Manga of the Month: Bamboo Blade

Bamboo Blade (バンブーブレード)
by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi

hisui_icon_4040 Sports manga while well respected in the fan community is in general sales poison. Moe has a vocal dedicated fandom that talks with their wallets but in generally maligned by the critical fandom. But moe being this Sriracha sauce of anime can be combined with almost anything. But much like Sriracha sauce moe hardly goes with EVERYTHING despite what some advocates might tell you and adding it to some things turns some people away without question.

I don’t necessarily dismiss a series just because it adds moe elements despite not having a blanket approval for anything that incorporates it. This applies to the sports genre as well. Some manga like Saki and its derivatives positively bathe in the aesthetics and form making it an acquired taste indeed. But Bamboo Blade wisely avoids that pigeonholing and reaches out to a broader fandom.  At its heart Bamboo Blade is a manga about kendo and friendship first and foremost and a series about cute girls and their problem second. This lets the story appeal to more than a simple niche audience.

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Secret Santa 2010 Project Reveal

And now the part you have all been waiting for. The Secret Santas are revealed, the ancient conspiracy is foiled, and the destined couple finally consummate their relationship. This is the master list of all the participants, what they reviewed, and who gave them their recommendations. I know that several people are not going to finish on time because of various mishaps during the holiday season. So I will do my best to update this list at least once a day as reviews come in. Hopefully everyone watched something a bit unexpected and maybe learned something new about the range and scope of anime. Other than that Happy Holidays and I wish you and yours the best of luck in the upcoming year.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #096

Tales from Earthsea only just hit U.S. shores for general release this August due to conflicts over the name rights. But that isn’t the only reason you may not have heard of this movie, Goro Miyazaki makes his directorial debut and it is a poor showing to say the least. As the film opens we see dragons battling and are introduced to the concept that the balance of the world is off, it is further revealed much of this is being caused by the dangerous Lord Cob. That is about all the explanation you get for the plot of this movie. It is a world of magic (though it is dying out), castles, royalty, dragons, and wanderers. We meet Arren, Sparrowhawk, Therru, and Tenar in quick succession as troubling happenings seem to plague Arren’s journey with Sparrowhawk. But all of this, from characters to the pacing of the film to the dub, is flat, flat, flat. Arren is unsympathetic because there is never any moments where you really come to understand his point of view and his relationship with Therru develops unevenly at best never really making you believe the eventual bond between them. Most of the history of characters is just thrown out to you through poorly planned exposition, such as when we learn how Therru came to stay with Tenar. Though Tenar and Sparrowhawk fare a little better but only because they have an established, though minorly told, history together. The ending battle scenes and dialogue unfortunately elicited snickers and out loud laughter from not just myself but others in the audience. I think the only scene that had any real magic is when Arren tells Therru his “true name” which was rich, atmospheric, and tender. I really wanted to like this movie, and I want to believe Goro Miyazaki can develop as a director, but it was hard to keep the faith by the end of the film.

hisuicon Sadly Tales from Earthsea was the train wreck that it has been made out to be. Part of me was hoping that people were unfairly trying judge Goro Miyazaki first efforts as a director in comparison to his father’s work. But the reason that this move gets panned so much is it is just riddled with major flaws. The plot is poorly paced, will often make inscrutable twists, and is often just uninteresting. Most of the characters were either banal or annoying. The dialog is clunky so that at points characters will drop a line that seems to come completely out of nowhere. Sparrowhawk and Tenar were fine for the most part but they never came close to being able to prop up the plot. The worst part in my opinion is Arren is an unsympathetic character. When you actively dislike the main character you should have an idea that the show is going nowhere very quickly. The dub did not help the film at all but you can tell that the source was terrible so the dub had little to work with. Tales from Earthsea certainly looked like a Studio Ghibli film but it had none of the heart or artistry of a proper Studio Ghibli film. The only really positive thing I can say is it made me interested in reading the original books just to see what his mess was based on.

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