Author: Masashiro Totsuka
Manga-ka: Aguri Igarashi
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: March 2010
Synopsis: “When word of Kojiro’s angry outburst at the supermarket gets around to the chairman of the school board, Kojiro’s future at Muroe High is in jeopardy! But there’s really nothing the kendo club can do to help…or is there? Surely the principal wouldn’t dismiss the coach of the kendo team that won the National Tournament?!”
Our technical protagonist Kojiro runs into trouble, while the team begins the search for the next member of the Kendo club. Totsuka and Igarashi continue to deliver the goods as we encounter even more nostalgic school days bliss, the horrors of being a newly employed recent college graduate, and the horrors hidden in a teenage girls’ relatively short past.
Kojiro’s antics continue to propel the plot in Bamboo Blade. A run-in with a busy body in the previous volume ends up threatening his job, and his students not-quite-enthusiastically take on improving the situation. Deciding to attempt to improve the stature of the kendo club, and possibly ensure his teaching position through his role as the team’s coach, the cast takes on new kendo challenges while beginning a hunt for a mysterious first year whose rumoured to have been a champion in Junior High. Kojiro’s constant wavering between responsibility and more immature choices make him a fun lead character, a more realistic take on what’s normally a side character examining the aftermath of most high school manga. Even after you start working, there’s still things to grow up about. Kojiro’s charm is in how his stupidity helps him change and dedicate himself to improving the team, if for initially dubious reasons.
Meanwhile, out of the blue, Misa Misa is threatened by the return of a former classmate, Reimi, who seeks revenge on Misa Misa from her pre-Dan, ultra-violent school girls days. Misa Misa’s constant fretting over her dark past and adoration of the strangely mascot-like, increasingly pocket-sized ideal boyfriend Dan, makes for an entertaining parallel. Her freak outs and Dan’s comforting message about the normalcy of haemorrhoids provide some of the best moments of the book. Additional moments of comedy come when Tamaki discovers a classic book written by a parody of Hayao Miyazaki, which leads to some funny moments for fans familiar with his work and his habit of announcing retirements. Totsuka excels at comedic aspects of the series, something that’s really been surprising me after being initially struck by the sports-centric elements I enjoyed in previous volumes.
Igarashi’s art continues to be very polished, and I really appreciated his skills in adding backgrounds, realistic kendo gear and well drawn characters outside of the fandom-required school girls. I’ve come to enjoy the more flexible, fluid moments when the characters get emotional as it contributes to the comedy and helps break the usual cookie-cutter patterning of most moe manga. Whether it’s the vapid Tamaki geeking-out or MiyaMiya’s horrific flashbacks, squat and chipper Dan, or new girl Azuma’s particular social ineptness, Igarashi contributes a lot to the hilariousness of the series with his constantly flailing cast.
Extras are fairly extensive in this volume with 4-koma comic strips throughout the book, some concept art for Kojiro and new team-mate Azuma, and some short extra comics centering on the supporting cast. I also enjoyed the traditions of including at least one fake next revelation in the next volume previews. Yen Ptrdd includes colour inserts yet again, though the paper has shifted to a thicker newsprint with this volume rather then the thicker white paper they had used on the rest of the series.
Overall, Bamboo Blade is still one of Yen Press’s strongest series and I highly recommend it to any manga fan. With a charming mood, a silly yet not stereotypical gang of high school students and a twenty-something teacher struggling to cope with adulthood, it offers some solid light-weight entertainment while touching on some fascinating elements of Kendo. Bamboo Blade continues to be a series with lots to offer, one of those easy to get into series that appeals to all walks of fandom.