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Bamboo Blade Volume 1

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School life is pretty rubbish for most people, with hindsight many say that they would return. I for one would never return to school, not unless it was like the Japanese schools that I watch on a seemingly endless basis. Lucky Star, Azumanga Daoih, Host Club and Haruhi Suzumiya all seem to enjoy a level of freedom, flexibility and happiness that was devoid in my early life. Was I just a lonely horrible kid? Possibly, although doubtful. It’s just what we watch in or anime is happy. Now, that said, being in school is still hard and it’s made even harder when you’re bullied into joining a club that you don’t really know about, or want to join. This is the basic premise for Bamboo Blade – joining the school’s Kendo Club.

Although at first it’s easy to assume that Bamboo Blade is simply a sports anime, that assumption would be deadly wrong. Bamboo Blade, although has many sporty over-tones, is in fact a “slice of life” anime, with many of the elements that are essential for this genre to be successful displayed to us in various form – just hidden away behind Kendo. There’s the jaded, unimpressed, tired and dysfunctional teacher, there’s the over confident girl, the happy girl, the girl with a hidden side and the two boys who really aren’t that good at anything. Yes, all of the elements that need to exist to make Bamboo Blade a success are there.

Yet, just ticking all of the boxes on a particular form doesn’t make a show a success. Fortunately in the case of Bamboo Blade, the other elements that make a good anime are available by the bucket load. Bamboo Blade is primarily about a Kendo Club in a private school where the teacher no longer has the enthusiasm to care about Kendo, although he’s an ex-champion, but he is in terrible debt. His old teacher or “sensei” phones him and places a bet that his team would destroy theirs. Of course, with no team, and a bet of a year’s supply of sushi on the line, he gets a team hastily together.

There are two members who already exist, the team captain and another member who is absent for a lot of the first volume. This is then increased by a fair few by the appearance of two boys who seem to have the ability to pull in girls like it’s the last days of the earth. With a growing team, it’s very easy for the show to fall down the “Dragonball Z training” route, where everything becomes dead serious, the fun disappears and the show takes a nose dive.

To some degree this does occur and there are a fair few scenes which is just training, talking about training, talking about going to training and just surrounded by Kendo. Luckily these scenes don’t take the lead and the main element of character interaction and the dysfunction teacher, odd students and the strange relationships between all of them stay prevalent and this makes the show that bit more enjoyable.

The cast is fairly wide and somewhat varied, although it does fall into the classic stereotypes of this genre of anime. That’s not to say that they are uninspired characters, just, not revolutionary. Yet they are performed very well by both the Japanese and the American voice actors who do the characters justice in both languages.

The character designs are good, with all of the characters being unique enough to be memorable, but none of them are really out of place with the exception of one character. Yet this character is “right” in his appearance, so it makes visual sense.

Final Score

6

Whilst not exceptional and definitely not revolutionary, Bamboo Blade Volume 1 is an enjoyable anime that keeps the attention of the viewer throughout all of the episodes. It’s just not in the same league as its peers.