Bamboo Blade

January 3, 2009

Though I’m not a kendo enthusiast, that didn’t stop me from watching another sports comedy genre, Bamboo Blade. I find that this anime series is suitable for viewers not only of all kinds of age, but those who are into kendo or those who know nuts about it. Throughout the series, there are some simple explanations of the traditional Japanese sword combat sport and though it’s not that detailed, it is enough to keep those unfamiliar with the sport well informed about the basics. Like the wooden sword is called a shinai while the armour is called bougu.
 
Unlike some sport genre animes, the battles in this 26 episode series are more down-to-earth. Meaning that, you won’t get to see the characters pull off really flashy and exaggerated moves with exaggerated names, which makes viewers aghast. Even so, the fights here end fast and do not take up several episodes. Thus, the concentration here is mainly on the characters and their development as they make their progress.
 
Basically, the premise of this series is starts off with a poor kendo teacher of Muroe High School, Toraji Ishida. I’m not sure how or why but he is often called Kojirou, which I will use as reference to him in this blog. How poor is this guy? He’s always worrying about his next meal. Yeah, sometimes if kind students of his offer him their lunch, he has no qualms about taking it. Furthermore, he’s low on cash. Which means, he’s got debts to pay.
 
As seen in episode 1, Kojirou is scrambling to assemble a 5 member girl kendo team. He has made a bet with his senpai, Kenzaburou Ishibashi, that if his kendo club girls can beat his, Kojirou can have a year’s supply of all-you-can-eat free sushi from Kenzaburou’s father’s sushi shop! Likewise, if Kenzaburou wins, Kojirou has to give him a kendo trophy which Kenzaburou wanted so much back then when Kojirou beat him during some kendo tournament. Now, that’s got to be a good deal, right?
 
Now the tough part is to assemble his team. And he’s only got 2 girl kendo members, only of which 1 seems to turn up often. She is Kirino Chiba, who is also the kendo club’s captain. Kirino has a happy-go-lucky and cheerful personality and viewers will find her to be quite a likeable character. With the start of the new school term, it seems 2 boys, Yuuji Nakata and Danjurou Eiga or Dan for short, decide to join the kendo club but Kojirou isn’t interested because the members he needs are girls. At first looks, Dan resembles like an acorn head and his facial features are simple and cartoonish. In addition, his speeches are kinda slow and dreamy. Dan is reluctant to join the club as he wants to join a ping pong club (Hmm… is he a rip-off of Takeda from the Ping Pong Club anime?). So Yuuji had no choice but to leave but the next day, both of them are back and Dan is crying. Why? There is no ping pong club in this school and he laments the fact Kojirou or Kirino should’ve told them earlier. So no choice, they decide to join this one.
 
Then this is a funny part, while Kojirou and the rest are trying to scout for some potential kendo members, suddenly several balls come flying their way. It includes a tennis ball, a rugby ball, and what’s this… the vice-superintendent is falling off the building in their direction?! Before any of them could hit the gang, a petite girl, Tamaki Kawazoe, takes a broom and professionally hits them all away (poor superintendent). Kojirou is amazed by her abilities and requests her to join but she refuses. It also seems that Tamaki is a childhood friend of Yuuji as the latter explains to Kojirou why even though she is a professional kendo fighter at a tender age, she doesn’t join any club. Back at Tamaki’s home, her dad seems to also question her reasons for not joining any club. Her reply is that she’s satisfied of just doing kendo at home. However, as the series progress, you’ll find that Tamaki isn’t just all kendo crazy. Why, this monotonous-sounding shorty seems to be a big fan of an anime series called Blade Braver! She’s so like a child when it comes to it. But still, she has problems of expressing herself. Another character you’ll find quite adorable.
 
The next day, Kojirou and Yuuji are awaiting Dan to bring his girlfriend to join the kendo club, so they are trying to imagine what kind of girlfriend Dan has. To their surprise (and mine), she is super pretty and hot! Wow! "You gotta be freakin’ kidding me!!!". I can’t believe it either. Miyako Miyazawa or more fondly known as Miya Miya, makes the couple look like a lovey-dovey odd pair. It’s like Beauty And The Beast. Uh huh. Who says ugly looking shorties can’t get a hot babe of their own.
 
Well, the kendo club has 2 male members. They are Toyama and Iwasa but they are being more delinquent than anything else. We see bad-ass Toyama beating the crap out of some poor classmate when he returns and apologizes for the handphone he mistakenly takes. Then when the duo head over to the dojo to find out the club has 2 new recruits, Toyama decides to let out some steam on the freshies. Poor Dan got beaten up and his hands injured. Furthermore, Toyama’s shinai is different than ordinary ones and is harder but legal under kendo rules. Miya Miya could only watch helplessly. Kirino who has been trying to persuade Tamaki to join the club, drags her to the dojo and uses some super hero psychological tactic to get Tamaki to join the club temporarily. Yeah, something about how she is the only person who can save Dan from this. With that, Tamaki joins the club and gears up to face Toyama.
 
Though episode 2 starts off with a young Tamaki and her infatuation with the long running Blade Braver series, in present time we see her getting into a loose bougu since there isn’t one her size. Tamaki shows Toyama the true meaning of kendo as she skilfully strikes Toyama, leaving him no chance. Kirino explains that Toyama and Iwasa are the reason why the boys are afraid to join the kendo club or left the club because of the duo’s bullying ways. Toyama is desperate and he thinks his ego is hurt because a little girl is gaining the upper hand. So Toyama goes all out like a mad person just trying to strike her. Uh huh. Toyama is more interested in hurting others rather than the match itself. Though Tamaki tripped on her oversized outfit, she manages to get back on her feet and use a move called tsuki (thrust) to send Toyama reeling in defeat. It’s a move she remembered her dad told her she can only use when she’s grown up. I don’t know why but it seems like this tsuki move thrusts at the opponent’s neck. Isn’t it dangerous? So when Yuuji finished explaining how Tamaki saved him from bullies back when they were young and her reasons that she will not join a kendo club, they are surprised to later find out that Tamaki had already done so. Due to Tamaki’s shy nature, looks like she has a hard time backing out and with persistent Kirino, the gang has lunch together. Wow, Tamaki really eats fast and because the rest find her so cute, they decide to feed her their grub. Later Kojirou requests a match with Tamaki and as expected, he lost badly. Though he is depressed, he can’t give up now and is motivated to do better. Not with a year’s worth of sushi is on the line.
 
