Over the past few months I've been slowly trying to catch up on the titles I missed in 2007, and I must say the more I watch the more impressed I am with the year as a whole. It flaunted a number of strong titles such as Claymore, Bokurano, and Minami-ke as well as some great ones such as Kanon 2006 and Death Note. Fortunately, to my delight, Bamboo Blade continued this trend and easily took its place as another contributor to the solidness of the 2007 lineup - it's yet another "must see" title.
At first I have to admit I was a bit skeptical - the series was amusing, sure, but nothing capable of blowing me out of the water. As I kept watching, however, my level of enjoyment steadily rose, and ultimately I found myself laughing out loud multiple times per episode. Though Bamboo Blade employs a number of running gags for its humor, the writers knew how to drag the series out to span a full twenty-six episodes without becoming monotonous or tedious, which is generally a fatal flaw for series like this. It progresses in a number of small phases, the first which involve introducing the team's full five girls. Once this is finished, it then transitions into the tournament phase, which starts out humorous but slowly becomes a bit more dramatic and serious until the series finally comes to a close.
The amount of character development that occurs over the course of these arcs is without a doubt commendable, as the one-dimensionality of many of the characters drives much of the comedy. Rather than aiming for making the characters overly three-dimensional and serious, however, the development tends to humanize them with just enough balance to keep them funny, which ultimately creates a very strong viewer-character bond. Because Bamboo Blade also intertwines a fair amount of drama with its comedic storyline toward its latter half, this actually works surprisingly well, as it allows for the characters to retain their hilarity while still eliciting a fair amount of sympathy as they struggle through tough times.
Bamboo Blade's color scheme is deep and vibrant, and I felt it suited the series beautifully. I found just about all the characters to be unique in both flavor and appearance, and all had distinct niches and quirks about them (Kirino's ">:3" face for instance.) Tack on surprisingly detailed backgrounds for a comedy and there's really much to complain about - aesthetically speaking, everything is gorgeous.
Perhaps my only real major complaint is that the kendo fight scenes tend to be a little sparse on animation detail and frames. Most of the crucial or important scenes are touched up to look decent, but for the most part the fights are drawn out through action stills. Given the sheer amount of detail elsewhere this isn't all that important a detail, as ultimately the kendo thematic is more a medium to draw the characters together than an actual emphasis; you're not watching for the fight scenes, you're watching for the characters and the humor.
While the musical score was effective, it was fairly standard and not worth much mention. What I really enjoyed most was the outstanding quality of the voice acting - Kirino's seiyuu easily ranks among the best I've ever heard. Other characters like Saya, Tama, and Dan are all strongly voiced as well, and overall I was enormously impressed. It felt as if the actors really enjoyed voicing their respective characters, as there just seemed to be an uncanny amount of enthusiasm put into making them come alive.
Though initially appearing somewhat archetypical and stereotypical, Bamboo Blade's full cast turns out to be surprisingly fresh and unique. From a complete loser for a kendo instructor to a superficially nerdy klutz, the characters fit into certain molds in much the same fashion as most anime comedies would have them, but ultimately branch out beyond these restrictions to serve much more appealing roles. Kirino, for example, is at her core the "loudmouth" girl, but she pans out to be perhaps the most tolerable and least obnoxious girl of her kind. Her energy and devotion certainly fall within human bounds, and she comes across as a genuinely amiable, yet comedic, character. For those who loathe loudmouth girls (I tend to like them for some reason despite hating them in real life) Kirino's awesomeness knows no bounds, and I certainly could see her changing the mind of many a folk who previously had a disdain for her type of character.
Fortunately this holds true of all the characters, and each one plays off one another differently. Saya serves as a perfect compliment to Kirino, for example, through her similar "loudmouthed" persona while Tamaki foils her quite well. This interconnection plays down the importance of the characters' individual stereotypes, and removes the need for hyperbolic extroverts or exaggerated introverts to fuel its humor. The obvious downside is that three dimensionality tends to dull some of the prospective laughs, but it's not done to a point where it overtly interferes with anything Bamboo Blade initially sets out to do. Instead of appealing solely to fans of random humor it carries a much more universal feel, and for that I felt the characters to be extraordinarily solid.
Of all the reviews I write, comedies tend to be the hardest to really portray my thoughts accurately. Though I might not have dealt the series the due justice it deserves, Bamboo Blade should make its way onto the "to watch" list of every comedy fan without fail. Even for the most stalwart skeptic it has many merits, and I'm more than happy to recommend to anime fans of all walks of life - it's simple, it's charming, and it's hilarious. Nothing more, nothing less.
Kojirou is the kendo instructor for Muroe High School and he's totally broke. But then an unexpected chance is given to him: his team must win against his senpai's team and the prize is: free meals for a whole year! Now, the only problem left... where to find girls skilled enough and willing to join the kendo team? Once he's able to find girls who fit the part, he learns that dealing with his new eccentric students isn't going to be as easy as he thought. . .but along the way he slowly rediscovers why he loves kendo and what it truly means to be a teacher. . .
