Kendo literally means 'the way of the sword' (or 'Japanese fencing' as my mother would explain if asked), and it's one of the most popular martial arts in Japan at junior, high school, and senior levels. I've done quite a fair bit of kendo, but unfortunately my local group disbanded two years ago.
However, I'd noticed something rather odd in the world of manga - there weren't any series really dedicated to kendo. Well, none that's available on Western shores. Let's see, there's Musashi no Ken, Ippon, Kaiouki, I'm Teppei, and... that's about it. Kaoru from Rurouni Kenshin runs a kenjutsu dojo, but the main focus of that manga is political turmoil in the Bakumatsu era, not kendo.
So, Bamboo Blade is the only manga solely about kendo that is available in English. And it's absolutely, one hundred percent adorable goofball comedy, with heart behind all the silly antics.
The story begins when Kojiro, the supervisor of a high school kendo club, runs decidedly short of money. He's not just a little out of pocket, he has no money whatsoever. He can't even afford to feed himself, thanks to a fancy car in the garage siphoning off his money through loan payment after loan payment. This is where an old friend of his comes in, who is also the supervisor of a rival kendo team at another school. He wagers that if Kojiro's team can beat his, Kojiro will get free sushi at a restaurant for a year. However, if Kojiro loses, he has to give him his old high school trophy... which lays broken in a million pieces.
This gives Kojiro the drive to put his kendo team back into gear, or at least, what's left of it. All the final year students have left to focus on studying for exams. The only student still around is peppy Kirino Chiba. Kojiro sets out to recruit more, and comes across the mysterious Tamaki, a girl whose kendo skills are unparallelled... but she's never wanted to compete in the sport.
Other recruits include Nakata, the nice boy next door, Eiga, a fat, listless lump of a boy who happens to have an extremely attractive girlfriend (Miyako) who can have a nasty temper when provoked. There's also Saya, a young writer who stopped coming to school in order to focus on her stories.
Can Kojiro train these rag-tag band of students into a formidable fighting force? Well, we'll just have to wait and see!
This manga is absolutely adorable. I want to hug every single character and just have goofy adventures with them. Tamaki has to be one of the cutest characters I've ever come across. She refuses to do kendo competitively because she does kendo every single day at home and views it as a chore. However, she loves TV shows about superheroes. Heck, the girl manages to swipe away three threats at once with just a broom (two sports balls and the vice principal who's fallen out of his office window). XD
Same with Miyako and Eiga's relationship. It's just too silly to be real, but they are so sweet together.
Kirino is another character I love, so excitable and always coming up with the stupidest ideas for how to make the kendo club work. She even suggests recruiting people by handing them sticks and then throwing rocks to see how good their deflecting skills are.
All in all, I can't wait to read the rest of this manga. Great characters + cute chibi art + a sport I love + adorkable comedy = a 4/5 from me.