I also kinda noticed that there seems to be a funny looking ever-smiling chubby white cat hanging around the dojo. At first I thought it was just a stray cat and later, I found out that it’s actually the kendo’s club mascot! Well, that is what I remembered Kirino said. Don’t know if it’s true or not but you can bet that this cat is sure to bring in a little smiles whenever it sometimes appear in comical situations.
 
Episode 3 has the kendo club members doing their regular training. I wonder if Dan and Miya Miya chasing each other like lovers, are serious about the training. Miya Miya notices Dan’s hands are still injured and she isn’t happy about it. What’s this? Miya Miya has a different ‘evil’ look in her eyes. Scary. This goes to show that she isn’t just a pretty bimbo. She has a dark side too. After that, Kojirou takes the gang to a kendo shop run by Sakaguchi, to purchase their own kendo equipment. It’s funny to see Sakaguchi unable to enjoy his snacks because Dan would quickly eat them. Happens most of the time. Later, Kojirou gets a call from Kenzaburou that their match is to be delayed so Kojirou remembers the time how he beat Kenzaburou and even though the latter was glad Kojirou won the cup, his body actions didn’t indicate so. Yeah, he was pestering him about the trophy day after day. Did he really want it so badly? Kojirou takes out the trophy he has in his closet and though he doesn’t feel attached to it, his reflex actions causes him to hit a bug with the trophy, denting it badly. Now Kojirou has no choice but to win.
 
At another apartment, we see Sayako ‘Saya’ Kuwahara, talking about her destiny crap being a novelist. In short, she sucks about being one. So she rushes out with her bicycle causing some ruckus. Saya is the other kendo member and is good friends with Kirino. She is her ‘partner-in-crime’ whenever they go about with their antics. Because she’s infatuated with her destiny thing, she rarely shows up at her club. Next day at the dojo, Kojirou gives the girl members some colour code like we all see in those sentai shows. Like Tamaki is Red while Miya Miya is Pink (though something about her being black is better), Kirino is Yellow and Saya as Blue. They even gave Green for the yet to be 5th member. As Kirino gets a long-winded message from Saya about her trying to kill herself because of her failed destiny (yeah, Kirino just ignored it), we see Saya furiously peddling her bicycle along the riverbank. At the same time, Miya Miya is preparing to beat up Toyama and Iwasa for hurting her beloved Dan but Saya bumps into her, ruining her plans. Though Saya is apologetic, in Miya Miya’s rage, she throws away her bike and walks away furiously! Really scary! Over the series, you’ll find that Miya Miya has a dual personality. A sweet and charming one, which she always show to Dan and otherwise a scary evil one. Most notably, her dark aura will appear and that evil stare.
 
The training continues with episode 4 and because of Tamaki’s higher skill, she trains on a different level from the rest. As usual, Saya wonders what her true destiny is after her failed writings. Should she go back to her kendo club? A flashback of how she stormed out because she couldn’t beat Kirino and blames it on her and Kojirou. To cut things short, Saya comes back to the join the club. I guess Kirino and Kojirou never considered her to have left in the first place. Funny part was when Kirino send a long-winded SMS to Kirino about her destiny crap again and Kirino just shuts it! Meanwhile, Kenzaburou selects his 5 girls to face Kojirou’s side. They are Kotatsu Harada (the shy team leader), Maya Yokou (looks like a bad ass delinquent girl), Yuuri Ando (a sadist), Akemi Asakawa (always preoccupied with her handphone awaiting calls from her boyfriend and doesn’t hesitate to rush out in the middle of her club activities just to meet him. Funny part is, she always gets dumped. Poor girl), and Karen Nishiyama (a very nervous lady). Ah well, nobody is perfect. Also, Miya Miya realizes that Saya is part of her kendo club and tries to hide her face when she comes up to meet Kojirou. I’m not sure if Miya Miya would be the new Toyama in the making because during a kendo practice with Kirino, she finds it fun hitting people and decides to stay in this club. After practice, Miya Miya tells Kojirou about her unexpected meeting with Saya and about her plans to beat up Toyama. Kojirou just tell her to apologize to Saya. Though she refuses, Kojirou gives that sentai righteous justice explanation. And after seeing Dan’s hands are healed, Miya Miya goes to apologize to Saya and befriends her.
 
Episode 5 is the day of the match between Kojirou’s girls and Kenzaburou’s Machido High kendo girls. However, due to unfortunate circumstances, Kenzaburou has a hard time gathering them (they have weird personalities, remember?) and got lost on their way to Muroe. Even so, Kojirou is 1 girl short so he decides to have Tamaki fight twice (which I think it’s illegal in kendo rules). So he has Tamaki disguised as Braver as her 2nd appearance. Huh? Yeah, this guy is good in making up good reasons like a 5th saviour who will come rescue the team whenever in dire need. Finally Kenzaburou arrives and their delayed match gets on the way. To make things simple, in kendo team matches such as this, it is best out of 5 and in each fighter needs to win twice in a best out of 3 bout. There’s a time limit and whenever the player goes out of bounds, the bout is restarted. The permissible areas to hit for a win includes men (hitting the head), dou (hitting the torso), and kote (hitting the hands). Each hit has to be hard as soft ones do not count. A bout is considered a draw when both sides are level on wins scored and when time is over. Pretty simple to remember, huh? So the first match gets on the way with Tamaki taking on Harada. Wow! The match is over in just seconds! Tamaki swiftly deals Harada 2 quick blows! She’s really on a different level.
 
