Bamboo Blade Review

Story:
Not having enough money to pay for decent meals, kendo coach Toraji Ishida makes a desperate bet with a rival coach. If he wins, he gets to eat at a sushi restaurant for free for a year. But winning requires him to gather an unstoppable female kendo team. Unfortunately for him, not all the members are as enthusiastic about kendo as he is…

Violence:
This show is based around a sport, so the actual violence is pretty low. Aside from slight hits and small cuts, that is. Nothing too violent though.

Language:
This is actually pretty low for a TV14 rated show. Only a handful of curses in the whole series. Standard fare of d-mns and such. Nothing heavy.

Nudity:
Not much in this department either, surprisingly. One would think, given the set up, that cheap shots would be all over the map, but this show remains shockingly clean. A few camera shots linger on chests, and wahtnot, but that’s as far as the fan service ever goes. In fact, there aren’t even any cleavage shots taken, making this show one of the cleanest TV14 shows I’ve seen in a long time. The only possible uncomfortable element worth mentioning here might be one female character’s odd obsession with another (she’s a stalker). However, nothing really happens and it’s mostly played to comedic effect.

Theology/Mythology:
Not a lot of this going down either. Which makes sense as this show is far too laid back for any deep theological discussions anyway.

Personal Impression:
This series doesn’t really have anything against it. That said, it doesn’t have much going for it either. If I had to sum up this series in one word it’d be “bland.” This by no means signifies this show as bad in any way. It just doesn’t stick out much or have a clear flavor. It’s just kinda… there.
The characters are pretty easy to read, too. You’ve got your quiet prodigy, beautiful girly-girl who’s got an “evil” streak, hapless male, eccentric female captain, loser coach, etc. Many of the events are easy to predict as well. The art is decent, the music mediocre, and the hero is likeable (though easy to forget).
Overall this series is pretty clean and laidback, so it can be a nice break from darker shows. That said, don’t be surprised if you watch an episode or two and forget you did so later on…

Personal Rating: 10 and up

Episodes: 26
Languages: Sub and dub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Slice of life, comedy
Website: http://www.funimation.com/bamboo-blade
Legal streaming: FUNimation’s site and YouTube channel
Screen shots:
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Extra: Minorities in Anime

Watching Accel World recently has brought up quite a surprise for me as an anime fan. The issue of minorities (though I believe the issue itself is anything but minor).

Anime, like other forms of popular culture (I speak in terms of being popular in Japan more so than here), rarely portrays issues such as obesity well, if at all. In fact, it’s far more common for that body type to be ignored. Which is what made Accel World’s hero so unexpected. And it was also handled fairly well. The issue of bullying, not the obesity, was the main point. Meaning that Haruyuki was more than his body type as a character.

But weight isn’t the only thing often ignored in anime. Different races/nationalities are often discarded as well. And just as with overweight characters, if these issues do come up, they are used for comic purposes only and their own personal feelings/struggles are left out of the equation. Americans are stereotypically idiots, French people are stuck up and so on.

Part of the reason for the race/nationality thing may be lack of exposure in some cases. After all, Japan was isolated for a large part of its history. However, when it comes to more recent shows, this excuse begins to wear thin. The major reason is, as mentioned above, anime is a reflection of Japanese popular culture. And, like most popular cultures, minorities of any kind are seen through a stereotypical lens, if they’re seen at all. Look at pretty much any popular TV show in America. Yeah, they’re stereotypical aren’t they? And although anime isn’t as big here (though most people know what it is now. A change form the early 90s era), it’s definitely popular in its home country. And popular usually means meeting the status quo and not attempting anything beyond that.

So while the show certainly didn’t set out to make a big wave in anime, Accel World has props for taking on what so many shows avoid. And doing so with respect. Here’s to hoping a few more shows will take on minority issues in the future and do so with reverence. I can’t be the only anime fan tired of every “different” character being subjected to comic relief prison…

Accel World Review

Story:
Haruyuki has been bullied relentlessly for years. He doesn’t find he’s good at anything in his life aside from gaming and thus he spends most of his time online, racking up large scores that few can compete with. But when he encounters a female player, and older classmate, who beats his score, he’s introduced to a whole new online game: Brain Burst. And unlike other online games, this one affects the real world, be that for good or evil.

Violence:
Because most of the fighting happens in the game, one would think the violence itself should be low (in-game characters die by turning into light and fading away or pixels dissolving. Not graphic stuff). However, there is a bit of violence in the real world. One character gets beat up a few times. Another gets hit by a car and has to be hospitalized. In both cases, blood exists (though more in the second case than the first). This alone is enough to bunk this show into the YA category.

Language:
Same as most PG14 shows. A few d-mns, sh-ts and a few “illegitimate son” words. The character that seems to have the worst mouth also pulls out the middle finger at least twice.

