The anime series “Bamboo Blade” has no love triangles, no magical girls, no panty shots or other fan service, no absurdly powerful student council, no cross-dressing, no silly misunderstandings, no amazing power-ups, and nothing supernatural. No one ever carries the idiot ball, and while it is a sports anime, there are no amazing come-from-behind victories.
What it does have is a solid story about a high school kendo team and its members, with believable, three-dimensional characters. Even more surprising, these high school kids actually behave like real high school kids, not like spoiled brats or little adults. The team starts out the year with three relatively inexperienced second-year students and a bunch of first-year students. Over the course of the year, they get to know each other, become close friends, and greatly improve their kendo skills.
While Bambo Blade’s concept is not very original (sports animes being a dime a dozen), the execution is exceptionally well-done. The show does a great job of introducing the characters, and slowly showing you what makes them tick. Over the course of the show, each character has their own challenges to overcome, from the top-notch kendo player who learns how to handle defeat for the first time, to the team captain when she has to make a very difficult decision, to the coach, who wants to teach the kids and keep his job at the same time.
If you’re used to American-style sports movies (Mighty Ducks, et al), remember that this is a Japanese show. Hard work doesn’t always lead to victory, and the underdog usually loses. That’s real life, like it or not. Bamboo Blade’s theme is about team work, discipline, friendship, and handling defeat.
Even though the show has 26 episodes, to me, episode 24 was the last “real” one; 25 and 26 felt like tacked-on epilogues, with forced happy endings. Ignoring them, the rest of the show is an amazing trip with a great cast of characters. I highly recommend it!
Bamboo Blade is available for free (legal) streaming on YouTube and for purchase as two DVD collections of 13 episodes each. I watched the dubbed version, which was very well done. A brief comparison to the subtitles showed that the dubbing stuck pretty close to the original script.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 Shinai
Enligh Website: http://www.funimation.com/bambooblade/