It’s not uncommon for me to run into other anime fans that do not give sports anime a try. This is usually because they aren’t much of a sports fan in real life so they shrug off the idea of ever liking an anime about sports.
“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 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 anime series within the sports genre.
In no particular order, here are the series I recommend for all the newcomers!
*Series synopsis are from MyAnimeList.
1Kuroko No Basket (Kuroko’s Basketball)
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: Honda Shigeharu is a Major League batter on the rise. His son Goro is a Little League pitcher who one day hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps. Hoshino Momoko is Goro’s schoolteacher, and the first woman Shigeharu has been interested in since the death of Goro’s mother. The destinies 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.
Synopsis: Makunouchi Ippo has been bullied his entire life. Constantly running errands and being beaten up by his classmates, Ippo has always dreamed of changing himself, but never has the passion to act upon it. One day, in the midst of yet another bullying, Ippo is saved by Takamura Mamoru, who happens to be a boxer. Ippo faints from his injuries and is brought to the Kamogawa boxing gym to recover. As he regains consciousness, he is awed and amazed at his new surroundings in the gym, though lacks confidence to attempt anything. Takamura places a photo of Ippo’s classmate on a punching bag and forces him to punch it. It is only then that Ippo feels something stir inside him and eventually asks Takamura to train him in boxing.
Thinking that Ippo does not have what it takes, Takamura gives him a task deemed impossible and gives him a one week time limit. With a sudden desire to get stronger, for himself and his hard working mother, Ippo trains relentlessly to accomplish the task within the time limit. Thus Ippo’s journey to the top of the boxing world begins.
Synopsis: Chihaya Ayase is a frank and ebullient girl who becomes fascinated by the obscure world of competitive karuta, a card game based on Japanese poetry. Introduced to the aggressive style of the game by a quiet and thoughtful elementary school classmate named Arata Wataya, the two quickly become close friends. They start playing as a group with Taichi Mashima, Chihaya’s smart and athletic childhood friend, until they have to part ways during their middle school years due to several circumstances. As their high school life begins, they meet once again.
Synopsis: Makoto Tsukimoto (nicknamed Smile) is a quiet high-schooler who’s been friends with the loud and energetic Yutaka Hoshino (nicknamed Peco) since childhood. They’re both in the local table tennis club and both have a natural talent for it, although Smile’s personality always prevents him from winning against Peco. The club teacher, however, notices Smile’s talent and tries to make him gain some sportive tenacity.
Synopsis: Welcome To the Gridiron of the Damned! Huge hulking bodies throw themselves at each other, while a tiny lithe body runs between them for the goal! No, it’s not a game of football, it’s Sena Kobayakawa trying to evade the monstrous Ha-Ha brothers down the halls of Deimon High School! But wait! Sena’s incredible skills at not getting caught have been spotted by the devilish (possibly actually demonic) captain of the school’s embryonic American style football team, and when Sena asks to be the teams manager, he gets thrust onto the field as a running back instead!
But there are two BIG catches: first, to keep the identity of their new “star” player an absolute secret, Yoichi makes Sena wear an opaque visor on his helmet and gives him the alias of “Eyeshield 21.” And the second catch? Well, in order to hit his fastest “speed of light” running mode, Sena usually has to be absolutely terrified. Not that THAT will be a problem with the monstrous players that he’ll soon find himself running from! The insanity hits the streets when the feet meet the cleats in EYESHIELD 21!
Synopsis: Otaku Sakamichi Onoda has just entered high school and plans to join the anime club. In middle school, Onoda didn’t have any friends with whom he could talk about anime, games, Akihabara and other otaku things, and he is hoping he can make such friends in the anime club, but he finds out it’s been disbanded. In order to reestablish the club he tries to find 4 other people who would like to join.
Synopsis: The story begins when Hiromichi Kojima, the star batter of the fictional Lycaons in Japan’s Pacific League, heads to the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to train and bring himself out of a slump. There, he meets Toua Tokuchi, a 134-kmph (83 miles per hour) pitcher and the undisputed king of a gambling form of baseball called “One Out.” At Kojima’s urging, Tokuchi signs up with the Lycaons under an unusual contract: he gets 5,000,000 yen (about US$46,000) for every out he pitches, but loses 50,000,000 yen (US$460,000) for every run he gives up.
Synopsis: 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!
A tale of hot-blooded youth and volleyball from the pen of Haruichi Furudate!!
10Diamond No Ace (Ace of Diamond)
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: Echizen Ryoma 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 high school, one of the best tennis schools in Japan, and there along with his teammates 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.
Synopsis: The main character is Kou Kitamura, son of the owner of Kitamura Sports. In the same neighborhood is a batting center run by the Tsukishima family. Due to their proximity and the relationship between their businesses, the Kitamura and Tsukishima familes have been close for many years, with their children going back and forth between the two homes like extended family. Because Kou and Wakaba were the same age and always together, Aoba was jealous of all the time Kou spent with her older sister. Aoba is a natural pitcher with excellent form, and Kou secretly trains to become as good as she was, even while publicly showing little interest in baseball.
13Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!)
Synopsis: After a falling out with his middle school team, Mihashi enters Nishiura high school with no social skill, a warped opinion of himself, and every intention to quit baseball. The newly formed Nishiura baseball team, however, needs a pitcher, and they welcome him. Most enthusiastic is Abe, a domineering catcher with his own game issues.
And so a battery every bit as complementary as it is dysfunctional is formed. If they can figure out how to work together, they might be the answers to each other’s problems-and the team might be able to win.
