The Curious Case of Sports Anime

Damn, feels like forever since I posted a “Curious Case” segment. But I promised this like a month ago I think, and I finally said “Blah Blah, sit down, shut up, and write this damnit!” And what do you know, I did 😀

So, if you’re new to anime, or just never noticed this, sports anime isn’t the biggest genre to watch. That sadly goes to shonen battle series. However, I think a big majority of people just don’t think that sports are interesting enough, which I’m about to debate.

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In my mind, sports anime is just a shonen battle series set in the real world. You usually have your main character that has an unique “gift” that sets them apart from everyone, usually they never even thought about playing sports and have few to none friends. Here comes the captain of said team and sees potential so he recruits them. Teamwork comes into play, tons of character development is introduced, and the sports are portrayed in epic proportions.

The sports genre is definitly underrated, and that’s really sad because they contain some of the best character development in anime. Shows like Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Akame ga Kill are fun, but they have little to none character development. They have power-ups, but that’s just not the same. In sports anime they actually allow their characters to go through arcs. They show them at their worst and they show them at their best. Sports anime is one of the few anime that tends to be mostly character driven.

Take Hajime no Ippo. One of the most popular sports anime ever. It’s about a kid in high school named Ippo who gets picked on by bullies a lot. One day Takamura, one the most beastly characters ever created, helps him out and teaches Ippo the joys of boxing. Soon Ippo joins Takamura’s gym and finds quirky characters all around him, all boxers, and eventually he starts to make friends for the first time.

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Ippo’s character starts off as an unnoticeable bullied, wimpy type of boy who begins to find self confidence in himself and starts to be more outgoing the more he boxes. The anime even shows years pass to the point where he’s out of high school, doing boxing as a professional job, had a few underlings, had one of his underlings challenge him after a year or so to test his mettle, and now he’s one of the top boxers in Japan! If that’s not impressive character development I don’t know what is!

Not only are sports anime great character pieces, but they also get people interested in sports when they had no interest to begin with. Personally, I hate watching sports. I like playing them, but ultimately I didn’t really care for them. When I was starting out to watch anime I was obsessed with Eyeshield 21. Football, or American Football, is one of the most boring sports I can think of, and yet Eyeshield 21 not only made me love watching something I initially found boring, but also taught me how the game is played, what the rules are, and so forth. In fact Eyeshield 21 actually improved Japan by getting more teenagers interested and joining American Football teams.

Sports are so diverse, and their anime brings a lot to the table. Every sports anime has to have great likable characters that are funny and relatable, and I don’t think I’ve watched one that didn’t have that. They can make you interested in something you weren’t interested in, but the fact that there are numerous games that fall under sports you just never know what you’ll find.

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Take Hikaru no Go. This is a sports anime about the Japanese game Go. I had no idea what Go was, but I was fascinated and drawn to this series because like every other sports anime it gave me great characters, intense enjoyment of the game, but this one gave me a window into the Japanese culture on a game that doesn’t have a Western equivalent. In fact I was so enamored by this game and in love with how it worked I got a Go set of my own for Christmas one year!

Sports anime, for one reason or another, seems to get a bad reputation. I have no idea why, but it’s one of my favorite genres because it incorporates so much more than your average anime would. They take their time in building characters, main and side, so that you’ll remember them for years. Trust me, if you put a picture of every sports anime character I’ve ever seen I guarantee you I’ll be able to tell you their name and what they did for their team. They take you out of your comfort zone and make you learn something new, and exciting. I didn’t want to know anything about American Football, but because of Eyeshield 21 I now understand what the hell goes on in a game.  There are so many sports out there, some you probably didn’t even think was a sport, and because of that you have opportunities to learn from other cultures. Eyeshield 21 introduced a Western game to Japan, who only associates Football to what American’s like to call Soccer, while Hikaru no Go introduced this Western to an Eastern game that doesn’t really have an equivalent in the West. Sports anime is choc full of surprises and enjoyment, and I think everybody should watch some sports anime.

I hope I at least made you think about this underrated genre, and to help I’ll list the top five sports anime that I think beginners would enjoy 😀

5. Haikyuu!!- Volleyball, men’s. This anime is very very character focused and you won’t get as much screen time for the games as you would think, but the characters are so deep that you’ll need a bigger spoon to scrape the bottom.

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4. Yowamushi Pedal- Cycling. A feel good anime about an outcast kid who joins the racing club. If you thought cycling was easy then you’ll feel out of breath as you really get to see how much pain and sweat goes into this. Also, it made me really want to ride my bike again so make sure you have one on hand just in case 😉

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3. Hikaru no Go- A boy whose not interested in the game of Go accidentily awakens a Go master ghost who haunts him. To appease the ghost he has to play Go, and with that he starts to find appreciation for the game and an unexpected friendship as he gets to know the ghost and make one of my favorite rivals.

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2. Eyeshield 21- Anyone who has ever watched a sports anime has at least heard of this, if not watched it. It’s a tale that anybody could relate to, and the story is just so good that it mixes learning with kick-ass visuals to near perfection.

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  1. Hajime no Ippo- One of the most, if not THE most, inspiring sports anime, or anime, in general. If you thought Rocky made you want to work out just watch five episodes of this and I’m sure you’ll be shadowboxing in no time.   hajime_no_ippo_new_challenger_by_duranmana
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One thought on “The Curious Case of Sports Anime

  1. srogers1

    I have to agree that sports anime is full of hidden gems. I am not a “sports” person. I did not play sports in school. I don’t watch sports on TV. But most of my favorite anime fall into this genre. I really only started watching anime “seriously” a few years ago. I’d seen the usual things over the years – Speen Racer, random things on Toonami (like the Frieza arc of DBZ). But I didn’t really ‘get it’, so I decided to watch something iconic to give it the best shot. I picked Innuyasha, and that hooked me. I agree – sports anime are the same kind of hero’s quest, but in the real world. That’s what I enjoy about them.

    But usually there is more to it than just switching monsters with football players. And the settings are often not the kind of thing you’d think of as a sport (like Go). One of my favorites is Chihayafuru, which revolves around the card game Karuta. I’ve also really enjoyed Baby Steps (tennis). But the big point is that sports anime are not really about sports, in the way Harry Potter is not really about magic. It’s all about the the the character’s choices and growth.

    Like

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