Top 10 Sports Anime [Updated Best Recommendations]

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Ever since the dawn of time, we humans have evolved to have to needs in indulging ourselves in physical activity to stimulate our motoric functions, whether if it’s running, jumping, or even doing the somersault. Since then, thanks to the brilliant minds of humans, the simplest physical activities have developed into amazing creative sports, attracting more individuals to partake in sports and eventually giving birth to sports legends.

Sports stars such as David Beckham, Michael Jordan, Novak Djokovic and much more have contributed in making the sport itself an incredible thing. And just like how those characters have revolutionized the sporting event, anime have also created a wind of change to how people perceive sports, in hopes to inspire more generations of youth to become the next sporting icon. So here’s the updated version of Top 10 Sports Anime that has sparked many fans into loving the sport itself!

10. Major

  • Episodes: 26
  • Aired: Nov 2004 - May 2005

Starting the countdown on number 10 of this list is Major. The plot centers around Honda Gorou and his dream of becoming a famous Major League batter just like his father. Unfortunately, his father’s baseball career came to an end when he suffered severe injuries, forcing him to retire from the baseball scene. It was a bitter pill that Gorou had to swallow, seeing his father as well as his idol unable to continue playing baseball anymore but this unfortunate event became a tipping point as to Gorou’s motivation to pursue a baseball career himself.

Major is a very amazing anime baseball series and a very memorable anime for a lot of people in the anime world. With 6 seasons in total, the characters development in the series is brilliant. As each season brings Honda Gorou one step closer of establishing a name for himself, a lot of viewers were able to relate to his journey in reaching his goal. This is why the series deserves to be on this list of Top 10 Sports Anime.


9. Prince of Tennis (The Prince of Tennis)

  • Episodes: 178
  • Aired: Oct 2001 - Mar 2005

When a tennis prodigy, Echizen Ryouma joined the Seishin Gakuen Junior High School, he was able to prove his skills and becomes a regular in the tennis team. This opened up a whole new world for Ryouma, as he learns to face many new different formidable opponents, eventually making him face the struggles and hardships of losing. But ultimately benefits him too, as he picks up a trick or two from those match-ups.

Next on the countdown is Tennis no Ouji-sama, or better known as the Prince of Tennis. This series is hands down, the best-known tennis anime of all times, earning this series the number 9 spot on this list. With great depiction of the sport and unique mindset of a tennis player from an anime perspective, this series won’t disappoint you!


8. Eyeshield 21

  • Episodes: 145
  • Aired: Apr 2005 - Mar 2008

After successfully passing the entrance exam and getting accepted at the Deimon High School, Sena Kobayakawa thought that he could finally use a fresh start, and finally leaving his past days of being bullied into being a lackey all behind. Unfortunately, his peaceful days were short-lived as he was yet again bullied into being the errand boy by Kazuki Jumonji, Koji Kuroki, and Shozo Togano, a trio who is soon known as the Ha-Ha Brothers.

Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, after successfully escaping the trio in a chase, he was then kidnapped by Yoichi Hiruma, the Quarterback of Deimon Devil Bats, to play as the Running Back after noticing how fast Sena could run. From then on, Sena became deeply involved with Deimon’s Football Club, eventually falling in love with the sport itself.

Just like what was written in the opening paragraph of this list, anime has an amazing way to inspire and influence people on a peculiar level. And this anime is a good example for it. Despite the fact that American Football is a sport that is rarely known in other countries aside from its original country, the existence of this anime truly open the eyes of many that remained oblivious before. Thanks to its clever and creative depiction of American Football, people become interested in the sport itself in real life as well as the anime, making this series number 8 on the list.


7. Yowamushi Pedal

  • Episodes: 38
  • Aired: Oct 2013 - Jul 2014

Yowamushi Pedal is an anime that centers on Onoda Sakamichi, an otaku fanboy obsessed with anime who ends up being a competitive cyclist. It all manifested from when Onoda was motivated to cycle round trips to Akihabara, the land of otaku to get extra anime merchandise having to be able to save money from train tickets. Thanks to his love for anime, Onoda eventually got involved with Sohoku High Bicycle Club, his school’s bicycle club and joined them later.