Because Tamaki has to play 2 roles, in episode 6, after her match, she quickly leaves so as to come is at the 5th member who is late. The 2nd match pits Miya Miya and Asakawa. Though Asakawa can think nothing of meeting her boyfriend and Miya Miya’s killing intent is strong, Asakawa notches a win for Machido because the former gets a positive SMS message from her boyfriend and she’s all fired up. Wow. Miya Miya’s black aura is scary after her loss but you can count on Dan to cheer her up. Yeah, Asakawa rushed out to go to her boyfriend soon after. The 3rd match has Saya and Nishiyama but it ended in a draw. Next is Kirino against Ando. Though Ando tries to play dirty tricks (sticky soybeans?), but Kirino is in full control and wraps up the match. By that time, Tamaki has returned as Braver with just a pair of spectacles which she borrowed from the vice-superintendent as a disguise. Everyone can see through it that she’s the same girl! Finally it’s Tamaki… or Braver against Yokou. Although I was anticipating this match to be a little longer, it all ended as fast as the first one. Yokou has no chance to even react! With that, Kojirou’s side wins with 3 wins, a draw and a loss. However, Kenzaburou isn’t satisfied yet as he requests a match with Tamaki. He smells something about this girl.
 
Though Kojirou is reluctant and insists that Tamaki isn’t the same person as Braver in episode 7, the match between Kenzaburou and Tamaki goes ahead. Kenzaburou goes all out on the offensive mode as he notices Tamaki’s strong aura. The match goes into a tie breaker after each secured a win. When Kenzaburou goes into Ascension mode (putting both hands on the shinai and raising them above one’s head), this causes Tamaki to paralyze in fear because that pose reminds her of her late mom. Noticing this, Kenzaburou stops the match. As the Machido girls prepare to leave, Kirino offers them her family deli’s delicious croquettes. Friends or foes now? As reward, Kojirou gives Tamaki a rare VHD anime but you know that video type is from that era and is relatively unknown these days. So when Tamaki tries to play it by inserting the whole thing into the DVD player, she thinks it’s spoiled! Haha. Later Kojirou and Kenzaburou meets up at a sushi bar and finds out that the bet wasn’t what he had hoped for. Something about Kenzaburou’s dad handing over his business to somebody else, which means Kojirou can’t get his all-you-can-eat meal. But Kenzaburou also points out that Kojirou too is at fault for fielding the same fighter. So it’s even. Furthermore, part of the deal was Kojirou had to beat 2 schools which Kenzaburou teaches kendo. And he’s only halfway there. So is the bet still on? Don’t know. For the rest of the series, the main premise will shift to something else and we won’t see Kenzaburou’s other school.
 
Episode 8 takes a breather from all that kendo stuff. Here, Tamaki is interested to buy an anime DVD box set after watching an advertisement but after rummaging for every last penny she could find, it didn’t come close. Poor Tamaki. As Kojirou remembers Kenzaburou’s words about how Tamaki needs to lose once for her good, Miya Miya seems to have injured her foot from her previous bout. Because of that, she can’t go to her part time job so Tamaki gets an idea to help her with her part time job and earn some cash. There’s a hilarious moment whereby we see a sidecar attached to Miya Miya’s bicycle and Dan is riding in it! Yeah, his legs are too short to reach the peddle. Tamaki starts working as a cashier of some novelty store and now I know the reason why the store has not many customers. The lady store manager has a zombie-like face! Enough to scare the living daylights out of anybody. Tamaki seems nervous and her mind running with all sorts of thoughts when 2 girls came in to purchase some stuff. Looks like kendo is the only thing which she has confidence. Meanwhile her dad wonders why Tamaki needs to get a part time job and thinks he doesn’t give her enough allowance. After thinking for a while, he thinks Tamaki is secretly trying to save some money to buy him a present for his upcoming birthday! Perasan! Because of that, he is thinking real hard on what to say when Tamaki gives him his present. Lagi perasan! Tamaki goes home dead tired and the next day, she tries to infuse kendo into her part time job when thoughts of what if a robber comes robbing the store. Pretty creative for a kid like her but she is interrupted when the store manager lets her off for the day.
 
The soon-to-be 5th member of Muroe kendo club makes her appearance in episode 9 (actually she did appear before but it was so short that I didn’t count as 1). She is Satori Azuma who purchase some stuff at Tamaki’s part time job store. But this episode is focused mainly on Kojirou. After visiting his parents, his day can only get worse because he bumps into a rude fat elderly lady with thick lips. And I mean not once, many times. From getting his car park spot stolen by her to taking the only item left on the shelf right before his eyes (something about her comment of him being too slow). Then the climax of his troubles is when he is going out of the supermarket only to have his car bumped into hers. Really a bad day. As they argued, he tells him that he is a teacher from Muroe High. Because of that, the old hag knows what to do. It seems she is a close friend of the superintendent’s wife. Oh no. Which means, Kojirou’s job is on the line. Yup, he is going to get canned. Poor guy, even if it’s not his fault. The kendo members practice, not knowing Kojirou’s ‘transparent’ existence and lying like a dead zombie at the dojo. When they finally do realize his presence, they find out about his circumstances. But you know, it’s still his problem. With Kirino’s suggestion about the upcoming national tournament, Kojirou comes back to life again as he will prove his worth by sending the school’s kendo club to the nationals. Not to mention save his career. Meanwhile, Tamaki notices a suspicious customer entering the store where she works.
 
That girls is Reimi Odajima and is looking for Miya Miya in episode 10. Though Reimi has shoplifted a stuff but she throws it back at Tamaki after finding out Miya Miya isn’t here and wants her to deliver a message to Miya Miya. Meanwhile, Kojirou is helping out at his parent’s convenience store and decides to fight on when he remembers he was unable to stop a robbery when he took up this job and that he was always running away. When Tamaki tells Miya Miya about Reimi, Miya Miya instantly panics. So this girl too has her alarming side. I wonder what Reimi is to her. When Tamaki asks Miya Miya about her reasons for taking up a part time job, she replies that she wants to buy a present for Dan, which prompts Tamaki to remember her dad’s birthday. With the money she earned from her part time job, Tamaki buys a present for her dad in which he cried tears of joy. Aww, so nice of Tamaki to forgo her dream to get her dad a present. How many of us can do that? Then another startling discovery is that, Reimi is that old hag’s mother! It’s a small world after all. The nationals competition soon start with Muroe making good progress because of Tamaki. During the break, Miya Miya panics once more when she spots Reimi. So much so she can’t really concentrate on her matches. It’s revealed that Reimi is some sort of stalker who harassed Miya Miya during her middle school years. In the end, Kojirou discusses with Kirino about getting a 5th member, though Kirino can’t remember her name (during the break, Kirino had a chat with her old buddies and the name Satori being a good kendo fighter and is schooling at Muroe came up).
 
