Written by Sean Russell
Girls, girls, girls! Short, tall, psychotic, and even… well, that pretty much sums up all of the characters in this show. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking Bamboo Blade is just another series filled with doe-eyed high school girls that fall into cliché character types. In the heart of this show is an effort to bring something new to the table. Well, to be more precise, there is an attempt at some originality.
So, there is the protagonist, Tamaki Kawazoe, whose propensity for anime makes her both relatable and enduring. She’s a simple girl who can beat your father in a kendo match. That’s assuming your father knows how to wield a bamboo blade. Her friends and family think she’s too good at kendo and disconnected from the outside world. Little do they know she’s involved in the most social activity known to man, anime! All kidding aside, the series treats her aversion to reality as a character flaw, which would be fine, if members of your audience weren’t castaways on the same island.
Another notable character in this series is the selfish kendo instructor, Toraji Ishida. Despite being an adult, he falls flat on his face and exploits several teens to bring about a reversal of his own misfortune.
And essentially, that’s the premise of Bamboo Blade: We are constantly reminded how selfish Ishida is towards his disciples. The twist is his lack of common sense or tact when sharing his woes with his students. In one scene, he shares the news that he is going to lose his job at the end of the semester. Normally, a heartwarming montage of teamwork would raise their sensei out of his dilemma. Instead, the team continues practicing, oblivious. Hilarity in abundance!
Later in the series, Bamboo Blade takes a dartboard approach. This is seen in the episode where Tamaki gets a part time job. While this episode is thoroughly entertaining, it does little to progress the story. But then again, how much story can there be in a group of kids hitting each other with sticks in order to settle their instructor’s debts? This lack of substance does however force the series to focus on the characters and their personal lives. That’s where this series finds its charm.
Having recently seen Lucky Star, several comparisons can be drawn. Konata and Tamaki’s passion for anime smacks of audience pandering. Here however, it’s almost presented as a flaw. Look at this amazing kendo fighter who doesn’t lose her cool and is even tempered. But wait, she has an addiction to anime. Let’s stone her in the courtyard at dawn. It’s a thinly veiled attempt at drawing in your viewer to relate to a borderline sociopath.
While the show clearly has an audience it’s targeted towards. It has enough heart and originality to find a few reluctant fans on the outside. For one, the humor is more organic, using situational comedy rather than silly pratfalls and sight gags. The overall direction of the series also gives you ample story in the seemingly short twenty-six-episode timeframe.
Ironically, the show’s beacon of hope just shines way too bright. There are too many characters in this series. For every interesting main character, there seems to be three utterly forgettable supporting players. This is to be expected, but not tolerated. If the show focused more on the main characters and less on the other kendo team, it could have felt more complete and less rushed. There are stretches in the final arch of the series that feel disconnected from the main plot. These sequences combined with the overabundance of ancillary characters do more to hinder than help what would otherwise be an enjoyable show.
While Bamboo Blade does deliver comedy and teenage angst, it fails to provide a complete experience one would hope to expect in such an over-hyped series.
Review by: Sean Russell
Production by: AIC A.S.T.A.
Directed by: Hisashi Saito
Licensed by: FUNimation
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