This anime has an uncanny resemblance of what would happen in real life, most of it anyway. It features a clever way of making the protagonist develop his skills and talent of cycling through his love for anime and his cheapskate nature which made the characters development in the series so exciting and help this anime secure its spot on number 7 of the list.


6. Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club (Free!)

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jul 2013 - Sep 2013

‘Free!’ is an anime about a group of friends who happen to be in a swimming club together. The plot mainly centers on Nanase Haruka, a child prodigy in swimming and his swimming buddies from elementary school; Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki, and Rin Matsuoka who separated after participating in a swimming relay race tournament.

As fate brought them back together, Nanase Haruka, together with both Makoto Tachibana and Nagisa Hazuki was reunited in the same high school. Rin Matsuoka, on the other hand, moved to Australia after the tournament and eventually moved back to Japan and entered a different high school. From then on, Rin developed a rivalry with Haruka, as both determined to compete with one another in an epic swim-off.

Overall, this anime is a great one, due to the fact that it only focuses on the character’s development, it also features their friendship and brotherhood amongst Haruka, Rin, Makoto and Nagisa, which is a beautiful thing. Why is this anime in the number 6 of the list? Because it’s Free!


5. Haikyuu!!

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: Apr 2014 - Sep 2014

Inspired after watching a volleyball match by a team called “Little Giants”, Shouyou Hinata was determined to compete in volleyball by reviving the volleyball club in his middle school. Unfortunately, when it was his first time to compete, they had to play against a formidable opponent Tobio Kageyama, who was known as the ‘King of Court’. Despite Shouyou’s team that consists of bad players, it didn’t faze him. Upon losing his first match, Shouyou worked hard and when he joined a volleyball club in high school, he was reunited with his old rival, Tobio Kageyama.

Here’s a sports anime that features volleyball, a sport that is quite uncommon for males. The series did an amazing job showcasing what the protagonist had to go through in order to achieve his goals, and that brought the viewers a ticket to ride in the feels train. Not only does it make you emotional but the series also packs a comedy slice that will interest you even further about this anime, sealing the deal on the number 5 on the list.


4. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace)

  • Episodes: 75
  • Aired: Oct 2013 - Mar 2015

Being a dedicated baseball player, Sawamura Eijun was lucky enough to be approached one day and received an invitation to attend one of the most elite schools that has a prominent baseball club. However, seeing as how he had to move and leave his teammates behind, Eijun isn’t that thrilled to accept it. After hearing this news, his teammates gathered and deeply encourages Eijun to accept the offer and go win the Nationals in their stead, seeing as their baseball abilities will only hold him back.

Sawamura Eijun took the offer and met Miyuki Kazuya after joining his new baseball club. From there on, both Kazuya and Eijun helped one another to achieve a common goal, and that is to conquer the Nationals.

Number 4 on the list is none other than ‘Diamond no Ace’. The portrayal of the loyalty and friendship of Eijun’s friends and teammates can be emotional. In the total of 75 episodes long, this anime had successfully highlighted the ups and downs of Eijun’s journey, receiving popularity amongst the anime fans and making the series secure the number 4 spot on the list.


3. Kuroko's Basketball (Kuroko no Basuke)

  • Episodes: 75
  • Aired: Apr 2012 - Jun 2015

“The Teiko Middle School basketball club. An incredibly strong team with over one hundred members and three consecutive championship wins. Even with that brilliant history, a group of five prodigies known as the “Generation of Miracles stood above the rest. However, there was a strange rumor concerning the Generation of Miracles. Despite being relatively unknown and lacking a game record, there was one more member recognized by the five prodigies. A phantom sixth man.”

