Bamboo Blade Part 1
2009 TV Series (episodes 1-13). Director: Hisashi Saitou. 325 minutes. DVD, bilingual, $59.98. Distributor: Funimation.
Toraji is a slightly dusty Kendo instructor in need of a tournament win. His part-time teaching gig barely satisfies his landlord, let alone his belly. Enter Tamaki. This pint-sized girl is an unwitting master of the bamboo sword. With her skill Toraji is guaranteed both instant success and a decent meal! But there’s just one problem. Tamaki would rather watch anime than join his all-girl squad. Can he convince her, and simultaneously redeem himself?
“Men!!!” If you spend anytime in a kendo dojo, you’ll hear this kiai as bamboo strikes numerous armored-wrapped heads. And Bamboo Blade definitely hits you square on the forehead. I love this anime!
Okay, part of the love emerges from the fact that I’m a student of the sword myself. So, I’m slightly biased. But this series has everything you need in a high school comedy. Tomaki is our introverted wonder-child in need of the social skills. Kirino is the optimistic captain always praising teamwork. Miyako is that disturbingly hot, yet secretly sadistic teenage girl. Saya is the team member that quits every few weeks. And, last but not least, Satori is our academically challenged power hitter.
Seriously, with the luckless Toraji, Disney should be all over the live-action movie rights!
At any rate, Bamboo Blade is a big win for two reasons. First, there are no filler episodes. Each frame is dedicated to either action or character development (though a few noticeably linger on legs and butts). If you’re not being captivated by kendo moves, voyeuristic windows are opened to reveal the strains of single-family households, academic stress, and even problematic stalkers. Next, as this rag-tag team unite to embrace an often serious and solemn tradition of Japan, their playful teamwork and learning curve just give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Who doesn’t like it when a plan comes together?
Let’s face it. This kendo team is the underdog we love to root for!
Bamboo Blade delivers the full K.O. Trust me. You’ll either love it, or find yourself smilingly happy.