Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bamboo Blade Volume 6

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

This volume of Bamboo Blade introduces yet another minor antagonist, this one clearly made out to be evil - she's drawn that way, and in a fake fakeout designed to confuse us we realize that she really *is* that way. Yet Konishi isn't going to take Tama down with dirty tricks any more than the other earlier clubs could, and tricking her into a sprained ankle is only going to make Tama mad. Indeed, the best part of this manga is seeing Tamaki in full rage mode - partly as she's so angry at anyone being that disrespectful of kendo, and partly as the pain in her ankle is causing her to lose her reason a bit.

The other cast members are all going through their matches as well, but these are actually rather predictable. Azuma is dealing with overeating, acusing her energy levels to wobble back and forth. Miyamiya is getting better at kendo, so much so that it looks like she may finally put up a fight, but this is sadly destroyed by the presence of Reimi and her wacky crush. Saya actually manages to win by simply being good at the basics, something that Bamboo Blade emphasizes but which we rarely see with these powerhouses around.

But Tama, despite her best efforts, can't hide her ankle forever, and Kojiro withdraws her from the match. Since they're all tied up, this means Kirino (who won easily earlier) now has to fight another battle... and what's more, gets good news at the worst possible time. Kirino's intense concentration is impressive, but I have to admit that I prefer her hyper idiot persona, especially to contrast with the others. (As an aside, we also get a flashback examining why Konishi is the way she is. Fairly typical of these sorts of series that like to humanize their rivals, but I'm not sure it really works here - Konishi's simply not very likeable.

Still, despite the result, it still seems as if these early battles are lacking something. Kojiro knows it, and the reader knows it too. Tamaki is simply TOO GOOD. She's miles ahead of everyone else, and this leads to situations like the one we had in this volume, where she has to be essentially crippled in order to be able to get past their team. This being a sports manga, this cannot be allowed to stand. Tamaki needs a rival. We don't get that in this volume... but the preview for the next (which is for once a serious preview) implies that we will see her in Volume 7.

As for this volume, in the end it was not as good as some of the others, but there weren't any major problems with it. For those reading the series, it's a good, enjoyable volume, giving you lots of kendo battles and a good helping of humor.

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