Kuroko no Basket is an awesome anime that features a below average player named Kuroko Tetsuya, and his clever way of approaching basketball. As we all know the common stereotype of being a good basketball player are determined by their heights, agility, stamina, and shooting skills. Kuroko Tetsuya is a perfect example of being none of the above.

Thanks to Seijuro Akashi’s mentoring, Kuroko discovered a whole new way to play basketball. Using a ‘misdirection’ technique, similar to the sleight of hand technique commonly used by magicians, Kuroko was able to utilize his low presence in the court to intercept opponent passes, and redirect passes to the team. He then became the phantom 6th man of the “Generation of Miracles”, a shadow if you will. Join Kuroko’s journey in basketball as he joins Seirin High School and competes with his former fellow teammates.


2. Fighting Spirit (Hajime no Ippo)

  • Episodes: 75
  • Aired: Oct 2000 to Mar 2002

Imagine yourself constantly being treated like the loser, getting bullied every day, that’s what happened to Ippo Makunouchi. After a fortunate twist for Ippo as he was saved by Takamura Mamoru, a boxer, when he was in the midst of being bullied, Takamura then took him to Kamogawa boxing gym and introduced a whole new world of boxing to Ippo. He then realized that it was somewhat of his calling to dwell in boxing. Thus begins the journey of Ippo rising up to the challenges he may face in the boxing ring and conquering them one fight at a time.

Next on number 2 of the list, this anime is an honorable mention and must-see anime for anime fans out there. Aside from the beat-down loser status of the protagonist, the series did a magnificent job turning him into a true contender through painstaking training and motivational drive. Believe this, when you watch this series, you will feel just as motivated as Ippo when it comes to fights and journey.


1. Slam Dunk

  • Episodes: 101
  • Aired: Oct 1993 to Mar 1996

Who could ever forget Hanamichi Sakuragi’s infamous signature red hair? Or the jiggling fat on the chin and belly of Coach Mitsuyoshi Anzai? These are few of the many things that made Slam Dunk such a fun anime to watch. Hanamichi Sakuragi, the series’ protagonist, is an arrogant, self-centered delinquent, who through basketball, discovered his true calling in playing the sport itself.

Old but gold, is the best way to describe this anime. Having been the oldest anime that made it on this list and earning the number 1 spot nonetheless, this is a testament as to how powerful of an impact Slam Dunk has brought on sports-genre anime. Despite the lack of quality state-of-the-art animation like anime nowadays, the story and concept of this particular basketball-themed anime were enough to make this series a legendary one.


Final Thoughts

So that’s it for the Updated Top 10 Sports Anime! Does watching some of the anime above makes you want to join and participate in a sporting club? Do you think anime has the ability to motivate people watching into actually trying out some of the sports that exist in real life? What’s your favorite sports anime? Be sure to leave them in the comments below what you think about sports anime!

Winfrey Widjijanto

Writer

Author: Winfrey Widjijanto

Hi! My name is Winfrey and I come from Indonesia. I’m currently residing in Jakarta to pursue my bachelor degree but I hope in the near future I get to travel to new places including Japan! Still in search of my passion though, but so far, music and writing seems to interest me the most. (Just starting out) Desperately trying to learn new things and striving to become a better person each passing day. Cheers from Jakarta!

Previous Articles

Top 5 Anime by Winfrey Widjijanto


Original Article Below

Not as famous as Dragon Ball Z or Naruto kind of shônen anime, yet the sports anime genre are numerous and cover many different types sports. From the most common ones, like football or basketball, to some more unconventional for anime types, like swimming or cycling. Sadly, these types of anime are rarely broadcasted on the main TV channels outside Japan, but it would be a shame to miss some of them! There are many great sports anime (way more than only 10) and I tried to make a list of my Top 10 for you. Here we go!

10. Free!

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: Jul. 2013 – Sept. 2013

An anime with lots of fan service for … women! That’s quite rare in the sports category so it had to be noticed. Apart from that it is a good anime with great quality graphics and it focuses on swimming which is rather original!

