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.
I had been somewhat dissatisfied with Volume 7 of Bamboo Blade, and asked that the next volume focus more on the girls and kendo. And for the most part that's exactly what I get. Yes, there's still a lot of Kojiro here, still dealing with trying to recover his fighting spirit, but it's balanced out with a lot of stuff with the girls, and the entire volume is filled with kendo.
We're still gearing up for Kojiro's second match with Ishibashi, as it turns out he also coaches a second group of students. Sadly, this group lacks any drive or passion for kendo whatsoever, mostly typified by their captain, Takeshi, an ex-kendo fan who got completely destroyed by a girl and thus has lost any will to improve himself. His attitude carries over to the rest of his team, much to Ishibashi's dismay, and we are reminded of what Kojiro's kendo situation was like at the start of Vol. 1 of Bamboo Blade, where it seemed that he and Kirino were the only ones who cared. More importantly, it shows that Ishibashi is, in many ways, just like Kojiro - witness his 'two-blade technique' imagine spot. Kojiro, maturity may be closer than you think!
Most of the book is taken up with everyone going over to Tamaki's dojo for some training and study. This allows everyone to get a little bit of plot and character development - even Azuma, who gets lost and ends up in a different prefecture for the majority of the day. We see Tamaki, head and shoulder above everyone else. We see Kirino and Saki, who are generally equal, though Saki is suffering from a bike injury (I feel bad for Stephen Paul, the translator, for attempting to try to vary the translation of Saki's whining about her butt hurting - though I note that using the British variation 'bum' didn't quite work). We see that, despite her attempts at using more vicious techniques above her skill level, that Miya-Miya is also getting better at kendo, almost despite herself.
There are tons of scenes in this volume that are simply funny. Starting right off with Miya-Miya accidentally attacking Dan with her kendo sword (and her over the top reaction to doing so), Tamaki's hideously embarrassing father, and Tamaki's ensuing humiliation (attempting to conceal her father's video of her at the athletic festival was actually her best move of the volume, topping all the kendo ones), Tamaki the otaku explaining the best scenes of this season's anime to her friends (instead of doing homework), and Miya-Miya easily destroying the three smoking students who Saya was haranguing. And there's even a bit of drama. Once we actually get to the match itself (which hasn't quite started - most of it will be in Volume 9), we see an ambivalent Takeshi zero in on Tamaki, and try to convince her to drop out of kendo as it will ruin her hands with calluses. We then cut back to Yuuji (remember him?), who just has this LOOK OF DEATH on his face that is amazing to see. Don't mock kendo!
In all honesty, this volume spent a lot of its time preparing us for the fact that Volume 9 will *not* be an epic struggle between evenly matched teams - not even close. Everything is being set up to allow our heroes to perform a complete beatdown on the other team - though Reimi may show up, so whether Miya-Miya can be a part of that is still in question. Still, it would appear that next volume will be entirely devoted to the kendo match, so that will be great. Till then, this volume was a lot of fun, filled with all the things that make Bamboo Blade great. And even the Kojiro stuff wasn't too bad this time.