At first and maybe second glance, the Bamboo Blade character designs aren’t anything special. And they aren’t, really. Body-type wise, they are pretty much templates. The hairstyles are just the usual stuff with the usual strange colors. The faces reflect the personalities of the characters. In other words, it’s pretty standard anime fare. However, it is in some of those standards that Kawazoe Tamaki stands out.
Tama-chan’s personality is not easy to define. At first, she seems like the usual emotionally distant silent girl (a la Rei) but she is really more comparable to Ruri-chan from the very similar anime, Martian Successor Nadesico. Tama-chan really isn’t distant on purpose, she just doesn’t exactly grasp the concept of friendship. All she knows is kendo. Her past interactions with fellow humans simply hasn’t elicited much of an emotional response or connection with her.
Unlike shy girls, Tama-chan isn’t depressed or pushing people away on purpose – in the beginning she probably doesn’t even understand that she is perceived as distant. She could better be described as content. After all, she has nothing depressing her, and we see her beam with glee and enthusiasm when she watched her tokusatsu shows. She just kind of moves along through life without thinking much of it.
Tama-chan’s face is a reflection of this in that her regular expression is completely blank. It’s not as though it’s lifeless – she is seeing the world around her and knows what she is doing, it just doesn’t elicit a reaction from her. Someone like Kirino always looks happy because the world makes her feel happy, but Tama-chan doesn’t react to the world.
That’s why when she does react, her face takes on a whole new life. The changes in her expression have immediate meaning and are, in my opinion, exciting. We see from early on 2 things that get such reactions – heroic characters fill her with joy and burning spirit, while seeing bullies or ‘evil’ fills her with incomprehensible rage.
One of the show’s major plots is Tama-chan’s emotional development as she comes to appreciate things like friends and fun, and this development is measured chiefly in facial expressions. It takes a great design to show the progress of emotional expression without getting to disassociated with the original face.
The rest of Tama’s design supports the fact that she doesn’t really think of much outside of what she does. Her hair is short, as is sensible for a kendo fighter, and she wears her uniform properly. The uniforms are also pretty drab, being brown and red and lacking any real fanservice element (thankfully).
There is also something special to Tama-chan’s shortness. Tama is short and small-breasted, not quite on the level of ‘loli’ but believable as a petite high school girl. Part of this definitely has to do with he whole ‘big things come in small packages’ idea, however, it also shows Tama’s potential for growth.
Tama’s body is so small that she almost looks comical in the kendo armor, regardless of it being her size. However, she doesn’t really see herself as a small person with a lot of room to grow. She’s used to being the most powerful fighter in her dojo and even beating adults. However, when Tama has to fight people in championships, she encounters a whole new class of fighters. Things really get put into perspective when she has real chances of loosing.
That’s when it really comes into focus that Tama is still young. Even as a person whose short for her age, she’s still only a high-schooler. Powerful as she already is, she will continue to gain experience and become even more powerful. Her being short is like a way of saying ‘she’s good now, so think of how great she’ll be when she grows up!’
Anyway, while I’ve gotten all into detail about it, I can still amount this to ‘she’s cute as hell.’ Tama is one of my favorite character designs (along with every other petite short-haired girl from Lain to Yuno) and I’m hoping to get her figure soon. Since I have a huge folder of her, here’s a massive image dump. (scroll further down for ecchi)