I used to be one of those people who never gave sports anime a shot. Who would watch a sports anime? What’s the point? I only watched anime for the fantasy settings, grandiose fights, and overachieving loud-mouthed main characters. Oh, man, was I dumb. Sports anime is slowly becoming one of my favorite genres right behind shonen. If you enjoy movies like Remember the Titans or Rudy, then you will love sports anime. It feeds into that camaraderie-filled emotion that only sports can get out of people. The goosebumps you get from watching a team’s hard work finally pay off is a drug like no other, and it’s there in abundance in sports anime. There are some good ones and bad ones to watch, though, just with any anime genre, so hopefully, this list will help lead you down the right path.
Kuroko’s Basketball (75 episodes & 1 movie)
Kuroko’s Basketball is hands down the most anime sports anime I’ve seen. What I mean by that is that everything is overly exaggerated. The players almost seem to have powers. So instead of basketball, it feels like a showdown between powered individuals who use their abilities for basketball. It’s sort of like when the Looney Tunes played ball with Michael Jordan in Space Jam. The rules of basketball are there, but it’s just a tad wacky, but in a good way. Kuroko’s is the cilantro of the sports anime world. Either you love it, or it tastes like soap, and you hate it, but you should give it a shot.
Ahiru no Sora (50 episodes)
Another excellent basketball anime, Ahiru no sora, is more believable than Kuroko’s Basketball. It feels less like a shonen anime masked as a sports anime and is more just a sports anime. It fulfills the trope of most sports movies and shows. Who doesn’t love to see a ragtag team of outcasts, hooligans, and those deemed not worthy of playing a sport come together to take on the best teams in the area? It sort of feels like the Mighty Ducks of the sports anime world.
Ahiru no sora is one of the newer releases on the list. It came out in 2019 and ended its first season in 2020. There is no official confirmation for season 2 yet, but we are all hopeful.
Hajime no Hippo (152 episodes)
Hajime no hippo by all rights is a classic not just in sports anime but in anime as a whole. Even though I have only watched a few episodes, I would be doing it a disservice by not adding it to the list. It’s a boxing anime but has the same feel as Kuroko’s Basketball because it is a shounen masking itself as a sports anime. The way the show is set up makes the characters feel as if they have some powers. This is definitely on my list of must-watch anime. I have to find the time.
Megalobox (13 episodes)
Do you remember that robot boxing movie, Real Steel, with Hugh Jackman? Megalobox has the same feel as that, but instead of robots boxing each other, it’s humans wearing an exoskeleton that makes their attacks more lethal. The story follows Junk Dog, who fights in illegal underground rings, and Yuri, the world champ. I don’t have the skill to explain how beautifully told this story is, but it gave me the same chills that Rocky did when I first watched it. The music, the desolate city where the rich control everything, the animation, and the dialogue all make this show a modern classic.
Ace of the Diamond (179 episodes)
I love baseball. I have an emotional connection with my grandpa. He taught me how to throw all my pitches when I was in middle school, and they carried me through high school. And they are probably something I will teach my kids one day, so I may be a bit biased in saying that Ace of the Diamond is the second-best sports anime out there. Anytime I see something related to baseball, I remember the time spent with my grandpa. But I swear, Ace of the Diamond will have your blood pumping when there is a full count, bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth. The character development of the main character, Sawamura, as he works hard to become the ace of his school’s baseball team, will give you goosebumps. This show encapsulates the idea that without hard work, talent doesn’t mean anything. At the time of me writing this, I’m on my third watch-through of this series. I love it so much. Give it a chance, even if you aren’t a fan of baseball.
Haikyu (90 Episodes)
What I’m about to say is probably no surprise to any of my friends, but Haikyu is my favorite sports anime and is 100% my comfort show. I love this show with all my heart. It is the anime that got me to watch sports anime. Until Haikyu, I thought this genre was lame. Haikyu has everything you want from a sports show, wins, heartbreaking losses, characters you love, a team to root for, but the thing that makes Haikyu so great is that there isn’t a villain. In most sports movies or shows, there is always the one big bad team that everyone wants to crush, but not in Haikyu. Some of the main characters have rivals from other teams they want to beat, some have mentors, but what makes this show great? The thing that gives me goosebumps is that you want everyone to win. You get attached to the other team at times that you are sad when they lose. It’s a show about a bunch of people all fighting towards a goal doing the thing they love. There is just something wonderful about that. Many people who have never even touched a volleyball in their life but have watched this show end up falling in love with the sport in some sense. Watch this show. It’s a must.
To sum it up
Nothing drives me more nuts than people who think anime is dumb. Even if you aren’t into reading subtitles, there are plenty of shows that are dubbed. If you think anime is childish, then I dare you to watch the first episodes of Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, and Goblin Slayer and tell me with a straight face that those are for kids. But like any form of storytelling, anime has its genre, and the sports genre is starting to grow in popularity. The Naruto’s and Deku’s and the loud shonen protagonists still run mainstream anime, but the space is growing for new things. So if you aren’t into bloody fights or magic and monsters, then maybe sports anime is right up your alley.
But if you are into shonen anime, then here’s my list of shonen anime recommendations.