The Sales Pitch for Sports Anime (Part I): Reasons why you should watch sports anime

For starters, this sales pitch would probably take more than a minute to read in full. In fact, it will be the most un-sales pitch-like sales pitch you would ever read because of its length, but it probably doesn’t matter because the objectives of this series are really as follows:

FIRSTLY, TO CONVINCE THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WATCHED ANY SPORTS ANIME AT ALL TO START.

SECONDLY, TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT SPORTS ANIME I HAVE WATCHED SO THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE WHAT PROBABLY SUITS YOU THE MOST. (also, not to worry, there will not be any spoilers!), which I will elaborate on in the next part of this series.

My story

First off, I’ll start with my foray into sports anime. As someone who hasn’t had an inch of interest in real-life sport, I was naturally staying away and avoiding all sports-related anime, and I did that consistently for two entire years where I watched no less than 120 other titles. I traversed all other types of genres in anime – shounen, shoujo, josei, romance, school life, military, psychological, mecha, magic, fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, seinen, thriller, super power, shounen ai, shoujo ai, slice of life, mystery, horror, historical and even music (drama, comedy and action don’t count because they are present in varying degrees in all sorts of anime).

And then one day in June 2014 as I was browsing through the Top Anime titles on MAL (I actually periodically get ideas on what anime to watch next from there), I came across Kuroko no Basket, which had etched itself a place in the first page of the list. This wasn’t the first time I had seen the title, but I have been wandering around on the interwebs long enough to know that its a very popular title that dominated online discussions, together with Free! at the time.

Like discovering a treasure trove.

I started Kuroko no Basket, and anime has never been the same again. Even while I watched many series in between then and now, including and not including other sports anime, it has come to my attention that the only series I have genuine interest in watching a ton at one go has just been sports anime.

Sports anime I have watched

These are mainly the ones aired in more recent years, namely Kuroko no Basket, Yowamushi Pedal, Haikyuu!!, Big Windup, Chihayafuru, Diamond no Ace, and Free!.

Reasons to watch sports anime:

You don’t have to understand anything about the sport at all. What do I know about basketball and volleyball? I played those in class and I can score by luck, but I don’t know anything about a real game. About karuta? Are you kidding me? About baseball? The only thing I know was that it involves a ball, bats, gloves and caps. Does it hamper enjoyment in any way? Nope, not really.

Firstly, most of the anime do explain certain games, rules, or even strategies and moves reasonably well enough. I won’t take basketball as an example because its simple enough, but for volleyball, I really had no idea that it had so many positions and rules until I watched Haikyuu!!. Even for the harder sports, like baseball where most anime don’t explain a lot because it has too many complicated rules, there are series that are more beginner-friendly like Diamond no Ace. I started baseball with Big Windup and I hadn’t a clue about what was going on. However, you should still rely on Google if you want to fully understand a strategy though.

You don’t need to have any interest in real life sports at all to enjoy it. I daresay I still have zero interest in real sports games because the singular difference between real life sports and anime sports are the presence of the story and character development. Without those the sport is nothing, with the exception of baseball, which is interesting because of it is more complicated. No worries, anime will do the job of you and you will be cheering your butts off before you realise it.

Sports anime does a better job at providing your shounen fix than the shounen anime themselves. For example, the shounen cliche of being powerful and beating up your opponents, or never dying after being bloodily bruised or beaten or being fired up for your nakama. Sports anime generally does incorporate your favourite shounen cliches as well, but because they do it within the confines of a sport and its rules they are much more limited. The good sports anime give themselves especially special leeway and restrict themselves to thinking up clever plays to outwit the opponent. Even when it comes to a battle of brute strength or power, these moments don’t happen often enough. And of course, sports anime do make your protagonists lose at times. Also, in comparing the concept of nakama in shounen and the parallel concept of teammates in sports, realism comes through for the latter because it provides a better bridge to any situation that involves teamwork and victory as a goal, whereas nakama necessarily means you must be motivated by the thought of those people to continue fighting (I seriously salute anybody who feels this level of love on a constant basis for a group of people, but it sure does not happen often.)

“Let’s win!”

With the exception of moe, sports anime are pretty unique to the Japanese. There is no other series of any nationality that can portray tenacity, effort, discipline, and passion with the psychological mind games at times better than sports anime. You could find a good sci-fi story or fantasy or adventure story in other mediums of entertainment, but the Japanese are pretty well known for their specific genre-tackling, like focusing on a particular sport or hobby (like music). Such values are also part of their culture and they way they behave so they most probably the most well positioned to write a sports story that can tug at the audiences’ emotional heart strings so much.

