Monday, April 21, 2008

Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl

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Original release by MasterDark, FrothBite, LiveEvil


Synopsis (taken from t.h.e.m. anime reviews):

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.

---


This is a pretty old series. It looks old and it feels old. Just imagine an anime heroine whose greatest wish is to become a housewife. Very very old. :)

But it has it's charms.

This is basically a sports anime. Sports anime are usually a big turnoff for me unless it's martial arts. Ok, judo is counted among martial arts but it's not as spectacular as Kung-Fu, Tae-Kwon-Do, Boxing (check out Hajime no Ippo) or anything else. And let's face it: The heroine doesn't look like your typical martial arts hero. It's a typical small japanese girl you'll never spot in a crowd of modern girl protagonists.

And if the visuals ain't bad enough, her character is the perfect companion to her unspectacular looks (check the synopsis above). The only thing about her breaking the norms is her talent for judo, which was honed to perfection by her grandfather. She easily throws opponents many times her weight, choke-holds guys with arms larger than her tighs and absentmindedly wins tournaments she didn't even plan on going to.


She does in fact hate judo. This doesn't stop her grandfather from manipulating her and everyone else from into aquiring a rival, making headlines in sports newspapers and going to even more tournaments - all in order to win a gold medal at the olympics to boost is super-sized ego.

And thats the gist of the story. Yawara doesn't want to do judo but her grandfather tricks her into doing it. Yaware quits judo and feels compelled to continue. Then she threatens to quit and relents. Then she really quits and returns. Repeat from start. This pattern follows you throughout the whole series or at least the parts that I watched - but I can make an educated guess for the rest of the episodes.

Another recurring pattern is her petty rival (which was created by Jigoro, her grandfather) who constantly challenges her in competitions Yaware ain't even interested in, her awkward romances with a womanizer (although she manages to be oblivious to that for the whole series, specials included), her other romance with a sports reporter - a romance both vehemently deny and the constant manipulations by Jigoro.

By my estimate the plot is good enough for 26 episodes but they stretched it to a whopping 124. They managed this by NOT doing it the Naruto way (which is recycling 5 minutes of old episodes for flashbacks in every bloody episode). They did it by making tiny little sidestories. Slices of life. Yawara making out, meeting friends, going to highschool, deciding for club activitesm etc. . In short: Soap opera anime style.


Like I said, it has it's charms but it can certainly become boring if you value a more plot driven entertainment. Nevertheless I found myself watching one episode after another on my ipod, even though I had plenty of alternatives. And even now, while I'm writing these lines, I haven't got a clue why I continued watching a visually unappealing, boring, old, repetetive and predictable series to the end. Must be the charm I mentioned before.

Sex & Violence: The show opens with a big fat pantyshot. You'll occasionally see Yawara in her underwear. You'll also see her throwing people around, but they either earned it or are sports opponents. This show ain't about sex or violence and you won't get any apart from what I mentioned.


Conclusion:
Old fashioned sports anime without many merits. Slice-of-life anime, but with so many slices that you'll get the whole pie. Charming, but you have to try for yourself.

Small note: This release has 57 episodes plus two "Special" episodes. The whole series ran over 124 episodes, though, so you might think that you'll miss most of the story. However, from what I've seen from the series it doesn't look like you'll miss too much storywise. What you get is the whole beginning of the series, the early tournaments, the introduction of her main friends / rivals, and a glimpse into Yawara's high school years. You'll also get the conclusion of the series (that's what the special episodes are), so you basically get the whole package.

Trivia: Yawara has a real life counterpart by the name of Ryoko Tani, although Yawara wasn't inspired by her. The manga ran from 1986 to 1993 with the anime in between. 1992 she won olympic silver in Barcelona (although Jigoro wanted the Barcelona gold for Yawara), silver in 1996 Atlanta and gold in every competition she participated in afterwards. She is now and forever stuck with the nickname "Yawara-Chan".

32 comments:

Textureheap said...

This is a wonderful series, from what I've seen so far, I'm leaning toward calling it a masterpiece. The story flows so well, the screen play and characters are very engaging. It's clear the director really knew his stuff, no sappointments here. Well, other than it may be some time before one can see episodes later than 57.

DirtyFinger said...

you could try to learn Spanish . I think they have them all dubbed.

But if you consider that, you might as well learn Japanese .

Anonymous said...

Umm, actually, the R1 DVD's are coming out pretty soon. You won't need to wait all that long, especially considering how long many other people have been waiting given the age of the show.

DirtyFinger said...

pretty soon after all these years ?

well, it will take some time til they make it to episode 57 and beyond. :)
I couldn't wait and watched the ending but it didn't feel like I spoiled the series by doing that. :)

Anonymous said...

While its true that an offical R1 release of Yawara! is coming (indeed, I have already pre-ordered my copy!), they are only planning on releasing the first 40 episodes this year, so even if they do end up releasing all of it, it's going to be at least a couple years before they finish the series. Thanks to Frothbite we can at least watch eps 41-57, plus the specials, long before we can hope to see an offical release. Thanks, Frothbite!

wow gold said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tofusensei said...

Representing Live-eviL Fansubs, I wish you wouldn't post our fansubs after the license has been acquired. In this case, Animeigo has already released the first forty episodes of the show in an excellent DVD set. Please buy it instead: http://www.animeigo.com

We do not condone your actions and wish you'd rethink what you are doing before you post licensed anime like this.

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