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. . .
For some reason, reading the premise of this show I was reminded of the old Seven Samurai film. Trying to assemble a team of powerful warriors in order to protect a village from evil bandits… Only difference, the warriors in this version are all cute girls and the challenge is a harmless kendo competition. I am of course stretching it with this comparison but I couldn’t shake the feeling of how half a century ago Japan used to make these cool manly samurai stories and now is mostly throwing out moe shows left and right. And I don’t like that.
So anyways, Bamboo Blade is basically two things. One half is a motivational show, aimed to inspire people getting into kendo. The second half is slice of life comedy around the simple lives of its characters, most of which are silly girls. The problem here is that it fails to be captivating in both cases, simply because it is not extreme or fanatic enough. The kendo part for example is just dull. Although they teach you all the basic rules and moves of it, in practice all the duels never last for more than a few minutes and all you see is frozen images of people with speed lines to indicate what happened. Compared to the emperor of thrills, Kaiji was a super awesome show about a guy playing rock-paper-scissors. It felt a million times more exciting that people duelling with swords (even wooden ones). As for the slice of life part, it is still quite basic for the time the anime was made. Every episode doesn’t have more than a couple of funny/interesting moments when there already are similar shows with a dozen things to pay notice to in the same amount of time. So again, the flow of the story is quite slow and basic, becoming boring at times. As for the whole kendo championship, it couldn’t be shown any less exciting. They win or lose and you feel like nothing matters.
What further ruins it are the completely average production values. The characters and the sceneries are rather simplistic and with basic colouring, while actual animation is very rare. You mostly stare at frozen caricatures with flapping mouths, and even the duels are crummy motions based on speed lines, zooming and panelling. Voice acting and music themes are nothing memorable either. This becomes even bigger of a problem if one has already watched other school comedies with higher production values such as K-On or Suzumiya Haruhi.
Yet another problem are the unimpressive characters, who just like the humour and the production values are also average. You get this team of kendo chicks, their teacher and various friends, and nobody seems to be memorable for any given reason. That short fat guy is definitely standing out for being drawn completely different and for having a super hot girlfriend but is otherwise not memorable. As for the main team, only the airhead blond is given actual focus for watching most of the anime through her, and that other Super Sentai fan for being very dynamic and rather dramatic. All the rest are stock material and completely forgettable.
A thing which keeps you interested a bit more is the various references it makes to other anime. Being a parody of sorts, it uses them as both means to make a joke, as well as motivating the viewer to watch further (two early examples are Initial D and Super Sentai ). As funny as those extras were, they weren’t that many or that often after awhile, so compared to other major parody shows such as Gintama, this anime again fails to leave a lasting moment.
In all, I didn’t enjoy it much and I doubt it will be remembered in a few years. Anime are great when they are extreme and this one played out too safe and basic to even have a shot at glory.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 2/10
Story: I'm not sure what it was about this story that intrested me so much, there weren't many suspenceful moments except for at the end of some matches and it wasn't a terribly deep plot, but nevertheless it was very entertaining. It followed 5 highschool girls and 2 boys in their kendo team, trying to get stronger together and do their best in tournaments. There were a few little side things that didn't really need to be there...such as Tamaki working part time and the Blade Braver series that she and Rin love so much...that honestly bothered me. My only major complaint about the storyline is I really wish they took out the Blade Braver mini-series, it was annoying and your average cliche superhero show and it just really took away from the actual plot. It had its funny moments, especially Carrie's engrish when she's obsessing over Dan thinking he's her pet armadillo named Anderson and their discussion about hemeroids and anal health earlier on in the series during practice. Also the way the sport of Kendo was portrayed here inspired me to learn Kendo myself...though I'll probably never get to, this anime made me really want to learn. If you're looking for a deep story, you wont find it here, here you'll find a light yet entertaining plot that still has much potential. The style of it actually sort of reminds me of Azumanga Daioh with its feel.
Animation: No ecchi! Thats a definite plus there right off the bat, a martial arts anime surrounding girls that has no ecchi! The character designs are fairly generic yet they fit each character well. Though Dan's design reallly annoyed me to no end, the freshmen in the last episode said it right, he looks like an acorn and he just irks me the wrong way. That and the creepy store owner lady, oh my God she is scary beyond all reason! And she wonders why seeing her gives customers the willies? Lastly of the bad character designs is the crotchity old lady with the big lips that harasses Kojiro-sensei in the shop, she needs some serious plastic surgery and I'd love to know what the artists were smoking when they drew her. Other than that though the characters look good and I love Kirino's little =3 face and her ponytail...for whatever reason I really like that. The fight scenes were eye-catching, fluid (most of the time) and I think overall pretty well done, and it greatly portrays the sport of kendo how it should be.
Sound: The opening and ending themes were alright, not something I'd want to listen to, but I don't hate them. They're light and quirky just like the series itself so they work. The only song that really pissed me off was the song in Blade Braver, it sounded like really bad Japanese opera and was just terrible. The voice acting was pretty good, however Dan's voice, the creepy shopkeepers voice, Miya-Miya's voice in her dark stage and Reimi's (the stalker girl) voices just really annoyed me to no end. Dan's voice was whiney, the shopkeepers was just...ugh, it made her seem like a really ugly feminine man, Miya-Miya's dark voice just didn't fit her appearance and seemed out of place and as for Reimi...well the only things she really ever said were obsessing over Miya-Miya and it was freakish, her voice just added to that. Though all the other voices fit the characters very well and Carrie's engrish was very humorous.
Characters: I pretty-much already covered which characters were annoying and which were not, so the only thing I really have left to say here is that Reimi and Dan really need to be removed from the series and that the character development in this series greatly impressed me. Each character matured quite a bit and learned more about themselves, especially Miyako and Tamaki. All of the main characters seemed very real and they were easy to connect to and sympathize with and they were all very individual, like real people and thats personally what I love in a character is when they seem real like that. I hate shallow characters and this bunch here definately were not.
Overall: I'd reccomend this series to pretty-much anyone, except for fans of hardcore ecchi, hentail or blood and gore, cuz you wont find that here. Its not a terribly deep plot, but entertaining nonetheless. If you like Japanese martial arts in any form I would definately give this one a try. Plus, for all those who like lighthearted humor, there's some of that here too. It has little bits of a lot of nice things without being saturated and bogged down. To sum it up all I can really say is that its light, its the low-calorie pack of anime.
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.