Top 10 Sports Anime to Watch and Fawn Over

Haikyuu! (Volleyball)
Haikyuu! (Volleyball)
Sena's always bullied, but has developed super-speed because bullies boss him around!
Sena's always bullied, but has developed super-speed because bullies boss him around!

Anime shows are always popular. From Doraemon to Gundam to Code Geass, these shows are well-loved from every corner of the world.

Different sports have made their way to these Anime shows. But why are they so popular? Sporst anime has a lot of common themes. They might sound cliché, but they still make up a great show.

The Pushover Protagonist. The main character is usually a pushover, a small kid, or someone not very popular. Sometimes, this character is someone who's got some talent from doing something mundane (they consider this talent normal), until the day someone notices their ability and asks them to join a sports team (re: Eyeshield 21, Yowamushi Pedal, among others).

The Mentor/s. Usually it's someone older who has been in the sports club for a long time. This is usually the person who had noticed the protagonist's potential. They can be weird, crazy, funny, or very strict. They are well-known and very famous (or used to be famous) and the main character looks up to them.

The Rival. The rival is not the villain. He or she is someone who matches the main character's skills and pushes him or her to be better. Sometimes the rival could be the main character's own teammate (re: Haikyuu! or Slam Dunk) or someone from a different team or side (re: Hajime no Ippo). The rival can either be: a) someone older than the protagonist, doesn't care about the rivalry till the day the protagonist proves himself/herself, or b) a cheery and similarly determined character around the same age as the main character and is more like a "frenemy".

The Love Interest. One of the things I love about sports anime is that the love story doesn't take center stage (usually). The main character may have a love interest, but there isn't usually a love triangle, and the love interest is usually someone who knows about the sports - as a manager, coach, cheerleader, friend, etc.

Takamura's boxing training in the mountains
Takamura's boxing training in the mountains

Training Camp in the Beach, Onsen (Hot Spring), or the Mountains. There will always be a training camp shown in the anime. This is a staple in anime shows. Usually this happens after a loss at the beginning of the season where they experience their first loss. Then, they do an extreme training somewhere that shows off an exotic location. Sometimes, they'll go to another country, but oftentimes they'll show you the rural beauty of Japan.

The Team. In a team, there will always be:

  • an overeager and enthusiastic member who jumps around
  • the calm and kind senpai (upperclassman) who hides a tough exterior
  • the delinquent who picks fights but actually has a heart of gold
  • the manager who's usually the girl (except for in Kuroko no Basuke where their coach is an upperclassman girl)
  • the heartless team captain or coach
  • the main character's sort-of best friend or rival
  • the main character's twin (someone who's similar in height or demeanor usually)
  • the main character

Eyeshield 21

Kobayakawa Sena is a pushover and has been bullied by older and bigger people for as long as he can remember. He has one talent that makes him unique, though - he can run really fast.

He runs fast because he gets bossed around to do this, buy that, etc. So when the devil-like cruel, heartless, genius captain of the football team, Hiruma sees him run, he threatens him (because Sena's a pushover) to join the team as their "ace", the one with the green shield, Eyeshield 21. This means that no one knows Sena's identity and opponents often underestimate him because of his size.

This is one of the best sports anime I have ever seen. The characters are interesting and very funny. The best thing, though? The captain of their team, The Deimon Devil Bats, is Hiruma and he is wicked when it comes to their training. He's also very smart and is amazing when it comes to planning their plays. He foresees their opponent's offenses and defenses and creates mind-boggling strategies.

Check it out here.

Seirin team
Seirin team

Kuroko no Basuke

"Kuroko's Basket or Kuroko's Basketball" revolves around the Seiren High, a new school determined to participate in the inter-school basketball tournaments. In the new school year, though, the team unexpectedly gets new freshmen: Kagami Tiaga from the United States who wants to crush the Generation of Miracles, a middle school team of basketball superstars. Unfortunately, the players of the team had separated to different high schools.

The team is surprised, therefore, to find that someone from the team of the GoM has joined their basketball club. His name? Kuroko Tetsuya. At first, their female coach (who can assess the athletic ability of a player at first glance) is skeptical since he's small, lithe, and has no presence at all. He gets ignored and he doesn't speak up most of the time.

In other words, he's a shadow. And he proves, on the basketball court, that only a shadow can make the light shine brighter. Kuroko proves that he is a genius when it comes to strategies and learning new basketball moves. Kuroko flits around and surprises everyone with his amazing passes (sleight of hand style).

Their journey involves having to beat the former members of the Generation of Miracles, slowly revealing the reason of the break-up and what it really means to be a team. This is the second best basketball anime in TV history.

Slam Dunk

Who hasn't heard of Hanamichi Sakuragi? The red-haired stubborn delinquent who joined the basketball team to impress a girl?

With his equally funny and supportive team, Sakuragi continues to butt heads (literally) with anyone he meets until he befriends Haruko who's part of the girl's basketball team and who's crush, Rukawa, is the basketball team's heartthrob.

So Sakuragi joins, but he has never played basketball in his life and his first attempt against the captain of the team is hilarious and thrilling! It's got a cult-following and is one of the most beloved anime of all times.