Episode 11 has Kirino thinking hard about Satori’s name so much so the teacher throws a chalk into her throat (!) when she isn’t concentrating. Soon Satori enlists Saya’s help to find this girl. Meanwhile, Miya Miya continues her training and she’s starting to have that frightening feeling again when she spots Reimi again. Miya Miya reveals that during middle school, Reimi liked a popular guy but that guy confessed his feelings to Miya Miya instead. So Miya Miya beat him up. I think Reimi’s stalking her for revenge. Yeah, it runs deep. On their way home, Reimi spots Miya Miya walking home with the gang and mistakes Yuuji to be her boyfriend. So Reimi arranges a couple of thugs to beat Yuuji up when he was walking home alone. But Yuuji used some psychological tactic about Triple Triad Law Of Kendo to bluff and scare them away. The next day as Kirino and Saya continue to find the 5th girl, Yuuji tells Kirino to just call her friend for the name. Why didn’t they think of that. Also, Miya Miya is devastated to find out that their next match opponent is Seimei High School, the school which Reimi attends. Like I said, it’s a small world. When Kirino and Saya finally got the name of the 5th girl, they decide to find Satori. As expected, they flop. Yeah, they mistaken a big girl but with a squeaky voice as Satori (which is Satori’s friend!). Meanwhile, Kojirou has a talk with Satori’s homeroom teacher, Yoshikawa, who seems to tell him that it’s impossible for Satori to join the kendo club as her parents forbid it. As Tamaki is studying in the library and Satori was just behind her as she got up and leave. Kirino and Saya enters it to find Tamaki studying but was thrown out for being too noisy.
 
Episode 12 starts off with why Satori can’t join a kendo club because her dad was a very good kendo practioner but was killed during a kendo fight. However it was just a story made up by Saya. Haha, they only gave her 3 points for it. This episode focuses more on the kendo club members of Seimei, a freshmen girl named Mei Ogawa in particular. Seimei’s kendo club instructor, Hayashi, is a very strict one. So much so those who can’t stand his harsh training quit. Just like many of Mei’s friends. Meanwhile Kirino and Saya has finally found the real Satori and stubbornly drags her for a kendo match. In short, Satori beats them both flat and she’s still reluctant to join. After she has left, Kojirou comes and tell the gang why Satori can’t join. From Yoshikawa words, Satori’s grade has been slipping and she has some sort of vision problem, like marking the answers for the wrong questions. Even though she is clumsy, her kendo is top notched. Because of this, her parents forbade her to join any clubs. Then Reimi spots Yuuji and gets close to him in order to make Miya Miya jealous. However, Yuuji tells her that Dan is Miya Miya’s boyfriend and Reimi can’t believe that acorn head is Miya Miya’s guy, so she slapped Yuuji! He must be wondering what that’s for. Also, Seimei kendo club is having a practice match with Muroe. Mei is having thoughts of quitting the club after this. But she gets a little confidence when she faces a cheerful Tamaki.
 
The practice match continues in episode 13 and seeing that Mei isn’t skilful, Tamaki offers her some advice, giving Mei some hope. Too bad Satori has been dragged into this as well. Does short of people count as a good reason? As usual, Reimi is obsessed taking pictures on Miya Miya which disrupts her concentration (I found out that she’s the school’s reporter). Later Kirino sets up a match between Tamaki and Satori and even though Satori is good, Tamaki is still the better one. Hayashi has a talk with Kojirou as the former notices how his students are having fun during the matches. Hayashi goes on explaining about his past about how he hated kendo and his dad forced him into it. Though he only took it up much later, the reason he did so was he saw the price tag of the kendo equipment as his family is poor. In order not to waste them, he began practising. Soon both sides have a final match and Kojirou’s team wins it. Hayashi is not disheartened with his team’s loss and tells to win the next time. It ends with Hayashi and Kojirou having a duel of their own. Of course, Hayashi won. What an embarrassment after his team did so well. As the girls part, Mei decides to stay on but for Miya Miya, Reimi’s presence has become really a pain. Yeah, it’s like taking the life out of her, literally.
 
In episode 14, I think the start of the episode indicates that Reimi is more in love with Miya Miya rather than hate! Oh no. Yuri… A life-size version of Miya Miya? That explains her obsession. Plus, when a guy classmate jokingly asks Reimi to introduce that cutie to him, Reimi gets pissed off. Back at school, though Satori tells Kirino and Saya that she’s not interested in joining, but I think those clowns aren’t listening. They’re just nodding their head and soon asks if she wants to get her own equipment, in which Satori unknowingly answers yes before realizing her mistake. What’s this? Kojirou playing a confiscated video game in the teacher’s room. Since he’s losing, Yoshikawa comes by and shows him how it’s done! Woah! Anyway when Kojirou tells Kirino and Saya that Satori can’t join (they even came out with various nicknames like Sacchin or Satorin for her!), the duo ran out in tears. Miya Miya notices this and decides to go confront Satori. We see Miya Miya’s dark and suave side to ‘persuade’ (more like coerce but with all the metaphors) to join the club. She’s damn good in making Satori feel guilty. Like making a connection how her grades were good when she was taking up kendo back then and then without it, her grades slipped. Miya Miya then fires the final salvo: "If you’re going to be an idiot, then be a kendo idiot!". It was enough to make Satori realize her mistake (was it really?) as she pleads to Miya Miya to join the kendo club. I think Miya Miya got a kick out of it. How sly, crafty and conniving. So it was a real surprise to the rest when Satori joined them. Satori has also convinced her parents to let her join the club and don’t worry, Kirino and Dan are top students in school who can help her with her studies. So that acorn head is good in his studies too. Don’t judge a book… Then Kojirou tells them that they will have a training camp for their nationals tournament. But to their disappointment, the place is their school. But Kojirou also mentions how Machido kendo girls will also be coming to help them out. Can’t forget about them, can’t we? As Yuuji rides with Tamaki back home, Tamaki’s dad finds out about the training camp. I noticed that he’s always suspicious whenever Tamaki mentions Yuuji’s name. Like as though it’s not a good thing. But we’ll never get to find out why he’s so towards Yuuji.
 
