Hey everyone! As some of you may know, schools in Japan hold Sports Day around this time of the year. In the spirit of competition, I wanted to take some time and make a list with some of my favorite sports anime. Oh man, I love sports-themed anime. It always gets me excited with its passion and intensity—I can’t help but get sucked in. So let the games begin with my Top 5 Sports Anime list:
5. Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko’s Basketball)
Kuroko no Basket added a ton of crazy, ridiculous powers to a regular 6-man high school basketball team. Starting out as the “Generation of Miracles”, the team gained notoriety for being unbeatable, with some of the most amazing talent ever seen. The story follows the invisible sixth man, Tetsuya Kuroko. After graduation, each player goes their separate ways, joining basketball teams for opposing high schools. This time is tough for Kuroko, as he doesn’t have the type of play as the rest of the Generation of Miracles. That is, until he meets Kagami! And with that this show picks up right away with some out of this world basketball.
The show is awesome if you like street-style basketball with a twist or just enjoy basketball itself. Kuroko no Basket has some pretty intense moments and, like most of these on this list, has a huge underdog story. I also loved the way Kuroko had to leave his comfort zone to achieve what he wanted; it really helped to connect to the character.
4. Suramu Danku (Slam Dunk)
A sports anime classic, Slam Dunk is an anime about your everyday boy that tries to impress a girl. After being rejected by 50 girls, Hanamichi Sakuragi begins high school and meets Haruko Akagi, the girl of his dreams. After seeing his height she asks him to play basketball, which is a sport he knows nothing about. After he makes the team, they begin to see he’s never played before. However, as time progresses we see him get better and better. Just as Sakuragi reaches for his new love, basketball, his love for Akagi falls short. Akagi is in love with his teammate and nemesis, Kaede Rukawa.
The only letdown in this series is that it ended abruptly. Funding for production fell through and the anime stops short of completion. If you want to see how it ends, you’ll have to read the manga, but it is well worth it in my opinion. The comedy of a lopsided love triangle and the nail biting games that are played are two of the things I enjoyed the most from this series.
3. Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit in America)
As a young boy, Ippo Makunouchi was constantly bullied. But one day, that all changes when he happens to be saved by a boxer, Mamoru Takamura. Ippo wakes up in a boxing gym. Frustrated, Ippo takes out his anger on a heavy bag. The local trainers watch, seeing potential in Ippo. Later, Takamura, his hero, challenges Ippo to a test. If he passes, he can become a boxer and will be welcomed into the gym. From that day forward, Ippo’s training begins. He fights bring him to staring down champions.
This series takes me back to days when I myself was an amateur boxer and all of those days training with the blood and sweat. The fights are the best part of this series, and you can’t help but get behind Ippo as he steps into the ring. They are some really intense fights that keep you wanting more.
Wow, this series lived up to its hype for sure! I now I understand why you see so may Haikyu cosplayers at conventions. Haikyuu’s story focuses on Shōyō Hinata, who idolizes a young volleyball player and decides he wants to follow in his footsteps and play as well. Once Hinata begins high school, he joins the volleyball team where his rival from middle school,Tobio Kageyama, is also a member. As the team is struggling to stay afloat, they soon become a complete team while each character goes through changes that make them better on and off the court. Soon, the team gains notice and starts to become the power house team they once were.
If there was ever a list of stories about believing in yourself, this would rank up there with some of the best. You become so immersed into each and every game that you finally realize you’ve been white knuckling it for 10 minutes. Friendship is a huge part of this series. You watch as their friendship blossoms and, in turn, so does their teamwork on the court.
1. Ace o Nerae! (Aim for the Ace!)
While I know that some of you may groan that Haikyū!! isn’t number one, Aim for the Ace! is the series that most connected with me. After starting high school, Hiromi Oka joins the tennis team after being mesmerized by the team’s star play, a girl nicknamed Ochōfujin. When a new coach comes in, he sees potential in Hiromi and pushes her to be the best. The rest of the team is upset about this, especially her idol Ochōfujin. Hiromi powers through so many rough practices that have her at her wits end. She quickly becomes one of the best players on the team, and gets to it prove in a match with her idol.
What caught my eye with this series is the art style, from the color tones to the definition. Everything just meshes well for its time. Especially the movie and the second part of the series. I really liked watching Hiromi gain the respect not only of her team, but from her serious and solemn coach. This is the oldest anime on this list, but it might be worth your time to check it out. If nothing else, I recommend the movie for its art alone!
Set and match. That brings our list to a close. Did your favorite sports anime make the cut? If you’ve got recommendations, we’d love to hear them. Let us know in the comments below and good luck to everyone in their sports this season.