The themes of effort vs talent, hard work and determination are themes that resound with us the most. For who hasn’t worked hard for something at least, in their life before? Whether you have succeeded or failed, the sweet taste of success or the bitter taste of defeat is something that isn’t really easy to forget. Sports anime taps on such core experiences really well and ensures that the characters face challenges that resonate with the viewers. Even if you have been lazy throughout your whole life, you would certainly be motivated to participate in a sport or go all out for your dreams at least once. I really regret not participating in a sport in my school days (I am still at school, but its really too late). I played in an ensemble before but music isn’t quite the same as sports.

Determination.

Laughter and tears in one package. I limit this to the really good sports anime, but coming from someone who has always been a big fan of psychological mind twists and view that a good anime series only comes with a story with good setting and major, global themes relating to humanity, I was really surprised how much just laughter, tears, and emotional rooting for a team or character can play such a major role in determining whether a series is good. Besides, good sports anime are never lacking in a good story.

“HAAH?!”

Conclusion

My conclusion is pretty obvious I suppose. This was mainly my personal opinion which is a tad more emotional than usual, to convince the wider anime community that sports anime isn’t as niche or boring as some people may think. Nevertheless, I emphasise that I have only watched the ‘better’ and ‘newer’ sports anime, so I can’t speak for the genre as a whole as I haven’t watched a ‘weak’ series, but for those yet to start, there really is no harm trying one. (I would still recommend starting with Kuroko no Basket, for shounen fans and bishounen fans). The next part of this series will be a comparison between the different sports anime, so for those who have tried at least one or two sports anime, do keep a look out for it!

Have you had any concerns about sports anime? Do you like or dislike sports anime, and why? It will be really interesting to see anybody who radically disagrees with what I am saying here, and of course, people who agree are welcome to join the party too! 😀

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50 thoughts on “The Sales Pitch for Sports Anime (Part I): Reasons why you should watch sports anime

  1. Here here!!!!! I love the comparison with Shounen! You’re 100% correct in everything you say in my eyes.

    The thing that stands our the most for me in sport anime is the friendship and comradeship that comes with doing a sport together. The characters see each other at their best and their worst and are partners as well as friends ^.^

    Love this post!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hehe the most obvious parallel would be shounen 🙂 Somehow the teammate relationship and friendship and comradeship really works out well in sports and it really is my favourite part of it too, even more so than the plot twists & stuff you can’t see coming ^^
      Yay thank you so much! 😀

      Like

      • I hadn’t really thought about it but you’re 100% correct. I am noticing it more and more since starting DnA because the way that Eijun gets ‘fired up’ is very VERY Natsu ^.^

        It’s all in the camaraderie 😀 I think I mentioned in my blog about K-On! that there seems to be something different about watching relationships grow between male characters, I think the same can be said of sport anime. The relationships are just so interesting 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hehe yes, Natsu and Eijun are veryyy similar in that way, and also sometimes the funnier expressions (and the way that those are drawn) are pretty similar as well ^^
        Exactly, I really think its down to the male friendships which are present both in shounen and in sport anime. They are as interesting as they are hilarious, and through laughing at them the characters become more endearing as well ^^ ..and this is similar to real-life friendships and relationships as well, so no big surprise there! ^^

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s 100% it. Laughing at each other is like a rite of passage in male friendships where as girls tend to be a little more careful about each other’s feelings to begin with. I feel like the way, in both sport and shounen, the characters are not afraid to tell one another off, laugh at one another when they’re being ridiculous but also support each other when the time is right makes the whole story seem much more rounded and realistic.

        If you can’t have fun in sport then where else can you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • To be honest, I think guy-humour can be funnier than girl-humour in real life as well, so that can possibly contribute to it (or perhaps its really just me?)
        Exactly, especially when sports connote all kinds of positivism and are an embodiment of fun in itself!

