Sunday, July 31, 2011
:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Bamboo Blade
Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entry
Video [Free]: FUNimation, Anime News Network (Sub / Dub)
Sports anime have never really found a footing in the North American market, in spite of some rather well-received ones that have appeared here in retail and on the web (Princess Nine, Fighting Spirit/Hajime no Ippo, Big Windup!, and Cross Game, to name a few). They are big in Japan, though, and classic titles of the likes of Champion Joe/Ashita no Joe and Ace wo Nerae! have had a widespread influence on anime and manga, regardless of their genre, for the decades that followed.
One good title that has come out in N.A. was AIC A.S.T.A's 2007 anime Bamboo Blade. Revolving around a ragtag, mostly all-girl high-school kendo team, their poorhouse-bound instructor, and their meek (but scary good) star, the series attracted a good following in Japan and found some positive praise across the Pacific, as well. It helps to have snappy writing, well-paced plotting, enjoyable characters, and AIC's trademark consistency in high-quality productions backing you up, as well as some fine comedy and an attention to detail when it comes to the kendo action and its mechanics. Practically everything about Bamboo Blade screams "solid" (and that goes for the score and catchy OP and ED, too), so it's little wonder why the show has been viewed in such a positive light, even if it may not be one of the bigger-named titles out there.
Bamboo Blade is currently available in full in either Japanese with English Subtitles or dubbed in English at FUNimation's site, mostly likely due to their "Summer of Streaming" promotion, where they have posted tons of entire series online (over 5000 episodes worth) to spend whittling your summer doldrums away with (hey, is that about 5000 episodes worth of additional bonus picks, there? ;) ). Of course, since the promotion is limited to the season, I can't vouch if all of the episodes will still be available afterwards, so be sure to finish it by end of it. The series can also be found at Anime News Network's video service.
P.S.: This would have been posted three days earlier, but it was far harder to find a suitable screenshot to represent Bamboo Blade than I ever thought it would be (and I was using Hulu's nifty and precise timeline thumbnail preview to streamline the searching, too). I guess it partially has to do with everyone being in the fully guarded kendo gear in most action scenes, that, and it was just hard to find one really good pic to give the right impression of the series. The one above's not bad, but it will do…