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)
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.
Hi, let's start by saying I am a big classic anime fan and Yawara is one of the best ones I watched. The review will cover all Story, Animation, Sound, Character, and Enjoyment.
The Story talk about "Inokuma, Yawara" a 3rd-year high school girl, She has been practicing Judo since childhood with her grandfather. However, she never played a real judo match ever, so no one knows about her. Until one day a reporter called "Kousaku Matsuda" for the Daily Sports Newspaper discover her talent by accident, and he wants her to play judo and won a gold medal in the Olympics. In the
other hand, Yawara does not like to judo, she wants to be a normal girl, having a normal friend's normal job and most importantly normal love. So the story is about Yawara's life between judo and having a normal girl life.
The anime aired at 1989, at that time this is the best you can get, however, we are in the present now so it pretty old, the animation is not amazing, however in few episodes you will get used to it, the girls' characters are not that cute the guys are not so handsome. However, I have to give some credit to the amazing judo fight spatially for Yawara's fights are so exciting and fun to watch.
The sounds are good, it is an ok sound for both voice acting and the music. The voice acting was done perfectly for the main characters and somewhat fine for the supporting characters. The music is all classics, and it fit the anime moment so much, the opening and the ending were ok, nothing is so amazing but it works.
Characters are the main strong point for this anime, all three main Characters "Inokuma, Yawara", "Inokuma, Jigorou" and "Matsuda, Kousaku" are well developed throughout the series, Yawara changed a lot in the anime from an average teenage girl to a wonderful woman the you will feel so attached to her. And the way the main love interest in the anime developed was fantastic. When it comes to The supporting characters there are the really good ones that have a great development, and some bad annoying and useless ones.
The main enjoyment of this anime is not the judo but getting to know the characters and seeing their life throughout the series, yes it is a Slice of Life anime that focus on Yawara's life and how every step she makes lead to a happy or sad outcome. The attachment to Yawara's life, her school life her friend's life, her love life is what makes this anime so fun to watch. So if you looking for a good slice of life anime with some romance Yawara is for you.
Naoki Urasawa's an interesting fellow. An award winning mangaka, he's probably best known in the English anime fandom for "Monster", a dark, psychological manga from which sprung an anime of the same name, an anime that critics often trot out when compiling their "Best Anime" lists. (Disclosure: it's also on mine, though whether I count as a critic is debatable.) Given Urasawa's crendentials, you probably wouldn't expect him to have also written a manga that gave rise to a bright and chirpy long running sports anime adaptation about a young girl doing judo. That anime is "Yawara!", or to give it its full title, "Yawara!
A Fashionable Judo Girl!"
Wait! Come back! Before you dismiss "Yawara!" on the basis of its silly title and sports premise, remember this is Naoki Urasawa we're talking about! While he did write "Yawara!" early on in his career, you don't need to look hard under the hood to see the interesting details that distinguishes "Yawara!" from a typical lengthy sports anime.
In many ways, "Yawara!" is a subversive take on the sports genre. A typical sports anime would start off by introducing some total n00b that gets attracted to some sport, and it would turn out that The N00b(TM) is immensely talented in the said sport. Early on, The N00b(TM) would meet a rival who is far ahead in terms of skill level, The N00b(TM) would be inspired to work very hard to catch up with The Rival(TM) and they would form a rivalry that runs throughout the show. Etc.
Well, "Yawara!" mostly dumps this formula on its head.
Yawara, the titular character, just wants to be a normal girl. Unfortunately for her, she comes from a family of elite judo athletes. While both her parents are alive (which theoretically puts her in a better position than most anime protagonists), they're both AWOL so she's being raised by her grandfather (which effectively puts her in the same position as most anime protagonists). Her grandfather, being a famous judo champ, has trained Yawara hard from a young age in the hope that she'll also be a champion some day and even win an Olympic gold medal. But Yawara would much rather go shopping and date boys than do judo, and the story essentially revolves around her grandfather and a bunch of other people pushing Yawara towards greatness in spite of her reluctance.
