The Sales Pitch for Sports Anime (Part II): Finding the Sports Anime You Want

Convinced by my previous post on sports anime? Itching to try out one sports anime, but not sure where to start from the voluminous recent hits, or just wanting to find one that suits your style? Think you’ve hit a wall in sports anime? Fear not, for this post will aim to distinguish between different sports anime and help you find one to your liking!

I admit, though, that I haven’t watched, say, a ton, of sports anime and my choices are probably pretty limited to (1) the ones that have come out in recent years, and (2) the ones whose characters tend to be populated by boys *grins knowingly*

To reiterate, the sports anime I have watched are: Kuroko no Basket (all three seasons), Yowamushi Pedal (both seasons), Haikyuu!!, Big Windup (1st season), Chihayafuru (both seasons), Diamond no Ace (1st season), and Free! (1st season). Naturally, I will just be discussing these anime, though I am pretty sure that there will be one of them at least which will appeal to you!

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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.

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My List of Top Anime of All Time: #25 – #21

After nearly 6 months on this blog, I decide that its finally time for my inaugural Top Anime (or Top anything, really) post. *puts up hands* I know, I know, I am sort of late. But I would like to give my followers and readers a little context as to what kind of anime I am more inclined towards and what exactly has drawn me to this genre out of everything else.

What I consider as good anime incorporates a combination of aspects of plot, characters, execution, and miscellaneous aspects like music, art and animation, though the latter three would only add positively to the score. Another aspect I look at is how thought-provoking and how deep an anime can probe into perennial issues and how much it leaves me thinking. This top anime list also incorporates a very important element – personal enjoyment, which holds a 30% weightage in determining its place on its list (or its absence).  Enjoyment is actually a pretty strange thing. An anime, show, or piece of literature may have excellent plot development, all-rounded characters and a strong underlying message, and yet not be enough to squeeze into my heart and remain there.

Yet, I think that what are my favourites are also exactly the best anime in my book (so far, objectively speaking), so whatever that’s not in the list and are relegated to Honourable Mentions are those that lack that personal enjoyment for me, but are very good pieces of art all the same.

Having said all that, I am pretty excited doing posts like these simply because I have never ranked my anime before; and this was …. real tough.

Without further ado, I present …. *drum rollllllllll* numbers #25 to #20!!

#25. Haikyuu!!

Type: TV series

Genres: Comedy, Drama, School, Shounen, Sports

Episodic count: 25

Year: 2014

More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/20583/Haikyuu!!

With that fantastic finish and the absolute emotional roller coaster of the second cour, Haikyuu!! is rather deserving of a place on this list. However, the reason why it never got a higher rank for me is because of the slower-paced beginning. I note that this can be rather unfair to the creators of Haikyuu!! mainly because I was expecting something with a level of addiction and adrenaline rush closer to Kuroko No Basket, which effectively achieved this from the very first episode for me. I didn’t quite get what I expected here. Nevertheless, Haikyuu!!’s strength lies in well rounded characters and how they were presented as a team, such that you can’t ever go away thinking of them as distinctive individuals. To me, they will always be the Karasuno team, where its sum its worth so much more than its individual parts. See my previous post Haikyuu!!: the overwhelming intensity of emotions for more about what I think about it.

#24. Shugo Chara! (2 seasons)

Type: TV series

Genres: Comedy, Magic, School, Shoujo

Episodic Count: 51 + 51

Years: 2007-2009

More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/2923/Shugo_Chara!

Despite the fluffy shoujo impression that one gets from this, I can’t deny that I loved every single moment of this series. While watching this, I felt like I was on a sugar rush or caffeine high, and everyday was filled with bubbles, rainbows, and positive vibes.

No seriously, I mean it. Yet, no matter how much it seemed to gear towards young girls, I could see the touch of realism behind the series that is really the main reason why this stood out to me so much, despite completing so many ‘girly’ shoujo series. Amu was a very real protagonist and I personally identify with the split between her ‘fake’ and ‘real’ personality – I believe I am exactly the same as well.

