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Bamboo Blade: Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

December 28, 2009 by  



A very fun, hilarious and addictive anime series!  Although a sports-related anime series, anime fans not familiar with kendo can easily watch and enjoy this series and become captivated with its fun and wacky characters plus its hilarious, lighthearted, underdog turned winning attitude storyline.  Definitely recommended!

Image courtesy of © Masahiro Totsuka-Aguri Igarashi/SQUARE ENIX, BAMBOO BLADE Partners. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Bamboo Blade: Part 1

DURATION: 13 Episodes (325 minutes, 2 DVD’s)

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Japanese stereo, English Subtitles

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: TV PG

Release Date: November 24, 2009

Originally Created byAguri Igarashi and Masahiro Totsuka

Director: Hisashi Sato

Screenplay: Hideyuki Kurata

Music: Kiyohiko Senba

Character Design by Naoto Hosoda

Art Director: Maho Takahashi

Animation Director: Yooichi  Ueda

Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami

Director of Photography: Tatsuya Nomura

3D Work by Tatsuya Watanabe

Produced by AIC A.S.T.A.

Featuring the following voice talent:

Houko Kuwashima as Miyako Miyazaki

Katsuyuki Konishi as Toraji Ishida

Megumi Toyoguchi as Kirino Chiba

Rina Satou as Satori Azuma

Ryou Hirohashi as Tamaki Kawazoe

Sachiko Kojima as Sayako Kuwahara

Akira Ishida as Danjuro Eiga

Daisuke Sakaguchi as Yuji Nakata

Mai Nakahara as Reimi Odajima

Tetsu Inada as Kenzaburo Ishibashi

It didn’t take long for pint-sized Tamaki’s lightning reflexes to catch the eye of starving Kendo instructor Toraji.

This second-rate sensei is an embarrassment to the sport, and his Kendo club is running out of members. His only hope for redemption – and a full belly – is to get Tamaki to sign-on as his star pupil. Unfortunately, this sword-wielding prodigy is a serious anime addict, so it’ll be a challenge to get her to step away from the television and into the dojo.

But once she feels like a part of the team, Tamaki has the skills to turn any bunch of misfits into a fearsome sisterhood of the bamboo blade!

In 2004, the manga series “Bamboo Blade” by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi (illustrator) was released and featured in the Japanese seinen manga magazine Young Gangan.  An anime adaptation was produced by AIC A.S.T.A. (“Tokimeki Memorial ~Only Love~”, “Tentai Senshi Sunred”, “Godannar”)  and was shown on TV Tokyo from October 2007 through April 2008.

The anime series is directed by Hisashi Saito (who worked on series such as “Fullmetal Alchemist”, “Eureka Seven”, “Bleach”) and features a screenplay by Hideyuki Kurata (who created “Read or Die” and “Kamichu!”).  Character designs are by Naoto Hosoda (“Jinki: Extend”, “Nagasarete Airantou”, “Shuffle! Memories”) and 3D by Tatsuya Watanabe (“Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie – Conqueror of Shamballa”).

Now the 26-episode anime series makes it to US with part 1 featuring the first 13-episodes in a 2-DVD collection courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Bamboo Blade” is about a teacher named Toraji Ishida who is also the coach of the high school Kendo team.  Unfortunately or Ishida, a teacher who hasn’t been in the profession all that long is having a hard time keeping afloat with his paycheck.  Most of his money goes to bills and food and he tries to live within means but sometimes he’s left starving for a days time and its starting to affect him.  But his passion is with the kendo team and when his friend Ishibashi (a teacher who also teaches a high school kendo team) challenges him to a kendo contest among their female members of their kendo club. Ishida immediately takes it because if he wins, he gets free sushi at Ishibashi’s father’s sushi restaurant.

How can the always hungry kendo instructor resist?  The problem is that he has only one female member in the team and now he and his only female kendo member Kirino Chiba go on a mission to recruit people to the kendo team and prepare for the competition.