Synopsis: Hanamichi Sakuragi, an entering Shohoku high school freshman, holds a record for being rejected by 50 girls during middle school. His nearly 2 meters height and bright red hair causes most students to write him off as a delinquent.
One day, a girl named Haruko Akagi approaches Hanamichi without any fear. When she asks Hanamichi “do you like basketball?” Hanamichi falls head over heels for the girl of his dreams. Without missing a beat, Hanamichi tells her he loves basketball, and the two head to the gymnasium where Hanamichi learns about the slam dunk. He also learns of Rukawa, one of the country’s top basketball prospects, also a freshman at Shohoku.
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: Yawara! is a sports anime laced with comedic and romance elements. It starts off with Yawara Inokuma, a high school girl who is most interested in doing the things that your average Japanese high school girl does; however, she has been trained in Judo for years by her grandfather, Jigorou (A former Japan Judo Champion), who has much grander plans in store for her as a Judo superstar. He manipulates matters so that Yawara ends up having to perform in matches and tournaments. His final plan is for Yawara to “Win the Gold Medal in the Olympics and be awarded the Nation Medal of Honor.”
Synopsis: 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?
Synopsis: Haruka Nanase has a love for water and a passion for swimming. In elementary school, he competed in and won a relay race with his three friends Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki, and Makoto Tachibana. After claiming victory at the tournament, the four friends went their separate ways. Years later, they reunite as high school students; however, Rin couldn’t care less about returning to the way things used to be. Not only does he attend a different school, but the sole thing important to him is proving that he is a better swimmer than Haruka.
After the bitter reunion, Haruka, Nagisa, and Makoto decide to form the Iwatobi High School Swim Club, but they will need a fourth member if they hope to take part in the upcoming tournament. Enter Rei Ryuugazaki, a former member of the track team whom Nagisa recruits. As the time to compete draws near, the four develop a close bond while training intensely to come out on top and settle things between Haruka and Rin once and for all.
Synopsis: Diligent and methodical honor student Eiichirou Maruo decides to exercise more during the little free time he has available because he is worried about his health. For this reason, after seeing a flyer, he joins the Southern Tennis Club at the beginning of his freshman year.
During his free trial at the club, he meets Natsu Takasaki, another first year student, who is determined on becoming a professional tennis player due to her love for the sport. In contrast, Eiichirou’s study-oriented life exists because he believes that it is what he has to do, not because he enjoys it. However, his monotonous days come to an end as the more he plays tennis, the more he becomes fascinated by it.
Synopsis: 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.
Synopsis: East Tokyo United, ETU, has been struggling in Japan’s top football league for a few years. It has taken everything they have just to avoid relegation. To make matters even worse, the fans are starting to abandon the team.
In an effort to improve their performance, ETU has hired a new coach, the slightly eccentric Tatsumi Takeshi. Tatsumi, who was considered a great football player when he was younger, abandoned the team years before but has proven himself as the manager of one of England’s lower division amateur teams. The task won’t be easy, the teams East Tokyo United is pitted against have bigger budgets and better players. However, Tatsumi is an expert at Giant Killing.
Synopsis: Reeling from his crushing defeat at the Grand Prix Finale, Yuuri Katsuki, once Japan’s most promising figure skater, returns to his family home to assess his options for the future. At age 23, Yuuri’s window for success in skating is closing rapidly, and his love of pork cutlets and aptitude for gaining weight are not helping either.
However, Yuuri finds himself in the spotlight when a video of him performing a routine previously executed by five-time world champion, Victor Nikiforov, suddenly goes viral. In fact, Victor himself abruptly appears at Yuuri’s house and offers to be his mentor. As one of his biggest fans, Yuuri eagerly accepts, kicking off his journey to make it back onto the world stage. But the competition is fierce, as the rising star from Russia, Yuri Plisetsky, is relentlessly determined to defeat Yuuri and win back Victor’s tutelage.
Synopsis: Kojirou is the kendo instructor for Muroe High School and he’s totally broke. But then an unexpected chance is given to him: his team must win against his senpai’s team and the prize is: free meals for a whole year! Now, the only problem left… where to find girls skilled enough and willing to join the kendo team?
Synopsis: Joe Yabuki is a troubled youth, whose only solution to problems is throwing punches at them. What he lacks in manners and discipline, he makes up for with his self-taught fighting skills.
One day, while wandering the slums of Doya, Joe gets into a fight with the local gang. Although greatly outnumbered, he effortlessly defeats them, drawing the attention of Danpei Tange—a former boxing coach turned alcoholic. Seeing his potential, he offers to train Joe into Japan’s greatest boxer. At first, Joe dismisses Danpei as a hopeless drunk; but after the trainer saves his life, he agrees to live with him and learn the art of boxing. Unfortunately, Joe’s personality makes him an unruly student, and he often falls back to his old ways.
To survive the harsh world of his new career, Joe needs to trust his mentor and master the techniques taught to him. However, the road to becoming a professional boxer is rife with struggles that will test his mettle to the end.
Synopsis: Keiko Himuro, Chairman of the Kisuragi School, puts together an all-girl baseball team led by Ryo Hayakawa, daughter of a legendary pitcher, in hopes of proving that girls can compete just as well as boys. Their goal: Koshien Stadium, where only the best teams get the opportunity to play.
I hope this list gets you started on your new sports journey! Community members leave comments below on some other sports anime new viewers of the genre should check out!