Probably almost everyone knows the cult sports anime Captain Tsubasa, which of course, is on my list. However, there are a lot of other good sports anime, which I will present to you here. Most of you will probably have seen them already, but I hope that some of you will discover a new sports anime for themselves. It’s not a ranking, so don’t pay attention to the placements of the animes.
Here are my top 20 sports anime:
1. Initial D – (Inisharu Dī)
© Gallop Co., Ltd
Initial D is set in the late 1990s and tells the story of Takumi Fujiwara, an 18-year-old teenager who helps out in his father’s tofu business by supplying the hotel on Mount Akina every morning in the Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86 – short AE86. His daily rides make Takumi an extremely good driver, but he is not interested in road races at first. One day the Akagi Redsuns challenge the Akina Speedstars to a race. There is no one among the Speedstars who even comes close to the abilities of the brothers Ryousuke and Keisuke Takahashi. Still, suddenly a completely outdated Hachi-Roku (86) appears in Keisuke’s rear-view mirror and defeats him superiorly. It becomes known that Takumi was the driver of the AE86. Keisuke wants revenge….
2. Kuroko’s Basketball – (Kuroko no Basket)
© Production I.G, Inc.
The plot is set in contemporary Japan. The Teiko Junior High team has dominated school basketball for years. Especially the last basketball team of Teikos was staffed with extraordinary players, who surpassed all others to such an extent that they were called the Generation of Miracles. These players are Ryota Kise (who can copy every move directly), Shintaro Midorima (a 3-point expert whose range is the entire field), Daiki Aomine (a gifted technician with great athleticism), Atsushi Murasakibara (a giant center and defensive expert with very fast reflexes) and team captain Seijuro Akashi (who can anticipate almost every move and can put the opponent off his game).
However, there was a sixth player who was respected by the Generation of Miracles and was used in games repeatedly. It was Tetsuya Kuroko, who was athletically and technically unable to keep up with the other five players, but who proved to be a brilliant passer and very specialized. Because of his inconspicuous presence (not only) on the field and through very fast, short passing games, he was able to act almost like a phantom and thus made unusual moves possible; he also specialized in steals. The disadvantage of his technique, however, was that this effect faded with the duration of the game and the opponents could finally get used to him.
Unlike the other five players of the Generation of Miracles, Kuroko made a conscious decision not to attend a high school with a major basketball team. However, last year at Teiko Junior High, Kuroko saw the team fall apart bit by bit as the talents of the other five blossomed. In the end, they no longer had any equal opponents, so the competition between them became the only motivation for the players, who also changed their characters more and more while losing their love for the game. Team play was increasingly seen as an obstacle, and everyone wanted to outperform the others, so they joined different high schools.
Kuroko on the other hand believes that this is the wrong way to play basketball….
3. Captain Tsubasa – (Kyaputen Tsubasa)
© Tsuchida Production
It is about the young soccer player Tsubasa Ohzora and his dream of becoming the best soccer player in the world as well as reaching the World Cup with the Japanese national soccer team. At the beginning of the series, 11-year-old Tsubasa Ohzora moves with his family to Nankatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, where he joins his school team, Nankatsu SC. Besides Tsubasa, Ryo Ishizaki, Genzo Wakabayashi and Taro Misaki are the most important players of Nankatsu. This is where the exciting and also emotional story of Tsubasa’s dream of becoming the world’s best soccer player begins.
4. Yowamushi Pedal
© TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.
The young student Sakamichi Onoda from Chiba is a typical Otaku without real friends, afraid of girls, and with a preference for anime series. After entering high school, he hopes to finally find like-minded people with whom he can exchange ideas about his favorite characters in the school’s anime club. However, due to too few interested people, the anime club is closed down. Promptly Onoda tries to reanimate it and meets new friends who are less interested in anime but his cycling talent. Shunsuke Imaizumi, who would like to join the school’s bicycle club, notices that Onoda almost effortlessly travels long distances and steep mountain climbs on a heavy touring bike. Naruko Shokichi, whom Onoda meets during an excursion to Akihabara, has also been enthusiastic about cycling since he was a child. Both of them subsequently convinced Onoda to join the bicycle club. Here he gets to know new friends and also the love for cycling.
