Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl
Inokuma Yawara is a fairly typical girl. Average looking, easy-going, loves boy bands. You know the type. Unfortunately for her, her grandfather, Inokuma Jigoro, wants her to take up the family tradition of judo, and Yawara just happens to be extremely talented at it. So, despite her protestations, Jigoro sets her up as the rising star of the sport, and Yawara must train for her ultimate goal - the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Yawara ran about the same time as Ranma 1/2. Both of them had to do with martial arts, though Yawara is far more realistic about it. Both have comedic bits in them. And both were very highly rated throughout their 100+ episode runs. So why do so few people in the West know about Yawara?
For starters, the visuals aren't as "crowd-friendly" as Ranma. Yawara herself is average as far as anime standards are concerned, and there aren't any characters with hair more wildly colored than brown. Also, the rather technical nature of how judo is handled puts off anime fans who'd rather see characters flying through the air. Not to mention that the series dates itself instantly - considering that Barcelona was in 1992 (this series started in 1989), the style of the series doesn't age particularly well, and you can't even begin to pretend that this is present-day.
However, that's where all the excuses end. Yawara, when one actually takes the time to look past the somewhat creaky animation and limited color palette, is a charming, gentle series that deals less with the culture of martial arts than an extremely talented and charming girl who'd like nothing more than to be normal again. Of course, her extremely pushy (and quite hypocritical) grandfather would like nothing more than her becoming a champion judo practitioner. He was a champion himself (a point he makes -quite- clear throughout the series) and he doesn't particularly care what Yawara thinks, so long as she does as she's told. (Or as she's manipulated.) He evens sets up a "rival" for Yawara, though she's less a rival than comic relief. And, of course, there's all of Yawara's friends, and that sports reporter for the local rag who's taken quite a shine to her...
Yawara has a lot of -real- rivals, as well as taking on the responsibility of training her own school's rather lackluster judo club (don't worry, they get better!). The plot, though quite simple, is interesting, and the very nature of Yawara's grandpa throws lots of wrinkles into it, just to be fun. The music is charming, if also low-key and dated compared to today's anime.
Where Yawara beats Ranma is in actual character development (come to think of it, the characters in Ranma don't really develop, so much as get introduced than beaten up) and plot. Unfortunately, it is comparatively inaccessible to most anime fans, especially those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, or those newer to the medium. Also, it hasn't been picked up by any American distributors, as it's quite a long series with a really small audience, so it's not considered worth the investment. Which is a shame, because Yawara is definitely worthwhile, even if you don't have the slightest clue what "Ippon!" means.
Dated animation and plot take this down a bit, but it's still a wonderful TV show. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Nothing too objectionable that I could think of. The usual sports bumps and bruises and one panty shot (that's part of the plot, though). No nudity or anything even indicative of innuendo.
Version(s) Viewed: digital source
Review Status: Partial (16/124)
Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl © 1989 Urazawa Naoki / Kitty Films / Madhouse
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