The training camp gets underway in episode 15 with Kenzaburou leaving his Machido girls at Muroe. But the Machido girls are surprised to find their Muroe counterparts cleaning the school’s pool. Courtesy of that old hag. So in order to start their kendo training, Machido girls too chip in and at the same time gets acquainted. Once it’s done, they proceed to the dojo. Dan notices how Yoshikawa and Kojirou are getting along well but since Yuuji didn’t get the whole picture, Dan says he doesn’t know a woman’s heart. Furthermore, Tamaki’s dad has come to spy on Tamaki and Yuuji. The usual kendo training before the gang heads to a public bath and had a wholesome curry rice dinner. That night, Asakawa tries to escape from camp to see her boyfriend but bumped into something. My guess it’s Tamaki’s dad. Yup, he’s going to have a headache alright. With his suspicions allayed that Yuuji isn’t doing anything funny on Tamaki, he heads home. Then Kirino faces off with Yokou to see who can put together the shinai the fastest and Kirino wins. Saya then composed a song with a long title but was unable to start because her guitar strings snapped. What training camp would be complete without a pillow fight? Yeah, it soon descended into 1. While the girls are having fun, the guys have no choice but to sleep in early. That night, Tamaki wakes up to find Kirino practising alone and the latter thanks Tamaki for joining, which made the club more enjoyable. The next morning, Tamaki wakes up early to catch her favourite anime show and gets all fired-up after finished watching. You know, Ando sleeps with her eyes open! Scary. Scarier when her dark aura clashes with Miya Miya’s. Soon Kenzaburou comes by to pick up his girls as they parted ways. But when Kirino reaches her home, she finds her mom collapsed on the floor.
 
Because of that, in episode 16, Kirino didn’t show up for kendo practice and this causes Saya to panic and jump to conclusions that something bad may have happened to her. Saya frantically goes round searching for Kirino but finds her happily helping out her family’s deli. The reason being, Kirino is temporarily helping her mom who is recuperating well in hospital. Soon Kirino comes back to practice and the gang is relieved. The tournament begins the next day and Muroe is doing quite well. Except for Miya Miya who hasn’t won a single match yet is pissed off and takes out her frustrations on Satori by ordering her to get some juice. Lucky Dan is there to comfort her. This guy is sensitive and knows how to sooth a girl’s heart. No wonder Miya Miya loves him. As the gang eat lunch together, Satori bumps into a kendo participant, Konishi, on her way back. This bad ass girl stepped and crushed the can! Konishi is from Toujou High School, a school which Muroe will face next and there are rumours those she faced ended up injured. Though Satori comes back with the crushed can, Miya Miya accepts it. Furthermore, Satori accidentally brought her Sega Saturn instead of her bento. What’s this? Saya force feeding Kirino! Before the next round starts, Tamaki finds some tacks in her shoes. Then Tamaki is being confronted by 3 underlings of Konishi. They drag and lock her up in a storeroom. And the match is going to start soon. Oh dear. They’re really playing dirty!
 
The Muroe girls wonder why Tamaki is taking so long in episode 17. Previously, she told them that her dad wanted to see her but it was just a ploy from those underlings. As Tamaki desperately tries to escape, suddenly somebody opens the door. Why, it’s Konishi herself. She helps Tamaki out as they head back into the hall. But this is also another ploy so that Konishi would seem to have no part in her underlings’ plan. On the way, Konishi leads Tamaki to a spot where there are several tennis balls on the ground. Tamaki slipped and sprained her ankle. When Tamaki gets back, she didn’t tell the gang of what happened but Yuuji suspects something amiss. The match starts and Tamaki is trying to conceal her pain while Konishi plays taunting mind games on her. Satori and Miya Miya lost their matches due to stomach ache problems and Reimi’s appearance respectively. But Saya and Kirino bounces back to give Muroe a lifeline and it’s down to the final match between Tamaki and Konishi. Though Konishi is confident, but seeing Tamaki’s determined aura made her sweat a little despite her handicap. Finally, Tamaki does a tsuki move to send Konishi flying. By that time, Yuuji realized that Tamaki is injured and tells Kojirou about it.
 
Due to Tamaki’s injuries, Kojirou has Tamaki withdrawn from the tournament in episode 18, much to her displeasure. But Konishi is the one feeling the heat. Not only she has her pride hurt but I think she’s going to have a really bad sore throat. But as of now, both team are level on points scored and wins. As such case, a representative match is called with each side fielding a fighter to break the deadlock. Kirino has been selected to face another Toujou side since Konishi is out of the question. At first looks, Kirino’s intense concentration seems to have secured a win for Muroe. But when she hears her little brother cheering on for her, it went downhill. Sad to say, Kirino lost. But that didn’t dampen their spirits as there are more tournaments coming up as they’ll be looking forward to it. Konishi is looking at them from a distance and wonders why they can be so happy after losing. She also tell her underlings not to follow her anymore. She deserve what she gets. Back at their own place, Saya receives an SMS from Kirino needing a theme song for their club. Saya interprets this as it’s her job to do so and spends the whole night composing. However to her disappointment the next day when the gang gathers, before Saya could reveal her hard efforts, Kirino says she already has a theme, which is the Braver theme. With that, Saya’s musical scores scatters and gone with the wind. Literally. Why, they even put a karaoke version on screen when that happens! Let’s sing along everybody! Soon everyone returns to training and Tamaki is made a coach for the day due to her injuries. Kojirou also thinks the dojo wall is empty and needs some scroll or certificate. Yuuji brings his calligraphy while Dan a pretty sketch of Miya Miya! This guy is good. Back at Tamaki’s home, she’s thinking of bringing her early certificate of success for the dojo but when she notices her dad’s actions, she decides not to and puts it in the frame her dad cherished so much. Aww… Another nice and considerate act from Tamaki.
 
