When I go anywhere that has people discussing anime, I always hear people talking about the fact that sports anime is just people playing sports. If that is not being said, it’s that the genre is incredibly formulaic. These assumption are fairly wrong. It’s not to say that they are completely off base either though. Sports anime, like most other genres, does tend to follow a pattern most of the time. It is also true that sports are played. Though there is more substance to a good number of series. You also don’t have to like sports to enjoy these shows. I’m not a sports fan at all, but yet this has become one of personal favorite genres in anime. So, I’m going to list a few and tell you how the series plays out and why you might want to give it a try.
Out of all of the series on this list, this is one that follows the ‘typical sports show’ formula the most. However, there is a twist in episode 2 that heavily effects the series and keeps it fresh. The series pretty much otherwise is about the main characters getting better at playing the sport of soccer and trying to be the best in Japan. Though, another unique thing about this series is it eventually splits into focusing on two different teams. The most screen time is devoted to the first team, but adding the second team made it feel fresh again when it was starting to follow a pattern.
This is a series that follows the sport of swimming, and quite rarely at that. See, Free is more about the characters and their interaction with each other. Three of the characters used to go to the same swim club when they were younger, and then one of them moved away. His departure has a lot of weight on the others and greatly impacts their personalities. So of course, he comes back and the series revolves around the friendship, only using swimming in key points of the story. It also helps that the story is also really good! Also, it has a lot of shirtless guys. Some people might find that as a plus.
This show is pretty much a bunch of nonsense, and football. I really dislike football, but i really like Eyeshield 21. The football isn’t realistic very much, if at all. If you are wondering just how unrealistic it can be, let me tell you about some of the characters; you have a tiny but speedy wimp, a huge lovable and kindhearted lineman, a guy who can barely speak sentences, and a humanized version of Satan. Yes that is all on the same team as well, oh and did i mention that Satan keeps lockers full of guns in the locker room? Cause he does.
Kuroko’s Basketball has a great set up. There was a middle school team of 5 basketball prodigies. They were dubbed the “Generation of Miracles.” However basketball is played by six people, but no one ever noticed the Sixth member and so he was referred to as the “Phantom Sixth Member.” When high school came though, each member of the team went to a different school. Thus began the war to see which member is the best among them. Kuroko, the “Phantom Member”, was held in high regard by his old teammates, however they all think he was the weakest link. So Kuroko just wants to show them that there is more than one way to play the sport. This show uses the games as more of a story device. The games progress the plot, as well as Kuroko’s relationship to whomever he happens to be playing. It also has tons of crazy moves that add to the fun, and they matches were already great enough without them. So if you like a good story and characters you need to watch this series, even if sports bore you.
Ever want to see gangs fight it out on motorized rollerblades? If you said yes, then Air Gear is one to check out. The races feel more like a street fight and each person has their own “Road”, or style but a lot flashier. There are even KIngs of roads as not everyone can use them. Its a great spin as the main character tries to get his gang to the top spot, while betting everything to try and advance in the rankings. In the end Air Gear is fairly simple, yet also fairly complex Its one you just need to watch and enjoy.
Now I have mentioned the “typical sports show’ formula a couple of times, so i guess i should tell you what it usually consists of. The formula is that the shows generally follow a young athlete, who is generally really bad at the sport they have selected, but they end up being talented at one skill in particular. The show then follows his/her journey into becoming great at said sport. They win a lot, then usually have a crushing defeat and then grow from there. This however, can be said about even regular shonen shows. they train, beat people up, lose, train harder than win again. So, this isn’t the only series to be ‘Formulaic.’
I hope I’ve been able to convince you to try a series or two. Keep in mind though that Air Gear is the only one in English currently. Eyeshield 21 did have a dub, but it was only streamed and not on DVD. Anyway whether you end up trying out any of the genre hopefully there is a slightly different opinion on the genre now.