Following Haruka Nanase, a talented swimmer who loves to be immersed in water. After losing a race against his old friend and ex-partner Rin Matsuoka, he decides to form a new team with the Iwatobi High school swimming club in order to defeat his new rival.


9. Yowamushi Pedal

  • Episodes: 38
  • Aired: Oct. 2013 – Jul. 2014

Yes, this is an anime about cycling, and no, this isn’t boring at all as some people could think like I did before watching it! With great characters, a good storyline, lots of fun and motivating songs, Yowamushi Pedal has what it takes to be part of this Top 10. Note that there are also 2 movies and a side story.

Sakamichi Onoda is an otaku with no friends. When entering high school he decided to enter the anime club to make new friends but this one had been disbanded. However, while trying to find people to join the club in order to re-establish it, someone noticed him riding his bike on a steep road and unexpectedly invites him to join the bicycle club.


8. Prince of Tennis

  • Episodes: 178
  • Aired: Oct. 2001 – Mar. 2005

Now talking about Tennis, here is the most famous anime in this sport: Prince of Tennis. Adding to the 7 seasons, there are many OVAs and movies, plus the sequel named New Prince of Tennis. A great anime that will keep you busy for a long time!

The story focus on a young tennis prodigy named Echizen Ryoma who joined one of the best tennis school in Japan in order to surpass his father, a former pro player. He will meet there many teammates and have to overcome many obstacle to find his own style of tennis and reach his goal.


7. Captain Tsubasa

  • Episodes: 128
  • Aired: Oct. 1983 – Mar. 1986

What would be a list of the best sports anime without Captain Tsubasa? This is probably the most notorious sports anime all over the world. We could even say that it is comparable to Dragon Ball Z in its own genre. It clearly had an impact on many children as it did for me and will always have a special place in my heart. In total, 227 episodes have been released (including the sequels Captain Tsubasa J and Road to 2002), 14 OVAs and 4 movies!

11-year-old Tsubasa Ozora just arrived to his new school in the town of Nankatsu but he quickly imposed himself as the major and best player of the school football team. The story follows his evolution playing against great rivals and joining the national team of which he will become the emblematic captain.


6. Eyeshield 21

  • Episodes: 145
  • Aired: Apr. 2005 – Mar. 2008

This is one of the only anime focusing on American football. One that makes you feel like searching for a club and try your luck at this sport. It also helps a lot to understand the basic rules and positions in American football. I personally really enjoyed it! Note that there are also 1 special episode and 1 movie.

Following Sena, a supposedly weak and coward new high school student, but having huge natural acceleration and speed skills. This won’t go unnoticed by the devilish Hiruma, captain of the Deimon Devil Bats American football team. Instead of becoming the new manager, Sena finds himself thrown on the pitch as a mysterious running back named Eyeshield 21. With Hiruma and Kurita they will start to climb the ranks and try to reach the Christmas Bowl while recruiting talented new players on the way.


5. Major

  • Episodes: 154
  • Aired: Nov. 2004 – Sept. 2010

As most of the anime listed here, you can also find 3 additional OVAs and 1 movie. Putting apart the unreal abilities or skills that are countless in many sports anime, Major focus more on a real experience with amazing characters and a truly heart-breaking story that won’t leave you indifferent.

Major’s story follows Gorou Honda, a young baseball pitcher and son of the Major league batter Shigeharu Honda, from the Little league to the Major one. However, his life is not that simple as alongside his passion, he will have to go through many joyful as painful moments…


4. Slam Dunk

  • Episodes: 101
  • Aired: Oct. 1993 – Mar. 1996

There are also 4 short movies of around 40 or 45 minutes relating some side stories. Slam Dunk could be considered as a pioneer of sports anime, and even though it is a bit old, it still remains one of the best.