I also absolutely adored the characters, from Amu our main girl, to Ikuto (who remains one of my favourite bishounen characters ever, and I don’t even have many on that list), to secondary characters like Kukai, Kiseki and Yoru (the most adorable Guardian characters ever). I can’t remember any other mahou shoujo since where I loved such a large bunch of characters. I also can’t remember any other shoujo where there isn’t a single annoying character. (Now, that’s a big feat.) The romance between Amu and Ikuto is also one of my favourite part of the series – it was portrayed in a way that wasn’t too childish though Amu had some struggle in figuring out her feelings for Tadase and Ikuto, Ikuto being the bad boy who is actually very vulnerable, and he’s very sweet towards Amu …. *melts into a puddle*. I swear all my fangirl-ness is unleashed with this one. Of course, its rank can’t go any higher mainly because its fluffy shoujo, unfortunately. Nevertheless, it made it here because of the high enjoyment value it yielded for me. No other mahou shoujo has done this since.

#23 Chihayafuru (both seasons)

Type: TV series

Genres: Drama, Game, Shoujo, Josei, Sport, Romance

Episodic Count: 25 + 25

Years: 2011-2013

More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/10800/Chihayafuru

What can I say? This has the most lovely combination of a female main character with the personality of the competitive, passionate, shounen sports protagonist, a well developed love triangle, and all the subtlety of atmospheric anime reminiscent of a scene in one of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. In fact, everybody should try this, no matter whether you are a romance fan or a shounen action fan, because it contains elements that both types of fans would love. The portrayal of karuta as a sport is also beautifully artistic as much as it is competitive, and fans of Japanese culture and literature would find much to reap as well. The love triangle is one of the toughest love triangles I have ever encountered and I don’t actually know how to pick a side, though I lean towards Taichi. My previous post Chihayafuru: the seamless blend of shoujo, josei, and sports expounds on this a little further. Its a pity that this isn’t higher up for me but as I said, I have a hard time (I still do) due to my bias for grandiose plots which open up thought provoking questions like the state of humanity, what it means to be a leader, the ethics of war and so on.

#22 No Game No Life

Type: TV series

Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Ecchi, Fantasy, Game, Supernatural

Episodic count: 12

Year: 2014

More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/19815/No_Game_No_Life

These 12 episodes are packed with stuff of high entertainment value. I regret not having a chance to blog this, because if one looks past the loli-ecchiness, there is actually a very good plot going on. NGNL already holds the first mover advantage of a unique setting, that in a world of games where everything is decided by playing games. Its also no wonder that since I love strategy and characters using brains to defeat people (rather than brawn), Sora and Shiro have been one of most interesting pairs to watch. My personal favourite scene is Sora’s speech in episode 4 about ruling, so much so that it gave me serious goosebumps. I personally liked the sibling bond between the two as well, and the colourful palate of the backgrounds and animation has left a very strong impression. I have no idea when the second season is, but I am definitely can’t wait for it!

#21 Darker Than Black (both seasons + OVA)

Type: TV series & OVA

Genres: Action, Mystery, Sci-fi, Superpower

Episodic count: 25 + 4 + 12

Years: 2007 & 2010 for both seasons respectively, 2010 for the OVA, but recommended to watch in the story’s chronological sequence.

More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/2025/Darker_than_Black:_Kuro_no_Keiyakusha

I don’t think many people actually know of this series, but it is highly underrated even as it gets rather confusing in the second cour as the sci-fi part of the series is dug in the deepest. However, it had a really thought provoking and complex ending which I had to google the analysis of to understand what really happened and what it really meant.

I loved how this series started out episodic only to gradually reveal an underlying plot. Also, the dark, gritty tone of the show drew me to it, set in a futuristic urban environment. However, the real reason why its on this list though, despite seeing many dark, gritty shows that have failed to capture my heart as this one has, is the romance. This series contains my favourite canon couple ever to grace the anime screen for me, and I have watched close to 200 entries worth on MAL (based on the ‘completed’ column). I have never found another couple quite like that and its only the tip of the iceburg to say I think they complement each other as partners in this alternate reality of science fiction extremely well.

Also, I think Hei is probably the coolest character ever. I am entranced by the way he fights (I want to learn how to fight like him) – he has razor-sharp instincts, extremely quick reactions, and most importantly, he isn’t like your typical shounen loud, stubborn protagonist, he actually observes the situation and acts accordingly (he is a master at deceiving people through taking on different sorts of personas, when the situation calls for it). I also secretly love the way he’s a chick magnet in the show, even if he can’t actually be bothered about it. All these combined with his natural emotionless state makes him well … extremely cool.

Why isn’t this higher even while I am gushing about it in a barrage of words and emotions in a most unorganised manner? Because there’s more awesome stuff up there. This is exceedingly hard. *cries*

I would highly recommend Darker than Black to all action and sci-fi fans. This series is a true hidden gem, and those who love side romances (like me) will find it a pleasant surprise that it exists here in this series, even if it isn’t immediately apparent in the first cour of the series.

