SPOILERFREE Special thanks to SalmonSalad for the request There are two things that one can learn watching anime that take place in high school there is no shortage of after school clubs to choose from and you can bank on the fact that there will likely be a lot of girls in those clubs. It doesnt matter if the club in question is one that has an activity associated with traditional femininity or not as long as there is even the remotest chance of a club existing not only will there be an anime about it but that it will also likely have a large female cast. Bamboo Blade was one such property that got this treatment using kendo as the dramatic vehicle of choice. Released in 2007 the series came during that period of time when moe as a concept was undergoing a bit of a renaissance and restructuring. But aside from that I didnt know anything else going in. I have never taken up kendo before nor did I have any particular interest in watching a sparring match in real life. For all I knew though this series could at least help give me some appreciation for it. As he worries about the fact that he has virtually no money and little food to eat high school instructor Ishida Toraji meets with his senpai Ishibari Kenzaburo and makes a bet: if the group of five girls from Ishidas kendo club can defeat Kenzaburos group instead Ishida will win a years supply of sushi. With newfound enthusiasm for kendo he seeks to expand the teams roster from its lone member Chiba Kirino. Such characters will include the reserved and tiny Kawazoe Tamaki the supposedlycharming Miyazaki Miyako the pessimistic Kuwahara Sayako and the book dumb Azuma Satori. The premise affords a kind of comedic cynicism that tinges some of the dialogues and discussions that transpire. Under normal circumstances the team of cute girls would be gathered either through their original love of the sport or because they were shown a way in which the sport could somehow teach them something about life or themselves. While large portions of that is definitely true in Bamboo Blade with the characters undergoing some aspect of personal growth through their team bonding Ishida makes for a good subversion of the supportive coach. His motivation for forming the team in the first place is one entirely rooted in selfish desire. Granted its a rather understandable desire to not starve but the fact that his heart is lessthanpure in this aspect makes him a rather fun presence. And the cast as a whole is a lot of fun as well. Though they may not deviate too far from the familiar archetypes one would expect from a series like this the camaraderie and joviality makes most of the dialogues and sequences delightful. As a central character Tamaki is the adorable prodigy who wows all that come into contact with her shinai while Kirino is the ball of fiery gumption that manages to always have a smile on her face and make amusing light of most situations. As the cast size gradually increases each of the girls gradually expands the scope of Bamboo Blades comedic potential. But given that the series is twentysix episodes long its unfortunate that not every character is given an appropriate amount of character or comedy to demonstrate. Of the main five girls Satori is given markedlyless material to work with both in terms of actions that she performs and personality development she undergoes throughout the run. The other four girls are given more than enough expansion to help make them fun characters and even the clubs boys get enough time in the sun. Satori is introduced to the cast as the final member so while its true that there just isnt enough of the run remaining to adequately flesh her out its a problem that I find should have been taken more carefully into consideration. Its not that Satori is a bad character per se but rather that shes just not quite as much of a character as everyone else. Also a slight problem is that not every battle that took place during the run was featured. One of the tournaments only includes the highlights from a single bout Tamaki performed leaving the following scene to have Ishida vaguely talk about the other participants matches. Considering that kendo is the main element that binds all the main characters together its an unusual decision to skimp out on what were supposed to be the culminations of all their hard work and training. Bamboo Blade may be a comedy but not including more actual fights was an unfortunate miscalculation. The matches that are featured though even in individual rounds are welldone. The rapidity of kendo strikes and the movement of the combatants are captured nicely with a lot of noise from screams clacking shinai and stylized line work. The fights themselves may occasionally be brief but each one has a strong kinetic energy that keeps things moving at a good pace even in stillframe. If anything the fights being such a positive of the show make my previous point about not every battle being included all the more disappointing. Thankfully the series does indeed make up for this disappointment through its handling of tone. It rapidly shifts between lighthearted barbs that have little to do with anything to outbursts. Bamboo Blade manages to strike comedic beats relatively consistently both of the slapstick and offkilter variety. It affords a kind of unpredictability to the various scenarios as I was never quite sure which kind of comedy the show was going to be throwing at me at a given moment. Regardless of which type it picked I more often than not was at least amused if not smiling or laughing. But as one may expect from a story like this there reaches a point where the comedy takes a backseat and the moredramatic aspects of the sport take place. The final main arc of the series occurs after a particularly stressful tournament and the ensuing aftermaths of what happens there are faced headon and its solid. What makes this portion of the story work is that all the dramatic beats its going for are things that were hinted at throughout the course of the series even if only in small doses. The resulting tension thus comes across as naturally builtup allowed time to properly germinate into a compelling conflict. The landing from that conflict however is not so clean. Most of the underlying problems the characters are facing end up getting resolved within the span of a single episode. While on some level this rapid wrapping up of the issues makes sense given that the series is primarily a comedy it seems that Bamboo Blade wasnt terribly keen on letting the drama build up for too long. Perhaps the underlying thought is that if drama takes centerstage and oversteps the change of pace would be too alienating. Frankly I wish that it had stayed. It also teases a second season within the last episodes final seconds which even at the time of this writing never materialized outside of the manga. Its upsetting that the show never got to see that potential realized whatever it could have been. And the reason why its upsetting is that as flawed as the show could sometimes be it was always a delightful watch. It is not a perfect series by any stretch but there were indeed many moments where I simply had a good time watching it. Rather than being a series of dull outings it managed to pull off its own brand of fun. For better or worse the show is simplistic and this time around the block it worked towards its appeal. Plus I would be lying if I said that after finishing a couple of episodes at a time I didnt hear those kendo screams echoing in my head. Bamboo Blade may not necessarily offer much variety in the girls sports club type of school anime as far as character is concerned but it has its own spunkiness and aesthetic charm that gives it life. The premise affords a kind of comedic cynicism and slapstick that works more often than it doesnt and the actual fights were welldone. I did grow to get a new sort of appreciation for kendo and while my general aversion to sports anime may not have been fixed by it watching this show was a pleasure.
70 /100
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