Sports captivate people of all ages worldwide. Although the popularity of specific sports varies by country, it’s intriguing how anime covers a diverse range of sports, regardless of their prominence. Once limited to subjects like soccer, baseball, and basketball, the range of sports covered by anime now is truly broad.
In shonen manga, sports have long been a staple genre, and many popular manga in this genre have been adapted into anime. These anime series have gained widespread popularity as a genre that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. There are also numerous instances where people have taken up a sport due to the influence of anime and have become top players. For example, it’s well-known that many soccer players active in Europe were influenced by Captain Tsubasa.
Lots of renowned sports anime feature personal growth, success and failure, flashy action scenes, romance, and humor. Whether you’re new to anime or an experienced fan, I introduce the best sports anime for everyone to enjoy. This best sports anime list includes enduring classics as well as the latest releases that incorporate contemporary elements.
10. Eyeshield 21
Eyeshield 21 (アイシールド21) is a sports anime series focused on American football, based on the manga of the same name by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. The anime aired from 2005 to 2008, totaling 145 episodes. Produced by Studio Gallop, the series showcases the adrenaline-pumping action and camaraderie of American football while also exploring the struggles and growth of its characters.
The anime follows Sena Kobayakawa, a timid high school freshman who becomes the secret weapon called Eyeshield 21 for his school’s American football team, the Deimon Devil Bats. Under the guidance of the cunning quarterback Yoichi Hiruma, Sena evolves from an errand boy running away from bullies to a star running back, aiming for the Christmas Bowl, the high school football championship.
9. The Prince of Tennis
As one of the most popular tennis manga and anime series, The Prince of Tennis (テニスの王子様) has been loved by both male and female anime fans for a long time. Based on the manga series written and illustrated by Takeshi Konomi, it aired from 2001 to 2005, spanning 178 episodes. Additionally, The Prince of Tennis II (新テニスの王子様) was released in 2012, produced by Production I.G and M.S.C. Studio Kai and M.S.C made its following part The Prince of Tennis U-17 World Cup (新テニスの王子様 U-17 WORLD CUP) in 2022. Focusing on the sport of tennis, the series successfully integrates intense matches with character development, becoming a staple in the sports anime genre. Its popularity led to multiple OVAs and even live-action adaptations.
Ryoma Echizen is no ordinary tennis player. Having won four consecutive championships in the United States, he moves to Japan and enrolls in Seishun Academy, a school renowned for its elite tennis team. But the road to success isn’t straightforward. As he joins the team, Ryoma faces challenges and fierce competitors, each with unique playing styles and backgrounds. While he’s initially underestimated because of his young age and small stature, Ryoma quickly demonstrates his prowess on the court. Beyond the intense matches, the series delves deeply into the personal struggles, growth, and aspirations of Ryoma and his teammates.
Studio: Trans Arts
There are lots of popular sports anime with the theme of baseball, Major (メジャー) is one of the greatest series of the category. It is adapted from Takuya Mitsuda’s manga series that was serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday between 1994 and 2010 and finally reached the 78th volume. Spanning six seasons, the anime first aired in 2004. Based on his following series, Major 2nd began airing in 2018. Not just a story of baseball, Major delves deep into personal relationships, growth, and the relentless spirit of determination.
Goro Honda’s love for baseball ignites when he watches his father play. However, tragedy strikes, and Goro’s world shatters. Despite the odds, he vows to become a professional baseball player. The series traces Goro’s journey from little league to the major leagues, showcasing his challenges, friendships, rivalries, and sheer determination. Through heart-wrenching losses and momentous victories, Goro’s passion for the sport remains unwavering, inspiring everyone around him and highlighting the power of perseverance, ambition, and love for the game.
Studio: Studio Hibari (2004-2007)/SynergySP (2008-2010)
7. Kuroko’s Basketball
It can be said that anime and manga have played a significant role in elevating the popularity of basketball as a sport to its current status especially in Japan. Kuroko’s Basketball (黒子のバスケ) is a sports anime adapted from Tadatoshi Fujimaki’s manga series serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump. Consisting of three seasons, this anime series was broadcast from 2012 to 2015. It has captured the hearts of fans with its dynamic basketball action and compelling characters.
