Thursday, August 27, 2020

REVIEW: Bamboo Blade, Part 1 (anime TV series)

Bamboo Blade is a combination of comedy, slice of life, and sports (specifically, kendo). It's licensed by Funimation.


Although Toraji Ishida was a talented kendo student, to the point that he beat his senpai and best friend on the team, as a kendo instructor he's an absolute loser. He puts almost no effort into instructing his students and does nothing about the rampant bullying a couple of the members engage in. It's gotten to the point where his kendo club has only one member left, Kirino. Then motivation enters Toraji's life, in the form of a bet. If the girls in his kendo club can win against the girls in his senpai's kendo club, he'll get free sushi for life at his senpai's relative's restaurant. Since Toraji is perpetually poor, this is a big deal.

First, however, he has to recruit some girls to the team. He lucks out, and his first recruit turns out to be amazing: Tamaki, the daughter of a kendo dojo master. His next recruits include a couple boys (who then get shuffled to the side for the most part), Miya-miya (the cutesy girlfriend of one of the boys), and a girl who was good at kendo in middle school but quit for some reason after she entered high school. Also, one of the club's absent members returns after failing in her efforts to become a great novelist and/or guitarist.

This series is 26 episodes long, and I own it in two parts. I'll be reviewing each part separately - this part contains episodes 1 to 13.

I found this in a bargain bin years ago. It wasn't something I'd heard anything about, but sports anime and school club anime tend to appeal to me, so I figured why not? 

Unfortunately, although I didn't think it was terrible, it really wasn't to my tastes. The humor almost always fell flat for me, and either the way the series presented kendo was unappealing, or I'm just not a kendo person, even in anime form (I like most sports anime I've seen, even though I couldn't care less about real-life sports).

Ishida had his moments - he seemed to be able to see past Miya-miya's mask at least a little, for example, and I liked that he was willing to admit that Tamaki was better at kendo than him. Mostly, though, he reminded me a lot of Azumanga Daioh's useless Yukari-sensei, only without the large cast of memorable and likeable students.

Most of the kendo club members bored me. Tamaki was tiny, polite, and so amazingly powerful that even adults had to struggle against her in matches. Her quirk was that she was an anime fan who wanted to see herself as being similar to a fighter for justice like something out of Power Rangers. Kirino was technically captain of the kendo team but had no problems with accepting that Tamaki was better at kendo than she was and, in fact, adored her. Her quirk was that she actually kind of liked the smell of stinky kendo protective gear. Sayako's initial quirk was that she'd constantly quit kendo to pursue some other hobby she'd be doomed to fail at, but that was dropped almost immediately, and she became just another member of the Tamaki cheering squad. Yuji was the most normal of the two guys, a kind person who otherwise didn't stand out in any way. Eiga (aka Dan-kun) was designed to be comic relief, a tiny and cartoonish little guy who'd somehow ended up with a cute girlfriend who loved to pamper him.

Which brings me to the one character in this series who I actually found interesting, Miya-miya. Although she presented a cute and perfect face to the world, in reality she was angry and more than a bit sadistic. Her one motivation in life was being close to her boyfriend (who knew what she was like but didn't seem to mind). She only joined the kendo club because of her boyfriend, but she learned to enjoy it after realizing that it would give her the opportunity to hit people. Later episodes introduced a character who'd stalked her back in middle school, and although that particular character annoyed me, it gave me hope that the series might do something more with her in the second half. I wouldn't mind seeing how she and her beloved Dan-kun met.

As far as the kendo itself went, there were a grand total of two fairly interesting episodes in this boxed set, episodes 7 and 13. In episode 7, the girls had a practice match against Ishida's senpai's students, in which viewers actually got to see the characters do something besides repeatedly stepping forward and backward while practicing their shinai swings. There was an intriguing moment focused on Tamaki's mother, but still no answers by the series' halfway point. In episode 13, the girls had another practice match, this time against a team that was having a rough time adjusting to a harsh new instructor. Ishida and the instructor had some discussions that almost made Ishida seem like a decent adult.

Aside from those two episodes, though, the series' kendo aspect didn't appeal to me at all. The practice scenes weren't particularly interesting (and tended to include a lot of goofing off), and while Tamaki's Japanese voice actress, Ryou Hirohashi, was generally a great choice for the character, she didn't so much scream during kendo matches as shriek, and it grated on my nerves.

These first 13 episodes weren't exactly bad, but overall this was a mixture of comedy, slice of life, and sports that didn't handle any of those aspects in a particular spectacular way. It took almost this entire first half for the team to finally acquire the five female members it needed, though, so hopefully now that that's done, Part 2 will be a bit better.


Trailers and a textless opening and closing.

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