        Like

  2. Nicely said! Sports anime is the best, I can’t believe some people try to avoid it altogether–at least give it a try! XD Kuroko’s Basketball and Free! are two of my favorite; I have a wallscroll of the generation of mircales in my room! XD

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Sports anime is really the last thing people should avoid – and yet so many do for the same reasons I did in the past (and that is really the motivation behind this post). Wow, you’re so lucky to be able to stare at the Generation of Miracles everytime before you sleep and after you wake up! XD

      Sorry for the late reply, Wordpess didn’t notify me that you commented ><

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, thanks for writing this, hopefully more people will start checking out sports anime! ❤

        Heehee, yes, it is very nice, though I'm usually looking at Kagami (who's in the middle) he's my bae. XD

        That's ok, that's happened to me before! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe I should give sports anime a shot. I remember when watching Futari Wa Precure, I always felt especially excited during the episodes featuring Nagisa’s lacrosse games. Those episodes were supposed to just be filler, but even so, I would find myself holding my breath in the tense moments, where both sides were tied in the final few seconds of the match.

    I guess if I got that thrilled out of a children’s show, an anime dedicated to that type of thing would be a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a side story about a sports match in a non sports anime which gets you excited is probably a good sign 😀 Especially if you like those tension-filled moments and not knowing who is going to win! Oh definitely, sports anime is a ton of fun 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

      Like

  4. You know, this is probably one of the greatest pieces of advice for new and old anime fans.
    I avoided sports anime like the darn ol plague until they announced this “swimming anime simulcast” on YouTube. Seeing as how I was never in sports, understood them or really appreciated them, I thought I should get off my lazy butt and go out for one, but which one?? The friendship between the Free! guys inspired me to try out swimming, why not, right? I was terrible at first, and our team was only like 8 or 10 kids, but just last year we took our town to State and, although we didn’t win, it was the most incredible experience of my lifetime, or at least one of them.
    Everything you said was perfect! Go watch sports anime, people!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow, you actually were inspired by Free! to join a swimming club?!?! I am always inspired to join the sport of whatever sport anime I am enjoying but bogged down by all those real life concerns xD I think going to a competition on such a level is really an awesome experience, you’re lucky you had something like that!! *envious*
      Hear hear! Everybody who hasn’t tried needs to try at least one sports anime!
      Have you tried any other sports anime other than Free! ? (:

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, I do think I made it out pretty lucky, or was it luck . . . ? Anyhow, I have not tried any other sports because I’m a lazy cow and why get out of the water 😉 ? XD I also have not seen any other sports anime, but I’m thinking about hitting up Haikyuu or whatever it’s called soon because the art style looks cool!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha *tries to imagine Takuto being a lazy cow but fails* its true though, who really wants to get out of the water? xD Its water over land for me too!

        Somehow in my mind I can see you enjoying Haikyuu!!, so you should really give it a try 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My fave sport animes are Bamboo Blade and Girls Und Panza (if that counts.) When I was younger I thought that Captain Tusbasa was hilarious. The characters could kick a ball so hard that it would break the net and running from one end of the pitch to another would take 15 minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha Captain Tsubasa really sounds like the overpowered but fun-to-watch type!
      Ah I see, I haven’t actually tried those girls-dominated ones for obvious reasons xD Moe + sports sounds like an interesting combination though!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. really nice post! I think the one I prefered the most for intensity was KnB even though basketball in real life is pretty boring to me. but i also really liked Haikyuu because I’m really into volleyball (though I’m pretty bad at it, haha) huh, I’d never really thought of sports anime as shounen

    also i have a question, so I actually want to watch more sports anime but I’m really hesitant (for some reason?), I did watch KnB, HQ, and FREE and I’m watching aoharu x machinegun (if that counts), which would you recommend I check out next? thanks :3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep absolutely; KnB really stands out in terms of its very fast pace and hence intensity! Haikyuu was a little different because there was more focus on character building at the first half or so hence it moved ‘slower’, but that paid off in the end! I am not keen on the RL sports either but anime turned it around xD

      Yeah I understand your hesitating, when I finished KnB and HQ I was thinking will I find anything that’s even close to these two anymore?? The answer was YES, and I would recommend Diamond no Ace (despite baseball being boring/complicated because it is already a very easy entry) or Yowamushi Pedal (cycling) cos these two are probably more similar to what you are looking for perhaps 🙂

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When I read this, I actually thought I was reading my own story. I also stayed away from the sports genre and I never had any interest in real life sports. The first sports anime I watched was Kuroko no Basuke too. There was a lot of discussion about this and a hell lot of fanfics and I decided to give it a try. Now, I don’t regret taking that decision because sports anime are the best! I might try watching Chihayafuru, I’ve watched some random episodes. Also, thanks for the suggestions!

    Liked by 1 person

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