The first thing to note is that this is not a zero-to-hero story: despite not having participated in any tournaments, Yawara's power level at the start of the show is well beyond even those of a typical rival character in a sports show. Rather amusingly, the show then proceeds to find a n00b rival who has to catch up to Yawara! You can even say that "Yawara!" is a sports show in name only: it takes about five episodes before we even see the protagonist participate in a proper fight. And while the matches are well animated and executed in their action sequences, they're often over quickly, rarely dragging its feet across multiple episodes as sports anime are wont to do. To top it off, the protagonist doesn't even like judo, and spends most of the series trying to get away from it.
So what do you call a sports anime that's not very sporty? In the case of "Yawara!", I'd probably call it a sitcom. Like all good sitcoms, "Yawara!" provides good entertainment value and comfortable viewing; its comedy brims with warmth and its characters quirk and charm. I find Yawara's grandfather Jigoro to be especially amusing: a lot of the show's running jokes involve him, such as his habit of inflating his judo rank and his tireless and shameless promotion of his book. What tickled me the most is how unexpectedly far the anime managed to take his habit of ending all his sentences in "ja". Amusements aside, many characters of "Yawara!" are also infused with depth, with "Beanpole" in particular going through an incredible amount of development in the course of the show.
Unfortunately, the generally strong and endearing cast of characters only ends up highlighting Yawara herself as rather unlikable. Her constant rejection of judo is taken so far that the show can be teeth-clenchingly frustrating to watch. That said, it does end up providing a lot of food for thought: for the longest time, I couldn't make up my mind whether the anime's views about women are progressive or outdated. After all, not only does Yawara harbour no ambitions of becoming a champion, her own lofty dreams consists of going shopping, finding a boyfriend etc, and one of the reasons she rejects judo is because she thinks it makes her less feminine. Also, considering Japan isn't exactly a shining beacon of progress when it comes to attitudes on women's role in society, and it's easy see "Yawara!" in a cynical light. On the other hand, the female characters of "Yawara!" tend to be more successful than their male counter parts, and it's the men who are playing the supporting parts. For an anime to make this role reversal in the 80s - or arguably even now - it has to be making a pretty powerful feminist statement, right? Is Yawara's lack of ambition perhaps meant as a critical reflection on a society that nurtures women to do nothing beyond dress prettily and start a family? Whatever the anime's intentions, this is the aspect of "Yawara!" that fascinated me the most, and I find myself continuing to ponder back on it long after I finished the show.
"Yawara!" also has other aspects that sets it beyond a light-hearted sitcom. Not dragging out judo matches means that the show actually ends up covering a lot of ground in its characters' lives over the course of its 100+ episode run. Yawara starts the the show in school, then goes to college, then ultimately graduates into the job market. Along the way, the anime takes its characters down surprisingly mature routes such as job hunting and parenthood. Judo may be the topic, but "Yawara" is at least as much about its characters' hopes and fears, dreams and ambitions, and general lives. However, with so much development going on in so many areas, I was all the more frustrated with the fact that the only notable aspect of "Yawara!" that settles into the status quo is the main romance.
Don't get me wrong: Yawara's romance thread isn't exactly bad, and there are even pockets of tenderness worthy of a great romance anime. The problem though, is that in the big picture, the main romance is locked in a boringly familiar dance of two step forward, one step back, then one step forward, two steps back, never quite going anywhere significant. This displays in stark contrast against other side characters' love stories, which, like the general trend in "Yawara!", go further and faster than what you would expect.
It's a shame, really: the main strength of "Yawara!" is built on its quiet, thoughtful, delightful unconventionality. But the few aspects that remain conventional is what holds "Yawara!" back, and ultimately those are what end up preventing the show transcending from merely being very good to being great.
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.