Yawara! A fashionable judo girl.

Title:Yawara! A fashionable judo girl.
Yawara!: Episodes 1-40
Keywords: , , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Madhouse
Original Concept - URASAWA Naoki
R1 License - AnimEigo
R1 License - Subtitled Only
SEKI Toshihiko
All that Yawara Inokuma, a Junior at Musashiamya High, wants to be is a normal girl who goes out on dates, shops at bargain sales and makes Beef Stroganoff. However, she is also a judo prodigy, whose grandfather, Jigoro, was the 5 time judo champion of Japan. His one, all consuming desire in life is to see that she gets the Gold Medal in the Barcelona Olympics, and wins the National Achievement award.

This series is really good at blending several story lines with humor and balance, while offering a plot that is a darn shade better than of the most stuff on T.V.

[TV series, 1989-1992, 124 episodes, 25 min, produced by MADHOUSE; see also: Yawara! Sore yuke koshinuke kiss!, plus there's another sequel Yawara! Zutto kimi no koto ga from 1996]

1:30min Series Opening - YouTube Vid
Episode Details 
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent 7 7 7 6 8 8 Ggultra2764 [series:18#1552]
To think I've been dragging my heels over completing this one the past several months. I was surprised to discover that this was one of Naoki Urasawa's earlier works considering his work on mystery/ thrillers like Master Keaton and Monster. Yawara is a bit more lighter in mood as a sports rom-com in its focus on our titular heroine being dragged into the world of judo competitions due to her natural talent and life-long training for the sport, despite not wanting anything to do with it. The series follows Yawara from high school to her time in the working world as her natural skills as a judoka lead her to become an international sensation due to her abilities.

On the plus side, Yawara does a mostly solid job with developing Yawara's character throughout the series as she seeks to live her life normally. But due to circumstances regularly turning against her and her grandfather's manipulations, her regular life and participating in the judo world blur together as she encounters a number of characters throughout the series who come to befriend or rival her due to her talents in judo such as reporter Matsuda, rich girl Sayaka, the Canadian judoka Jody and the cold Soviet judoka Anna. These help Yawara slowly mellow out of her desire for normalcy throughout the series and her reasons for not wanting anything to do with judo get further explored as the series progresses.

In regards to supporting characters to the series, they are a bit hit or miss. Some get a decent amount of fleshing out and make for interesting characters to see develop like Matsuda and even Fujiko, Yawara's college friend from later in the show's run. Others don't get much fleshing out being reduced to archetypes and exist either as opponents for Yawara to overcome, comedic relief or showing off their more obnoxious habits. While I did not mind those serving as Yawara's opponents or comic relief, those who were more obnoxious and self-absorbed (mainly Yawara's grandpa Jigoro, Sayaka, womanizer Kazamatsuri and photographer Kuniko) did press my buttons at points as I watched the series, especially if the show chose to devote a good deal of time to focus on them.

The anime also does a great job at believably showing off the various rules and applications of judo for tournament competition. The normal weight classes, rules and point systems for competition; as well as the different grapples, throws and submissions utilized in spars and matches are authentically explored as such where judo enthusiasts will appreciate the authenticity. There is the occasional dependence on drama tropes in some shoddy attempts to create tense moments and Yawara being mostly unstoppable against her opponents kills some of the intrigue of her matches, but this doesn't get in the way of the authenticity of judo competitions that Naoki Urasawa shows off for this series.

While having some hiccups, Yawara is a mostly solid sports rom-com exploring Yawara trying to juggle her life as a normal girl and gifted judo-ka, while also doing a great job at believably portraying the sport it focuses on. While sports anime mostly struggle at finding an audience due to heavy focus on their sport of focus, Yawara does a decent enough job to balance focus between judo and the ongoing storylines involving Yawara and other characters within her life. This is one of the better sports-themed anime titles to watch if the genre grabs your interest.

Last updated Friday, July 01 2016. Created Friday, July 01 2016.
Rent Jan-Chan [series:18#967]
This series is really a RENT+ or a BUY-.