The main characters of “Bamboo Blade” are:

Toraji Ishida – The economics teacher at Muroe High School who is the sensei of the Kendo team.  Hardly makes any money and lives paycheck to paycheck which leaves him without food for days at a time.  His love is kendo but has a lax style of teaching.

Kirino Chiba – A second year student at Muroe High School who loves kendo and wants to compete.  The captain of the team who is full of energy, enthusiastic and her parents own a deli.

Tamaki Kawazoe – A hardcore anime and tokusatsu (which is the name for series such as “Kamen Rider”) fan, she’s also the daughter of a father who owns a kendo dojo and has learned since she was a little girl and somewhat of a prodigy of the sport.  She joins the kendo club after she sees freshman students being bullied by the male seniors and because she is seen like a hero (like her tokusatsu shows), she joins the team to fight against any evil and for justice.  Despite her talent in kendo, Tama-chan is very shy and soft-spoken.

Miyako “Miya-Miya” MiyazakiThe beautiful girlfriend of Danjuro Eiga (aka Dan-kun).  Cute and perky on the outside but she also has a dark and evil side to her in which a black aura comes out of her (which other people except her boyfriend can see).   Joins the Kendo team so she can utilize her aggressive nature and beat on someone.

Sayako Kuwahara –  A second year student and happens to be like a drama queen and has a very low self-confidence.  Always changing her goals and up to something new, she has high expectations for herself and when she fails, she quits and she has quit the kendo team many times just to come back later on to prove herself that she can beat Kirino.

Satori Azuma – Very talented in kendo but because of her bad grades, she was forced to quit and to focus on her studies.

Yuji Nakata– One of the few male students in the kendo club who is passionate about kendo.  Yuji trained at Tama’s fathers kendo dojo.  Very smart and the only person on the team who knows his sensei’s true intention of bringing female members to the kendo team.

Danjuro “Dan-kun” Eiga – The short odd looking member of the club who joins because he wants to wield a sword like a ninja.  Although he appears to be kind of dumb, he is actually quite smart and even dates the beautiful Miya-Miya.

“Bamboo Blade: Part 1” comes with episodes 1-13 on two DVD discs. Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – A Bamboo Broom and a Champion of Justice – Sensei Ishida and Kirino try to recruit Tamaki Kawazoe to the kendo team. Also, Yuji, Dan-kun and Miya-Miya join the team.
  • EPISODE 2 – The Blade Bravers and Boxed Lunch – The new members of the Kendo team get to know each other through lunch at school.
  • EPISODE 3 – Black and Blue – Miya-Miya wants revenge against the boys that have tried to hurt her Dan-kun, meanwhile we learn about the other female member Sayako and Sensei wonders if she will come back to the kendo club.
  • EPISODE 4 – Pink and Blue – Sayako returns to join the kendo club and realizes that the person she had a bad encounter with is Miya-Miya and that she is part of the kendo team.
  • EPISODE 5 – Muroe High and Machido High – It’s the day of the competition as sensei Ishida’s Muroe High female kendo team take on Machido High’s five female members of their team.
  • EPISODE 6 – Tamaki Kawazoe and the Tardy Bureiba – With Muroe High School only having four members, Sensei Ishida tries to have Tama pretend to become a fifth member named Bureiba.
  • EPISODE 7 – Sushi and Mince Meat Cutlets – Sensei Kenzaburo of Machido High is shocked about Tama’s performance in Kendo and issues her a challenge to fight him.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 8 – Tama and Part-time Work – Tama really wants a DVD box set but she is short of the money.  With Miya-Miya injured from competition, she allows Tama to make some money by filling in for her at her part-time job.
  • EPISODE 9 – Kojiro and the Crossroads of Fate – Kojiro gets into a heated argument at the grocery store with a woman and now his job at the high school is in jeopardy.
  • EPISODE 10 – Miyako Miyazaki’s Melancholy and the First Tournament – Muroe high school may have a chance of getting a fifth member, meanwhile Miya-Miya is worried that her stalker is back.
  • EPISODE 11 – Animation and Dreams – Miya-Miya explains to her kendo teammates about her stalker Otajima Reimi.  Meanwhile Sensei Ishida and Kirino try to recruit Azuma.
  • EPISODE 12 – Azuma’s Circumstances and Mei’s Circumstance – We learn why Azuma had to quit kendo and why sensei is forbidden in trying to recruit her.  Meanwhile, the girls prepare for their training against Seimei High’s kendo team.
  • EPISODE 13 – Teachers and Students – Azuma becomes inspired by Tama and wants to go against her in a competition to decide whether or not she will join the team.  Meanwhile Muroe High’s female kendo team takes on Seimei High’s female kendo team.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Bamboo Blade” is presented in 16:9 and for the most part the animation is pretty cool as it integrates CG to the animation. Because of the fast pacing of the kendo, there is quite a bit of action in the series.  Character designs are quite interesting as we see cool character designs and sometimes hilarious facial expressions.

