the Little Red Reviewer

Bamboo Blade by Masahiro Totsuka

Posted on: November 29, 2010

At first glance, I wasn’t sure what to make of Masahiro Totsuka’s Bamboo Blade. An abnoxious, impulsive, selfish Kendo coach? A diminutive high school girl who beats up bullies? Slapstick comedy? Sports? 

Was this going to work for me? Talk about genre mixing! 

Welcome to the manga genre called “Slice of Life”. We do it in American comics and literature too, but maybe not to the same extent. Slice of Life manga usually follow the day to day lives of young adults. Sometimes there is comedy, sometimes drama, sometimes relationships, sometimes all or none of the above. They are typically modern day pieces, with emphasis on everyday Japanese culture. Slice of Life stories push the boundaries of shonen (manga designed for a male audience) and shojo (manga designed for a female audience), and are often appreciated by a wider audience. 

When Kojiro was high school, he was a Kendo star (Kendo is a Japanese sport, somewhat similar to fencing. The sword is made of bamboo. Kendo is very popular with young adults). These days, he barely makes ends meet as a high school teacher. He runs the laxest after school Kendo club in the country, lives on instant Ramen, and dreams of his glory days. The members of the club barely show up, and when they do, they are usually beaten up by the two school bullies, who are also in the Kendo club. Sounds a little serious, but this is pretty much a slapstick comedy.

Impulsive and overconfident, Kojiro makes a bet with his former Kendo master, Ishibashi as to whose Kendo team is better. If Kojiro wins, he’ll get a years worth of sushi at Ishibashi’s father’s restaurant. The trick is, it’s got to be an all girl’s Kendo team. The race is on the build the best high school Kendo team! 

Kojiro starts training his team with a vengence, but other than overexcited captain Kirino, all his other members are boys. He needs more girls on the team, but doesn’t want to explain to anyone why. He does manage to get some of the boys to bring their girlfriends to after school practice. After hearing about Tamaki, daughter of one of the most famous local Kendo masters, Kojiro decides he must have her on the team! Doesn’t matter that Tamaki has no interest in Kendo, no detectable sense of humor, and would rather sit at home watching superhero cartoons. Maybe Kojiro can take advantage of Tamaki’s love for superheroes, and let her live out a little superhero dream of her own. As it is, the only way this team is gonna win is with some kind of superhero miracle. 

Once I realized Bamboo Blade is designed to be a slapstick sports comedy, I really started to get into it. Tamaki is the serious one, and Kojiro and Kirino (who reminds me of the girls in Excel Saga) and just about everyone else are the goof balls. Is there any hope for this Kendo team? With Tamaki ever find a sense of humor? Will Kojiro ever grow up? There’s only one way to find out! 

Currently at 14 volumes and recently turned into an anime, Bamboo Blade defines “slice of life”, with little blurbs about everything a Japanese young thinks about during their day to day lives – bento boxes, dealing with their parents, school bullies, what sports club to join even if you don’t want to, peer pressure, exams, and what to do with themselves once they’re done with school.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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