Bamboo Blade is one of the most unique sports anime on the market. We've seen all manner of other series involving baseball, boxing, karate, tennis, and even basketball, but can you think of one that revolves around kendo? I sure as heck can't. That's one of the things that makes Masahiro Totsuka's franchise stand out so much. The first half of the series infused a great deal of humor into the show as well as various other elements to create a version of kendo that popped. It was fun to watch and left you wanting more. Now that the second half has arrived, was the wait worth it?
The short answer is "Yes" as those who enjoyed the first half can expect more of the same with these 13 episodes. The difference here is that the show gets a little darker at points with some dramatic moments that really have an impact on the lives of its characters. It goes in some interesting directions and much of what happens here will take you by surprise. Ultimately it's still endearing and hilarious though, so it's nice to know that even in its darkest moments the show hasn't lost any of its charm. Before we get into what happens in this half, however, let's bring newcomers up to speed.
Bamboo Blade is all about an economics teacher named Kojiro who also happens to lead Muroe High School's kendo team. Well, when I say lead, I mean he kind of doesn't do anything with it. The team used to be good, but several of the members were upperclassmen and now that it's a new year there's really nobody on the team. At the beginning of the show a buddy of his makes him a bet that if Kojiro's kendo team can beat his, then Kojiro can eat free at his father's restaurant for a year. Naturally since Kojiro is poor and goes hungry every other day this is a godsend. With new vigor and motivation he begins scheming to build a team strong enough to defeat his friend's.
Soon enough Muroe High School has a solid enough kenda team and there may just be some hope that Kojiro will lead them to victory. The first half of the show saw the building of the team and inevitable training they underwent. The cast of characters was quite eclectic with Tamaki the kendo genius, Miya Miya the psychotic girlfriend of one of the male members, Kirino the energetic captain, and Sayako the flighty inconsistent member. During the latter parts of the first half tension built up as they began training against other kendo students, and you got the sense that it was all building to something.
In this volume the show picks up roughly where it left off with the Muroe team working on finding a solid fifth member. They track down a girl named Azuma and attempt to convince her to join. There's some funny moments during this, but ultimately they are successful in their efforts. Shortly thereafter the girls are sent to into training again and everyone's getting ready for the upcoming tournament.
Tamaki gets some development here as her otaku-like infatuation with her Braver show comes to a boiling point when a quiz contest comes around. She and a new friend, Rin, share a common bond in this regard and the TV series within this show gets front and center for a while. It's a little off-putting in some respects, but charming in others. This element really feeds into Tamaki's personality so there's quite a lot of development here.
Other things that transpire in these episodes include Miya Miya in a conflict against an American kendo student and the bullies from the first episode giving the kendo team a bad name. In between the little episodic events the show really revs up the drama towards the end. Many of the components of this series do not play out in a manner you think they would, and that more or less works for its benefit. I did get the impression that the producers of the series weren't really comfortable with the direction they took some of the events, but ultimately they come together smoothly enough and leave you wanting more.
Bamboo Blade was a fun show that was definitely worth going out of the way to see. The characters were fun, the story was engaging, and all around the series had a load of charm backing every event. You simply do not see kendo featured in anime to this extent and that only adds to the reasons you should check this show out. There may be some inconsistencies along the way, but overall it's strongly recommended from start to finish.
Bamboo Blade is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image. The show has a very nice look to it and it's not often you see a kendo-themed anime, so some of the designs are pretty unique. With that being said the characters are fairly generic and the backgrounds aren't exactly impressive. Technically speaking the show looks pretty good as well with solid colors, clean lines, and an all around crisp presentation. There were some elements of grain here and there, and compression artifacts can be spotted at times, but I didn't spot a drop of aliasing anywhere. All around this is a good looking show, but not completely flawless.
Part 2 of this series hits DVD with an English 5.1 surround mix and Japanese 2.0 stereo. I enjoyed both and felt the dubbing casts for each performed admirable, though I leaned towards the Japanese track for my preference. As far as the presence on the soundstage is concerned the quality is about what you'd expect. The 5.1 mix offers some nice immersive moments during kendo sparring and events, though little else in terms of other aspects of the show. The 2.0 is fairly flat by comparison and doesn't pack much of a punch.
Textless animation and some trailers are all you're going to find on this release for Bamboo Blade.
Bamboo Blade is another strong title in FUNimation's recent lineup of titles. The show packs in a lot of personality, some fun characters, and an interesting premise. It's unique in some respects, but familiar in others, and I'd have to say that the series leaves the door open for fans of different genres. The first installment was lighthearted and fun, and the second installment is too for the most part. There are some surprising developments here and the drama is ratcheted up a bit towards the end. If you enjoyed the first 13 episodes you'll love what's here, and if you haven't seen the show, well, considering it a solid watch.
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