In episode 19, if you’re wondering why Miya Miya likes an acorn head like Dan besides his sensitive character, there are rumours about how Dan resembles her dead pangolin pet! But we won’t be able to find out if that’s true or not. After Kojirou sends Tamaki to the hospital to check on her injuries, she bumps into Kenzaburou there. He offers her a ride home later and asks her how she feels about the recent match she lost. Tamaki denies having lost and says she could’ve won even if she did went on. Kenzaburou then says it’ll be good for her if she lost once which confused her. Meanwhile Dan and Miya Miya are patroning at Sakaguchi’s kendo store and Miya Miya finds a shinai she likes but a foreign woman, Carrie Anderson, intercepts her. The duo got into a heated argument as Dan tries to cool them down. Wow, this guy speaks English too! Just then, Carrie took an instant liking for Dan because he resembles her pet armadillo. Oh now it’s that creature. Jealous Miya Miya? Carrie then challenges her to a kendo match before walking out. And Dan’s love is the prize. Carrie arrives at Muroe early for her match. I’m not sure if it’s legal but Carrie uses 2 shinai in her match. Of course in the end Carrie beats her. However Dan rejects Carrie and tells her that he has only eyes for Miya Miya as he consoles a depressed Miya Miya. Now I respect this guy even more. Though Carrie won the match, she lost the battle for love but will be back another day for a rematch. As they part, Yuuji wonders if kendo allows the use of 2 shinai. Then it hit them, of course not. Duh. Took them so long to notice.
 
For those who still love those sentai shows, episode 20 has lots of them. Yuuji has an additional ticket to go see a live performance from Cosmo 13 featuring Blade Braver. Kirino and Saya decides to let those 2 go on a ‘date’ and makes up excuses that they aren’t able to come with him. Plus, Miya Miya has ‘forced’ Satori to train with her. So looks like the only 1 left is Tamaki. Yeah, thumbs up from Kirino and Saya. Due to Tamaki’s excited-ness, she finds it hard to sleep that night. So the next day as they head for the amusement park, where the show takes place, Yuuji finds out that majority of the audience are little kids. They’re like a sore thumb sticking out. I don’t want to bore you with details in what happens in this predictable good versus evil show but Tamaki notices another girl her age, Rin Suzuki, who seems to be a Schneider fan (Blade Braver’s enemy and ally. Whichever). She only gets interested when Schneider is involved. At the end of the show after the announcement of a new Blade Braver movie featuring Schneider, a quiz is held with lucky contestants able to win prizes from the series. Rin and Tamaki are passionately up to it and find themselves against each other. Since it’s a closely fought quiz session, it’s those other little kids are just like bidding their time. No chance to answer at all. When the scores are tie at the end, a tie breaker is held, which is to sing Schneider’s theme song. Oh oh. Tamaki got nervous and flops. Though Rin won, she gave her all the Braver prizes as she only wanted the Schneider one. When Tamaki reaches home, she gets the surprise of her life when Braver is seen at her home! Actually, her dad’s friend is a producer of the series and he and his crew are temporarily lodging at their place for their filming of the upcoming Braver movie. Tamaki must be over the moon. But it seems Rin is also part of the crew. However, when Tamaki greets Rin, she doesn’t remember who she is. Haha. Seriously?
 
More Braver in episode 21 as Rin and Tamaki watches the actors rehearse. I supposed Rin remembers Tamaki by then. The night before the filming, both girls had a debate on who is better, Braver or Schneider. Thank goodness it didn’t turn physical. But you can sense the tension in the air. They even rewatch certain scenes of the DVD to prove their point. So much so, it lasted the whole night. Without much sleep, the girls doze off during their journey towards the filming site. Though Rin is cast as an extra, the actor for Schneigirl (a new character for the movie I supposed) becomes injured during the filming, Rin offers to replace him. With that, Tamaki is to replace Rin as a school girl running away from the evil laboratory. Tamaki is nervous but when she is confronted with Schneigirl, they then fought each other through kendo. The directors must be confused because this wasn’t in the script. But their fight is interrupted when the actors for Braver and Schneider intercepted. As they take a break, Tamaki mentions how Braver never loses but Rin says even so, Braver has never beaten Schneider. Back at the dojo, Miya Miya once again comes face to face with Carrie while jogging (funny sight to see Satori peddling that sidecar bicycle with Dan in it). Another challenge from her but not today. When the production crew has finished filming for the day, Tamaki finds out that Rin is also a kendo club member and Rin states how they will meet each other in competitions. Couldn’t agree more with her.
 
In episode 22, as the gang prepares for another tournament, Kirino made some tiny good luck doll mascots for each team member. Cute. We have the 5 girls as some Power Rangers-like outfit, Kojirou like some scientist whereas the boys in a super hero outfit. Remember Toyama and Iwasa? Looks like they’re not forgotten yet. Yuuji and Dan bumps into them at the hallway as Yuuji tells them of the club’s participation in an upcoming tournament. Does Toyama look interested? Bet not. Plus, Toyama tells them that they’ve already quit the club. At the tournament, the gang finds Kenzaburou’s Machido girls participating in this one too. As Tamaki wonders if Rin is participating in this one, Miya Miya and Carrie meet again. They have to stop meeting like this. It seem, the opponent Muroe will face first is the one Carrie is in. It’s like God is playing a cruel trick on Miya Miya. Though Satori wins her 1st match, the next match is like a grudge match between Carrie and Miya Miya. Only thing is, Carrie has to use 1 shinai now. In the end, Miya Miya lost. She was overwhelmed in tears as she hugs Dan over her loss while he comforts her. It’s heart wrenching to see them like this. Even Carrie isn’t too pleased about her victory after seeing them like this. But Muroe beats Carrie’s team to advance to the next round. During the break, Tamaki meets Rin and the latter reminds her about why Braver can never beat Schneider. Elsewhere, Toyama and Iwasa got into a fight with another school at the video game arcade. When Muroe reaches the 3rd round, they face off with the school Rin is in. As expected Tamaki will take on the match decider. However, when Rin does the Ascension stance, Tamaki once again is paralyzed in fear as memories of her late mom comes flowing back. The gang tries to snap her out of it but to no avail. Tamaki becomes desperate but in the end Rin struck her head. OMG. Can it be true that Tamaki lost?
 
