Bamboo Blade is a shining example of east meets west culture in the anime medium. The concepts, the menus, the atmospheres and even the humor are undeniably Japanese and yet thanks to FUNimation, American viewers are given the opportunity to take and apply domestic sensibilities to the universal themes within. The story goes something like this: Kendo instructor Toraji is a bit of hack who, aside from running a pretty poor after school club, is so broke that he can’t afford to eat. As fate would have it, a friendly rival of his happens to be jealous of Toraji’s earlier accomplishments in the sport and lays down a bet (really more of a competition) with some interesting stakes: Should Toraji’s team be defeated, he is to hand over his prized Kendo trophy but should they be victorious, it’s a full year of free food at his favorite eatery. The gurgling in Toraji’s empty gut accepts the challenge before his brain has a chance to consider the odds.
Part of Bamboo Blade’s success is its simplicity of overall dramatic shape: Everything that drives from the show’s heart and soul revolves around food. Sure, there’s a “learning curve” but it isn’t that steep. There’s one thing to say however, because it’s so Japan school life oriented (even more so than other dramas in my opinion), there will be cultural references that one may miss. They’re not necessarily a major part of the story, but the quickfire, simple humor would definitely come with some reference to Japan’s culture. Rather high school high jinks, cute girls and a bit of drama make up the foreground here with martial arts training and fight sequences offering the backdrop.
It doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of style and direction that hasn’t been seen yet. To some that might be a throwback. “It’s just like any other.” But to me, and as I believe to a lot of others as well, Bamboo Blade just works. The animation in this anime is good, and so is the voice acting. I can’t call the soundtrack memorable, but it’s not bad. Not to discredit FUNimation and their impeccable scripting/ acting of late, the fact is that Bamboo Blade is precisely the type of property that the Japanese cast just absolutely excels in mastering. The jokes are a bit more fluid, the zaniness a bit less forced and the timing a bit more natural. The voice cast for the Japanese cast were incredible for their roles bringing out their characters emotions superbly and Funimation also did a great decision for their Voice cast for the dubbed audio. Sadly the extras aren’t much just the usual trailers and textless intro/ending songs.
While Bamboo Blade has a relatively sitcom-y feel to it – it’s definitely light as air and doesn’t shy away from cheesy scenarios. 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! The show packs in a lot of personality, some fun characters, and an interesting premise. 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.