Shohoku High
Shohoku High

Diamond no Ace

It's a baseball anime (and baseball is Japan's no. 1 sport), which is about Eijun Sawamura who comes from a rural town and joins an elite school to become "an ace" (recurring theme among some sports anime).

He's a pitcher, but he needs help on his throws and the best catcher in town (and in their team) sees potential in him and helps him to become part of the team and the best pitcher in the tournament.

The protagonist has quite the big head and his mistakes are embarrassing and funny at the same time (although they will make you wince), but his determination is admirable.

Haikyuu!!

This volleyball anime is pretty exciting, funny, and laudable! Hinata Shoyou is from a rural town where the only school has a volleyball team of only one member - him. So he asks help from some freshmen and people from the basketball team to toss to him. He practices with the girls' volleyball team and old ladies.

When his ragtag team joins their first ever inter-school game where they get crushed by a team led by their setter, Kageyama Tobio who's strict and ruthless. In the game, though, Tobio sees Shoyou's potential - he may only be 162 cm, but he's fast and he can jump high.

Shoyou swears to defeat Tobio one day. After graduation, Shoyou attends Karasuno High, the former team of the volleyball player The Small Giant. There, he finds out that Tobio is his new teammate.

This is a rare twist and the story uses it well. Tobio is the "King of the Court". He has never gotten along well with his past teammates because he's never satisfied with their performance and he doesn't compliment them, thank them, or help them. He just scolds them.

Karasuno High, the fallen champions, though, helps him to see that volleyball is a team and he and Shoyou become an unstoppable duo with their freak quicks.

Free! Iwatobi Swim Club

Free! follows the adventures of the swim team of childhood friends who reunite in high school and gain a new member. Haruka Nanase has always loved being in the water, but he was never as passionate in winning the swimming tournaments as his best friend, Rin.

After middle school, their four-member team drifted apart and Rin comes back as part of a different team to challenge Haruka. The show has a more relaxed feel than the other powered up anime, but when you watch these people swim, you'll also realize why people can love the water so much (swimming "free"style) - it's like flying and being weightless.

The story revolves more around friendship and passions than the actual sport, but the tournaments and trainings are still there and they are still exciting and interesting! The art is exceptionally amazing, too.

Prince of Tennis

Ryoma Echizen is a tennis prodigy and constantly wants to step away from his father's shadow and into his own light.

He's short, but his reflexes are quick. He's also not the chatty type, preferring to withdraw unto himself rather than team up with others, but his team makes him realize a lot of things about friendship, family, winning, and himself.

The action is quick and you'll be surprised at the balls dancing around, whooshing and hitting things at an impossible speed.

This is a very popular anime with lots of OVA and a new season after Echizen's return from America. It's a team and personal journey where winning doesn't become the only thing Echizen looks forward to in tennis.

Hajime No Ippo

Ippo Makunouchi has been bullied his entire life. He gets beaten up again, but someone comes to his rescue - Mamoru Takamura, a boxer at the Kamogawa gym. There, Ippo starts to learn boxing, where he gains more confidence in himself.

He still retains his pacifist attitude and helps his mother in their fishing business, but he continues to strive to be a boxer, meeting many different boxers with their own pasts, struggles, and dreams on the ring.

His former bullies becomes his supporters and the girl he likes turns out to be the younger sister of one of his scariest-looking opponents. His fellow boxers are all funny, often helping Ippo learn from their defeats and victories.

Hungry Heart: Wild Striker

I was still young when I saw this, but I remembered laughing and cheering. Kano Kyosuke finds himself constantly having to prove himself in soccer because of his successful soccer player older brother.

He quits soccer, but returns to it in high school where he joins two other players as hard-headed as him. They fight and sometimes don't listen to their elders, but they're tough and determined to win their games.

Soccer has always been a fascinating game and the FIFA World Cup fans will agree. This anime, though old like Slam Dunk, still has its charm.

Bamboo Blade

Most sports anime star a lot of male characters (probably because of the violence - trust me when I say people get head injuries in basketball and volleyball and twisted knees in football and soccer), and some sports anime star really cute girls with large breasts and mini outfits. There are, of course, sports anime like Bamboo Blade where female kendo players kick ass.

We can't all be as great as Kenshin of Samurai X, but watching kendo practitioners is still awesome.

The premise is: Toraji Ishida, a teacher at Muroe High School, is challenged by a fellow teacher to create a girls' kendo team to fight his. If Ishida wins, he gets a year's supply of sushi.

Although his reason is low and pathetic, the team becomes the venue for different girls to come together and become friends where they fight off bullies, learn about themselves, and find a second family.

I'm far from being an athlete, but I do appreciate how sports anime aren't just about winning or the sports they depict - they're about true and deep friendships where their team members really become their most supportive schoolmates, and with whom they have the best times of their high school days.

Which Sports Anime Have You Seen?

  • Eyeshield 21
  • Free!
  • Haikyuu!
  • Slam Dunk
  • Hungry Heart
  • Bamboo Blade
  • Prince of Tennis
  • Kuroko no Basuke
  • Hajime No Ippo
  • Diamond No Ace
  • I don't watch sports anime
See results without voting

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