Teikou Junior High School’s basketball team, known for producing the Generation of Miracles – five prodigious players – had a phantom sixth member: Tetsuya Kuroko. Upon entering Seirin High School, Kuroko meets the determined Taiga Kagami. Together, they vow to defeat the Generation of Miracles and become the best in Japan. Kuroko’s unique, invisible playstyle combined with Kagami’s raw talent creates an unforgettable basketball duo, challenging teams and breaking limits on their quest for victory.
Aired: 2012 (Season 1)/2013-2014 (Season 2)/2015 (Season 3)
Episodes: 25 (Season 1)/25 (Season 2)/25 (Season 3)
Studio: Production I.G
6. Yowamushi Pedal
Among recent sports anime, this title has been highly praised by manga and anime enthusiasts. Yowamushi Pedal (弱虫ペダル) is a cycling-themed anime series based on the manga by Wataru Watanabe, which has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Champion since 2008. Since its debut in 2013, the series produced by TMS Entertainment has captivated fans with its blend of intense cycling races and heartfelt character development. Set against the backdrop of the competitive world of high school road racing, it beautifully balances sports action with the personal journeys of its characters.
Onoda Sakamichi, a geeky anime fan, discovers a love for road racing after joining his school’s competitive cycling club. His innate talent and determination propel him and his teammates into the brutal world of Inter-High competitions. As they strive for victory, personal challenges, team dynamics, and intense rivalries take center stage. With every race, Sakamichi learns more about himself and the true essence of competitive cycling.
Aired: 2013-2014 (Season 1)/2014-2015 (Season 2)/2017 (Season 3)/2018 (Season 4)/2022-2023 (Season 5)
Episodes: 38 (Season 1)/24 (Season 2)/25 (Season 3)/25 (Season 4)/25 (Season 5)
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Free! is one of the most popular modern sports anime that has a very large female fan base. It is based on the 2013 light novel titled High Speed! written by written by Koji Oji. During 2013-2018, this swimming-themed anime was produced by Kyoto Animation and Animation Do, which originated from Kyoto Animation’s Osaka studio and now merged with Kyoto Animation itself. In addition to the three seasons of the television series, Free! has been supported by a five-part theatrical film series released between 2015 and 2022. It brought a fresh perspective to the sports anime genre by focusing on competitive swimming. With its visually captivating animation of water and swimming sequences, combined with character-driven narratives, Free! quickly captured the attention of anime fans worldwide.
Haruka Nanase, a passionate swimmer, reconnects with his childhood friends Makoto and Nagisa when they decide to form a swim team for their high school. They’re joined by Rin Matsuoka, another former friend turned rival. Throughout the series, the group navigates the challenges of competitive swimming while confronting their personal demons and reconciling past differences. The story beautifully interweaves the thrill of competition with themes of friendship, self-discovery, and the sheer joy of being in the water.
Aired: 2013 (Season 1)/2014 (Season 2)/2018 (Season 3)
Episodes: 12 (Season 1)/13 (Season 2)/12 (Season 3)
Studio: Kyoto Animation, Animation Do
4. Yuri on Ice
A rare anime with a figure skating theme is Yuri on Ice (ユーリ!!! on ICE), airing with 12 episodes in 2016. The series features a memorable soundtrack, captivating choreography, and realistic skating performances, making it a standout in sports anime. Many might find it surprising that this anime was produced by Mappa, the studio responsible for flashy dark fantasy action anime like Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man. A completely new anime movie, Yuri!!! on Ice the Movie: Ice Adolescence (ユーリ!!! on ICE 劇場版:ICE ADOLESCENCE), has been announced. Originally slated for a 2019 release, the premiere was postponed to upscale the content of the work.
After facing a crushing defeat in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, Japanese skater Yuri Katsuki contemplates retirement. Returning home, he reconnects with the world of skating after a video of him replicating the routine of his idol, Victor Nikiforov, goes viral. To Yuri’s shock, Victor appears in Japan, offering to be his coach. As they prepare for the next Grand Prix, they face fierce competitors, including Russia’s rising star, Yuri Plisetsky, and confront personal and professional challenges, deepening their bond both on and off the ice.
