Yawara! is a sports anime laced with comedic and romance elements. It starts off with Yawara Inokuma, a high school girl who is most interested in doing the things that your average Japanese high school girl does; however, she has been trained in Judo for years by her grandfather, Jigorou (A former Japan Judo Champion), who has much grander plans in store for her as a Judo superstar. He manipulates matters so that Yawara ends up having to perform in matches and tournaments. His final plan is for Yawara to "Win the Gold Medal in the Olympics and be awarded the Nation Medal of Honor."
#1: "Stand by Me" by Rika Himenogi (eps 1-43) #2: "Egao wo Sagashite" by Midori Karashima (eps 44-81) #3: "Shoujo Jidai" by Yuko Hara (eps 82-102) #4: "Itsumo Soko ni Kimi ga Ita" by LAZY LOUs BOOGIE (eps 103-124)
It never gets old !! Even for an anime from 1989, set in Tokyo 1986, this is an old school sensational piece of work. The story is based in the manga from the famous Naoki Urasawa, and it is one of the best sold seinens in the history of Japan, almost 39 milion copies. Oddly enough it is a very unknowkn anime outside Japan, and it has never been dubbed to english, nor spanish.... love the main character, the story, the and the good mix of comedy, drama, romance, sport.... Definitevely, one of my favourites old school animes. 10/10
This is not a sports anime really. The story is about a Judo prodigy named Yawara, who doesn't really like the idea of doing Judo. But it is sort of the family trade and she doesn't have the - I am going to go with the word backbone here for the lack of a better description - to put her foot down so she does Judo even though she strongly dislikes the idea. But hey, everybody else seems to love the idea that she does it, so she does it.
This is the whole plot of this anime. It is said in the description on
many websites that it is a sports anime but in my opinion it is a shoujo'ish slice of life anime with the touch of sports in it. The plot moves along the same track over and over in an eternal loop, "She dislikes Judo, she is going to stop, something happens, she does it, and she wins." Then the circle starts again. The sport Judo is not the focal point, it is the reason. At the end of 124 episodes you are left with the impression that she doesn't hate the sports that much anymore but that is it. That is all the real satisfaction you get out of the whole plot of a 124 episodes long anime.
The art reminded me a little of Itazura na Kiss. I am not a giant fan of that style but I don't hate it either. At least they do have "real" bodies and no matchstick limbs with watermelon sized chest area and giant heads with triangular noses. All the characters are distinguishable and no two characters look the same.
All I can say is, it didn't bother me. There was nothing outstanding for me, no piece of music I started tapping my foot to or started mumbling the words unconsciously.
If I tell you they annoyed the hell out of me to the point where I started assembling assassination plans for imaginary drawn people, it is an understatement.
Inokuma Yawara: Is the main protagonist. She is a whiny, indecisive, weak and a not very smart girl who wants to have a boyfriend and thinks she cant have one unless she doesn't do Judo. She gets older but does not really evolve in my opinion during the whole 124 episodes.
The Grandfather Yawara: A manipulative old Judo "God" whose only objective is to gather certain medals through his grandchild. Said grandchild could be Male, femaie, plankton or alien. He is not really prejudiced. As long as that holy Judo family genes and -name bearing being practices Judo. To meet his objectives he is not above or below anything that could help this purpose. Admittedly he does provide a comedic relief now and then.
The mother and the father: Each a piece of work. Father up and left. We really do not know exactly why, even though there are two theories, both Judo related. Apparently he is a wimp and a wuss and a sore loser. He left, either because a five year old bested him once or he lost a practice match to one of his friends/rivals. ONCE. After that, he left his wife and daughter and vanished. He is like yeti, they hear stories about him but he is always elusive. And the mother is the yeti hunter. Whenever there is a story of the yeti-father the mother runs to check it, and doesn't come back until she knows more. This could be a day, a month a year. Who knows. We don't.
Love interests.: There are two. One is a playboy, the other is a fan-boy. The playboy gets engaged to the rival. And lo and behold, the Miss goodie 2shoes-protogonist doesn't really see anything wrong still going out with an engaged man and hanging on to him. The fan-boy gets at some point a bo..bie-wonder attachment, a co-worker who decided they are in love. The guy doesn't really like her. He says he likes Yawara, but doesn't really tell the annoying co-worker off, they go on dates, but hey, the guy likes the main character. Same goes for the playboy by the way. But at the end of the day they are both very lukewarm in their pursuit of the girl.
Friends are more or less interchangeable. the main rival is annoying and repetitive at best. And there is no real tension in the air, because she is too mediocre and too lukewarm to be a real villian and yet she is too villainous to become a friend. Oddly enough the only characters that evolve in my opinion are the ones from the judo clubs. Both High school and the College one. But the main characters and the first string supporting characters are always the same. Yawara is whiny, Grandpa is manipulative, mother is a doormat, father is, well, I don't have a polite word to describe him. So think your own words. The rival and the lover-boys also are always the same. Really, I could go on this raging negative review for 50 pages and I would still be annoyed. And this is coming form somebody who actually got over middle-aged looking middle school boys with supernatural tennis shots and glowing, flying bodies for over 178 episodes with giant plot holes.
In episode 1 Yawara is in high school. She doesn't have a boyfriend, but she has a few friends. She is real good at Judo and she wants to quit Judo. 124 episodes later: Yawara is in college, she doesn't have a boyfriend, but she has a few friends. She is real good at Judo and she is kinda sorta maybe ok doing Judo. 124 episodes. And that is all that there is.
Altogether, this is NOT a sports anime. This is a shoujo, slice of life, useless personal angst and drama anime, where sports play a role. I am guessing at the time they were trying to create a hype for the upcoming Olympics in Barcelona but apart from a countdown and an honorable mention at the final arc (About 30 days before the Olympics they START training to join the team. Yes you read it right. I said 30 days and start)
That all said, before I got this anime I checked all around and there are more glowing reviews of this anime than not. I am apparently odd ball out here. Still, if you are searching for a sports anime, watch the first couple of episodes before obtaining the entire series. You know, just to be on the safe side.
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.