Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: NA
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: C-
- Age Rating: 12 and Up
- Region: 2 - Europe/Japan
- Released By: Manga UK
- MSRP: £24.99
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Bamboo Blade
Bamboo Blade Part 2
Bamboo Blade Part 2 UK Anime DVD Review
By Christopher Homer
January 27, 2011
Release Date: November 22, 2010
Bamboo Blade Part 2
© Manga Entertainment UK
Series of 2010? Or 2011? Er…whatever. This rocks.
What They Say
The Kendo Club is in its darkest hour! Having a fierce swords-woman 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.
As what is becoming standard in my set reviews now, I decided to actually review both audio tracks by watching part of both discs in Japanese and in English. The English track has a 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio track whilst the Japanese is the standard 2.0 Stereo Track. My comments on part one suggests that the audio was a little problematic, so with my new system and speakers, I was wondering if it was just my system. However, I noticed that it was significantly weaker than expected on both language tricks, but it seems that the background effects in 2.1 and songs seemed to be what I expected, whilst the spoken dialogue seemed a lot weaker. This isn’t apparent in most of Manga’s releases so I wondered why this seemed quite poorer, which is a shame because the sounds of kendo stick smashing and epic Blade Braver music coming in at the same time at a much weaker Tamaki or Kirino yelling ‘MEN’ does hamper an otherwise good audio release.
The video had no problems, they were no glitches or slowdown, and linked in well with the Japanese subtitles, there are no transition problems and in both widescreen format/full screen format, which does seem to build to the atmosphere (especially considering the show within a show Blade Braver) and the way the colour scheme works in various scenes is good because of the colour scheme, and also with the weird switching from normal to what is the equivalent of super-deformed mode, it flows surprisingly well without glitches. Also, interesting is the subtitles are in yellow, making it easy to spot – and also didn’t spot any problems with the subtitles being too fast in this disc compared to the first disc (there was only one real kendo explanation that happened when the teams tied, and noticed no rushing there, which was the main problem of the speed in the first set) so overall, a good release.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very basic, the first disc having a picture of all 5 main girls in their kendo gear across an appropriate bamboo background, with the second disc having Tamaki, Sayako and Yuuji having a picnic on the same background….in other words, the exact same as the first set, which is a bit disappointing, especially with the new character additions in this set. On both discs, the selection is easy enough with Play All, Episodes Select, Languages and on Disc 2 Extras. Again, there is no scene selection on the Episodes selection which is always a slight annoyance.
The only extras are on the second disc – and they are off the cleaning openings and endings….exactly the same as the first set.
Bamboo Blade was the biggest surprise for me late last year, a sports series which whilst has a few clichés, manage to avoid being a standard show simply because of the sheer fantastic characterization and hilarious comedy that it intentionally or unintentionally created. I’m happy to say that whilst a few of the characters are slightly let out of the window, a few of the new characters help fill the void, the comedy is still there with great abundance, but it keeps it’s A rating mainly due to some surprising drama and a sweet, if sequel hook enticing, ending.
The set starts with Azuma basically being stalked into joining the kendo team. It leads with a hilarious exchange between Miyako and Azuma which basically gets her to join (Azuma gets Kirino, Yuuji and Dan for tutors – Miya-Miya gets a new slave…see, equivalent exchange – been watching too much FMA: Brotherhood…) so now Toraji has his five female squad to try and save his job. He basically theorizes that if his team does well in the national and regional tournaments, the school will notice what he’s doing to the school reputation and keep him on. To do this, they have a training camp held at the school, joined by the Machido girls (and leads to some great comedy scenes, like Tamaki’s father worrying that Tamaki and Yuuji are staying overnight, and a surprisingly tender scene between Tamaki and Kirino, with Kirino thanking Tamaki for all she has done) before they go and get ready for the first prelims.
Here begins my favourite character Kirino turns into the other star of the series other than Tamaki. She’s the big sis of the team, always cheerful and a little airheaded, but always comes through for the team. So when a family emergency occurs, people worry that she may be even less focused than normal. To the surprise of the team, especially Saya, she becomes more focused and actually showcases strength on Azuma and Tamaki’s level. It’s a great moment for a great character that she shows she’s just as strong when she wants to be, not making her teammates worry and continue the road. However, this saga also has a great deal of Tamaki’s badassery, when one of the teams deliberately first lock her in a room to get her disqualified, and then the lead of the kendo team injures her before the battle, thinking she’s scared her to submission. Oh boy…quite the opposite. Trust me, Tamaki’s battle cry and subsequent throat strike actually SCARED me. So badass.
