Story: Masahiro Totsuka
Art: Aguri Igarashi
Translation/Adaptation: Stephan Paul
What They Say
After the intense drama of the Burnish Academy TV shoot, each member of the Muroe kendo team has a new outlook on their involvement with kendo, and Tamaki is eager to learn what reasons her friends have for participating in the sport, hoping they will help her find her own motivation. Kojiro plans a trip to observe the Gokuryuki national tournament to help Tamaki on her search, and with the support of her family and friends, Tamaki takes a confident step toward the future in the final volume of Bamboo Blade.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With the completion of the utterly fantastic Burnish Academy arc, we settle into the end of Bamboo Blade. With everything that has happened in this manga since it started I couldn’t help but be taken aback by this volume. From the beginning, the manga was a fun, light-hearted comedy about a girls’ kendo club. Each character had a very distinct and likable (in one manner or the other) personality; this floated the manga for most of its run. I always felt that Bamboo Blade was a really enjoyable series that provided comedy and hot-blooded kendo action in a seamless environment where you could just get lost in everything. Things started to bog down in the middle volumes as the series started to run out of ideas. We were presented with repetitive arcs that never led anywhere, they didn’t change or improve the characters or give the readers something to crave for with subsequent volumes.
Then starting with volume 10 we got the Burnish Academy storyline. As I’ve written before, this arc was a stark contrast to the style and tone of the series so far. The focus was on new supporting characters while the Muroe High Kendo team sat on the sidelines. The series also began to lampoon a much wider range of influences, not just sports manga. That storyline breathed such a tremendous new life into the series that you not only craved more, you demanded more. The kendo action and character revelations/developments soared to such extreme highs that what you were reading was no longer the Bamboo Blade of old but a new magnificent beast that will be remembered for far longer than you ever anticipated it would ever be.
The final volume deals with Tamaki in full; every page during the main story is dedicated to her as she questions not only herself but everyone she knows and loves about why they do kendo. Tamaki has always been the center stage of the series but she was the most stagnant character in terms of growth; to watch her reflect so heavily upon her life is really something of a marvel to behold. She was never even close to being one of my favorite characters but with everything she deals with in this volume and the expert manner of which her story is told, and drawn, she has become the most important character and a source of true inspiration to readers as well as the characters.
The epilogue takes the story to what many would say is its logical conclusion, but with the resolution found at the end of the main story this logical conclusion pulls the reader into the story like never before. Regardless of how it ends, regardless of the little tweaks and twists the author adds to this final story, we know these characters so well and have grown to not just love but respect each of them in the way only a great series could inspire. Still the story does not end here, it doesn’t need to. It is no longer important what the outcome is. Just like we have learned through reading this series, kendo is about improving ones heart and mind, no about winning or losing. The goal is to improve who you are not what you do; Bamboo Blade has taken this theology to heart and transferred this spirit into its storytelling. If you haven’t been reading, or quit reading, I highly recommend starting (back) up. Maybe your heart will be as inspired as mine was.
Holy smokes!! I enjoyed the anime based on this series well enough, I enjoyed the first half of the manga well enough, but I wasn’t prepared for how it ended. Some argue that how a series ends is what truly makes or breaks it, and Bamboo Blade is possibly the most successful series I’ve read recently that achieves this with absolutely deftness. If I wasn’t already so old and had numerous ailments to my bones and joints, I would join a kendo team immediately! Heck, I still might just do that if there’s a dojo where I live. This series is that inspirational! To think that this inspiration and power is all packed in the final 5 volumes of the series; it’s mindboggling. To imagine that the most pointed comedy that can genuinely make you laugh and be pulled further into the overall drama occurs at the same time is nigh unprecedented! I highly implore manga fans to check out this series. The anime ends before it gets to the good part so I recommend this manga more so. If the end was similar to the tone and style of the first 9 volumes, this series would simply be filed under “eh, it was enjoyable for the most part”; instead this is a series I will reread for years and share with as many people as I can.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: August 21st, 2012