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Yawara-chan runs for office!

Yawara-chan, aka Tani Ryōko, formally Tamura Ryōko, a former world champion of -48kg joshi-jūdo, is running for a seat in the House of Councillers, which is the upper house of the Diet of Japan. It is like Senate in Congress.

Tani’s nickname comes from “Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl.” When Yawara! was airing in 1990, only 15 years old Tamura Ryouko appeared in the judo-world like a comet. For the Japanese, she was a new sports star. She symbolized a post Cold War era. And Japan was in the mid of the bubble economy. It was the time when Japanophobia spread in the United States, buying up real estates in America. The U.S.-Japanese trade war got intensified. That was the time when Yawara! came up. Then, this anime had a special episode just to rally up the support for Tamura Ryoko for the Atlanta Summer Olympic game. Because of the Yawara fever, many school girls started learning judo, and led to the joshi-judo boom, just like Bamboo Blade led to the joshi-kendo boom. Well, her first Olympic in Barcelona, she got the 48kg category silver medal, and in Atlanta too she got the silver. But finally she earned the gold medal in Sidney. Then, she also got the gold in Athens. And then, she married a baseball player of Yomiuri Giants, then her family name changed to Tani. Then, she gave a birth, and she went to Beijin in 2008 as a mom fighter, but maternity leave and losing youth, already over 30 years old, she got the bronze. But she is definitely a national hero. She was really a miracle girl!

In the mainstream media, she is called “Yawara-chan.” But in anime community, some people think she doesn’t deserve that nickname. The reason is that Yawara is much prettier than Tani Ryouko. Some think she cannot be the object of fantasy. Personally, I think she is average looking, but some got offended by comparing her to Yawara. It was simply a blasphemy to them. Tani-bashing was really harsh on 2ch. I once read some comment stating that she was an illegitimate daughter of Asahara Shoko, the former leader of a Japanese domestic terrorist group, AUM shinri-kyo, a Japanese version of Charles Manson. Do they really look like daughter and father?

And Yawara! was too mainstream to some otaku since the mainstream media got involved too much. Yet Yawara! had a fan service, panchira, and that’s how the story started. Mysterious panchira girl. It’s like a Ichigo 100% moment. Panchira is a prelude to everything.


Anyway, why is Tani running for office? Why is a female judo-ka launching a political career?  Last year was the historical election for Japan. The LDP dictatorship ended, and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has become the new majority in the lower house of the Diet and has formed a new cabinet. And the new election is coming up in July. According to livedoor news,Tani was a mascot girl for Toyota. But Toyota was damaged by the recent recall scandal. It was an embarrassment to the world. The Toyota Way didn’t work. Toyota President testified in Congress. Toyota’s reputation plummeted, and they desperately need help. So the DPJ has made a deal with Toyota. The DPJ needs a celebrity, a star candidate to win the election. So, they told Toyota to hand over Tani, then, in exchange for that, the DPJ will fully back Toyota and help get them out of the mess. Basically Toyota offered a sacrificial lamb to the government, like Abraham offered Isaac to Yahweh.

I don’t know if Tani will be successful in politics. In Japan, a celebrity candidate is frowned upon. But in America, it is different. Jesse Ventura was successful. And a Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan made it to Presidency and ended the Cold War, liberating Europe from the Communist tyranny. In American politics, star quality is very important. This is clear from the recent election of Barack Obama. In turn, Japanese politics lacks charismatic people, and those seshū-giin are still running politics. Seshu-giin don’t need charisma because they always get elected. No competition. Is it really the House of Commons? No, it’s another House of Lords, even though Gen. Douglas MacArthur banned aristocracy after WWII. The only charismatic leader was Koizumi Junichiro in recent time, he acted like a king, but he was also a seshu-giin. His grandfather (deceased), father (deceased), him, and his son are all members of the Japanese Diet. And the current Prime Minister of Japan, Hatoyama Yukio, his father was also Prime Minister too, Hatoyama Ichiro. So, they don’t really have star quality. That’s why Japanese politics is boring. Americans were fed up with hereditary politics of Bush, so they elected Obama. But in Japan, hereditary politics is the norm. So, even though they changed the political party, it is still the old politics as usual.

I hope Tani will throw all of them out by ippon-zeoi. Is she going to show us a miracle in politics as well?


This 2nd OP really reminds me of that time period. Ah, Imai Miki, so nostalgic… The lyrics is really describing psychology of the bubble economy girls! Yawara was a product of the bubble era. And her fashion was really very baburu-jidai that can be seen in Tokyo Love Story. Thus, Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl. Instead of joshi-kōsei (high school girls), joshi-daisei (college girls) were the center of the cultural phenomenon. The worst time for Anime Otaku! And these people didn’t have cell phone. They still used the rotary dial for stock trading.

Is she trying to text?

After the bubble burst, during the mid 90’s, joshi-daisei disappeared and joshi-kosei has become the center of the media attention. And then, the advent of the cell phone and the Internet has changed everything. It has become really diverse. So it might be harder to create a national hero in this high-tech information age. That was a product of the old media.

Yawara will be 41 years old and Tani will be 35 years old this year 2010. A national hero is getting old. Pretty sad…

So, Yawara-chan might be the last national hero from the anime that was conceptualized in reality. Who will be the next national hero from an anime? Haruhi? Hideyoshi? Or simply, the age of national heroism has ended in Japan?

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