5. The Prince of Tennis – (Tenisu no ōjisama)
© Production I.G, Inc.
Ryoma Echizen has just moved back to Japan from the USA and has enrolled at Seigaku Junior High School, which is known for its good tennis team. He would like to join the team, and although he is only in his first year, the team’s strict captain, Kunimitsu Tezuka, has accepted him into the team. Ryoma’s big goal is to defeat his father. Nanjiro Echizen was a world-famous tennis player, but after living his dream, his new dream became to make Ryoma a professional.
6. Ace of Diamond – (Daiya no Ēsu)
© Production I.G, Inc.
Eijun Sawamura has formed a baseball team at his high school because he is passionate about the sport. But the team is not very good, most of his classmates play just for fun and for his sake. Eijun manages to motivate them again and again, even if they do not succeed in games against other schools. He dreams of leading them to the national championship. Since he has taught himself to play, his throws are very unusual. This is also noticed by a talent scout who brings him to Seido high school in Tokyo, which is famous for its baseball team. Eijun doubts at first because he doesn’t want to leave his friends behind. But with their support, he is determined to become the best player at Seido.
7. Ping Pong The Animation – (Pin Pon)
© Tatsunoko Production Company
The high school students Makoto “Smile” and Yutaka “Peco” visit together with the table tennis club of the Katase High School. But Peco often skips training, even though he is one of the best players of his age group. He prefers to go to the small table tennis hall in his neighbourhood, which is run by an older woman. Since both are close friends, Smile often accompanies him there, and they play against each other. Smile is also much better than other players but always holds himself back. He only wants to play for fun and not to win. When the former Chinese youth national player Kong “China” comes to Japan, it happens to be during a training session at another school that he plays against Peco…
© Production I.G, Inc.
The high school student Shoyo Hinata has been enthusiastic about volleyball since he saw the broadcast of the national championship. There was also a small sportsmanlike himself in the game, who was nevertheless superior to the others. With him, as a role model, Hinata joins the club of his school, but he is the only boy in it and has to train together with the girls. Nevertheless, he shows a lot of talent and commitment. At the district’s youth championship, he can finally find fellow players, but they lose the first game. He swears to the captain of the opposing team, the well-known Tobio Kageyama, that he will defeat him one day.
9. Slam Dunk – (Suramu Danku)
© Toei Animation Co., Ltd.
Hanamichi Sakuragi gets his 50th rejection from a girl in middle school. At the new high school, everything is supposed to be different. Haruko Akagi approaches him, and he falls in love with her. That Haruko thinks he is a basketballer because of his stature isn’t a problem for him. However, it is a nuisance for Takenori Akagi, the captain of the basketball team and brother of Haruko. Because Hanamichi now wants to become the star of the team, even though he doesn’t know how to play basketball…
10. Ginban Kaleidoscope – (Ginban Kareidosukōpu)
© Actas Inc.
The 16-year-old professional figure skater Tazusa Sakurano lives in her own house with her coach and his daughter. During a qualifying tournament in Montreal, she crashes in a triple Lutz, while at the same moment the Canadian stunt pilot Pete Pumps plane explodes in a similar-looking manoeuvre. Back in Japan, they both discover that Pete’s spirit possesses Tazusa. In a panic, Tazusa tries to drive Pete out, but as he later learns about God, he has to stay in Tazusa’s body for 100 days, perceiving everything she perceives, but he cannot read her thoughts or control her…
11. Hikaru no Go
© Pierrot Co., Ltd.
