Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl details the struggles of Yawara Inokuma, a young judo prodigy trained as the sole student of her grandfather Jigoro, a legendary martial artist and possibly the greatest judo practitioner ever. Despite her natural ability and talent, Yawara wishes for nothing more than to put the life of a judo-ka behind her and live life as a regular girl. Her grandfather has other ideas; specifically having Yawara debut and aiming for gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics!
While this anime series was quite popular in its initial run, it is widely unknown in English-speaking countries and even less widely seen. The series, based on the work of Naoki Urasawa (Monster), is funny, well executed, and surprisingly heartfelt. The struggles of poor Yawara and those around her somehow keep the viewer invested in both her aim to maintain a normal judo free life as well as see her succeed in competition. As Yawara meets and faces tougher and tougher opponents, you as the viewer are there with the fans cheering her on and looking forward to seeing which technique is used in that particular match.
First airing in 1989 and concluding in 1992, the series ran for a total of 124 episodes and was animated by the great (and now defunct) Kitty Studios. This long run should be indicative of the show’s popularity, as there were very few anime series of such length at the time, and even fewer today. It boasts smooth and detailed hand drawn art that is engaging during both judo matches and the misadventures the cast get into between tournaments. The show is a wonderful series that certainly had a huge cultural impact during its run. Without a doubt, see it for its well animated judo, hilarious comedy, and the terrific pacing of a series that is well planned and executed.