The first sports anime aired in the late 60s, and audiences were up for it. The thrills of a game and the rivalry between competitors had viewers hanging off the edge of their seats. We’ve come a long way from 60s classics such as Ashita no Joe or Speed Racer. But sports and anime are still a match made in heaven. So, do you spend all your free time watching every sports competition? And are you obsessed with Japanese anime? You’re in for a ride with our selection of four sports anime to put on your binge-watching list.
Yuri on Ice
When thinking about popular sports, figure skating doesn’t come to mind from the get-go. It was quite a feat, then, for Yuri on Ice to captivate viewers. But despite a rather simplistic plot, this anime does exactly that.
Katsuki Yuri is a 23-year-old figure skater who puts his career on hold after a devastating defeat. As a result, Russian champion Victor Nikiforov offers to mentor him and revive his passion for figure skating. The story follows their attempt at reaching the top of the skating world, while a yaoi romance eventually develops between the coach and his protégé.
Released in late 2016, Yuri on Ice was praised by both critics and viewers. On Market Research Telecast, we rated it among the single best anime ever made. The anime also won several awards. Even professional figure skaters lauded the show, to the point of performing to the anime’s soundtrack at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
Granted, Free! is probably one of the most fan-servicey anime out there. And there is no denying that muscular guys in revealing swimsuits were part of the reason why this anime got audiences glued to their screens. But the show is more than mere pretty looks.
Back in 2013, a television commercial for the anime went viral all over Japan. The first season of Free! Iwatobi Swim Club came to be not long after. An equally successful second season ensued in 2014, and an animated film trilogy even followed. The cast eventually returned for a 12-episode long third season in 2020.
Thus, the show’s longevity is testament enough to its appeal. Apart from its fan service, indeed, Free! is a coming-of-age story exploring the bonds of friendships. If you’re in for a refreshing and heart-warming sports anime, then Swim! might be just the right pick.
Can we put out a list of the best sports anime without mentioning Captain Tsubasa? You’ve guessed the answer. Indeed, Captain Tsubasa has reached cult status all over the world. According to a TV Asahi poll in 2005, the adventures of Tsubasa Oozara and his team even ranked 41 in a list of the top 100 anime series of all time.
The manga series was first created in 1981. It would get an anime adaptation two years later. Since then, Captain Tsubasa has become synonymous with Japanese pop culture. It is also a source of inspiration for football lovers and professional players alike, including football superstars like Fernando Torres, James Rodríguez or Neymar.
The show was even responsible for bringing football into vogue in Japan and beyond. Football still goes undisputed as the most popular sport on the planet. The world’s most-watched sport is also the most profitable to bet on. And websites such as SBO have laid the groundwork for punters to find the most competitive odds. Experts have selected an array of secure online bookies for bettors to play anytime and anywhere. Punters can even claim bonuses and free bets to make bank. And if Captain Tsubasa’s sport is king, there are dozens of alternative sports to place a bet.
From fast-paced games to spectacular shoots, basketball has all the ingredients for an exhilarating on-screen experience. Basketball already took center stage in the 90s anime classic Slam Dunk and the 2009 Japanese drama Buzzer Beat.
Yet, Kuroko’s Basketball takes things to the next level. The show is an adaptation of a shonen manga by Tadatoshi Fujimaki. As such, Kuroko’s Basketball is unafraid to go over the top. So, forget everything you know about the NBA and embark on an epic journey where playing basketball is akin to having superpowers.
Word count: 716