Bamboo Blade tells a story about a bet between Kojiro and his senpai Kenzaburo Ishibashi. If Kojiro can form an elite squad of female kendo students and beat Ishibashi’s team, then he is entitled to a year’s worth of free sushi. However if Kojiro loses the bet he has to forfeit the most precious item in his room. Kojiro considers his Super Famicom the most precious item in his room. However what his senpai really wants is the trophy that represents Kojiro’s victory over him senpai during high school. This demonstrates the sense of rivalry between the two that has not been extinguished over the past few years. As a result Kojiro agrees to this bet, only to find out that the trophy has been shattered to pieces, and he is left with no choice but to win this gamble.
This manga is not a typical sports manga in the sense that it focuses more on character interactions rather than diving into the complexity of the rules and mechanics of kendo. The author Totsuka Masahiro demonstrates this clearly by having free sushi as the goal for Kojiro rather than the desire to win nationals. Kojiro even uses this motivator in an attempt to persuade kendo prodigy, Tamaki Kawazoe, to join his team. Be that as it may, she shows no interest in kendo or Kojiro’s prize. It seems that many of the characters in Bamboo Blade join the kendo club for a reason outside of the sport itself. Even the freshmen only join the kendo club because they got rejected by the ping-pong club. What’s even more interesting is that Tamaki later decides to join because she dreams of being an anime hero. Ultimately this alludes to the idea that kendo can attract different personalities under the same sport. Such is shown through each character’s motivations and reason to practice kendo.
The high speed kendo scenes are a testament to each character’s ability and skills. For example the very first page of the manga shows multiple consecutive strikes done within a short amount of time. It then transitions to Tamaki’s face, illustrating the turning point of the match before it ends with her image as the victor who has not broken a sweat. . This scene supports the idea that Tamaki is a skilled Kendo prodigy. I think the fight scenes are done very well in terms of showing how skilled each of the kendo practitioners are. However the art doesn’t stand out as much when the characters are not fighting each other. This does not hinder the story, but it does leave some room for improvement.
Overall Bamboo Blade is good series to pick up if you want to read a sport theme manga with a focus on character development. This is a series I would recommend if you are into old school manga. However be warned that the art style and pacing can feel a bit different compared to the standard manga of today.