Nudity:
The worst part of this series would have to be the fanservice, which is extensive. From skimpy outfits to suggestive posses, there’s good reason this show is PG14. The worst scenes are when Haruyuki ends up in the girls’ locker room (yes, it’s as cliché as it sounds) and ends up “hiding” in a shower with his best (female) friend. Unfortunately, she’s naked. No details that would put it out of PG14 ground, but it comes reeeeally close. Also, this same female friend takes off her shirt at one point. She’s wearing a bra, so only bikini level skin is shown (shower scene was worse), even so… it’s just plain dumb. It makes no sense and really could have been cut altogether. Overall, this section pushed the Young Adult line the hardest, so be warned.

Theology/Mythology:
There’s really not much of anything to put in this category. Theological discussions on life’s origin and such are largely left out.

Personal Impression:
As one who has seen quite a few virtual reality based anime, this show honestly impressed me. The main character is of a kind that is somewhat taboo in anime. An overweight hero. Thankfully, that isn’t the only thing this series focuses, issues such as bullying take the main stage in this show.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. At first, this series isn’t too different (besides an unlikely main character). However, as the series progresses, it becomes clear that everything in the virtual world is a reflection of the real world (not to mention that Brain Burst affects the real world too). The reason this aspect of the show is so important is that it makes everything in the game world that much more important. These people are real. You see their lives and mental issues and you want them to succeed. In both worlds.
And as far as the characters go, they’re pretty well laid out. A few (as always) fall into stereotypes, but they don’t often stay there. Haruyuki experiences the worst bullying, but he isn’t alone. A few other characters do as well and each one shows it in their lives differently (some fear, some fight back and some turn to hate). Other characters, like the female leads hide issues of inadequacy, guilt and regret. These emotions affect every part of the story, be it their actions in the real world or the virtual. Considering how well they tied the real and virtual worlds together, it’s a shame this series felt it needed so much horrendous fanservice. It could have easily gone without it.
As for other aspects, the animation was wonderful and the music was fitting, though not stellar. Though this series pushed the YA rating to its limit, it’s a fantastic addition to the virtual reality anime lineup. And, in some respects, it actually beat out a few of its predecessors.
The only down side (besides the fanservice)? The ending is a bit… open. While the story arcs that were most critical to Haruyuki do indeed wrap up, the heroines and their arcs are not fully addresses and the major arc (aka completing the game) is left open. So if you want the story to finish completely…. You won’t be happy. But as for characters that you honestly want to win and root for, this series does pretty well for itself indeed.

Personal Rating: Young adult

Episodes: 24
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, drama
Website: http://www.vizanime.com/accel-world
Legal streaming: Hulu and Viz Anime
Screen shots:
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Extra: Absurdist humor

alice picYou may have noticed how often some of my comedy anime reviews describe Japanese humor as “absurdist.” Well, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s not hard to figure out. It’s one of the few literary terms my bachelors in English taught me that actually means exactly what it says. Absurdist humor is humor that is, well, absurd.

Perhaps the best literary example of absurdist at work is the classic tale Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, which later grew into Alice in Wonderland. Although many don’t think of it as humor, it is absurdist. Many, if not all, of the events make little sense and the humor (for it does exist) is often hidden within a double meaning or when one steps out of the fantasy and takes what is said at face value (much of Carroll’s talent lies in distracting the reader by silly events while addressing serious issues at the same time).

Of course, Japan is not ignorant of Carroll’s classic. In fact, there are hundreds of anime, as well as many more manga, that give their own variations of the tale or are heavily inspired by it. And they’ve taken the comedy aspect to new heights. While not all Japanese humor is absurdist, a decent amount that arrives in America is. Why? Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Translation. Absurdist humor is absurd. There might be hidden meaning, but often it is of a kind that doesn’t need intensive translation. The comedy depends mainly on just being silly and thus actually works well in various languages, unlike puns and cultural in-jokes.

So if you happen to be new to anime and manga and are wondering if you’re just not “getting it,” don’t. You aren’t supposed to understand it all. It’s ok. Just relax, kick back and start laughing at the ridiculousness of skydiving right through an ocean liner and then wondering why it’s sinking.

Streaming Pick of the Month: Puchim@s!

puchimas bannerSo long as you don’t mind being clueless as to what’s going on, this show is a wonderful ray of crazyshine (much like sunshine, but, ya know, crazy)!
This show follows around some idols who work for the 765 company and end up adopting Puchidols. Which are like people, but small, insanely cute and without rights. These two and a half minutes episodes chronicle their everyday life. Which isn’t ordinary. At all. Oh and nothing’s wrong with Mr. Producer. He was just drawn that way. :3

Puchim@s is a simulcast and new episodes are posted on FUNimation’s site and their YouTube channel every Monday through Friday at 12pm EST! Click here to start watching!

Note: Streaming shows are not always available for free viewing. Be sure to watch the shows of your choice before they’re gone!