Yawara, A Fashionable Judo Girl Anime, Volumes 5 & 6 (English)

February 9th, 2010

I am vexed.

Very vexed.

Exceedingly vexed.

It’s been a rough day. Technology has been tedious in the extreme. And Yawara, A Fashionable Judo Girl ends in the middle of a total non-arc. I mean, really.

We’ve been talking about it since the beginning. What makes a sports manga work is a rival worthy of our hero/ine. A rival they hate and admire. A rival that pushes them into new heights of achievement. A rival with whom they can be ‘shipped by fans.

Yawara has not one, but four of these. The hapless Sayaka who has everything except satisfaction; Jody Rockwell who was the first one to ever make Yawara really enjoy the art of Judo; the mysterious Belkens of Belgium about which we know little more than her fame; and the masculine, maybe steroided, obviously amoral, Tereshikova of Russia.

So, I’m psyched, we start the final two volumes with the All-Japan Judo Championships. Yawara is distracted, but fighting. We see a glimpse of how clueless she is about Sayaka’s rivalry with her, when she helps Sayaka to beat the annoying Fudou – an act of kindness which is quickly repaid with derision. And then, it all ends, because Sayaka’s injured, so Yawara wins by default.

Which is when the sinking feeling started to hit me.

The next several episodes were clogged with Yawara taking a college exam for a college that will train her to do absolutely nothing useful except husband-hunt, and the trials and tribulations of the people around her who, pathetic as they may be, strive for more.

The best episode by far of the last two volumes was one in which the Judo club formally request a match with Yawara. I was quite teary-eyed at their eagerness to learn from a master of the sport. And I suddenly realized…I didn’t like Yawara at *all.* To have so much skill at a thing, but to want to throw it away at every possible opportunity, feh.

The sinking feeling grew.

Then came one of the worst, most tedious arcs I had ever watched in an anime as Yawara is joined by a fellow first-year in her new school in the hunt for a club to join. I’m surprised I didn’t gouge my eyes out watching this arc, because it was really dumb.

And then…the box set ends.

Seriously, AnimEigo, could you have found a *worse* spot to end the box set? NO ONE will ever want to watch more by the end of Volume 6. If you had ended the box set at the end of Volume 4, we might have sat through 5 and 6 to get to the next arc where she fights but….

Nope.

The sinking feeling of disaster fell into place like a bar of lead.

Yawara is not funny and therefore fails as a comedy, it is not uplifiting and therefore fails as a sports manga; the heroine is a lump and it therefore fails, horribly, as a parody of the above.

I sigh for what was a really wasted opportunity to end this on a great note, so we want more. There were great notes in there, too. But they were buried by the 4 times we had to sit through Grandpa’s retelling of how he met his wife, creepily voiced by Yawara’s VA.

I will remember the good bits, because they are good. But…I am vexed.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Characters – 2, except for Hanazono who is an 8
Story – 1
Yuri – 0
Service – N/A

Overall – Vexing

One last time my sincere thanks to Ana M. for sponsoring today’s review and for doing such a bang-up job on the translation. That, at least, never vexed me once. ^_^

So, my wife asks me at this point – “Would you want the next volume if it came out?” Here’s my response, “Yes, because I’m a hopeless romantic and believe that it has to get better than this. I want to watch Yawara really, truly fight and really, truly win and then I can be done with it.”

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4 Responses

  1. Jenn2d2 says:

    This is exactly the spot I stopped watching Yawara! when I was getting the fansubs (back in the day ‘o VHS and months long waits), for very similar reasons. I found her fixation on ignoring her talent irritating, and everyone else to be more interesting. I don’t like leaving things unfinished, but just couldn’t handle throwing too many more shoes at my TV.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure if it was the main plot of the author… That even though you have a talent that does not mean you have to do it, becuase technically it does not “make you happy”…
    It is a bit frustrating for some, but isn’t that present in real life?

    We go for what in want, not for what we have…

  3. JHB says:

    I think part of it is the era it was created in (’80s and early ’90s). Maybe it was a fear of audience acceptance, but there seemed to be a lot of difficulty in getting a handle on the notion of a female action hero. That the only way it would “work” is if it was leavened with more familiar tropes. One solution seemed to be “the reluctant heroine”: she’d have powers or exraordinary talents, but all she’d obsess over was “just bing a normal girl”.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The conflict of the show is not Yawara vs. her 4 strong rivals. It’s Yawara’s talent vs. Yawara’s happiness. The show would not be nearly as interesting if she had this immense talent and was just pitted against larger opponents who we knew she’d eventually squash. Everyone knows she’s capable of being the world’s best; the show would be boring if it were a typical sports anime, comedy, or romance without these seemingly unrelated arcs you despise.

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