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blamspam's Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl Tv Review

Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl tv Review

Yawara Inokuma appears to be the average Japanese school girl, but she's hiding a great secret - she's a judo prodigy, and her grandfather has trained her for as long as she can remember. After foiling a robbery with her judo skills, Yawara gains fame and her career gets launched as the greatest judo player in Japan. Yawara doesn't want all that - she wants nothing more than to find love and be pretty, and being a judo champion gets in the way of her dreams. How can Yawara accept the path of international stardom and still get what she wants? In her incredible journey in pursuit of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she encounters new rivals, new friends, and who she truly is.

Synopsis by blamspam.

Story & Characters

Yawara Inokuma is, as put by the title, a fashionable judo girl. Raised to be a judo master since she was born, she hides this talent from everyone but her grandfather, her coach, wishing instead to do the things every average Japanese girl does. This changes one day when a daily sports newspaper reporter catches her using judo to foil a robbery, and soon after is her debut into the judo world, when she quickly becomes Japan's sweetheart with her amazing ippon zeoi. But Yawara doesn't want to be everyone's sweetheart - she wants to be the sweetheart of one cute boy one day and another the next, and would rather get pretty new clothes than the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics her grandfather always raves on about. Between the demands of her grandfather and the hopes of the public for her, Yawara feels forced into the sport she was born for. The series follows her judo career, pursuits of other aspirations and romance as well as high school and college life through a deeply personal lens with sensitivity and humor.

You don't have to know the first thing about judo (like I didn't) to enjoy this series. The character's hopes, struggles and fears are so universal that you hardly feel like you're watching a cartoon, much less a sports cartoon, in the first place. Males and females of any age can get into this series. I was actually surprised to learn that the manga ran in a seinen magazine - or a magazine for men past teenage age. The elements of shoujo and shounen combine perfectly, making it accessible to all ages.

Part of this appeal is the characters. Anyone who's ever been a teenager or young adult will recognize themselves in Yawara - and probably will have to forgive some frustration she causes along with it. Yawara is caring, a good sport, full of life, helpful, trusting, a great leader, sincere, and honest - but also indecisive, fretful, stubborn, weepy, and blind to her own talent. There are times you want to cheer for her, and wish she would get a lesson taught to her at the same time. She has 120 episodes to grow, and a timeline of four years, but there are times it seems like she stays perpetually 17. The most interesting aspects of her character is what is reflected through the supporting characters. These supporting characters and the dynamic between them and her are what makes this story as great as it is.

Jigoro, Yawara's grandpa and judo coach, is both the character who believes in Yawara's ability the most and believes in Yawara's own dreams the least. He is twice as stubborn as Yawara and both utterly senile and utterly cunning at the same time. A lot of the series' funniest moments come from him and his antics. It's interesting that depending on which view you take towards the main character, he could be one of the main antagonists.

The series' ongoing antagonist is actually Sayaka, the rich girl who got tired of her toys early and has taken up - and become champion of - a long list of sports, not finding interest in judo until Yawara and her cross paths. At the beginning of the series, she's nothing but comic relief. By the end, she has become a true judo champion and a real threat to Yawara. This transformation and maturation is portrayed fairly realistically.

Of course, then, comes the romance. The two rivals for Yawara's love give the series some of its funniest moments when they are together. The first, Matsuda, is the sports reporter bored with writing nothing but scandal pieces. He is thrilled to bits upon the discovery of Yawara's talent - sports superstars inspire him, and the way they grip him emotionally makes him a great journalist. The more time he spends chasing her, the farther his feelings grow from starry-eyed admiration and the closer they come to romance. And then there's Kazamatsuri, the Ryo Saeba-esque (the resemblance become funnier knowing that they share a voice actor) good-looking playboy executive. He feels differently about Yawara than about all the other notches on his bedpost. She blushes over his attention - and he think he can catch her, if only she never finds out about the twenty-some other girls.

A third of the way through the story, a very important character befriends Yawara, that I sadly cannot reveal that much about without spoiling a big plot twist. Fujiko Ito, Yawara's college friend, is a great foil and friend to Yawara. Instead of being a champion and prodigy like Yawara, Fujiko is always second best, and works tirelessly with very little to show for it in all she does. Yet her attitude is far better than Yawara's. Fujiko and Yawara learn from each other and teach each other in both judo and life, and their friendship is one of the most beautiful things about this series. Despite Fujiko's flaws and quirks, she emerges as one of the best role models for young females in this series.

What would a sports series be without a lineup of rivals? An interesting dynamic the series brings is when Yawara's national rivals become her teammates when competing internationally. One likable rival is Jody Rockwell, Yawara's friendly Canadian judo opponent who becomes her friend and inspiration throughout the series. She brings an element of comedy with the relationship between the culture of Japan and the rest of the world. All of Yawara's international rivals - Teleshikova, the stereotypical terrifying Russian of Japanese media, is one big player - all meet up again in the post-season finale special in a very neat package to tie up loose ends.

