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Bamboo Blade: Part 2 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

December 29, 2009 by  



What a fantastic conclusion to the series!  “Bamboo Blade” is an anime series that is just all-out fun, hilarious and addictive! The second part of “Bamboo Blade” just gets better and better and when it’s all done, you wish there was more!  A DVD series that is highly recommended!

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

DVD TITLE: Bamboo Blade: Part 2

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: January 19, 2010

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

Having a fierce swordswoman like Tamaki at practice every day gives the girls of the Kendo 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.

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”).

In November, the first half of the 26-episode anime series made its US debut with part 1 featuring the first 13-episodes in a 2-DVD collection courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.

“Bamboo Blade” is about an economics teacher named Toraji Ishida who is also the coach of the Muroe high school Kendo team. Ishida is a low-paid teacher barely surviving from paycheck to paycheck and literally has to go through days without eating.  It’s so bad that the students end up sharing their food with him because they could tell that he’s out of it because of the lack of food.

In the beginning, Sensei Ishida’s intention was to bring in four more girls into the club and train them for competition in order to win a bet against his good friend, Sensei Ishibashi (who teaches and coaches two female high school kendo teams).  Whoever wins the competition would ensure him a year’s free sushi, all you can eat from his Ishibashi’s fathers restaurant or if he loses, give up a trophy he won against him when they were younger.

For the most part, the first half of the series shows the team dynamics and the training his kendo students have put in.   With long time member Kirino being the heart and soul of the team (and also the team captain), Ishida has the kendo prodigy named Tamaki Kawazoe on his team.  The main concern that Ishida has for Tamaki is that she has never lost and has never been in that position before.  To make things more interesting, as focused she is in every match, for some reason when the opponent does a high stance (holding the sword above the head), she freezes up for some reason.

Also, to make things worse for Sensei Ishida, his job is on the line after he was involved in a disturbance with a board member’s next door neighbor.  Now he has no choice but to make sure the team is prepared to win regionals and the only way he can do that is train them harder than ever before in a short amount of time.  Will Sensei Ishida managed to train his team?  Will they be ready for these upcoming major competitions?

The second half of “Bamboo Blade” continues to focus on team dynamics but also individual stories that continues the hilarious and fun storyline of the series but also becomes much more serious towards the latter end of the series.

The main characters of “Bamboo Blade” are:

Toraji Ishida – The economics teacher at Muroe High School who is the sensei of the Kendo team. Sensei Ishida 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.  His job is on the line due to an argument with a woman who turned out to be a neighbor of a school board member.

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.  She is also the heart and soul of the team, putting them first before herself.

Tamaki Kawazoe – A hardcore anime and tokusatsu 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.   Her weakness appears to be a female stalker who follows her around and takes away her focus.

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 but with the new team, she has started to find herself and also becoming best friends with Kirino.

Satori Azuma – Very talented in kendo but because of her bad grades, she was forced to quit and to focus on her studies.  But now with her return to kendo and also regaining her enthusiasm and becoming much happier, will she be able to succeed in school and kendo?

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.  His fellow kendo members think he has a thing for Tamaki.

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.  Slowly progressing in his kendo abilities and becoming a formidable kendo opponent.

“Bamboo Blade: Part 2” comes with episodes 14-26 on two DVD discs. Here are the spoiler-less summaries of each episode:

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 14 – Satrin’s Resolve and Nomming – Continued from the last episode, Azuma decides that she needs to focus on her grades and not kendo.  Miya-Miya decides to take care of the situation her way.
  • EPISODE 15 – First Training Camp and First Public Bath – Sensei Ishida holds his first training camp for his kendo students and also Sensei Ishibashi’s Machido five female kendo students and the two groups train hard and bond with each other.
  • EPISODE 16 – Kirino’s Absence and the Preliminary Tournament – Something happens to Kirino’s mother that prevents her from attending kendo classes right before the major tournament, meanwhile rumors swirl about another high school group and kendo team about their poor sportsmanship.  Meanwhile, the Muroe High kendo team competes in a major competition.
  • EPISODE 17 – Light and Shadow – With the events that happened in the last episode, Tamaki is put into a situation that she has never been in before.  With a bad ankle and a vicious opponent, will she be able to compete?
  • EPISODE 18 – The Tournament and Muroe High After That – Continuing with the tournament and Sensei Ishida having to make a major coaching decision after seeing how bad Tamaki’s ankle is.
  • EPISODE 19 – The Armadillo and the Pangolin – Miya-Miya wants to train harder in kendo after doing badly in the tournament.  As she goes to buy a new shinai, she runs into an American kendo student who starts hugging her boyfriend Dan-kun.  Jealous with rage, the American named Carrie challenges Miya-Miya in a kendo battle for Dan-kun!
  • EPISODE 20 – Braver and Shinaider – Yuuji has tickets for a Braver event (Tama’s favorite show) and she ends up in a competition with another die hard fan named Rin.

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 21 – Tamaki Kawazoe and Rin Suzuki – With the Braver film to begin shooting, the film crew stays at Tamaki’s home and Tamaki realizes that the girl Rin from the amusement park quiz competition is there as well.
  • EPISODE 22 – Winners and Losers – Sensei Ishida has the team prepare for the Kanto High School Kendo tournament and Tamaki will be squaring off with her new friend/rival Rin Suzuki while Miya-Miya will be going against her American nemesis Carrie.  Meanwhile, two of the former Muroe High School kendo students Toyama and Iwasa (the bad kids from the first episode) cause trouble and destroy an arcade after a fight.
  • EPISODE 23 – Lies and Silence – Trouble comes to Muroe High School as the principal informs Sensei Ishida that two of the students has destroyed property and have gotten worst with their aggression.  A resolution must come which can lead the team to a one year suspension.  Meanwhile, after the competition and the loss, two members decide to quite the kendo club.
  • EPISODE 24 – The Sword and the Way – With the troubles at Muroe High School, current members of the team try their best to bring their former members back.  Meanwhile, Kirino must make the biggest decision as a team captain.
  • EPISODE 25 – Kendo and What It Brings About – It’s time for the Kendo National competition and with hard training, it all comes down to this moment.  Also, Miya-Miya and Tamaki go against their rivals once again!
  • EPISODE 26 -“Sine Then” and “From Here and Out” – It’s a new school year and two new students come to watch the kendo team.  Meanwhile, we see how things have changed with the team especially with a new adviser.  What has happened to Sensei Ishida?  And who will be the new captain of the Muroe High School 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.  With the second half of the series, the series takes place in different settings.  So, there is more scenery outside of the kendo dojo and the high school this time around.    Also, with the series getting a bit more serious towards the latter end, I definitely enjoyed how the animation fit the mood of the series.

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 2” 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 and quite addicting!

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.

Sure the anime series has its share of cute girls, hijinks and craziness 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.

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.  In fact, after watching the complete series, I have to say that “Bamboo Blade” has made it into my top 10 favorite anime series of 2009.  The series just gets better and better and definitely enjoyed the series and how they ended it.  I just hope that there are plans to continue the series!

“Bamboo Blade” is definitely a series worth checking out!  I highly recommend picking up both parts of the series and trust me, you’ll be hooked!

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