The tournament does end in a weird way, and with Toraji still no closer to keeping his job, we get some characterization for Miya-Miya. Always the only member of the team who loses, it gets worse when she faces an American-Japanese woman named Carrie, who for some reason, falls for Dan (and leads to one of my favourite lines of all time ‘Dan: Sorry guys, my attractiveness has crossed international borders – Yuuji and Toraji’s faces are priceless…) and leads to challenging Miya in kendo. Through the course of the series, she faces Carrie 4 times – in and out of tournaments. It gives Miya a bit of characterization and shows that she does truly love Dan, and even gives Azuma being her trainer some moments of her own, standing up for Miya-Miya, although one of the niggles I had was after recruiting Azuma, they basically do nothing with her aside from being mostly comic relief. She is a fun character, but she’s the second strongest member of the team and yet she’s always in the background and never really showcases what she’s really capable of compared to the first set.
However, the major arc and drama hit in the final disc. We’re introduced to Rin Suzuki, a girl who is a major fan of the Blade Braver show which Tamaki likes, but unlike Tamaki who loves the hero, Rin is a major fan of the bad guy Shinaider. Tamaki and Rin meet when Yuuji takes Tamaki on a ‘date’ to a sentai show (the girls reactions to get them to go out together combined with Tamaki being ultra talkative about her favourite subject is hilarious) which leads to Tamaki meets Rin during a quiz which Rin eventually wins – but gives Tamaki most of the prizes bar the Shinaider one. This is what Tamaki needed – not only a proper rival who if you recall, Ibarashi said that she needs to lose to a girl her own age, but also the one who truly understands her, both in kendo, her hobby (the fact that Rin stays at Tamaki’s house in her room because of the Blade Braver movie team being held there and they stay up until 5 in the morning ‘arguing’ about fan facts was unintentionally funny) and the scene during the movie where Tamaki subconsciously fights back against Rin’s Shinai-girl was electric. It does however lead to some major drama during the first of two Rin/Tamaki matches in tournaments, and Tamaki being a bit over-dramatic in her loss…which also leads to a fair bit of what you may say, unneeded drama.
In fact, the drama maybe the weakest part of this show – it felt a bit tacked on. The two bullies from the first couple of eps return and because they cause trouble in an arcade and their names were still tagged to the kendo club, they face suspension – and poor Kirino has to make the decision whether to wipe their names from the club, or being the big sis she is, to basically not lie. It does feel tacked on and rushed down, and I will confess that Tamaki’s reaction to her defeat to Rin was a bit over dramatic, but to be also fair, it does lead to Yuuji getting in his moment to snap her out of it. However, that was the other small problem – unless your name was Tamaki, Kirino, Miyako, Rin and to an extent Toraji, most of the other characters were relegated to the side lines. They all get their moments (Azuma defending Miyako, Saya snapping Kirino out of her own depressing moment) but it did for a while seem a bit disappointing that some really fun characters didn’t get much chance to shine in the second half.
However, it still retaining an A – mainly because of the ending. The last two episodes were fantastic – Carrie vs. Miya (with a hilarious flashback when Miyako and Azuma go to of all people, REIMI to help train) and Rin vs. Tamaki were electrifying. Even Dan gets some moments as of how much he improves – a true testament to how good the show was as he’s the last character you’d think you’d like at first. The last episode was great seeing that despite being rivals, Rin and Tamaki become great friends and Tamaki who was in danger of becoming as closed off as she was in the first two eps, has become more outgoing with a glow around her when it comes to her friends (when she learns she’s become a sempai, it is adorable beyond words) and even the addition of new members and who they are, a little tacked on, still showcased that the kendo was as much as the focus as the girls were. And Toraji…even he got his great moments – as he appears to have left the school…but the final ep – Kirino’s reaction was the same as mine.
Knowing that most of the part after the first prelims was anime exclusive, the sequel hook at the end however concluded for me this was a superb show. It wasn’t exactly plot heavy, nor was it too thought-provoking. But what it did was create one of the best slice of life comedies I’ve seen since Azumanga Daioh. Kirino and Tamaki are both becoming two of my favourite characters, Kirino being the big sister I wanted, and Tamaki being this great breaking through character, warming through friendship and adorable SD shots. Miya’s duel nature, Saya’s over the top ness, Azuma’s clumsiness, they all become part of the team together and get through passing marks with a show that does teach you all the basics (and more) of kendo, but puts it in a show that is so entertaining, that you really hope the hook at the end becomes more…
Bamboo Blade Part 2 at first seemed by close to the end slightly weaker than the first part, mainly due to the reduction of some character’s roles and the slightly unneeded drama which felt a bit rushed. However, it continues the high grade thanks to a great ending, continuing what it was good at (the comedy) and adding a few new characters to add depth to our main heroes and heroines. Little bits like Kirino making sentai dolls to represent each member combined with her poking Tamaki in the face to tease the poor kid are just little bits which all add together to a great series. One of the best shows I’ve witnessed in the last year especially for a comedy. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.
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