Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl

TV (124 eps)
1989 - 1992
3.623 out of 5 from 477 votes
Rank #4,084

Yawara just wants to be a normal girl. Her grandfather, though, has different plans. He has been training her every day in judo since she was a baby so that one day she could win an Olympic Medal. Now, with her grandfather trying to set up her debut match and magazine reporters watching her every movement, will she be able to keep her normal life?

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Reviews

RKasa
7

One of my favorite things to do while watching the first 40 episodes of Yawara! (localized by AnimEigo with some incredibly detailed translation notes) has been to speculate why Viz Media hasn't published Naoki Urasawa's original manga. There's some underage drinking, although not nearly as much as in Kimagure Orange Road, which Viz had previously passed on. Yawara! is a long series, and also an older one, neither of which work in its favor. Ultimately, however, another major point against it is that unlike just about every other Urasawa series Viz has published, Yawara! is a Rumiko Takahashi-esque comedy filled with difficult-to-translate wordplay, and would therefore not fit in with those other works. Some of the regular Urasawa touches are present in Yawara! It features a large ensemble cast, and most all of its members are distinctive archetypes. This time around, the spunky, headstrong girl is the main character, Yawara Inokuma, which is something that wouldn't happen again in a long Urasawa work until recently (Asa Asada in Asadora!). Yawara is a once-in-a-generation judo prodigy who has been forced to train from a young age by her grandfather Jigoro, but dreams of being an ordinary high school girl living an ordinary life: wearing cute clothes, dating boys, and applying to a prestigious women's junior college. Jigoro is her main obstacle, and although he's presented more as an obstacle than a villain, he's probably the worst character in the whole show. An accomplished judoka himself, his current dream is for Yawara to win a gold medal in judo at the Olympics as well as the National Merit Award, and stops at nothing to get in her way whenever she expresses interest in anything else. He's stubborn, manipulative, prone to exaggeration, and would't hesitate to deceive Yawara if the results would work in his favor, even if it would leave her in physical pain. Jigoro is undoubtedly a major reason why Yawara tries to distance herself from judo. Judo, however, continues to cross paths with Yawara. Rich highscooler and accomplished sportswoman Sayaka sets up a one-sided rivalry with Yawara on the judo mat, which becomes two-sided when it comes to love. The object of their affections is the college student Kazamatsuri, a playboy who, as it turns out, is also a well-regarded judo coach. Thrown into this mix is the sports reporter Matsuda, who first discovers Yawara when she throws a thief, and eventually gets involved in the rom-com shenanigans as well. Later on, Yawara becomes involved with her school's struggling judo club, befriending its members and leading to club president Hanazono developing a crush on Yawara. Amongst the most likeable characters are Yawara's mom, who is supportive of her daughter and helps her out when it comes to dealing with Jigoro, and Jody, a good-natured, top-ranked judoka from Canada with whom Yawara enjoys judo for the first time in her life. Even though the characters are all types we've seen before in the likes of Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 (the latter of which aired around the same time as Yawara!), the storytelling more closely resembles Maison Ikkoku's, with a clear plotline running through the show and a believable progression of time. There are standalone stories, sure, but they all work in service to the core plot of Yawara, despite her best efforts, steadily ascending to the top of the judo world. This being a sports series, scenes of competition are naturally included, several of which showcase the drama and tension that the genre is known for. The single best episode of the first third of the show involves one of these competitions, during which a mysterious spectator shows up; the composition and sound editing of the shots in this episode's most dramatic moments call to mind later Madhouse shows like Trigun. The Japanese voice acting is a joy to listen to, with Jigoro's seiyuu doing an especially good job, and the music is typical for anime of its time, not much more or less. If you enjoy older action rom-coms like Ranma 1/2, then you may enjoy Yawara! Some elements of the show, particularly Jigoro's antics, haven't aged well, but others remain fun and/or heartwarming. There's less of an emphasis on the sporting side of things as in other sports anime, which may make this easier to get into if you don't know much about judo. If you're a fellow Urasawa fan, it's worth checking out even if only to see how he handles both comedy and sports, but may not leave as strong an impression as his more famous (in the West) dramatic works.

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