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10 Sports Anime Series You Should Be Watching

MovieWeb 4/1/2023 Amria Abdel-Fadil
© Provided by MovieWeb

Sports are known to bring joy to many. They help you build mental and physical resilience, track your progress, and keep you active. At the core of each sport, there is movement, tactics, and challenges; these sports anime will make you fall in love with the world of sports and will show you how much character growth it stirs in anyone who engages with it.

Be prepared for a journey filled with action, surprises, heartfelt relationships, and intense emotions of what it means to work for your dream with all you have.

Captain Tsubasa (1981)

Captain Tsubasa is a manga series written and illustrated by Yōichi Takahashi and produced by Tsuchida Production. It is considered one of the most popular soccer animes due to its huge success and circulation all over the world over the years. It focuses on the story of Tsubasa Ooozora, an 11-year-old boy who has been passionate about soccer from a young age and his dream of playing in the FIFA World Cup and winning for Japan. To pursue his goal, he moves in with his mother in Nankatsu City, which is known for its prominent school soccer teams. Through this transition, he realizes how much competition is in front of him and the myriad of skills he will have to develop to achieve his goal.

Yet, his new-found friends and mentor will help him on his journey. This anime is semi-realistic and semi-fictionalized, but that adds to its charm. It has inspired many professional football players around the world to start playing, such as Fernando Torres, and Lionel Messi, and was a doorway for many into the world of football.

Related: 10 Sports Movies That Even Non-Sports Fans Will Enjoy

Slam Dunk (1993)

Slam Dunk was the first basketball anime created and is considered a classic. It was created by manga artist Takehiko Inoue and produced by Toei Animation. Sakuragi Hanamichi has a record of being ill-tempered, of being rejected by girls throughout middle school, and for hating basketball. When he joins Shohoku High School, a girl approaches him and asks him if he likes basketball. Determined to impress her, he joins the sport he despised, grows a love for it, and challenges himself to get better and better.

Slam Dunk is loved for being realistic and for providing character development. It reminds people that to be truly exceptional at anything, consistency, discipline, and a strong mindset are essential. There are no shortcuts to mastering a skill, and Slam Dunk perfectly embodies that.

Hajime No Ippo (2000)

Written and illustrated by manga artist George Morikawa and produced by Madhouse Animation, Hajime No Ippo is a boxing-themed anime. It tells the story of 16-year-old Ippo Makunouchi, who tirelessly works to help his mother with her fishing boat rental business. However, Ippo is also shy, and his introverted nature attracts bullies who hit him repeatedly, leaving him bruised and devastated. When boxer Mamouru Takamura takes notice of a bullying incident involving Ippo after school, he runs to his rescue and takes him back to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym until he recovers. After getting familiar with the boxing world through spending time with his rescuer, he decides to learn how to fight in order to be able to protect himself.

When Ippo starts to train, he discovers a willpower unknown to him and a transformation every time he steps up in the ring. Hajime No Ippo is a powerful piece filled with technical elements related to boxing, lessons about standing up for yourself and finding your confidence, as well as epic matches.

Run with the Wind (2006)

Run with the Wind is based on the novel written by Shion Miura by Production I.G. It follows the story of Kakeru Kurahara, a former ace runner who is not interested in running in college. On the other hand, Haiji Kiyose, another college student whom Kareku bumps into, is passionate about running and wants to convince the ex-acer and eight other students to train and participate with him in one of the most important relay races in Japan. The problem is, eight out of the students he’s trying to convince have nothing to do with running.

Yet, he manages to convince them due to his smart tactics. The anime depicts a college setting that is grounded in reality, but one that doesn't lose the motivational streak of what it is trying to do. The characters are all different which keeps the story interesting and their strong chemistry makes it even better.

Interestingly, it captures the essence of what it means to influence others to perform a challenge they never intended to and what they learn about themselves and others in the process. Run with the Wind is loved for its college setting and its mature, straightforward approach.

Cross-Game (2009)

Cross-Game was written and illustrated by Mitsuru Aadachi and produced by Synergy SP. Ko. Kitamura and Aoba Tsukishima’s families are business partners and close friends. However, Aoba doesn’t like Kou because she feels he has taken her sister away from her by being close to her.

Even though Kou is not interested in baseball, he has solid batting skills, while Aoba enjoys playing baseball and has excellent pitching form. Yet, due to an unforeseeable tragedy, the two are forced to interact with each other and hone their baseball skills. What started as pure rivalry and jealousy between Mitsuru and Aoba ends up being much more over time.

Cross-Game is a touching anime about twists and turns, and the unpredictability of life that can allow you to discover a side of life that might not be on your horizon. What makes this anime memorable is that the two protagonists vow to excel in the sport for a reason beyond their own motives and in the process develop something very special. It is a story about loss, baseball, friendship, and romance. This anime is a slow burn that will leave you with a full heart.