Audio is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and Japanese Stereo.  For the English dubbed track, the anime is front and center channel driven with certain sounds of the shinai (the wooden bamboo sticks) hitting each other and crowd ambiance to footsteps can be heard through the surround channels.  English voice acting is actually very well-done!  Japanese dialogue is front channel driven and is Dolby Digital stereo only but for those who have a modern home theater receiver can select stereo on all channels for a more immersive soundtrack.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Bamboo Blade: Part 1” comes with the clean opening and ending themes and FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

When it comes to sports related anime, I’m actually a big fan of it.  May it be “Slam Dunk”, “Big Windup”, “Yawara”, “Eyeshield 21”, “Prince of Tennis”, “Captain Tsubasa” to name a few… I’ve been a big fan of anime sports series especially if the anime focuses on characters that are underdogs and become high achievers.

So, I was wondering how an anime series based on kendo would be.  I’ve learned and even practiced kendo (for a very short time) and mainly because it is a very discipline-based sport (and for some friends its part of their lifestyle), for those on the outside, an anime based on kendo can be seen as boring or quite technical.  But “Bamboo Blade” is nowhere near boring, in fact…once you start watching it…you’ll find the series to be quite fun!

For the most part, the series is definitely created to be anime friendly for those not familiar with the sport (or for those who despise sports anime) by including pretty girls who have their own interesting personal character traits, add in a lot of humor, girls (and a few guys) training in kendo and what you get it is a fun anime series known as”Bamboo Blade”.  And I think it’s quite appropriate since there are many anime fans who are so against sports-related anime series, “Bamboo Blade” is one of those few anime series that won’t bore them.

But what about those who are fans of kendo, what can they get from “Bamboo Blade”? Well, the series does feature the training of kendo, the action scenes of kendo and also the spirit of kendo.  The anime features some of the technical aspects of the sport but for the most part, the for the anime series to be quite fun and enjoyable for non-kendo/non-sports fans, the series is not dominated by it.  It’s a character-driven anime series and for the most part, its made to be  entertaining.   From Tama being a kendo prodigy, it’s interesting to see her go out and fight the best at various high schools,  the cute and perk student Miya-Miya who sometimes unleashes her evil dark side and freaks people out when they can see that aura around her.  To the sensei who is trying to survive and teach kendo but at the same time, is looked at quite pitifully because he lives his life poor and without eating while trying to keep this facade that things are going well in his life.

The facial expressions and animation is pretty cool.  Animators definitely capture the action of kendo from the shinai hitting the other shinai, the various hits allowed in the sport to the footwork.  Everything comes together quite nicely and there are many non-kendo episodes featured as well.

Overall, every episode of “Bamboo Blade” has been quite entertaining and fun.  I found myself laughing and just really enjoying this anime series a lot.  So, don’t let the kendo theme scare you, “Bamboo Blade” is not your typical sports anime series.  It’s about friendship, teamwork and also adversity and I can’t wait to watch the final half of the series.

“Bamboo Blade” is definitely a series worth checking out!






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