It’s not uncommon for me to run into other sports anime fans that do not give sports anime a try. This is usually because they aren’t much of a sports anime fan in real life so they shrug off the idea of ever liking an sports anime.
“Why would I watch an anime on something I do not even enjoy in the real world?”
And that totally makes sense. If this wasn’t anime, then I probably wouldn’t have given the genre a look at all. However, this IS sports anime. The same medium that can entertain viewers for hours and hours on a show that basically does nothing (I’m looking at you K-ON!).
With that said, I highly suggest anyone doubting the genre to give one of these series a try. Whether you’re into comedy, romance, psychological elements, or adventure series. You can always find various themes of other popular sports anime series within the sports anime genre.
In no particular order, here are the series I recommend for all the newcomers!
26. Princess Nine
Led by a hot-shot young “natural”, nine young women defy the male-dominated tradition of Japanese sports anime… not to create a League of their own, but to take on the boys on their own artificial turf and prove there’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t do just as well!
The hallowed stadiums of Japanese baseball become a battlefield as the bats crack, the sweat flies and every hard-earned run becomes another step in the long road-trip to victory! Sizzling sports anime action and gripping drama intertwine as nine young women come together in the heat of athletic competition to become the Princess Nine!
25. Ashita no Joe
Ashita no Joe tells the tale of a wandering orphan named Joe Yabuki. He falls into one of Tokyo’s slums and gets into a fight with a local gang and his street fighting skills gets him the attention of a washed up alcoholic boxing trainer.
Until he sticks up for Joe when the gang comes back to finish Joe, Joe decides to live with the trainer. Despit… more Ashita no Joe tells the tale of a wandering orphan named Joe Yabuki.
He falls into one of Tokyo’s slums and gets into a fight with a local gang and his street fighting skills gets him the attention of a washed up alcoholic boxing trainer.
Until he sticks up for Joe when the gang comes back to finish Joe, Joe decides to live with the trainer.
Despite the trainer’s generosity, Joe is still committing money making scams and lands him in prison. While serving time, he meets another boxer named Rikiishi Tooru who gets Joe interested in boxing. Upon release, Joe then pursues a boxing career.
24. Bamboo Blade
Toraji Ishida is a high school kendo teacher. His friend and fellow kendo teacher makes him a bet: if Ishida can assemble a girls’ kendo team that can defeat his girls’ team in a practice match, he’ll treat Ishida to free meals at his father’s sushi restaurant for a whole year. Now Ishida must find five girls to join the team.
23. Yuri!!! on Ice
The show’s story revolves around Yuuri Katsuki, who carried all of Japan’s hopes on his shoulders to win at the Gran Prix Finale ice skating competition, but suffered a crushing defeat.
He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. With those mixed feelings swirling inside him, he confines himself inside his parents house.
Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Viktor Nikiforov appears before him, and along with him is Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Viktor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Gran Prix series.
22. Giant Killing
In Giant Killing a ragtag bunch from East Tokyo are struggling in Japan’s top football league. The team is going through an abysmal spell right now where they are nearing the bottom of the table and have lost 5 matches in a row.
The loses haven’t done much to team moral, because it was already low. Fan support, on the other hand, is looking bleak. In the world of football, once the fans turn on a team the end is near.
Teams don’t recover. Coaches are fired, players are sold, and teams drop to smaller divisions where profits often prevent them from ever being successful against even mediocre top division programs.
East Tokyo United, ETU, can only blame their coach right now. And Coach is ready to give up this next game to prove to his team and fans, that against the biggest club in the nation he can make this team win.
21. All Out!!
In rugby, there is no ace striker, there is no number four batter, so who is the star of the team? The story begins at school entrance ceremony of Kanagawa High School where Kenji Gion, a small but gutsy go-getter joins the rugby club.
He joins with his classmate, Iwashimizu, who has a complicated past and sub-captain Hachiouji, who always takes good care of his Club members. Lastly, there is Captain Sekizan, who has overwhelming powers but keeps his cards close to his chest.
With such differences in both personality and physical performance, the team must learn to work and grow together so they can become the best.
20. Baby Steps
The story follows Ei-chan, a punctual and earnest boy who has strived for straight As since elementary school. He began going to a tennis school during high school. There, he meets Natsu, a beautiful, earnest girl who only has passion for tennis.
19. Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club
The story revolves around Haruka Nanase, a boy who has always loved to be immersed in water, and to swim in it. Before graduating from elementary school, he participated in a swimming tournament along with his fellow swimming club members, Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki, and Rin Matsuoka.
After achieving victory, each of the boys went their separate ways. Time passed, and in the middle of their uneventful high school lives Rin appears and challenges Haruka to a match, showing Haruka his overwhelming power.
Not wanting it to end like this, Haruka, gathers together Makoto and Nagisa once again and brings a new member named Rei Ryugazaki to create the Iwatobi High School Swimming Club in order to defeat Rin.
18. Initial D First Stage
Takumi Fujiwara is an aloof, spacey high-schooler who does delivery runs in his dad’s Toyota AE86 in the dead of night. Despite working at a gas station and having friends who are car nuts, he doesn’t know a single thing about cars.
Takumi is introduced into the world of street racing and his natural talent draws attention from all across Gunma. Will Takumi face the challenges or back out from the call of the mountain passes?
Inokuma Yawara is just another young high school girl. Well, not quite – for Yawara is being raised by her grandfather, 7th dan Judo master Inokuma Jigorou, to be Japan’s great hope for the women’s Judo competition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. All the same, Yawara just wants to live a normal life…
The series is about two boys named Tsukushi and Jin. Tsukushi is a boy with no special talent or traits while Jin is considered a soccer genius. On one stormy night, Jin meets Tsukushi, and they get dragged into the world of soccer.
15. Inazuma Eleven
The main character, Endou Mamoru, is a very talented goalkeeper and the grandson of one of the strongest goalkeepers in Japan, who died before he was born.
Even though his skills are incredible his school lacks a real soccer club as the 6 other members don’t appear very interested even in training. But as soon as a mysterious forward called Gouenji moves to Endou’s town, the young goalkeeper sets out to find and recruit members for his soccer team.
14. Slam Dunk
Sakuragi Hanamichi is a junior high punk used to getting into fights and being rejected by girls but upon entering high school he meets the girl of his dreams, Haruko Akagi.
He will do anything in order to win her heart including joining the school basketball team that is aiming to conquer the nation lead by Haruko’s brother. The problem is that Sakuragi has never played basketball sports anime before and a freshman sensation is stealing the spotlight and Haruko’s affection from him.
13. Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!)
Mihashi Ren is the quirky ace pitcher of Nishiura high school’s newly formed baseball team. He, however, has hit rock-bottom in terms of confidence and self-belief, thanks to a traumatic three years in his middle school – Mihoshi academy – and switched to Nishiura just to get away from it all.
The team’s catcher, Abe Takaya, thinks otherwise and believes that Mihashi has the control and skill required, and with his lead, could take them all the way to Koshien. Guided by an enterprising coach and an innovative mentor, the team slowly gel as a unit and train hard to make a mark in the upcoming summer tournament.
12. Cross Game
This is the story of Kou Kitamura, son of the owner of Kitamura Sports anime and Aoba Tsukishima, third daughter of the Tsukishima family, and the bond they shared with Aoba’s sister Wakaba.
When tragedy strikes, these two are more determined than ever to fulfill Wakaba’s dream; seeing them play in the national high school baseball championship tournament in Koshien Stadium. With wins, losses, smilies and tears, they strive to fulfill that dream, no matter what.
11. Prince of Tennis
Echizen Ryouma is a young tennis prodigy who has won 4 consecutive tennis championships but who constantly lies in the shadow of his father, a former pro tennis player.
He joins the Seishun Gakuen junior highschool, one of the best tennis schools in Japan, and there along with his teamates he learns to find his own type of tennis in an attempt to defeat his biggest obstacle of all: his father as well as himself.
10. Diamond No Ace (Ace of Diamond)
The story follows Eijun Sawamura, a pitcher who joins an elite school with a brilliant catcher named Kazuya Miyuki. Together with the rest of the team, they strive for Japan’s storied Koushien championships through hard work and determination.