Ping-Pong the Animation (2014)

Ping-Pong the Animation was brought to life by manga artist Taiyō Matsumoto and was produced by Tatsunoko Production. This animation portrays the story of Smile and Peco, two best friends since childhood who play ping-pong. When they start playing matches and entering the competitive world of table tennis, their shortcomings and insecurities become more apparent than ever.

It is a story about two friends and their experiences dealing with their flaws. Ping-Pong, the animation captures characters who are just like everyone else despite having skills and talent, but who are still human, which is something that it is important to remember. It highlights the idea that no matter how one thinks they’re good at one thing, others can be better.

Unlike other sports anime, this anime shows the characters lose their passion, and their drive to practice due to the disappointments they face and slowly follow them as they find their way back. It is a story about the bitter and inevitable taste of failure that anybody is subjected to when they are invested in something but also who they are capable of becoming because of it. Ping-Pong the Animation is a story about influence, development on all fronts of life, and brutal honesty with oneself.

Haikyuu!! (2014)

Adapted from the Manga created by Haruichi Furudate and produced by I.G Productions, Haikyuu is a volleyball themed anime. It follows the story of Hinata Shoyo, who is inspired to start playing volleyball after watching a match involving a great volley player known as the little giant.

Hinata sees himself in the little giant as he too, is not tall and feels determined to develop great volleyball skills just like his inspiration did. He sets up a team to play in a tournament in middle school against a powerful team but completely gets defeated, which only makes him hungry for more. When Hinata joins the high school where the little giant used to be an ace, he feels like he has taken the first step toward his dream.

When he joins his high school volleyball team Karasuno, he learns that one of his teammates was one of his scary opponents in his disastrous middle school tournament. Haikyuu!! is not only entertaining and full of emotions and life lessons; it also captures the essence of any team-based sport. It does a fantastic job at following the journey of many players at once and showing that no matter how talented or hard-working they are individually, if they cannot cooperate and trust their teammates, they cannot win.

Yuri on Ice (2016)

Written and illustrated by manga artist Mitsurou Kubo and produced by MAPPA Studio, Yuri on Ice tells the story of 23 years-old talented figure skater Yuri Katsuki, who is devastated by his loss at the Grand Prix Finale, which makes him consider retiring.

However, when a video goes viral of Yuri performing a routine originally performed by five-time world-champion Victor Nikiforov, his life takes an unexpected turn. The world champion himself shows up at his door, offering to be his mentor so that he can have another chance at the Grand Prix. Nonetheless, this is not an easy feat as the competitive and powerful Yuri Plisetsky is determined to defeat Yuri.

This sports anime has a unique plot where the protagonist doesn’t learn to skate to become great; he is already very advanced in the sport. However, what this anime touches upon is the idea that second chances do exist. Yuri on Ice is a great story about regaining your confidence, great mentorship, and the details of figure skating that is packed with gorgeous animation and choreography.

Related: These Are the Best Shonen Animes Of All Time

SK8 the Infinity (2021)

SK8 is the first skateboarding-themed anime written by Ichiro Okouchi and animated by Bones Studio. Reiki Kyan is enamored with skateboarding due to the thrill and the adrenaline he experiences from it. He goes to an abandoned underground mine, where dangerous skateboarding races called “S” take place.

When Reki runs into half-Canadian and half-Japanese transfer student Langa Hasegawa and introduces him to his secret world, the fun only gets better. Sk8 is a vibrant anime that is commanded for its colorful art style and goofy characters. This anime introduces a different culture to sports anime where the competitions are not officially organized by an entity but rather brought to life by a culture of risk, spontaneity, fun, and rivalry by the people who choose to be part of it. With great artistic direction, characters that are full of life, and a plot infused with action and skate battles, Sk8 is an entertaining watch.

Dance Dance Danseur (2022)

Dance Dance Danseur was created by manga artist George Asakura and produced by Mappa Studio. Junpei Murao loves ballet from a young age but battles with the idea of publicly pursuing it because he fears it will emasculate him. He joins his school's soccer team and keeps his passion for ballet a secret to fit in and to avoid being made fun of.

Yet, Junpei’s classmate Miyako Godai spots an impressive kick of his that indicates his hidden ballet skill. Determined to see him dance to his full potential, she tries to convince him to join her mother’s ballet studio. This anime highlights questions regarding masculinity and the pressure to conform to societal norms, even if it is not truly what you resonate with. It has an interesting premise because the protagonist cannot easily have access to the sport he likes and has to overcome his mental battles to be able to embrace who he fully is.

It depicts how someone’s passion can also be their biggest fear and the cost it could come with. This is a beautiful anime about ballet, freeing yourself from toxic masculinity, and expressing who you are without shame.

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