In episode 23, indeed Muroe lost and are out as we see Tamaki praying beside her mom’s grave. Kojirou is depressed because he is closer to being fired while Miya Miya has hallucinations of seeing Carrie’s face everywhere. Yeah, previously Reimi did mention how she enjoys watching Miya Miya trying to kill another person and with her recent drop in that, Reimi seems ‘disappointed’. But this episode has the Muroe kendo club in a pinch. Because of Toyama and Iwasa’s involvement in a fight, they have been linked to the kendo club. In short, due to their actions, the kendo club may be disbanded. Gasp! They’re still causing trouble even if they’re no longer in the club anymore. As Kojirou tells Kirino and Satori about this, there is only 1 way out. To get them to hand in their resignation letters back dated to spring. And since Kirino is the club leader, she has to shoulder this burden by coming up with the decision. Even though Toyama and Iwasa aren’t in the club anymore, Kirino still feels they’re part of the club and is in a dilemma. I know most people wouldn’t have give a damn about them but Kirino is so nice to have even thought about them. But either way, Toyama and Iwasa will get suspended. So the only question is the kendo club. Meanwhile Tamaki is still having fears of the Ascension stance when Yuuji made one during their practice. Back home, Tamaki is furiously taking out her kendo match on several guys, exhausting them. Her dad notices her rush to win and advises her to stop kendo for awhile. Likewise, Dan finds it real hard to console Miya Miya. His words of comfort doesn’t work anymore. I guess this is what happens when you lose too much… I mean, always. Though Satori and Kirino are discussing about Toyama and Iwasa, the next day Kirino gets another shock. She spots Tamaki’s resignation letter from the club. The club is going through troubled times.
 
Kirino confronts Tamaki in episode 24 and the latter confirms her resignation as she still blames herself for the team’s loss. Kirino even confronts Kojirou on why he’s running away on the matter since he’s the club’s advisor. Due to Miya Miya’s depression, Dan too becomes depressed as he feels he has failed to cheer his girlfriend. Tamaki and Yuuji had a chat and the former now knows what it feels like to lose. After Yuuji gave her some words of encouragement, Tamaki decides to borrow his bicycle and go see Kenzaburou. She wants him to teach her to overcome the Ascension stance. But he says somebody in her team knows how to use it. That person is Kojirou, who defeated him once using that stance. Meanwhile Satori catches up with Miya Miya on the streets and queries about her depression. Now the roles are reversed because it’s Satori’s turn to give a stinging attack on her. Wow. Must’ve learned it from her. Uh huh. "If you want to quit, then win first before quitting!". This was enough to turn Miya Miya back to her usual self. So she drags Satori to have intense training (or rather death wish) with her. Saya visits Kirino at her home and is shocked to see her resignation letter! Saya pushes Kirino on the bed (nothing yuri, mind you) to talk some sense into her. One day as Yuuji and Dan arrives early at the dojo. They got an unexpected visit from Toyama and Iwasa. They’re actually here to hand in their resignation letter but before that Dan has a rematch with Toyama and beats him. Toyama notes how he has grown while Iwasa tells Yuuji how they don’t really hate kendo. They hand their letters even back dating to spring to them before they leave. At least these guys still have a heart. Yuuji present to them those dolls Kirino made. Aww… She’s so thoughtful about them still after all this time. Kirino comes in as Yuuji hand in the Toyama and Iwasa’s resignation letter. Then Kojirou and Tamaki comes in and the gang welcomes them back. Looks like Tamaki’s staying and all is well for the kendo club.
 
With that over, the gang continues to participate in kendo tournaments like in episode 25, the one they’re participating in is the one whereby Kojirou beat Kenzaburou for the trophy many years ago. However this tournament isn’t team based and is fighters participate as individuals. As expected, Carrie and Rin are participating too. Surprisingly, Satori’s first match is against Tamaki! How cruel fate is. Anyway Satori lost. Another 1st round match pits Miya Miya against Carrie. I’m beginning to think that they’re fated to meet each other like this. But in the end, Miya Miya won! Finally she got her 1st win! But Carrie isn’t satisfied yet because she didn’t get to use 2 shinais. So the duo had an unofficial match outside as Reimi watches from a distance. In short, Miya Miya beats her too! All her hard work has paid off. Earlier on, Miya Miya and Satori went to Reimi’s place to watch videos of herself for self improvement. I guess she’s not even distracted by Reimi (probably loving her more after seeing such cool display and snapping pics like crazy). Carrie reveals her reason to use 2 shinais due to her inspirations of a dual sword wielding samurai she watched on tv back she was young. As Yuuji squares off win Dan (with the former winning), Tamaki faces off with Rin in a later round (not sure if it was the final one). Another one of those destined, meetings, huh? As they’re both equally matched, Rin then does the Ascension stance. Tamaki remembers what Kojirou told her about what would she do if she faced her mom. Tamaki replied that she still wanted to win as she loves kendo. Thus, Tamaki does a tsuki on Rin and wins her match. Kirino saying something about that move, Atomic Fire Blade. Huh? Rin admits defeat but vows to fight her again since their personal score is tied 1-1. Though Tamaki won, Kenzaburou says how Kojirou won’t get fired but the latter says he’ll have to leave sooner or later since no one has taken responsibility yet. Kojirou gets up and leaves. Things indicate that he may have quit his job as he rides with a friend of his to somewhere.
 
Some time has passed in episode 26 and it’s a new school term. It starts off with Rin and Tamaki watching the new Blade Braver movie together at a cinema. They’re such good friends now. They really love the show and both admitted how Braver and Schneider are cool. At school, 2 new freshmen, Makoto and Shinobu, decides to have a look at the kendo club. Though Makoto wants to join, Shinobu isn’t interested as she’s more interested in joining a ping pong club or even a sepak takraw club. Well, too bad they’re non-existent in this school. As they wait inside the dojo, only Tamaki and Satori is there. So in order to wait for the club captain to arrive, the duo tried entertaining the duo which isn’t related to kendo. Miya Miya soon arrives and joins the entertaining crew. Woah. Shinobu’s b*tchiness can match Miya Miya’s! And she’s not afraid of her! When Yuuji and Dan arrive, we find out that Dan is the club captain! What happened to Kirino? But she’s still around, isn’t she? Shinobu is tired of waiting and decides to leave as she says how she hates kendo. Tamaki tells her otherwise as kendo is fun. Saya and Kirino soon arrive and heard the whole thing and decides to do a demonstration. As the freshies are being awed by their magnificent display, Dan tells Makoto how his character reminded him of himself in the early days. Deja vu? We also find out that the current advisor for the kendo club is Yoshikawa, as she enters the dojo. She tells them that she’s pregnant and that she’ll pass the advisor role to somebody they know. Hey, the cat has given birth to multiple kittens too! When Kenzaburou comes in, they thought it was him but dismisses it. Looks like this guy is Yoshikawa’s husband. Kenzaburou then introduces their advisor. Erm… Isn’t that Kojirou behind a Braver mask? Though he tries to act like as though he doesn’t know anything, Kirino is overwhelmed with emotion as she hugs him. The rest of them are glad as he’s back.
 
