Title: Bamboo Blade Vol 1
Authors: Masahiro Totsuka &
Publisher: Yen Press
May Contain Spoilers
Kojiro is a down on his luck kendo advisor who lives on cup noodles and is trying to ride out a tsunami of debt. Just when things look their worst, his old friend offers up a challenge. If Kojiro’s kendo team can beat his, Kojiro will win a year’s worth of free sushi. Kojiro readily accepts the bet, even though he doesn’t even have enough members in the kendo club to have a match. Will he be able to find more students and whip them into a winning kendo team?
Even though this is a silly comedy filled with stereo-typical characters, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Kojiro is far from Teacher of the Year material, and the only reason he’s developed an interest in his kendo team is because of the possibility of free sushi if he can hobble together a winning team. The members of the kendo club include the usual character types; there’s Kirino, the team captain who despairs at getting Kojiro to help with the club, Nakata, an easy-going first year who really likes kendo, and Eiga, a dumpy complainer who would rather be in the ping-pong club. To add to Kojiro’s miseries, he needs to put together a female kendo team, and two of the three members are male. Looks like he’s going to have his work cut for him.
Kojiro is not a very good role model for his students, and they all pick up on this soon after meeting him. His life is in financial shambles, he has no motivation for anything but a good time, and he is the poster child for being a slacker. Still, I can’t find any fault with his sudden desire to propel his club to victory. Free sushi would push all the right buttons for me, too. When he learns about Tamaki, a petite student with a gift for the sport, he’s desperate to get her to join the team. He concocts an elaborate ruse to try to get her to join even though she doesn’t want any part of it. But by playing on her weaknesses, he thinks he can trick her into becoming a team member.
Most of the first volume introduced the characters and their various personalities. I love Tamaki – she’s serious and quiet, and though she’s been training since she was a young child, she isn’t all that gung-ho about kendo. What she does get all worked up over is witnessing bullies picking on the weak. She can’t help but jump to their defense every time she sees someone getting beat up. She is badass with a shinai, but she believes very firmly in playing by the rules, and I like that about her. She won’t cheat to win, but she will do whatever she has to to make sure defeats her opponent.
Bamboo Blade is a fast read. Tamaki’s kendo bouts are accompanied by a frenzy of speed lines and high intensity illustrations. Though Tamaki is fairly emotionless, her opponents suffer a deluge of feelings during the fight scenes. The action is easy to follow and the battles are exciting as blows are stuck and defended against. Most of the character designs are on the plain side, but a couple of the characters, such as Tamaki, have greater detail. I wish that Eiga didn’t look like a circle with a bowl on his head, but maybe the illustrator suffered from anxiety at the thought of having more than five different characters to draw?
I enjoyed Bamboo Blade for its brainless fun, and I’m wondering where the story will go next. Kojiro doesn’t seem smart enough to manipulate an entire team of kendo players into a bunch of winners, but maybe with all of the yummy sushi to motivate him, he’ll get the job done.
Review copy provided by Yen Press