Sakuragi Hanamichi is a freshman at Shohoku High school with a bad reputation: he got rejected by 50 girls during Middle school! Moreover, his appearance makes him often classified as a delinquent. One day he meets Haruko Akagi and immediately falls in love with her. In order to gain her heart, he pretends loving basketball and joins the school basketball team. Soon it will become way more important to him than he would have imagined…


3. Kuroko no Basket

  • Episodes: 64
  • Aired: Apr. 2012 – in progress

In 3rd place is another basketball anime, much more recent though. Kuroko no Basket is one of the most trendy sports anime of nowadays. Compared to some other anime listed here, this one clearly goes into the unreal with overwhelming special powers and crazy moves. However, this makes it really fun to watch. Adding to that, the characters are really likeable and well distinguished and the animation is great! Whether you like Basketball or not doesn’t matter, if you never watched it, try! You won’t regret it.

The Teiko Middle school basketball team was famous for its “Generation of Miracles” composed of 5 incredibly skilled starting men. After winning several seasons in a row, they went separate ways to different high schools. Yet few people noticed there was a 6th player that was part of this generation. His name: Tetsuya Kuroko. He is now part of the Seirin High School basketball team with the naturally talented player Taiga Kagami, and they are planning to defeat every member of this legendary generation.


2. Haikyuu!!

  • Episodes: 25
  • Aired: Apr. 2014 – Sept. 2014

Only 1 season done and it’s already one of the best sports anime there is, as of today! I can’t tell you how much I’m waiting for the next season, which is scheduled for October this year! One thing that makes it already different from the others are the characters, they are no superheroes! They have to face defeat before getting to know the taste of victory and need to practice hard for that purpose. Plus, you won’t find any super skills here, it’s all based on reality! All of this makes you feel way closer to the characters.

Following Shouyou Hinata, a middle school student passionate about volley-ball. Even though he's always been the only one of his school volley-ball club, he never stopped practicing hard until he finally got the opportunity to play a tournament with his schoolmates against other middle school teams. Sadly, he is the only player of the team having good basics skills in this sport, and they eventually get crushed by their first opponents leaded by Tobio Kageyama, also known as “The King of the Court”. In order to get better and defeat this new rival, Shouyou entered Karasuno High School which has the volleyball team that made him discover this sport. Little did he expect, Tobio is in the same club…


1. Hajime no Ippo

  • Episodes: 75
  • Aired: Oct. 2000 – Mar. 2002

It was pretty hard to decide but I chose Hajime no Ippo as my number 1 selection in this Top 10. How many times did I find myself repeating the same moves seen in this anime? A lot! This is a great show, ultra-motivating and showing how somebody who's supposed to be weak and without any talent can become really good a something through passion and hard work. Adding to the 75 episodes, there is also 1 special episode about Takamura’s debut, 1 OVA, 1 movie and 2 sequels named Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger (26 episodes) and Hajime no Ippo: Rising (25 episodes). And the best thing is that a 4th season will be released this year!

The story focuses on Makunouchi Ippo, a nice high school student having problems making friends as he spends all his free time helping his mother at their fishing company. He regularly gets bullied by other students and seems unable to react against it until he meets Takamura, a young and on-the-rise boxer. That’s when Ippo discovers a new passion and it marks the very beginning of his hard path towards glory.


Other sports anime
* Big Windup!(Baseball), * Chihayafuru(competitive karuta: a card game based on Japanese poetry), * Kaleido Star(Circus), * Ping Pong(table tennis)

So that was my Top 10! Of course, this is my opinion and I had a lot of trouble deciding, as they are all great anime. What would be your Top 10 selections? Let us know below in comments!

Thomas

Translator/Writer

Author: Thomas

Sports, music (listening/playing), travels, movies, games and anime: those are my main interests. I can probably not be categorized as a nerd or an otaku but I do enjoy a lot the last 2 of my hobbies. After living in 3 other different countries, I decided to follow my "nindou" and came to Japan in order to become a ninja. Apparently it’s not the right era anymore though…

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