Monday, April 26, 2010

Bamboo Blade Volume 4

By Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This volume of Bamboo Blade focuses on the introduction of two new girls, one a minor villain and one a major protagonist. Technically there's also a lot of Kojiro in it as well, and he does get some nice development as he goes back home for a bit to help at his parents' store, but honestly, does anyone read Bamboo Blade for the guys? Well, maybe for Dan-kun...

Tama finishes her part-time job, as she now has enough money for her DVD box set. Likewise, Miya-miya is also finished... although that may not have been as voluntary. A girl came by the store and tried to shoplift, and it turns out she's Miyako's old rival/nemesis from her middle school days. Reimi seems to specialize in being obsessed with Miyako and making her life miserable, and it might run in the family - her mother looks very familiar.

When Reimi actually tries to get revenge it works out badly. She sends some goons after Miyako's 'boyfriend', but gets the wrong guy, as she can't even imagine Miyako and Dan together. So the goons go after Yuji. Sadly, these are low-level goons, and Yuji gets rid of them easily in one of the funnier scenes. However, Reimi works far better as a mere absent threat, as we see Miyako being driven slowly insane with worry about what will happen this volume, to the point where everyone is starting to notice.

I continue to be impressed at how the author's handle Miyako's relationship with Dan-kun. It's still mostly one-sided, as Dan is the sort of character that remains a mystery - partially as he's still a joke a lot of the time, and partly because I think the authors want to keep his thoughts a mystery. Miyako is an open book, though, and one of the things that remains clear is that she really does see Dan's good qualities and loves him. It helps to soften her up - Miyako's the sort of person who can get very abrasive very fast.

In the latter half of the book, we see the club trying to track down that elusive 5th member. They find that there's someone at their school who was fantastic at kendo in middle school, but they only know her first name - Azuma. After an amusing series of 'wrong person' comedy mishaps, Kojiro finds out who she is... and why it's impossible for her to be on the team. She's brilliant at kendo, but horrible at school, even going so far as to wear fake 'huge glasses' so that she'll be smarter. She studies hard, and takes notes... she's just BAD. An after-school club would make things even worse.

Too bad, as she's exactly the member they're looking for, kicking the asses of the others when they lure her into a practice match. Will they be able to find a solution? Tune in next time! As always, this series balances kendo and comedy perfectly, and makes a great sports manga for people who don't like sports mangas. Recommended.

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