YAWARA!, also known as Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl, is a Japanese manga series by Naoki Urasawa which ran in Big Comic Spirits from 1986 to 1993. In 1990, it received the 35th Shogakukan Manga Award for general manga.
In 1989, Yomiuri TV (part of the Nihon TV network) began broadcasting an anime adaptation, which ran from October 16, 1989 through September 21, 1992 for a total of 124 episodes. Each episode ended with a countdown to the number of days remaining to the start of the Barcelona Olympics. The anime, produced by Kitty Film with animation by the Madhouse studio, aired on Japanese television contemporary with Kitty's Ranma 1/2, but achieved higher ratings than Ranma, despite the latter series' being more well-known outside Japan. AnimEigo licensed the TV series for North American distribution in August 2006. However, as of April 2010 AnimEigo has been unable to license the remaining episodes of the TV series for North American distribution.
The story is about Yawara Inokuma, a young girl who aspires to an ordinary life but who, due to her innate talent, is forced to keep practicing judo by her authoritarian grandfather, Jigorou Inokuma, with the aim of achieving championship in Japan and the gold medal in the Barcelona's 1992 Olympic Games. Because of all the pressure from her grandfather, she has a generally bad attitude about judo, avoiding it as much as she can. However, as the manga continues, she begins to understand why her grandfather so loves judo, and she begins to appreciate it more.
- Yawara Inokuma (猪熊 柔 Inokuma Yawara?) Voiced by: Yuko Minaguchi
- Yawara is a young girl who aspires to an ordinary life but who, due to her innate talent, is forced to keep practicing judo by her authoritarian grandfather. She is always having romantic daydreams about an ordinary life, her biggest dream being to find a boyfriend.
- Jigorou Inokuma (猪熊 滋悟郎 Inokuma Jigorou?) Voiced by: Ichirou Nagai
- Jigorou is the 7th-dan Judo Master and 5-time National Champion, his passion for judo is rivaled only by his love for Yawara and food. He has great expectations for Yawara's judo career, and is constantly pushing her to do her best and focus primarily on judo. His motto is "Judo was not built in a day". He also does work on the side as a bone-setting doctor.
- Sayaka Honami (本阿弥 さやか Honami Sayaka?) Voiced by: Yoshino Takamori
- Sayaka is an extremely spoiled daughter of one of Japan's richest families, she has never failed to dominate any sport she's cared to try, and when Yawara shows her up, she decides to stop at nothing to defeat her and becomes her rival. She has a false tooth, which is a sore point for her, and one that Yawara keeps accidentally bringing up.
- Shinnosuke Kazamatsuri (風祭 進之介 Kazamatsuri Shinnosuke?) Voiced by: Akira Kamiya
- Shinnosuke is one of the finest judo coaches in all of Japan, he idolizes Jigorou, and has been hired by Honami. Despite being incredibly shy, he is an unbelievable babe-magnet thanks to his good looks and caring personality. Unfortunately for him, for all the women in the world, and in particular, for Sayaka, the one girl he's got his eye on is Yawara.
- Kosaku Matsuda (松田 耕作 Matsuda Kosaku?) Voiced by: Toshihiko Seki
- A reporter working for a sports paper, Matsuda's becomes convinced Yawara is going to be the next great sports superstar.
- Kamoda (鴨田 Kamoda?) Voiced by: Chafurin
- A cameraman working for a sports paper, Kamoda seems to have a knack for taking "the perfect shot" for headlines.
- Hanazono Voiced by: Masashi Sugawara
- Hanazono, the large, overly-emotional captain of the judo club at Yawara's high school, he becomes devoted to Yawara when she comes to his attention as a skilled judoka.
- Sudoh is the resident bad boy at Yawara's high school, he begins to pester her when she starts making headlines, and acts as a foil to Hanazono. When Yawara becomes the high school judo club coach, he joins and is the only new member to withstand Yawara's rigorous training program.
- Jody Rockwell (ジョディ・ロックウェル Jodi Rokkuweru?) Voiced by: Miyuki Ichijou
- Jody is the previous year's female judo world champion, she is a Canadian who comes to challenge Yawara to a match part way into the series, becoming a friendly rival and regular character.