All of the supporting characters - both of Yawara's ragtag Judo teams, coworkers, coaches, and classmates - add their own unique flavors to the mix, whether it's the frail "Kyon-Kyon the Shadow" or Hanazono, Yawara's overly-sensitive but sweet supporter from high school who manages to hang on for the whole series.

Yawara's mother, a very real and sweet character, shows up from time to time to not only guide Yawara onto the right path that she may be straying from at the time, but to bring news of Yawara's father. Yawara's father ran away five years after she was born for some very messy reasons explained in the series. The answers to all the questions that arise because of this really keep you watching.

The series is probably 1/3 romance, 1/3 judo action, and 1/3 slice of life. The judo is very technical - if you're looking for ninja gymnastics or something like that, this is not what you're looking for. It's like watching real, well-performed judo when the tournaments in the series go on. Just because they're not fantastical doesn't mean they're not exciting. They're just exciting in the way that real sports are exciting.

Rating: 9

Art

The designs are unmistakeably Naoki Urusawa's - every character, major or minor, with a different, unique look, something rare in anime that's becoming increasingly homogenized. I had to give this a lower rating, though, because of how utterly dated the anime tends to look at times. The production value seems very good for its day, but definitely straight out of the 80's. I personal love classic cel animation, but without my personal bias, this series' art probably gets a 7 at best. I can't say enough good things about the character designs, though. Yawara, is, of course, "lovely and cute". It's interesting how her character design evolves from the first episode to the last. Again, though, her and Sayaka's designs instantly date the series with their side ponytails. Another issue that arises is the fashion. This Fashionable Judo Girl was certainly in the best fashion in the 80's. I was charmed by her outfits, but it's not easy to pretend that this series takes place in any other time but '89. The fashion angle is played up with the fact that Yawara has a new outfit every episode, something I appreciated.

Aside from Yawara and the others called attractive in-series, none of the characters have classically "anime-cute" designs. Jigoro is charmingly shriveled, Matsuda looks average-to-hungover, Hanazono is a big, unwieldy behemoth, and Fujiko is gangly with a long face to match. It definitely adds to how real the characters feel.

The fights are always well-animated, and of course, fun to watch. There's some nice scenery shots here and there, but most of all, the animation gives the experience of real, everyday 80s Tokyo.

Rating: 7

Sound

Catchy and cute as can be, the theme songs and endings are always like... well... a whole lot of 80's pop: Fun but not necessarily anything special. There are some really nice emotional themes within the OST, but they too are not anything outstanding. The maturation of the music style from season to season is something to watch for. Far more interesting in the OST is the seiyuu work. Famous voices like Yuko Minaguchi, Akira Tamiya, and Ichiro Nagai show up. All of the voices are well-suited, Yawara's in particular. Her voice makes her feel all the more vulnerable and appealing at the same time, with a great range of emotion. The actors playing foreign people speaking Japanese are also very funny. Altogether the seiyuu work is phenomenal, but the unoriginality of the soundtrack knocks it down to a 6.

Rating: 6

Presentation

Yawara! is a worthwhile series for anime fans of all walks of life. With elements of comedy, drama, action, slice-of-life, sports anime, and romance, it makes a person laugh, sigh, cry and cheer. It tends to be a tough sell, though, because of the lack of availability in most countries. It's interesting that it was advertised as a sister series to Ranma but became far more popular than that one in its own country... but we all know about the popularity of Ranma everywhere else. Yawara is a great story of one life that shouldn't be missed. If only somebody could be convinced of it. This series was not only an excellent look into the world of judo, but of Japanese culture as well. I've officially become a fan of Yawara. Ippon!

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

7.83 (good)

Reviewed by blamspam, Jan 14, 2012

Comments

  1. angelxxuan Banned Member Jan 15, 2012

    very nice review. I don't believe I've ever heard of this anime before, I might have to go looking for it, from what you placed it sounds interesting enough to hold my focus. I rarely watch sports style anime, but when a plot captures my attention I will give it a go. well when a review is good and raves about something or give it some positive comments I tend to look into it as well. you have come a long way in doing reviews, good to see such detail in a review but very little spoilers is granted. well done

  2. SnickerdoodleNinja Retired Moderator Jan 24, 2012

    Nuoh, why must this show be 120 episodes? It sounds like so much fun, but I don't handle long series well. ;_;

    Anyways, great review! You did a very nice job of explaining the plot thoroughly-enough info to intrigue the reader, but not enough to spoil anything for them. You were also really well-rounded in hitting the good and the bad of the series without seeming biased or, in the opposite extreme, like a robot. Look forward to reading more from you! :)

  3. jerry33 Feb 19, 2012

    Great review. Too bad only the first 40 episodes are available.

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