The 12-year-old Hikaru Shindo brings home bad grades and gets his allowance canceled. Therefore, he searches his grandfather’s attic for stuff he can make money from. He finds an old Go board. In this Go board dwells a ghost, Fujiwara no Sai, who takes the chance to nestle into Hikaru’s consciousness in order to get closer to the “Hand of God”, a Go game that is perfect in all aspects. Hikaru isn’t enthusiastic about this at all since Go is considered a game for older men. However, for Sai’s sake, he goes to a Go club and meets the 12-year-old Akira Tohya, the son of the then three-time titleholder Koyo Tohya. Akira is a natural talent and could have become a professional player long ago, but he can’t compete with Sai’s game. Driven by the thought of becoming as good as Akira himself, Hikaru’s interest in Go grows so that he dives deeper and deeper into the old Asian board game.
Not the typical sport. Nevertheless, I think this, in my opinion, very well done anime, belongs here on the list. Give it a shot if you haven’t seen it already – you won’t regret it.
12. Major – (Mejā)
© Studio Hibari, Inc.
Goro Honda is the son of a professional baseball player. Although he is only six years old, he dreams of a future as a professional baseball player to follow the footsteps of his successful father. After his mother dies, his only contacts are with his father and his preschool teacher Momoko Hoshino, who takes particularly close care of Goro. Because there are no playmates his age in the preschool, and there is no child in the neighborhood who loves baseball as much as he does, the boy has no one to play baseball with. Even the local “Little League” team only accepts children from the age of nine into their team. Finally, Goro meets Toshiya Sato, a boy from the neighborhood who is as fascinated by this sport as he is by himself. So he teaches him the rules and trains with him diligently. An intimate relationship also develops between Goro’s father Shigeharu, and Momoko, who becomes more and more integrated into the life of the Hondas. But before the two become happy, Shigeharu…..
13. Free! – (Hai Supīdo!)
© Kyoto Animation Co., Ltd.
In primary school, he was still active and successful in the swimming club, but as a high school student, Haruka Nanase had long since stopped being active as a swimmer. He is still good friends with his former teammate Makoto Tachibana. At school, they meet Nagisa Hazuki, the third in their relay team, who would love to swim with them again. Suddenly the fourth, Rin Matsuoka, also appears. He was in Australia for a long time to become a better swimmer at a special school there. Now he goes to a boarding school nearby, which is known for the training of swimmers. He competes against Haruka and, to his disappointment, only barely wins. Already one year after Rin went to Australia, he competed against Haruka. He lost, despite his year overseas, and was desperate. Haruka blamed himself for hurting him and stopped swimming. Now that Rin is back in Japan and is swimming again despite his defeat, the three of them want to start a new swimming club at Iwatobi High School. Together with their class teacher Miho Amakata, Rin’s little sister and fellow student of the three, Gu Matsuoka, and fourth club member Rei Ryugazaki, they succeed in founding the new club.
14. Run With The Wind – (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)
© Production I.G, Inc.
The student Kakeru Kurahara has not enough money to live and is therefore happy when his fellow student Haiji Kiyose offers him a cheap room in a dormitory. After introducing Kurahara to the other roommates, everyone celebrates the new neighbour in the evening. Haiji takes the opportunity to tell them all that they are now enough people to run in the Hakone-Ekiden – which everyone else is protesting against. But the dormitory belongs to the athletics club of the university and all residents have unwittingly committed themselves to the club by signing the lease. Haiji has been planning for a long time to gather enough residents to be able to participate in the run with them. And after some persuasion, many of them initially agree to participate – some only to avoid being on the street. But the sporty Kurahara joins the training but continues to refuse to participate in the run. He used to be a runner but gave up running because he could not handle the enormous pressure to succeed. Thus begins a gripping story about friendship, cohesion, and also hard work.
15. Eyeshield 21 – (21, Aishīrudo Nijūichi)
© Gallop Co., Ltd.
At the beginning of the new school year at Deimon Kotogakko High School, the various recreational clubs are recruiting new members. Sena Kobayakawa comes to the school and is forced to join the American football club as a running back by Yoichi Hiruma, the quarterback of the Deimon Devil Bats school team, because of his ability to run faster than average for his age. Together with Yoichi and Ryokan Kurita, he formed a team to participate in the annual Christmas Bowl (the national championship for high school students).
