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November 5, 2010

Bento Bako Bonus: Black Butler 3 & Bamboo Blade 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Today we’re going to look at two titles from Yen Press. The newest volume of Black Butler and the first volume of Bamboo Blade, $10.99 each.

Title: Black Butler
Author: Yana Toboso
Volume: Volume 3 (ongoing)
Vintage: 2007 by Square Enix in Japan, October 2010 by Yen Press
Genre: Drama, supernatural, black comedy, action

For my review of volume 2, click here.

When we last left off, Ciel had been assigned by Queen Victoria to root out and eliminate Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately, Jack the Ripper turned out to be his very own Aunt An, Madam Red. This revelation has thoroughly shocked Ciel, but he can’t allow his aunt’s actions to continue. However, Madam Red has not been working alone. At her side, masquerading as her servant, is the Grim Reaper, Grelle Sutcliff. Grelle wields a custom death scythe, a large chain saw, and is prepared to use it to kill Sebastian. Ciel can only stand by and watch as his butler is cut apart by Grelle’s scythe, until Madam Red turns on him. When Madam Red loses her composure, her memories come spilling out and we see the tragedies of her life that led to her current state. Just as Sebastian steps up his game and turns the tables on Grelle, another Reaper appears to stop the battle. All that’s left for Sebastian and Ciel is to clean up the pieces and set Madam Red’s soul to rest. A bonus story brings Ciel’s fiancĂ©e and her mother, Ciel’s Aunt Francis, to Phantomhive manor. Lady Francis has arrived to judge the quality of the man her daughter will marry, and the quality of his household. An amusing story that pits Sebastian’s skills against the critical eye of Lady Francis.

Oh Sebastian, how handsome you are. I continue to fangirl out for another volume of Black Butler, and grow quite excited about the upcoming story line that will introduce the Indian prince Soma and his bodyguard Agni, who both appear on the last page of this volume. Hilarity will soon ensue as Soma clashes with Ciel, and Agni and Sebastian measure each other’s strength. This volume showed some great dynamics between Sebastian and Ciel. There continues to be a strange sort of respect that Sebastian holds for his master and his cold logic (though his contempt is still there; he acts the part of a perfect servant, but he knows how to push Ciel’s buttons when he feels the boy has somehow stepped off his path), though Ciel continues to use him as a tool, a chess piece that he directs to his will. Even so, Sebastian seems to be raising the boy in a befitting manner, taking his role as butler and caretaker very seriously. We’re finally introduced to the Grim Reaper society here, through Grelle and his superior. I’m looking forward to future confrontations between them and Sebastian, as there is a good deal of contempt between them. Another lovely volume.

Title: Bamboo Blade
Author: Masahiro Totsuka, with art by Aguri Igarashi
Volume: Volume 1 (of 14 in this series, plus a continuation that is ongoing)
Vintage: 2005 by Square Enix in Japan, 2009 by Yen Press
Genre: Comedy, sports (kendo)

Kojiro Ishida is the kendo instructor at Muroe High School. He lives in perpetual poverty, is often hungry, but manages a strange sort of excited energy when it comes to kendo. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to show for his kendo team. Currently there are only four members (all the third years dropped out to focus on exams) – second year Kirino Chiba, the team captain, who is very enthusiastic and moderately talented; Sayako Kuwahara, a friend of Kirino’s who never shows up for practice; and school bullies Toyama, who excels at kendo but only uses it as an avenue to beat up the weaker members, and his friend Iwasa. Kojiro has an ongoing rivalry with his former classmate Kenzaburo, who know teaches kendo at another school, and the two make a bet that pits their female kendo teams against each other. The poverty stricken Kojiro is offered up a year’s worth of sushi at Kenzaburo’s family’s restaurant, but if Kojiro loses, he has to fork over the trophy he won by beating Kenzaburo back in high school. Kojiro, who had been feeling rather sorry for himself and was apathetic about his club, gets fired up and starts scouting to form a new, powerful female team. He already has Kirino, but he needs four more girls. Sayako, if she ever shows up, is one, which leaves Kojiro to find three on his own. Two boys decide to join the club instead – Yuji Nakata, who studied in a dojo in elementary school, and his friend Danjuro Eiga, who has no experience. Danjuro, however, does have a girlfriend, and she joins as well. All that’s left is to recruit kendo prodigy Tamaki Kawazoe, whose family runs a kendo dojo, but who has no interest in joining the club. That is, until her TV-superhero-drama fueled sense of justice causes her to step in when Toyama begins bullying the new kendo members. Will Kojiro be able to pull together this rag tag team in time for a match with his senpai’s team?

The art suits the comedic elements of Bamboo Blade well, but the action scenes, the kendo matches, suffer, as they’re difficult to follow. Otherwise, the character designs are solid, and facial expressions are easy to read. The story is humorous, but not laugh out loud funny. Mostly it’s rather cute and goofy. Kojiro is languid and pathetic early on, with little interest in the club he runs, until there’s something in it for himself. He has a brief moment of selflessness, when he checks himself and realizes that he’s not considering his students’ love for the sport, and only thinking of himself…but that passes pretty quickly. Hopefully he’ll think more about the well-being of his students in later volumes. The students themselves are entertaining. Kirino has infectious enthusiasm, and is really into kendo, becoming thrilled when her sensei starts putting forth some effort as well. Sayako doesn’t make a showing in this volume, and the bullies only…bully. Toyama’s fighting style and “spirit” (that is to say, his desire to have an excuse to beat up people) are showcased well, but Iwasa mostly sits on the sidelines. Yuji is a former member of Tamaki’s dojo, and there’s the impression that they are childhood friends. Danjuro is a good contrast to…well, everybody. The small boy has little real interest in kendo, is lazy and impatient, isn’t the most intelligent guy, but has somehow managed to nab a totally gorgeous girlfriend in Miyako Miyazaki (Miya-Miya). Miyako’s bubbly exterior seems to be hiding a dark personality that she takes pains to keep secret from Danjuro. Tamaki is definitely the moe factor in the story, petite and cute, and socially awkward. Her father’s hope is that she’ll join her school’s kendo club and make some friends, and she seems well on her way to that goal.

For those who prefer animation, there’s a 26-episode anime series of Bamboo Blade from FUNimation, which you can watch on their website here. It also airs on the FUNimation Channel.




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  2. Jade

    I don’t know what to think of Black Butler. I don’t know whether I love it or hate it, but I keep reading it, so…I guess it’s addictive? Hahaha.

    Bamboo Blade is a fun read if you aren’t expecting too much from it. I think Miya and Dan and Tamaki can be genuinely funny, but otherwise it’s too by-the-numbers. Alos, yeah, those fight scenes are awful. Most of the time, the calls are the only way to know what’s even going on and the mask cutaways don’t help to tell who’s who when so many of the characters look the same.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Kristin Bomba. Kristin Bomba said: New #manga review Black Butler vol 3 & Bamboo Blade 1 from @yenpress https://comicattack.net/2010/11/bbbblackbutler3bamboo1/ […]

  4. […] [Volume 3 review.] […]

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