10 Best Sports Anime
The best sports anime are often overlooked by many anime lovers. They might say something like why would I watch sports anime when I don’t like sports? Or, I hate watching basketball, why would I want to watch an entire anime dedicated to the topic? Let me tell you that I have no real interest in cars, basketball, baseball or volleyball and yet I love every anime on this list. If you think sport is what drives the best sports anime you’d be sorely mistaken. The best sports anime are all about the story and characters!
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10. Initial D (頭文字D)
Takumi Fujiwara has been delivering Tofu for his father’s shop since his was a teenager. While out driving one night he is noticed by Keisuke Takahashi, one of the best amateur racers in Japan. Keisuke quickly realises that he is no match for Takumi and vows to challenge him again and learn what makes Takumi so good.
This anime is special because it is the oldest on the list and a good reference for the following generations of sports anime. The animation quality may be off putting for some, but be forgiving, it came out in ’94. Initial D has a great balance between exciting racing scenes and character development.
9. Ping Pong The Animation (ピンポン)
Quite Makato Tsukimmoto (nicknamed Smile) and his friend and polar opposite Yukata Hoshino (nicknamed Peco) are in the Ping Pong club. Smiles quite and shy personality stops him from winning against the overbearing Peco. But the boys coach notices Smiles talent and helps him gain confidence in his game.
When you think of sports anime, Ping Pong is not usually the sport the comes to mind. But don’t let that put you off. It is an excellent and often overlooked anime that has great fast paced sports scenes coupled with interesting characters. It also has one of the most unique art styles of any anime.
8. Ace of Diamond (ダイヤのA)
Sawamura Eijun is reluctantly convinced to try out for a prestigious baseball school’s team. He goes expecting to turn down any offers, but when Sawamura throws to Kazuya Miyuki’s catchers mitt, everything changed. Sawamura leaves his friends and family to challenge his skills against the best in the country.
I like that Sawamura is not the best, he does not always win and he works hard for every improvement in his game. The other thing that sets this apart from other sports anime, is the amount of time we get with a wide variety of characters. The anime not only thoughtfully builds Sawamura’s story but builds his team mates characters as well.
7. Yowamushi Pedal (弱虫ペダル)
Sakamichi Onoda is an otaku kid. Every week he rides his old “mum” bike (slang for a slow bike with no gears) to Akihabara to buy games and figurines. When he enters high school he immediately tries to join the anime club. However, the club was disbanded after having no members. While trying to get members for the club he starts to come into contact with the cycling team. The cycling team members witness his cycling abilities gained from his years of mummy bike riding and start a recruitment campaign of their own. Sakamichi will have to choose between cycling and first love, anime.
I love anime’s where the character works their ass off from nothing and we are taken along with their journey as they progress. If you do too, then this is an anime for you.
6. Baby Steps (ベイビーステップ)
Eiichiro or “Ei-Chan” as he affectionately comes to be known. Is a straight A student that spends all his time studying. Ei-Chan notices that with all his studying he never gets any exercise, so he decides to join a local tennis club. While at the tennis club he starts to hang out with a girl named Natsu who makes Ei-Chan realise that Tennis may be more than just a fitness activity.
This is interesting because a common theme in sports anime is unlocking natural abilities. But Ei-Chan is the exact opposite, he writes every shot down in his journal and studies how he can get better. This show definitely brings something new to the popular genre.
5. Cross Game (クロスゲーム)
Koh Kitamura is a laid back 5th grader who spends his days delivering goods for his families sporting goods store and visiting the local batting cages owned by his best friend Wakaba’s family. Wakaba has big dreams for Koh. She dreams of him one day pitching in the coveted Koshien national baseball tournament. After tragedy strikes, the story rejoins Koh and his friends years later at Seishuu High School, where Koh and his friends are trying to make Wakaba’s dream for Koh a reality.
This anime is really hard to describe without ruining the story. So, apologies for making this sound really tacky. Because it’s not. It does a great job of combining the baseball training and action scenes with strong character driven plots and sub-plots.
4. Kuroko’s Basketball (黒子のバスケ)
A famous middle school basketball team known as the Generation of Miracles was rumoured to have a sixth member. The sixth member is Kuroko Tetsuya, a first year at seinen high and the newest member of the basketball team. Although Kuroko loves basketball, he is not good at throwing, catching, shooting or defending. He does however have a unique ability that will help the team challenge old rivals and try to become inter-high champions.
Overall the show does follow the standard shounen/sports model. What makes it stand out is Kuroko’s ability being interesting and unique. The show skims the edge of fantasy but does not go to far where the abilities become more like powers or magic.
3. Haikyu!! (ハイキュー!!)
One day while walking past a television store, Hinata Shoyu sees the ‘little giant’ playing volleyball. A small guy who jumps like he can fly. Being small himself, and inspired by what he has just witnessed, Hinata joins his school volleyball club. On the last game of his middle school tournament he is beaten by rival Kageyama Tobio. Hinata decides to join Karasuno High’s volleyball team without realising the his rival Kageyama is also joining the same school. The rivals learn how to work together to form a powerful combo and take on their schools biggest rivals.
Haikyuu follows the typical sports/shounen anime style of beating your rival etc, etc. What is not typical and what makes Haikyuu so good, is that the sport and abilities are completely realistic and the characters are extremely well done and very interesting. It is truly one if the best sports anime in recent years.
2. Fighting Spirit (はじめの一歩)
Makanochi Ippo lives with his mother, they have a family fishing boat company. Ippo wakes up early every morning to help his mother out with the business before school. Ippo has no friends and gets bullied because he comes to school smelling like fish. Until one day, while being beaten up by his bullies, he is rescued by a guy named Takamura Mamoru. Takamura explains to Ippo that he is a boxer from a local gym. Ippo becomes interested in learning how to box and starts to turn his life around with the help of his newly found passion.
Fighting Spirit is one of the best sports anime. It has a good mix of action and character driven story. Ippo and his gang of friends are such loveable guys, that you will be right there cheering them on every step of the way.
1. Major (メジャー)
Goro Honda is a boy obsessed with baseball, he wants to follow in his fathers footsteps by becoming pro. His father injures his shoulder and he is no longer able to pitch, but it does not stop him. Goro and his father make a pact, that they will never give up on their dreams. After a tragedy shatters Goro’s life, will he be able to keep his promise to his father?
Deep, heartbreaking & inspirational. Even if you do not like baseball, this anime has something for everyone. The very first episode will knock the wind straight out of you, leave your jaw on the ground and have you completely addicted. You are gonna need that Major hit whenever you can get it. The well roundedness of Major has earned it the number one spot on the best sports anime list.