Bamboo Blade (バンブーブレード) is a 26-episode sports series from 2007 by Studio AIC based on a manga.
Toraji Ishida is a high school kendo teacher. His friend and fellow kendo teacher makes him a bet: if Ishida can assemble a girls’ kendo team that can defeat his girls’ team in a practice match, he’ll treat Ishida to free meals at his father’s sushi restaurant for a whole year. Only problem is Ishida’s school has a kendo team in name only so Ishida must find and train five girls first.
There are sports anime for everything out there- baseball, football, soccer, hell even mahjong and shogi; yet kendo is surprisingly under represented despite being a popular sport in Japan 1. Seeing a show try to work with a completely different premise is always nice, what elevates this is just how funny it is. Ishida is one of the last people who should be coaching anything and is openly dismissive toward the boys who want to join because they wont earn him sushi; they recruit the prodigy Tamaki because shes also a massive otaku and her friend convinces her the club needs a “hero of justice” to protect the new kids from the bully upperclassman; and for the most part everyone is in this to have fun (or sushi) without the heavy drama that frequently seeps into the sports genre. Plus when they do have matches they manage to be really exciting and thankfully fairly quick, no 10 episodes to cover one match here.
Some of the characters can be a tad quirky which can make watching them grating if you’re not clicking with everything. The fairly low stakes of everything also serves to conversely mean there isn’t a big emotional payoff or major win they’re going for with even the Nationals tournament being played off a bit as just another match. This ends up with the series having the most interesting match in episode 17, and while there are matches after that it leaves the overall dramatic arc of the series wobbly.
Weeb Level: 3/10- There’s some genre tropes and Tamaki likes to talk about sentai shows but nothing too insurmountable for newbies.
Fanservice: 1/10- Even if this show wanted to do male gaze everyone is wearing armor all the time, not really much they can play with here.
Quality: 8/10- Has episodes that are supremely rewatchable especially if you like the sports genre in general. Some episodes are a bit clunkier with not much happening causing some ups and downs.
Where to watch: Funimation and Anime News Network (which I think is a mirror of the Funi site anyway) both have it streaming. It can be bought through Prime Video and is not currently available on Crunchyroll.