Bamboo Blade is a couple of years old so the animation isn't as crisp and fresh as the newer anime but it's still rather nice. I actually really enjoyed the soundtrack so no complaints in that department. The characters were highly entertaining and I loved how each girl was different and had her own little quirky trait. However, the plot was rather mediocre and didn't do much to make the girls shine like they could have. I still enjoyed Bamboo Blade, but it had weird pacing. It would be really slow and then it'd pick up full speed and then slow again so, because of this, I lost interest several times and ended up stalling this anime on two seperate occasions before finally finishing it. And it took me more than a year to do so, which is why I can't mark the anime any higher than average. It wasn't bad, but the pacing made me lose interest in it. . .
I really don't understand the high ratings for this anime. I have not read the manga it was based off of, but my initial impression (and one which hadn't changed too much upon reaching the end) was that someone just took a few character types and a sport and threw them together.
To touch briefly on the sound, there were times when the sound and animation didn't mesh. The characters would start to scream in a kendo match in what looked like a still screen, and there would be noises before they even moved (I checked, it wasn't a sync error between audio and video).
It was enjoyable to watch, and mostly rates as a comedy, but it was a hodgepodge at times with some of the concepts, and various situations were slightly confusing. There was also a LOT of repeated footage, mostly in practice scenes. I have seen successful sports anime which avoided repeated footage, so it's doable.
Let's go over the rest.
There are two major arcs: In order to win a bet, Toraji "Kojiro" Ishida has to assemble five girls in the kendo club to form a team and defeat the team trained by his friend and senior, Kenzaburō Ishibashi (whom he made the bet with).
The second arc has Kojiro's job on the line, and in order to try and salvage it, he's determined to have the girls win in regional and national tournaments.
In the meantime, they have to deal with two delinquent members of the club, and an array of various characters.
To be honest, there really isn't much of a story until near the end, as even the first story arc feels like it's all over the place and proceeds at a pace which is much too fast.
This is the entire reason to watch the anime, though some character "types" are recycled in the rivals. Unfortunately, we aren't given enough time to truly get to know the characters, and many of them take a back seat (particularly the two boys in the club). Yes, the characters are pretty well defined, but it feels like there's still something lacking in what we got to see. It also felt like the show couldn't decide who the protagonist was. The two who were developed, however, were done well (at least, in Tamaki's case).
Toraji "Kojiro" Ishida is one of the high school teachers and the teacher of the kendo club, though he didn't really do much of any teaching (and one of the main protagonists, as he gets a lot of screen time, particularly in the first arc).
Tamaki Kawazoe is a small and shy freshman, yet extremely talented at kendo as she's been doing it since she was around four years old. She's also an anime fan, and wishes to be an ally of justice, as she's inspired by a popular Super Sentei anime.
Kirino Chiba is the first member of the kendo club we're introduced to, and is upbeat, cheerful, and optimistic. She's the club captain, and displays bouts of insight and responsibility which isn't typically associated with her character type.
Sayako Kuwahara is the other second year (along with Kirino), and comes across as a random and spastic character. She bounces back and forth between various interests and goals, but is an excellent friend to Kirino and obviously likes kendo.
Miyako Miyazaki, "Miya-Miya", is at first just the girlfriend of one of the characters...but quickly displays a "black"/delinquent personality, and had no true interest in kendo when she first started (merely tagging along because her boyfriend recruited her and was interested).
Satori Azuma is a clumsy, scatterbrained girl who joins them after the first arc, though she had to practically be dragged over (by Kirino and Sayako), and "persuaded" to join by Miyako. She's trying to get better grades, and really loves kendo (and is possibly one of the few characters who can stand up to Miyako when she's in delinquent/black mode).
Yuuji Nakata is one of the only two male members, and is one of the few who can keep up with Tamaki (for a little while). He's mature and responsible, as well as helpful.
Danjuro Eiga is Yuuji's friend and Miyako's boyfriend. He's small and speaks in a slow, dragging voice, and never really gets angry or loses his temper. Though Miyako tries to hide her delinquent side from him, some of his actions makes it clear that he knows about that side of her.
Not superb, but not bad. It definitely served more as a comedy than anything else, and when it did pull out drama, the drama was resolved in a period of time which felt much too short.
That, and as I watched the series, if they had done just ONE MORE flashback to the match between Kojiro and Ishibashi's high school kendo tournament, I was going to rage at the screen. Seriously, it didn't need to be repeated that many times; once is enough, perhaps twice if there was more dramatic tension which came about because of it...but the amount of times the anime used it was just obnoxious.