A chance event triggered Shouyou Hinata’s love for volleyball. His club had no members, but somehow persevered and finally made it into its very first and final regular match of middle school, where it was steamrolled by Tobio Kageyama, a superstar player known as “King of the Court.” Vowing revenge, Hinata applied to the Karasuno High School volleyball club… only to come face-to-face with his hated rival, Kageyama!
8. One Outs
Hiromichi Kojima, the star batter of the Lycaons, heads to Okinawa to train and bring himself out of a slump. There, he meets Toua Tokuchi, a 134-kmph/83 mph pitcher and the undisputed king of a gambling form of baseball called “One Out.”
At Kojima’s urging, Tokuchi signs up with the Lycaons. His contract differs form the usual, though, in that he gets 5,000,000 yen for every out he pitches, but loses 50,000,000 yen for every point he gives up
7. Yowamushi Pedal
Sakamichi Onada is a wimpy high school freshman who loves anime. He initially wants to enter the anime club, but winds up joining the cycling club after meeting two classmates who are already famous cyclists. He undertakes the grueling training to compete in races, and discovers his own hidden talent in cycling.
6. Eyeshield 21
Kobayakawa Sena is a little guy who always get picked on by the bullies in school. Since elementary school, he always play the role of the errand boy to the extent that he has become swift and fast in his movements.
Coincidentally, Hiruma Youichi and Kurita Ryukan are looking for a fast running back for their American Football team (Amefuto) and want to put Sena in the team. To hide their new star player from the eyes of other High Schools, Hiruma encases Sena in a Amefuto helmet with a dark visor and name him in this sports anime Eyeshield #21.
5. Ping Pong the Animation
The manga revolves around two longtime friends Smile and Peco who are both members of the ping pong club at their high school and are both very talented at the sport anime.
However, Smile’s quiet personality keeps him from being able to win against Peco. The club’s teacher takes notice of Smile’s talent and works to change his attitude toward the sport anime.
All her life, Chihaya’s dream was to see her model sister become Japan’s best… That is, until a quiet, unassuming transfer student named Arata tells her otherwise. A dream, he explains to her, is something she needs to work at herself.
Arata plays a competitive version of a traditional Japanese card game–known as Hyakunin Isshu–in a way Chihay… more All her life, Chihaya’s dream was to see her model sister become Japan’s best… That is, until a quiet, unassuming transfer student named Arata tells her otherwise.
A dream, he explains to her, is something she needs to work at herself. Arata plays a competitive version of a traditional Japanese card game–known as Hyakunin Isshu–in a way Chihaya has never seen before. After taking Arata’s place in a game, Chihaya discovers she has a passion for it. Now Chihaya wants to become number one in the world, the Queen of Karuta.
3. Hajime no Ippo
Ippo, a timid highschooler, is one day saved from being beaten up by Takamura, a boxer. Enthralled by Takamura’s skills Ippo begins to learn boxing, soon finding love for the sport and a drive to challenge the boxing world.
Goro’s dream is to become a professional baseball player like his father. As he strives through the path towards the pro league, from infancy to adulthood, his passion for the game galvanizes all of those around him. Shigeharu Honda is a Major Leauge batter on the rise.
His son Goro is a Little League pitcher who one day hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps. Momoko Hoshino is Goro’s schoolteacher, and the first woman Shigeharu has been interested in since the death of Goro’s mother.
The destines of these three individuals will become intertwined as father and son experience both heartbreak and triumph on the baseball diamond. But when an unspeakable tragedy visits the family, it will take everything they have to pick up the pieces and reclaim their dreams.
1. Kuroko No Basket (Kuroko’s Basketball)
The Teiko Middle School Basketball Team. The class that produced three perfect seasons in a row, with five once-in-a generation players, called “The Generation of Miracles.” There was another player who all of them respected… A legendary 6th player. An up-and-coming power player, Taiga Kagami, is just back from America.
When he comes to Seirin High School, he meets the super-ordinary boy, Tetsuya Kuroko. Kagami is shocked to find that Kuroko isn’t good at basketball, in fact, he’s bad! And he’s so plain that he’s impossible to see.
But Kuroko’s plainness lets him pass the ball around without the other team noticing him, and he’s none other than the sixth member of the Miracle Generation. Kuroko makes a pact with Kagami to defeat the other members of the Miracle Generation, who have all played basketball at other schools.