Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Bamboo Blade
Series 1 - Part 2


Starring (voice): Katsuyuki Konishi, Megumi Toyoguchi and Ryou Hirohashi
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 31 January 2011

The Kendo Club is in its darkest hour! Having a fierce swordswoman like Tamaki at practice every day gives the girls of the club reason for hope, but this team still has a long way to go. Their sensei is one false move away from losing his job, the team's facing a suspension, and even Tamaki is about to experience the bitter taste of defeat. So will the girls pick each other up and stick together as a team? or will they crumble under the pressure and go their separate ways? During his team's darkest hour, it will be up to Toraji to inspire his warriors and teach Tamaki that sometimes, only a crushing loss can stoke the flames of competition...

So we enter the second half of Bamboo Blade, and the after-school kendo club's existence is under threat from an unexpected source. With his typical short fuse having led him into a supermarket car-park altercation with a female fellow shopper - a lady who, it turns out, is the neighbour of the school superintendent - team coach Ishida finds his job at risk and is determined to provide a decisive victory for the team and prove his worth. Not unreasonably, the team fail brilliantly to rally round their intransigent sensei, arguing that it's nothing to do with them. It's this kind of slightly humdrum and undramatic means of developing storylines that takes BB away from the clichés of sports anime and into the domain of the everyday, and provides some fine character comedy along the way.

The diminutive prodigy Tamaki is the focus for much of the second half, as the team's match against a new school brings her into contact with the authentically nasty Konishi, a kendo idol who uses the clique of worshipful juniors that every high school sports star in anime must have as proxies to carry out acts of sabotage against her opponent. Tamaki's reaction in facing an opponent who sincerely means her harm is one of the moments of rare excitement in the series, and the vocal performance by Ryou Hirohashi - flipping from impassive monotone to blood-curdling shrieks at a moment's notice - is outstanding. Team beauty Miyako fares less well, as the distraction of a persistent female stalker and her ongoing failure to win any matches lead her into a crisis of confidence that even her dumpy well-meaning boyfriend Danjuro - who Miya-miya adores beyond reason - can't fix. Poor Miyako even faces a rival in her affections for Dan-kun, the Japanese-American ex-patt Carrie Nishikawa, who like all Americans in anime comes with dazzling blue eyes, an impressive bust measurement and a ridiculous gung-ho accent. Those of you who wince when Japanese voice actors attempt to speak English may want to skip ahead at this point.

With the team well established at this stage and in need of a break, unassuming male member Yuuji (his and his friend Danjuro's resignation at being consistently overlooked in favour of the girls is a sly, if slightly guilty bit of commentary on the show's appeal) plucks up his courage and invites the impassive Tamaki on a date of sorts. His choice of a live-action children's stage show puts the spotlight on one of BB's best elements, the perfectly executed tokusatsu show pastiche Blade Braver: with its shamelessly merchandised characters, childish emphasis on justice and fairness and cheesy dialogue, it might seem like easy parody at first glance, yet the attention to detail (even the names in the on-screen credits are similar to famous tokusatsu show creators') and Tamaki's unironized passionate devotion to its ideals makes it plain that this is a loving tribute. Unfortunately for Yuuji-kun, his otherwise perfect choice of a day out leads to a chance meeting with the enigmatic Rin Suzuki, a fellow kendo adept who out-Tamakis Tamaki herself with her stoic personality and in-depth knowledge of Braver lore. Fans of the yuri subtext that's seldom far from the surface in anime series with mainly female casts will find much to enjoy here.

As the series draws to a close the various storylines wrap up in a haphazard fashion that betrays the makers' ardent wish for another season, yet curiously the lack of the expected final battle between Ishida's team and their designated rivals, together with the fizzling out of the crisis over the team's dissolution, adds to the everyday realism I've mentioned before as one of Bamboo Blade's strengths. While some of the characters and plot elements are better executed than others, the makers' decision to veer off the expected path at odd moments - a long-foreshadowed bathing scene is eventually carried out off-screen and in a matter of seconds - makes the series a much more rewarding experience than some of its rivals in the slice-of-life genre. If you've seen the first volume and found yourself enjoying the characters and setting, part two is - in the the nicest possible sense - more of the same, and really quite enjoyable for it.


Richard Hunt

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£14.93 (
£14.99 (
£14.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.