Putting that aside, the anime couldn't seem to decide who was the main protagonist, and often bounced back and forth between Kojiro and Tamaki. In the second arc, the girls certainly took a more prominent stage to Kojiro, but he still kept weaving in and out to the point where I wasn't sure where the focus was supposed to be.
Azuma joined so late in the series that she didn't get much focus, especially since Tamaki became a huge focal point with the second arc. It feels like we only got to see a little of Azuma's character, which is one of the many character issues I have with this anime...an anime which is very much character-driven.
Sayako also was absent for a good few episodes, while the anime ping-ponged between Tamaki and Kojiro as protagonists and didn't flesh out/round out other given characters; I would have liked to see much more development and intrigue behind the other characters.
Families are barely even seen, except for a glimpse or two, and only for Kojiro and the girls. Though Tamaki is often shown with her father, and it's obvious very early on where her mother was, there wasn't enough explanation on that particular subject.
There were also a couple incidents whicih left me confused, such as the ending of the second to last episode, and pretty much the entire last episode. There isn't enough follow-through or follow-up with the dramatic situations, or enough explanation of just what happened between episode 25 and 26.
Often times, it was hard to tell who was who and exactly what was going on. Situations didn't have enough explanation, and most rivals showed up once and then never appeared again (with the exception of Ishibashi's girls and Rin, along with another girl who appears a couple times later on).
The anime is a fun watch for someone in the mood for a comedy, and it really isn't that bad, but I can't give it a top rating, either.
The first thing you must know before watching Bamboo Blade is it's audience. The show is designed to be a comedy/slice of life (in a way) in which we follow the adventures and life of a high school all girl kendo team and it's surprising all star fighter Tamaki Kawazoe. Admittedly, the show may be a little slow to grab the watchers attention but is totally worth it. The story is nothing too noteworthy: Finding the final member of the team, fulfilling the sensei's bet and trying the national championship. Don't get me wrong, it's relatively solid with some interesting points such as the emergence of the American kendo player and the mysterious Rival to the seemingly unbeatable Tamaki.
The animation is, again, nothing noteworthy however I do like the pastel colouring and how it's portrayed in a very manga esque style implementing a fair amount of humour.
Sound, again nothing too noteworthy but all fits in to this big pot of the solid foundation for an anime.
Now, what really makes this anime stand out is the characters. The characters are unique, lovable and refreshing to watch. Whether you laugh at Sayako's mishaps, Miya-Miya's obscure relationship, Kojiro's failings as a teacher or even Azuma's clumsiness, it's a pleasure to watch these characters from start to finish. I also couldn't help but get especially attached to our quiet and reserved hero, Tamaki Kawazoe as we watch her develop as a person. Being such a shy character being thrust into the kendo team, it's a joy to see her beginning to enjoy herself as she develops friendships from which she never had any before. That and also she's an anime fan (particularly to a power ranger type show, Blade Braver) so that level of understanding just makes her more adorable.
So in conclusion, the story is good and animation pretty standard, but the characters and their development, included with manga type comedy makes this show a very enjoyable watch.
I honestly enjoyed this anime to the fullest. I've only seen the english version and neigther have I read the manga, so I don't have much to judge. I plan on watching the Japanese sometime in the future along with read the manga for this amazing anime. Anyway to get on with my review:
Story: This anime is about a sensei -name Toraji Ishida- of a dojo, who has lost all his enthusiasm for his work. But one day Toraji's own sensei starts a bet with him. If Toraji can beat his Sensei's all-female Kendo team in a match... then he can have a whole years worth of sushi. This bet gives him back his enthusiasm, as he sets out to create the strongest all-female team that only his school can provide.
This story line is different from what I've seen in most sports anime. All too often you hear about the strong male characters in sprots anime... very rarely have I seen any with an all girls team. I just loved that this anime had some pretty unquie twists in it. It made me laugh, smile and even cry.
Animation: The animation was very well done. It tore me away from my world to live for a while with Kirino, Tamaki, Sayako, Miyako, and Satori. It felt rather real as far as anime is changelled. I really love the strength of the animation that this anime provides.
Sound: Sorry I don't really very much to say about the sound...it didn't seem too over done, or too light... I guess that it was sort of in the midle for me. But I found the music fit this anime perfectly.
Characters: The characers were all very unquie and intriguing. I love how in this group of girls there was such a diverse personalites, who all work hard to become stronger. And help each other out whenever possible. They deminstrate team work and become very close friends outside of the Dojo. And then you meet some other characters throughout the anime and I think gives this anime a little more deepth than most.
Overall: I've given this anime an even 9/10. I really like the diveristy mixed with the unquieness found in this anime. I love the seriousness mixed in with the comedy. This is one the most spirited sports anime that I've ever seen. I'm sure that anyone who likes strong female characters, spirited sports anime, and even comedy, you'll truly enjoy this one. But please don't take my word for it. Go. Watch Bamboo Blade yourself. And then write your own review.
Thanks for reading this. Have a spectacular day!