It’s revealed that Kojirou was doing some part time job somewhere else and since that old hag has moved some place else, her influence over this school has diminished, so it’s safe for him to return. Kojirou learns of the 2 new freshies but what is more shocking is that Makoto and Shinobu are the younger siblings of Iwasa and Toyama respectively! Somehow things just come back like this, huh? Anyway the duo will think about joining the club and the rest continue with their usual training. As Tamaki takes on her dad in a practice match back home, he notes how strong Tamaki has become. On the way to school, Tamaki reminisces her times when she joined the kendo club and says how she loves kendo. The end scenes show many of the characters going on with their ordinary lives (including Konishi reprimanding her underlings). But the final scene shows a girl whom Rin has finished talking to, passes by Tamaki on the way. The 2 look over their shoulders and stare at each other and we can sense that it would be another fated meeting between them in time.
 
So my guess is that for those who have read the manga, she’ll be the next opponent that Tamaki will face. Though, I may be wrong. I’m sure as Tamaki grows stronger, she’ll face even stronger opponents along the way. Although the ending isn’t really much of an ending because the way it ended seems to highly indicate that a 2nd season is probable, I wasn’t that disappointed at all. At least for this season, most of the plots are tied up neatly and I don’t feel annoyed that there are any which are left hanging.
 
Though the art, drawing and animation are drawn to today’s standard of Japanese bishies, the thing which fascinates me most here are the character developments. The characters here have their own quirky personality and its hard for me to not love them. Like Kirino, as she’s a happy airhead at times, but she is the one who keeps the club members stick together like glue. And even her ‘partner-in-crime’ Saya do have her serious side. Those 2 should’ve been nicknamed Boke Bamboo Pair. Haha. What about Tamaki’s intense knowledge of anime? That’s surprising for a kendo enthusiast as it’s such a rare combination. Miya Miya’s dual personality reminds us that there are 2 sides of a coin and never to judge a book by its cover. This is what happens if tsundere had a split personality. Even though Satori’s recruit was a bit late (yeah, she joined just before halfway of the series) but she completes the team as a whole. Let’s not forget Dan’s sensitive and caring side as well as Yuuji’s supportive role. As for Kojirou, he’s still a poor guy but deep down I think he cares for his students. Ultimately, we see each of them growing mature and stronger as the series progresses and the deepening bonds between them.
 
As such the voice acting gives the characters their unique personality. Ryou Hirohashi does Tamaki (Kyou in Clannad), Megumi Toyoguchi as Kirino (Winry in Full Metal Alchemist), Houko Kuwashima as Miya Miya (Sango in Inu Yasha), Sachiko Kojima as Saya (Yumi in Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi), Rina Satou as Satori (Punie in Dai Mahou Touge), Katsuyuki Konishi as Kojirou (Amidamaru in Shaman King), Daisuke Sakaguchi as Yuuji (Yamazaki in NHK Ni Youkoso), Akira Ishida as Dan (Shin of NANA, Gaara of Naruto), Maaya Sakamoto as Rin (Haruhi in Ouran High School Host Club), and Mai Nakahara as Reimi (Mai in Mai-HiME). Both the opening and ending themes are sung by the 5 kendo girls of Muroe. The opening song, Bamboo Beat, may sound a little oriental mix with pop. I feel it isn’t suitable because it almost sounded like a girl group song. The ending theme sounds nicer because it sounds like a disco dance song. Entitled Star Rise, at least the main tune made me shuffle my feet a little.
 
Still on the topic of the voice acting, one thing I kinda noticed is that whenever the characters are in a kendo bout, they will scream and shout from the top of their voice. "MEN! MEN! MEN!". It’s so darn convincing that they’re into it. So at first it gave me a little scare as I thought it sounded like a psycho murderer on the loose brutally killing its victim. Of course I got used to it. Hey, I just thought up a joke. If they say "Kote, men, dou" fast, wouldn’t it sound something like "Kore tte mendou" (this is troublesome)? Haha. Another thing I noticed is that since the characters don the bougu, you can hardly see their faces, right? At times, the helmet covering the face will become transparent so viewers can look at their face and not mistaken them for somebody else. Hey, they’re all wearing the same gear, right?
 
On a trivial note, the mid-intermissions show a still picture of a particular character as they say random lines. Some has nothing to do with kendo and some are just plain funny. Another aspect is the chibi mode. You can guess something funny is going to happen when the characters go into one. Even Tamaki goes into that form! The next episode review narration has the characters in chibi mode as they rant on things not necessarily related to the next episode. But it’s hilarious. Even minor characters get a fair share of the spotlight. And after that, at the end of it all, the sponsor screen will show manga drawings of the characters. My personal opinion is that the anime drawing looks better but I guess some of the poses drawn there are pretty cool.
 
After watching this series, it’s not that I have any interest to take up kendo now or in the near future. But at least I have a little idea on what the sport is about. Still, if they made a 2nd season out of it, I’ll sure be putting it on my must-see list. I want to know how the characters develop from there and what more antics will await the gang. In terms of fanservice, literally there isn’t any (unless you count that pre-training warming up and stretching as one, if you know what I mean) but it’s better in terms of storyline as compared to sports-themed animes like Ping Pong Club and Kenkou Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho. I wonder if I could apply some kendo stuff in real life application just like how Tamaki did for her Blade Braver and kendo. Perhaps not.
 

Bamboo Blade

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