Written by TheBigN
It’s funny how a lack of knowledge can help or hurt me, and it also shows how easily I can be swayed. When I first heard of the premise for Bamboo Blade, I thought it wasn’t something that would interest me much compared to what else was shown (Fall 07′ was a pretty strong season, now that I think of it). My last foray into a sports anime focused on a squad of girls coming together was fun (often more unintentionally than intentional), but not something that I was really too much into. Based on how people explained the show , I admit that I had a wrong uninformed opinion of the show, thinking it was harem-related without even doing research or taking a look at the show in the first place. Ignorance is bliss after all. At the same time though, because of people’s glowing mentions of the show, because I didn’t know anything about Bamboo Blade, I decided to check it out. And I’m glad I did, since it’s now one of my favorite series of 2007/08. Everyone has pretty much said what I’m going to say, but I figure more voices of support can be used for it, and because I think more people need to check it out.
I think what set this apart for me from other sports series, or just series in general was it’s quirkiness, and you could even just start from the premise. I do see and hear mention of kendo a lot in anime, but for me it was still an obscure sport. It didn’t help that we don’t really get that much focus on kendo normally in anime. Usually it’s just people hitting each other with wooden swords, and leaving to go to tournaments and train while their loved ones wait for them, deepening the understanding of why they love as time goes by. Granted, it’s not as unaccessible as curling seems to be, but I guess coming from my Western experiences, it’s a bit out there. And I never saw girls regularly participating in kendo either, aside for rare exceptions. But I’m digressing kind of a bit here.
So continuing on this angle of interesting idiosyncrasies, look no further than the show’s strength in the characters. Granted, none of them are really, really deep, but that doesn’t matter. Each of they have their own endearing eccentricities to them, and it’s hard to find a reason to dislike any of them (and for the people that do try, find a better way waste time maybe? :P). From Kirino’s obsession with kendo and sweat, to Dan-kun’s appearance belying his outerwordly pimping skills, to Ishida-sensei remaining old-school with video games and anime, a spin is placed on to sorta-stock characters with these unusual traits. Hell, even Yuuji’s odd here, because he’s the most normal of the group! And they help to define a lot about Bamboo Blade, where situations like Miya-Miya’s stalker (I so hope there are some doujins where Reimi manages to take advantage *wink wink nudge nudge*) and Blade Braver’s application to the group as a whole factor a lot into the show’s execution, and adds that much more enjoyment to the series. They even made the Sega Saturn relevant again, and I believe that it helps to watch over our souls while the company as a whole has sadly forsaken us all (why else would Yuyuko have so many Dreamcasts?).
It’s the interest of kendo that initially connects all of these people, but as with every other sports related anime, as they get to know each other, friendship develops between these people and leads the way. While we still have the basic quirks, we grow in our understanding of the character as they grew. Yeah, it’s been done before, but it’s still interesting to see how devoted Kirino is to her family and her club, how Tama-chan didn’t look at things in the right way, or how kendo can become serious business when your priorities are messed up. Sometimes the effect of the growth works out and sometimes it doesn’t to the point where you’re not even sure there has been change. But that’s life; we all don’t change that easily, so it depends on how you look at it.
It doesn’t help when some characters get a little shafted time-wise or content-wise like Satori. But when you see Dan-kun becoming a kendo threat, Sayako actually staying around and Miya-Miya gaining confidence that she was surprisingly lacking in, you couldn’t say that there wasn’t any growth or that it wasn’t satisfying in some way. Or you could, but that’s where you and I differ I guess. What matters is that I felt happy at what I saw was progress, and I hope that you feel the same. Bamboo Blade is simple, but sometimes that’s all one needs to be super effective. Seeing everyone move forward as individuals and collectively as a team was worth it, and though there might be a new season down the line, these 26 episodes have been more than good enough for me. :3