Anime Quick Information
|Average Rating: 10.0|
darkstorm scored this with 8/10. Disagree?
With his job on the line, Toraji sets out to get his team ready for the Preliminary Tournament, and with the new addition of Azuma to make a full Kendo team, the dream seems to be slowly becoming a reality. However there are a few hurdles for the girls to conquer beforehand: Kirino’s mum becomes ill, Miya-Miya has yet to win a single match, Saya’s spontaneous attitude still lays a heavy burden on the team, and Tamaki is put into a difficult situation when the opposite team in the finals plays a prank on her to throw her off her game. Will the team make it through? Will Toraji be able to keep his job? And will the male Kendo members get any attention at all?
The first half of the series was pure, innocent fun, introducing our characters, the art of Kendo and the ‘slice of life’ atmosphere to lure the viewer into a sense of security. The second half builds on those elements, but towards the end, that security blanket is shaken quite a bit as losses become more relevant and the team starts to crumble underneath the weight of it all. There are also more duels taking place, including three tournaments, battles amongst the team members, and new enemies – making each new challenge more gruelling and significant than the last. References and comparisons to an in-show Super Sentai series are more frequent in the second half too, to make the battles feel all the more epic and allow inner monologues to take place where the characters find strength to fight their opponent. Although some of the fights do start to blur together after a while, they’re nevertheless fun to witness and learn a little bit more that way about Kendo.
At the end of the day, however, although it’s an interesting sport, it’s the characters that really drive the series. Even though Tamaki takes the front stage a fair amount of the time, each character gets a chance in the spotlight, and it’s their development and humanity that make you want to know if they will win their next kendo match. The main cast is very solid in having the variety of the ‘ditzy but has her heart in the right place’ Kirino to the ‘hard working but very sweet and supportive’ Yuuji. Each of them has different goals and hurdles to overcome, making each character worth taking the time to follow. We get to know them all like they’re our own classmates, and their development and likeability grow with each passing episode. This familiarity with them also leaks into the side characters, because they play a large part in the leading ladies' lives and the sport they love. In some cases, their attitudes and the circumstances they’re put in can be predictable or cliché; even so, you’re drawn to them and it’s hard to hate on characters that you’re rooting for to win in their matches each and every time.
If there's a weakness in the cast, it’d have to be the villains of the piece: the two rowdy upper class men introduced at the beginning and the new girl from the tournament who come across as evil just for the sake of it. There’s no motivation behind their actions, they're just one-dimensional bullies, which is a shame as there were gaps in the 26 episode series which could have been used to develop them. Also, even though the ending is satisfying and leaves you feeling all warm inside, a few of the side-plots built into the series aren’t revisited or given an ending.
The moe character designs play their part here; all the girls look cute and their varied personalities will strike a chord with viewers who will have undoubtedly picked their favourite by now. The animation itself is respectable and consistent, adding the fluid and light motions needed for the Kendo duels, but also quick to hit the comical/chibi art style when humour requires it. The music is minimal but simple – the right way to score a ‘slice of life’ style of show. Both language tracks continue to be strong and full of life for a wacky cast, however special mention goes to the English dub for handling a tricky situation in episode 19 when a ‘foreigner’ enters the fry; in the Japanese dub the character speaks English but the flip of language track adds American slang to the character to separate the foreigner from the rest of the cast and get the same message across.
The 13 episodes are across 2 discs, with only a clean opening and closing available as extras on the second disc, same as we found on part 1 of the series.
Watching Bamboo Blade is like watching re-runs of Friends on E4: familiar, likeable, heart warming, easy to play in the background, but it also gets you going despite you knowing what’s going to happen and the punchline at the end of each joke. Although nothing groundbreaking happens over the course of the series, it’s the lovable characters and unique focus on a sport rarely seen in the UK that will keep you smiling till the end. It’s a show that won’t sit firmly in your top 10 favourite anime or one you’ll rush to tell your friends about, but it’s a journey you’ll look back on fondly and be happy to re-live again when you need to fill up an empty weekend.
Screenshots (click to pop out)
|Score:||8 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Sat, 13 Aug 2011|