It's a cheap trick to reduce a series down to a movie pitch line, but there is simply no better description: this is Azumanga Daioh meets A League of Their Own, down to its band of friends, and their washed-up, disgruntled manager trying to bring the team success but not trying hard enough, leaving the girls to prove themselves on their own. The one thing these stories have in common before being morphed together in this particular anime is their inability to impress on paper, minimal in scope and somewhat trivial in subject matter. Past the typed synopsis, however, you have two treasured, lighthearted classics, and Bamboo Blade takes the best of what they have to offer and adds a few adrenaline-powered battle cries to deliver something really special.
This is a series about kendo, a sport no western viewer should care about, and the series assures us, very few Japanese find appealing due to its old-fashioned rigidity and smelly equipment. Yet this is exactly what a great sports show should be like because it's not really about kendo, it's about a bunch of young girls in love with the game. These characters complement each other wonderfully, and the story stays focused on their lives as much or more than their kendo matches. You don't have to know anything about the sport to feel the tension of each match for these characters, and the series never foists it on you with monologues about rules or strategies. No, the only monologuing present might be Azuma's crippling realization that she has the world's worst stomachache mid-match or Miya's paranoia that her childhood stalker is watching her from the bleachers with camera in hand. Still, these girls keep practicing and helping each other through their ups and downs because they need the team more than they need the game.
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