16. Aim for the Ace! – (Ace o Nerae!)
© TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.
High school student Hiromi Oka is fascinated by her older classmate Reika Ryuzaki, the best player on the school tennis team. She emulates her, and soon the new coach Jin Munakata recognizes her talent. At first, Hiromi Oka is still hesitant, but soon is getting better and better. When she falls in love with the tennis player Takayuki Todo, her coach advises her not to let her feelings guide her. However, she takes this advice hard and soon has an impact on her performance. An exciting story about love problems, hard work, and success begins.
17. Air Gear – (Ea Gia)
© Toei Animation Co., Ltd.
The student Minami “Ikki” Itsuki is the leader of a gang and lives with the four sisters Noyamano, who took him in when he was still small. When one day he is beaten by the gang Skull Saders with air trecks, he returns home. Out of frustration, Ikki steals some air trecks and the emblem of the team “Sleeping Forest” to which his sisters belong. However, he only learns about the existence of the team and the meaning of the emblem later. After he has tried the A.T.’s, he is led to the nightly Stormrider meeting by an underground A.T. shop owner. There he challenges the Skull Saders through a misunderstanding….
Air-Trecks are similar to inline skates, shoes with wheels, but they also have motors on the wheels. These make high speeds and long jumps possible. They also have a memory card that collects data from the rider. The Air-Trecks can be assembled individually from different parts. With these Air-Trecks young people compete against each other in competitions. Those who have formed groups and participate in these competitions are called Stormriders.
18. Hajime no Ippo
© Madhouse Inc.
Ippo Makunouchi is a timid student who has hardly any friends and no time to find any, as he often has to help his mother in the boat rental business. At school, Ippo is not noticed by his classmates and is bullied and beaten by some. When one day after school, he is beaten by his classmates, the professional boxer Takamura comes to his rescue. Impressed by how Takamura makes the bullies flee, Ippo asks himself what it means to be strong. From then on, he trains day after day to become a successful boxer and makes new friends, but also meets strong rivals.
19. Yuri!!! On Ice
© MAPPA Co., Ltd.
The Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki managed to reach the Grand Prix Final at the age of 23, where he met his great idol, the Russian Victor Nikiforov. But Yuri is in bad shape and finishes last in the overall standings. Soon after that, it happens very similarly to him at the National Championship and other competitions, so that he is depressed and returns home for the first time after five years of study and training. In his hometown of Hasetsu on Kyushu Island, he receives a warm welcome from family and friends – he is a celebrity in the village despite his defeats – but he first retreats to his family’s bathhouse. Finally, he regains his courage and skates a show in the city’s ice rink that he has learned from Victor Nikiforov, but only in front of his childhood girlfriend. But their daughters filmed him and uploaded the video on the Internet, where his impressive copy of the famous Russian figure skater spread quickly. Finally, Victor Nikiforov himself sees it. Yuri met him at the banquet after the Grand Prix, where they both got drunk, and Victor fell in love with him. Yuri had forgotten that night, but now Victor comes to Hasetsu to train Yuri. He is thrilled to be trained by the one he adores since childhood. But Victor is surprisingly strict, but also kindhearted.
20. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple – (Shijō Saikyō no Deshi Kenichi)
© TMS Entertainment Co., Ltd.
The 16-year-old Kenichi Shirahama is bullied by students of his school, but when he meets Miu Furinji, he wants to become a karate master. Through Miu, he gets into the Dojo Ryozanpaku and receives his training from numerous masters. Each one is a master in a different field of martial arts, including karate, jiu-jitsu, Thai boxing and Chinese Kempo. He has to compete against Odin (Ryuto Asamiya), the first fist of Ragnarök, to live up to the Dojo. An exciting story about Kenichi and his training but also general life begins.