3. Blue Lock
Blue Lock (ブルーロック) is one of the most successful sports anime in recent years. It is a modern soccer-themed anime series, which started with the 24-episode first season in October 2022. It is not just a passionate sports anime but is mixed with the genre of death game. The sports psychological-thriller anime is based on Weekly Shonen Magazine’s manga series written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and illustrated by Yusuke Nomura since 2018, made by Eight Bit.
The story of Blue Lock begins when a second-grade high schooler Yoichi Isagi loses a soccer game partly because he decides to make a pass for his teammate who misses the shot in the end. Yoichi is unexpectedly invited to the national high school camp training as as one of the 300 selected strikers from around the nation. For their athletic career, they fight against each other in a variety of eccentric games.
Aired: 2022-2023 (Season 1)
Episodes: 24 (Season 1)
Studio: Eight Bit
Soccer has always been a popular theme in manga and anime, but Blue Lock is by far the most successful recent soccer ani[…]
Haikyu!! (ハイキュー!!) is an anime that transcends the boundaries of the sports genre and is enjoyed by a wide range of audiences. Without a doubt, it stands as one of the greatest sports anime of all time. It is based on the 45-volume manga of the same name serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump by Haruichi Furudate. Produced by Production I.G, it has earned acclaim for its meticulous depiction of volleyball, engaging character dynamics, and exhilarating game sequences. Premiering in 2014, Haikyu!! has spawned multiple seasons, showcasing various high school volleyball teams and their passionate players. After completing its four seasons, Haikyu!! has been confirmed to be adapted into a two-part movie titled Haikyu!! Final (ハイキュー!! FINAL).
Shoyo Hinata, a short-statured boy, dreams of becoming a volleyball star after watching a national championship match on television. Despite his height, he’s determined to play the position of a wing spiker, a role typically reserved for taller players. Upon entering Karasuno High School, he discovers that Tobio Kageyama, a prodigious setter he previously had a bitter match with, is now his teammate. Both players must overcome their differences and past rivalry to work together. As they forge new friendships and rivalries, Karasuno’s once-renowned volleyball team begins its journey to restore its reputation and reach the national championship.
Aired: 2014 (Season 1)/2015-2016 (Season 2)/2016 (Season 3)/2020 (Season 4)
Episodes: 25 (Season 1)/25 (Season 2)/10 (Season 3)/25 (Season 4)
Studio: Production I.G
Weekly Shonen Jump, the most popular Japanese manga magazines, has released some sports themed masterpieces with renowne[…]
1. Slam Dunk
Slam Dunk (スラムダンク) stands out as one of the best works in the history of sports manga and anime, regardless of what anyone says. It’s hard to estimate just how many people have been deeply moved and brought to tears by this story. Originally, it was a manga serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump from 1990 to 1996. This manga was then adapted into an anime by Toei Animation from 1993 to 1996, gaining global popularity. In 2022, a top-notch remake titled The First Slam Dunk was released. The original creator of Slam Dunk, manga artist Takehiko Inoue, directed this new project. The remake infused the classic tale with cutting-edge animation technology and incorporated episodes that had not been told previously.
Slam Dunk follows the story of Hanamichi Sakuragi, a high school delinquent with a history of being rejected by girls. When he enters Shohoku High School, he meets Haruko Akagi, who notices his incredible height and athleticism. To win her affection, he joins the school’s basketball team, despite having no prior experience or knowledge of the sport. As Sakuragi begins his basketball journey, he encounters various challenges, rivals, and learns the true meaning of teamwork. Alongside his talented teammates, Sakuragi strives to make Shohoku’s basketball team a national contender. Not only Hanamichi, but the frustrations felt by each teammate and their growth depicted in the story also become central to the narrative. Throughout the series, themes of friendship, determination, and personal growth are intricately interwoven with intense basketball matches.
Released: 2022 (The First Slam Dunk)
Studio: Toei Animation/Toei Animation, Dandelion Animation Studio (The First Slam Dunk)
Going further back in history, you cannot overlook legendary baseball anime such as Dokaben and Touch, or long-running boxing series like Ashita no Joe and Hajime no Ippo. However, in the aforementioned best sports anime list, selections were made so that contemporary global fans can more closely enjoy sports anime.
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