it all. The tournament material and basic respect for kendo is well done and you get a mild reverence for it but not anything that took it too far. The basic goal that Kojiro pushed on everyone was that they should have fun and you could see that in their faces often. They had fun and with a bit of luck the viewer did as well. Bamboo Blade didn't leave a deep impact though, but I would have liked to have seen another full season like this to show us the progress they make in their goal, especially the boys who got a bit of the short end of the stick. There's a lot to enjoy here but it's a series that doesn't have quite the depth it needs to be truly memorable in the long run.
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.