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That’s all from me today. Hope you enjoyed #25 to #20, and I really hope you check out these shows if you haven’t. They are highly recommended and worth anybody’s time. I After completing this list, I will also be doing an Honourable Mentions post to give a shoutout to the anime that almost made it to this list, but missed it for various reasons.

What do you think of the anime I’ve listed? Feel free to comment below if anything strikes your fancy or if you’ve watched these anime and have something to say about it. (:

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me. I do not take any credit for these images.*

Chihayafuru: the seamless blend of shoujo, josei, and sports

chihayafuru-1

The Chihayafuru series, in its entirety, is a shoujo anime which has elements of literary and poetic appreciation, as well as ‘training’ easily associated with that of competitive team and individual sports. It features a high school female protagonist, which misleads one into thinking that it is only for the shoujo genre. But as we follow the series further, we realise that Chihaya’s motivation to improve herself her skills of playing karuta and her never ending desire to win and ‘be the best in Japan and the whole world’, is more reminiscent of the male protagonist of a shounen sports anime. Chihaya herself is pretty much tomboyish, and her cluelessness to anything to do with romance makes her a unique female protagonist, similar to Sora from Kaleido Star. In fact, the two are pretty similar, if not for the fact that Chihayafuru manages to develop Chihaya, Taichi, Arata and not to mention the rest of the supporting characters much better than Kaleido Star did. We see Chihaya’s desire to win as not merely idealistic as Sora’s dreams, but her passion for karuta and to become good at it is laid out in a more sophisticated manner. To love karuta is one thing, but to see Chihaya’s journey in her self-understanding of how to even better appreciate karuta, from appreciating the colours of different sounds and the evocative scenes that accompany each verse, leads the viewer, too, into a more unanced understanding of the sport that is nothing short of beautiful. Watching Chihayafuru really calms one down, forces one to take a step back, and appreciate the most basic elements of nature, emotions and the way people relate to each other. The anime exudes a very serene feeling which is not overshadowed by tensions created by competition, and carries both the excitement of watching an intense competition, and when that ends, what viewers are left with is the impression of serendipity, peace, appreciation for nature, literature and history. Of worthy mention is the way Chihayafuru takes time to expound on rivals’ backstories and the various reasons and how they are motivated to improve on their karuta-playing skills. We identify different aspects of ourselves with the various perspectives of these people, and we grow and learn from how they manage to win the war within themselves, and from what happens if we don’t manage to do that in time.

This story also manages to squeeze in what I consider to be one of the most trying and well developed love triangle I have seen so far in a shoujo anime. It is rare to see a story where I can’t choose between both male contenders. My preferences lie with Taichi, the one who has stuck by Chihaya all this while, giving her mental and physical support. He who spent some time trying to run away from his feelings, has incredibly bad luck in general, and whose journey in karuta pretty much has everything to do with Chihaya. He who loves Chihaya wholeheartedly and unconditionally, and whom, I believe, his love for Chihaya spurs him on in karuta since the two are inexplicably linked, and his desire to win is augmented by his subconscious efforts to win Arata, his rival in both karuta and love. Taichi is the figurehead of normalcy (ironic given his princely stereotype – smart, rich – a gir’s dream) given his mental weakness. Yet he is the one who has shown tremendous character growth over the series, where we are shown his overcoming of obstacles in his karuta journey and given a glimpse of hope for his romantic endeavours at the very end of the second season.

Chihayafuru-2-Arata

Arata, though undisputedly a main character as well, is never really physically present together with the other two. Nevertheless, he looms largely in the minds of both Chihaya and Arata as they strive to beat him (and for Chihaya’s case, to reach him). The group interactions between the three are largely limited. Arata fans bemoan the precious lack of time that Arata actually gets to physically interact with his beloved childhood teammates, before they get interrupted (by an event central to plot advancement as always). However, his lack of presence is made up by the amount of times the other two of him. He is never really absent from their tight-knit group, and is never far from the minds (and the audience’s, since this is a story of karuta and Arata is karuta).

Chihayafuru is a beautiful story of competition, art, sport, friendship and motivation. Though I am embarrassed to say that I still do not understand the full nuances of the game and the strategies involved, this never spoils the ride for me. Chihayafuru is always a good choice after a long day of school and studying.