- Executive Producer (Kitty Film): Hidenori Taga
- Producers: Masao Maruyama (Madhouse), Satoshi Suzuki (Kitty), Michihiko Suwa (Yomiuri TV)
- Planning: Michihiko Suwa (Yomiuri TV), Shigekazu Ochiai (Kitty)
- Series Director: Hiroko Tokita
- Episode Directors: Hiroko Tokita, Katsuhisa Yamada, Akio Sakai, Junichi Sakata
- Head Screenwriter: Toshiki Inoue
- Script: Toshiki Inoue, Yoshiyuki Suga, Hiroyuki Kawasaki, Yoshimasa Takahashi
- Character Design: Yoshinori Kanemori
- Art Director: Yuji Ikeda
- Sound Director: Yasuo Uragami
- Animation Directors: Kunihiko Sakurai, Hirotsugu Yamazaki
- Music: Hideharu Mori
- Animation Production: Madhouse Studios
- Production: Kitty Film, Yomiuri TV
- "Miracle Girl" (ミラクル・ガール Mirakuru Gāru?): Eps. 01 - 43
- " Rain-Kissed Bouquet… " (雨にキッスの花束を Ame ni Kiss no Hanataba wo?): Eps. 44 - 81
- " Girl Can't Lose " (負けるな女の子! Makeruna Onnanoko!?): Eps. 82 - 102
- Lyrics and composition by: Yuko Hara
- Arrangement by: Takeshi Kobayashi
- Song by: Yuko Hara
- "YOU AND I": Eps. 103-124
- Lyrics and composition by: Taizou Junouchi
- Arrangement by: Takayuki Negishi
- Song by: Mariko Nagai
- "Stand By Me" (スタンド・バイ・ミー Sutando Bai Mī?): Eps. 01 - 43
- " Searching for a Smile " (笑顔を探して Egao wo Sagashite?): Eps. 44 - 81
- Lyrics and composition by: Midori Karashima
- Arrangement by: Kei Wakakusa
- Song by: Midori Karashima
- " Girl Era " (少女時代 Shōjo Jidai?): Eps. 82 - 102
- Lyrics and composition by: Yuko Hara
- Arrangement by: Takeshi Kobayashi, Keisuke Kuwata
- Song by: Yuko Hara
- " You Were Always There " (いつもそこに君がいた Itsumo Soko ni Kimi ga Ita?): Eps. 103 - 124
- Lyrics and composition by: LOU
- Arrangement by: Akihisa Matsura, LAZY LOU's BOOGIE
- Song by: LAZY LOU's BOOGIE
Cultural context and impact
The significance of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in the story is that in the real world, this was the first time that Women's Judo would be a full competition event, and would thus see the awarding of the first ever Olympic gold medal for Women's Judo.
Yawara! was very popular in Japan, so when real life Japanese teenager Ryoko Tamura won a silver medal for judo at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she was seen as a real-life "Yawara" (her age, stature, and ability all being strikingly similar to those of the fictional character) and promptly nicknamed "Yawara-chan". She was still known by this name eight years later, indicating perhaps the enduring popular recognition of the series as well as that of Ryoko Tamura herself.
The track "Miracle Panda" on the Ranma 1/2 Fighting Karuta soundtrack is a parody of the Yawara opening theme "Miracle Girl" (both Yawara and Ranma 1/2 were produced by Kitty Film). The 2nd OP of the anime was then resanged by Shimokawa Mikuni. Shoko Nakagawa resang the song again in her 10th single "Arigato no Egao".
- "小学館漫画賞：歴代受賞者" (in Japanese). Shogakukan. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
- Yawara! at the Turner Classic Movie Database
- See AnimEigo Picks up Yawara, August 17, 2006
- See AnimEigo Unable to License Rest of Yawara! Anime, April 29, 2010
- Judo at the 1992 Summer Olympics
- A Decade of Dominance | Sports and Fashion | Trends in Japan | Web Japan
- Olympic Glory | Sports and Fashion | Trends in Japan | Web Japan
- (Japanese) Official site
- AnimEigo Official site
- Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia