Bamboozled – Bamboo Blade v2 Review

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Bamboo Blade is back! Season 1, Volume 2 went on sale 31 January 2011.

I will admit I committed the cardinal sin of watching the second half of the series without having seen the first half, however this did not seem to dent my understanding any! If there is an overarcing plot, then it is far too subtle for me to notice! And given as subtlety isn’t exactly a word which could be used to describe Bamboo Blade unless you’re feeling really generous, it seems unlikely that I’m missing much.

The series is afloat with gratuitous boob and bum shots, and the fact that it is a thinly-veiled spin on a harem anime is fairly obvious. Despite my general dislike of harem anime, I found Bamboo Blade pretty inoffensive. It held back on the jokes I found irritating in Love Hina and Oh! My Goddess, where poor men find themselves with constantly bleeding noses and being punted into the stratosphere for various unfortunate indiscretions. Instead it focussed on just being a fun, bubbly story about a group of girls who each fit into a very well-defined bracket. The team consists of Tamaki, the youthful and dour wunderkind; Kirino, the dizzy but dedicated team captain; Miyako, who is stunningly beautiful, but shamelessly manipulative with flashes of ditzyness; Sayako, Kirino’s best friend and a wannabe musician, described as ‘random and spontaneous’; and Satori, who is talented at Kendo, but not so good at studying.

These five make up the girls’ kendo team, and when I first started watching I was expecting darker developments to unfold. Tamaki is apparently naive, I thought this might be taken advantage of, or perhaps be revealed to be a bit of a facade. Equally, I thought Miyako might be presented as a more sinister figure as the season unfolded, but instead her flashes of megolomania are instantly contrasted with views of her being ditzy. This seemed to be the case for all the female characters – each one (except, perhaps, Tamaki) is cursed with hyperactivity and lack of a serious character strength. Episodes sometimes allude to further character development – such as the episode in which Kirino’s mother becomes ill – but these never do more than allude, and the status quo is generally restored with little actual difficulty presented to the characters.

Equally, I feel that the male characters are given a bit of a sideline to the show – Eiga and Yuji are the two male members of the Kendo club, and seem to be largely ignored both by the Kendo coach and the show in general. They appear to be there largely to add extra commentary to scenes, or to provide a little bit of plot devicey encouragement or information to keep the show running smoothly. This is a shame. Eiga is a wonderful character, and I love the subversiveness of his relationship with Miyako. The pairing of a short, potato-headed boy with a tall, beautiful girl who could clearly get anyone she wants, is one of the few sparks of brilliance I found in Bamboo Blade. Initially I assumed the relationship was fake, but there is a sense of real affection there which is wonderful to see in an otherwise quite lightweight anime. Scenes between Miyako and Eiga show how astute he is, but sadly there isn’t enough of that for my liking.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW

Towards the end of the series, the mellow atmosphere does evaporate slightly – contests and potential club disbandment as well as the threat of characters leaving causing tension to spread amongst the ranks. However, it is all wrapped up very neatly and personally I did not feel that there was much to worry about. The style of the anime rather lends itself to a foregone happy ending, and as this major arc takes up only 4 episodes of the 26 episode series, the status quo is barely rippled. The fact that the troubles are largely caused by two characters who are unseen before this point makes the ending seem a little forced, as if the writers seemed to realise not much was happening so decided to create some tension out of nowhere.

Bamboo Blade is set up for a potential second series, but whether this will happen is anyone’s guess. To me it felt like there was barely enough material to last the one series, never mind a second, in terms of plot anyway. The episodes seemed substanceless, relying on pratfalls and contrived occurrences to progress. Despite this, I did find the show a lot of fun – the characters may be stereotypes, but the reason these character types are so familiar is because they are so appealing. And these are certainly some of the more adeptly sketched interpretations of these types.

Certainly there is nothing lacking in the animation, and the voice acting in the dub is nicely done as well, which was a pleasant surprise because if ever there was an anime which could lead to overacting, Bamboo Blade is it. Whilst this isn’t a series to watch if you are looking for something with a driven plot or deep and believable characters, Bamboo Blade is certainly a lot of fun and moves quickly. It is easy to watch an awful lot without realising just how long you have been watching for!

Runtime: 170 minutes
Disks: 2
Extras: Clean opening and closing animations
Try this if you liked: Love Hina, Azumanga Daioh

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