Be warned that this is an old series (1989-92) so the quality of the animation might be lacking when compared to the currrent standards, but the story that it tells is timeless. The anime character of Yawara is strongly associated with ↗Ryoko_Tamura, a Japanese Judoka who won a Silver medal in Women's Judo in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The main character, Yawara is a normal teenaged girl who just wants to be 'normal', but she has the uncommon skill of being a superb Judo athlete - someone strong enough to compete at an Olympic level. So with her grandfather continually tricking and trapping her into competing in regional and national competitions, she slowly comes to accept her ability. With the support of her school friends and the attentions of a couple of romance interests, she begins to take the competition seriously and begins to climb in the national standings.

A R1-boxed set (6 DVDs with 40 subtitled episodes) has been released by AnimEigo and has been reviewed by Carl Kimlinger of ANN.

Of a historical note, AnimEigo is an old NY-based Japanese-anime licensing company that started strong in early '90s, and then just evaporated into obscurity. But they still hold the license for a number of classic and timeless series - such as the animated romance classic KOR and the live-action Samurai classic - ↗Lone Wolf & Cub. Well in August of 2006, they popped up again to license Yawara and release it to the R1 market.

Last updated Tuesday, June 16 2009. Created Sunday, January 04 2009.
Buy 7 6 8 7 9 8 Bryan [series:18#14]
I've come to really like this series, though I've only seem the first 8, out of 124, episodes (that's 6.45% for those of you scoring at home). Maybe this is because its the kind of thing I wouldn't feel too embarrassed about if a neighbor came over while I was watching it. Considering it was a TV show which ran from 1989 to 1992, the production value is really good; quite a bit better than say Marmalade Boy which this series predated by two years.

It also has a great plot, the kind of thing that a grownup can sit there and watch and not keep telling himself, "I'm watching this for the art, don't try and follow it, look at the art". Nope, we have three different story lines ongoing, all of which have really well realized characters with quirky, unique personalities. Yawara's "rival" is perhaps a touch on the Project A-ko side for my liking, but just a touch. Yawara's grandfather's character is way over the top; but considering most old people in anime are way Way WAY over the top, Jigoro is almost subtle by comparison and downright hysterical. The other major story line is that of the Third Rate Newspaper reporter who is trying to out Yawara as a judo prodigy. I was surprised at well his motivations were explained.

Anyway, at least through the first 8 episodes, this is a character driven show which happens to be about judo. I was afraid that it would be sort of DBZ (shudder) meets Ranma (tiny shudder), but it is really, really a good story. I'm very happy about this, and I hope this balance is maintained as the series progresses.

I also like her friends. They are the anti-anime high school girls. One is over-weight, one is, well, cosmetically challenged, one is just sort of plain. Even Yawara's rival has a fake tooth. Little imperfections like this really add up to make the characters believable. And the judo matches themselves almost adhere to Newtonian Physics. The movements, transport of mass and all that stuff almost look plausible. Not quite, and Yawara can throw a mean heavy object if you catch her in the tub, but I enjoyed the effort they put into the judo itself.

And I'm really taken with Yawara's character design. I've never seen the original manga, but I bet it has more to do with Yoshinori Kanemori, who did the actual character designs of the series. Plain by comparison to the blue-haired big-purple-eyed characters of some anime which came out just a year or two later, Yawara's design really grows on you. She actually looks different at different times, which I find to be a lot of fun to watch. I just wish http://www.jdillon.prohosting.com/tutorial/index.html ">Julie's How to Draw Anime would do a Yawara tutorial, because I sure as heck can't draw!

In summary, if you want magical girl fancy goo goo yadda yadda, go elsewhere. If you want great characters and a great plot - ippon!

Last updated Thursday, December 09 1999. Created Thursday, December 09 1999.

Other Sites
IMDB http://us.imdb.com/Title?%22Yawara%21%22+(1989)
Hitoshi Doi's page http://www.tcp.com/doi/yawara/yawara.html
Official Japanese Series Web Page http://www.madhouse.co.jp/works/w_tyawara.html

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