Guest Review: Bamboo Blade, Vol. 2
By Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi
Published by Yen Press
Review by Megan M.
Kojiro is his school’s kendo coach and is always broke and hungry. When his senpai, the coach of a rival school, bets him a year’s worth of free sushi that Kojiro’s girls’ kendo team can’t beat his, Kojiro can’t resist. The only problem is that despite his recent acquisition of Tama, the daughter of a dojo, he only has four girls on his team, one less than what’s required. That’s assuming that his other new member, Miya, can work through her behavioral issues, and that the elusive member, Saya, can actually be tracked down and make it to practice. Meanwhile, Saya and Miya (neither of whom realize the other is a teammate) become enemies when Saya scolds Miya for smoking on school property.
Not having read the first volume, I’m uncertain as to whether the bet is the central plot of the series or simply a prominent subplot. I had heard of “Bamboo Blade” but been leery of it, as the description painted a picture of a school-based shonen series with a pervy teacher and a lot of fanservice, though I was curious enough about the subject of a girls’ kendo team to give it a try. Thankfully, my suspicions appear to have been wholly unfounded, as this volume is extremely clean and the closest thing Kojiro comes to having wrong thoughts about his students is to bemoan the fact that they don’t trust him with money. Actually, despite his engaging in underhanded plots to address the problem of not having enough team members, he may function better as a coach than most teachers in manga.
The book is genuinely funny and its characters engaging. Of the characters, my favorites are Saya, who is obsessively driven to find her true calling in life, and the much more laid back (almost spacey) Kirino. The two obviously appear to be best friends. Thankfully, Kojiro and his students aren’t portrayed positively at the expense of making their rivals evil or cruel and both teams and coaches are presented as humorous and engaging, with plenty of focus on the friendships between teammates. The art is a bit cartoonish and the designs are nothing new, but it’s functional and the characters are easy to distinguish. More importantly, the action is very easy to follow, something that’s important in a series that focuses on the mechanics of a sport.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, given my suspicions regarding the premise, but I ended up enjoying it far more than I expected to, and am looking forward to reading more, especially as it appears that the next volume will focus even more on practice matches between the two teams.
Review copy provided by the publisher.