Martial arts. The perfect palette on which to blend skill, fortitude, perspicacity, teamwork and hideously adorable cuteness. Add a dash of Yuri and you have a really thin excuse for a review of Bamboo Blade!
Kendo takes a great deal of subtlety and skill. You can’t just hit a person with the shinai. Footwork, timing, strike location and force all must be precise. Like all martial arts, Kendo takes most of a lifetime to understand and master. (Where “master” is meant as “not come even close to mastering.” It’s a cliche’ in the martial arts – all of them – that the more you know, the more you know how little you know. And no, I am not talking out my ass in fortune cookies here. I taught MA for about 10 years. Trust me – the more you know, the less you know.) So, of course it stands to reason that a hideously adorable fifteen-year old would be practically a world-class kendoka. Wait, no it doesn’t.
And that’s the hand-wave in Bamboo Blade. Little Tamako is in truth, an anime-obsessed master of this difficult art, so of course her high school Kendo club wants, no, *needs,* to get her. And they do, which signals a major turn-around for the Muroe High Kendo club. They are able to recruit some new members, and in honor of Tama’s sentai leanings, assign a color to each of the members.
As Tama’s training seeps osmotically into the rest of the team, they become more focused and more skilled. Bubbly Kirino, the half-assed club president and flaky Saya find themselves winning matches more, beginner Miya-Miya is able to channel her tremdous hidden rage into Kendo and clumsy Azuma finds a group that will accept her for who she is and offer her support. In other words – it’s a “team” anime, where every character has backstory, but we all “gambatte” and win. There will be cliff-hangers here and there, but no real tension. Tama-chan is simply too cute to worry about. Everything will always be all right.
Our excuse for reviewing this series at all is a girl named Reimi who obsessively stalks and photographs Miya-Miya (Kendo “Black”.) Miya-Miya is already the craziest, most mentally unstable character in the show – Reimi’s stalking does not help. Miya-Miya assumes it to be some kind of rivalry, but in fact, Reimi’s in love with Miya-Miya. It’s not really a nice love. Reimi’s admiration does more damage than good. But it’s okay. It’s an excuse to review Bamboo Blade. :-) There’s a nice helping of “obvious” pairability between Kirino and Saya as well, so although they aren’t a couple, it’s easy enough for those so inclined to pretend they are.
Bamboo Blade is not cutting-edge or anything. (Ecch, no pun intended.) It’s a formulaic, yet-another-one-of-those-sports-series that fill Japanese manga and anime shelves. The lessons are “keep trying,” “be a team” and “guts=win.” Same as pretty much every other sports anime. The only difference is that the “win” part is really secondary to the story. Since Tama-chan is a priori way superior to everyone, that’s not an issue. It’s the journey and her experiences hanging out with other kids her age that’s the important bit. Sure, it’s nice that the team is getting better, but that’s just an added benefit. This takes a lot of pressure off the characters – and the viewers. They don’t have to succeed despite outrageous odds and tremendous hardship, and we don’t have to watch them suffer.
Here’s an example. Tama-chan is off to her first training camp. Her father is concerned because there will be boys there. That’s it. And Tama-chan’s biggest concern? That her father go nowhere near the TV and digital recorder, so she doesn’t miss an episode of her favorite shows. Feels nice and relaxed, doesn’t it? It is. ^_^
Art – 7 Moe cute
Story – 7
Characters – 8 Except the teachers who are impossible to respect
Yuri – 1
Service – 5 Individual episodes go as high as 7.
Overall – 7
I like the fact that we occasionally see real Kendo techniques. And I defy anyone to tell me that they don’t want to hug Tama-chan. A fun anime about five female Kendoka – does there really need to be anything else?