Bamboo Blade Reviews online.
The story is a character-driven comedy about a bunch of high school students who practice kendo, their loser of a teacher, and the trials and hassles they face as they progress towards competitions. The basic premise of the story is hardly original, but I actually really enjoyed it. It’s cute and playful but not saccharine or sickeningly sweet. The pace of the story is slow but steady and, fortunately, doesn’t appear to be overly ponderous. Some of the so-called character development involves situations where they get shown outside of their comfort zones, such as cute little Tama-chan taking on a part-time job and she deals with the public. That said, there isn’t much in the way of action or dramatic story to get you on the edge of your seat so far; and I’d expect I would probably forget much of it within a week. Hints already given of aiming for the national competitions could mean the tension ramps up in the second half.
The female characters have the usual expected attributes of such a series: the overly enthusiastic team captain, who is a bit spacey; the cute long-haired one who can emit a dark aura at will; the tall tom-boy who can be a bit dense; the one with glasses who likes kendo but is clumsy; the young loli who ends up having the best ability because she’s practiced kendo most of her life. Male characters are generally forgettable at stage with the loser teacher only getting some spine after finding out his position might not be replaced. Most of the focus at the moment is on the kendo antics of the female cast. While the story is character-focused, the characters themselves don’t provide a lot of unique or special elements to distinguish them from hundreds of other “team-like” casts.
Visuals are pleasant enough with the show presented in a 16:9 widescreen aspect. Each character is distinctive enough and the girls are cute, even if they obviously appear to be stereotypes. Probably the most distinctive character design is Dan, who looks just weird. We also have the pretty-boy male member who is fairly peripheral to the story. The portrayal of action is fair – if you can accept slowly panning still shots to signify dramatic impact with a cut to a character’s facial expression on the receiving end. Nothing special but at least it was easy to look at.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese and a Dolby Digital 5.1 English tracks. Primary listening was with the original Japanese audio. There is a lot of shouting “Men”, “Kote”, etc. as one may expect with kendo and it began to get on my nerves after a while — but it did sound convincing. The voices do match well with the characters, though: Tamaki is soft-spoken but has a steely determined voice when in combat; Kirono is bubbly and enthusiastic; the teacher is whiny, and so forth. The music on the whole is unremarkable and not much more can be said there.
Extras include other trailers for Madman titles, and a clean opening and closing, and that’s it.
Bottom line: This one was a surprise to me. For something that I might have left on the shelf in the store or going from the trailer, but actually found to be a good show with a cast of interesting enough characters but a fairly weak story in the first half. Fingers crossed things pick up with the release of the second collection.