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:


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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Ookiku Furikabutte: Thoughts and Impressions

Hello everybody! Firstly, I apologise for staying such a long time away from the WordPress community – I was having a particularly intensive period at school what with school projects and exams, and also other stuff had happened that had taken up a huge proportion of my time and energy. Now its technically my ‘summer’ holidays but I am not going to really be less busy – I only have 2 weeks of rest before getting up and going again ^^

Secondly, I know I haven’t really been around and commenting and reading my followers’ blogposts that much, but I really hope to turn that around soon 🙂

Without further ado, I present to you — Ookiku Furikabutte (a.k.a. Big Windup!)

I don’t actually know what’s with the spate of sports anime reviews that I have been doing on my blog when in reality, most of the anime I watch aren’t sports related. But I reckon that these anime really deserve more attention by virtue of them being the essence of what makes the subject matter of Japanese animation so special – which other media genre has had so many instances of spinning touching narrations of friendship, teamwork, effort, tension and competition, replete with attention grabbing visuals, animation and a fast-paced plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat? However, we should note that not every sports anime delivers what I had just described to you in a gift box nicely wrapped, promising to bring you wonders when opened. Though they adopt largely the same structure and utilise the same elements in storytelling, each sports anime still has some unique characteristics that make it stand out from the rest.

Ookiku Furikabutte tells the story of Mihashi, a pitcher with extremely low self-confidence, who enters Nishiura high school and joins its newly formed baseball team. Being ostracised and certainly bullied in his middle school, Mihashi’s sense of self-worth is at a literal rock bottom (if you think Onoda from Yowamushi Pedal is already bad, Mihashi is at least two times that) that it makes him almost pitiable even at the very start. However, his unique way of pitching, though unappreciated and even booed at in his previous school, catches the eye of Abe, a catcher who realises the multifarious ways it could be used to the team’s advantage. Together they form a battery and the anime depicts their struggles as they overcome the vast differences between themselves to work towards a common goal – winning the matches they are thrown into.

The story is told in a slice-of-life fashion, depicting the struggles of the newly formed baseball team as they go through training. Though there are only two matches throughout the 22 episode series, Mihashi and Abe’s pasts are confronted through the two and it is actually during those long and arduous matches where we see character development. Other supporting characters also really shine in the games, and we get less of a sense that they are, for example, Teammate A and B, or simply the batter at 1st base, the outfielder etc. which was a source of confusion at the start of the anime, not helped by the fact that character designs are mainly differentiated by their hair which is entirely covered by their baseball caps during games.

This is a relatively unknown anime, even within its own niche genre. None of the characters have specific characteristics that make them stand out such that they would feature in crossovers, or are mentioned by people, or even brought up in Youtube video reviews. Of most special mention is actually Mihashi, whom you’d either really want to hit your head against the wall for such wimpiness, or you would really sympathise with him as sentient, fallible fellow human beings who’s prone to the occasional self-demeaning attitude. But other than that, his adorableness really captures the hearts of fujoshis/fudanshis as he is easily the main character that blushes the most in any anime I have seen (except maybe those with the explicit shounen-ai/yaoi tags). Having said that though, it doesn’t come across as overtly pandering to yaoi fans, because we are able to see it as something inherent in that self-defeatist attitude of his. Abe’s more assertive attitude shapes Mihashi up due to him being the first to truly recognise Mihashi’s way of pitching, and their chemistry both on the battlefield and off presents a good angle for exposition.

OF admittedly focuses a lot on baseball strategy. Up till now, I don’t claim to really know anything about baseball even after watching the anime, pausing, rewatching certain episodes to get what is going on, doing basic research, watching Youtube Baseball 101 videos. Even after all that, I am only familiar with the extremely basic rules. Though Abe, the narrating strategist here (together with their coach), explains the reasons why they are using certain strategies, there are just too many to catch and too many terms for a complete beginner such that it can get tiring too watch if, like me, you are a total noob when it comes to baseball.

In essence, though this is not probably as highly recommended as Yowamushi Pedal or Haikyuu!!, I daresay this would be an enriching experience for those more familiar with baseball because of the highly complex strategies. Nevertheless if you are a total beginner, it is still possible to enjoy it as there is some explanation given to familiarise yourself with how the game works. Do note though that this is a mainly sports centric anime and can turn out to be very technical, so its not recommended for those looking for high entertainment value.

Feel free to leave your thoughts below as to whether you’d be inclined to give this a go, or even if just to comment about whether you’ve watched it or not 🙂

*All images belong to their respective owners and do not belong to me.*

Yowamushi Pedal: An extremely enjoyable, light-hearted sports anime

It has been a really long time since my last anime review. Here’s to clearing my enormous backlog on anime reviews …

Yowamushi Pedal doesn’t seem like an exceedingly striking anime at first glance. Hidden amongst the more attention grabbing Fall 2013 lineup, it scarcely garners much attention. Even if one googles it out of curiosity, one would raise their eyebrows at the less-than-impressive art style, with hard-lined, bold strokes and little focus on character’s facial features.

In fact, I was looking for another team sport anime with ‘feels’ right after finishing Haikyuu!!, so I was more than disappointed by the lack of bishounen in this anime. Besides, I was hesitant. Isn’t cycling more of an individual sport rather than a team one? And what is the depth in cycling as a sport? Its like running. You would think there aren’t that many techniques and tactics to improve speed; and besides, there is only one goal: becoming faster. How many ways can you develop this trope? How could it ever be anything meaningful?

Those were the thoughts that ran through my head before I decided that there wasn’t much harm in trying it. I had a month-long holiday and there were people mentioning on forums that it was a team sport that was being portrayed in the story, so that assuaged my concerns a little.

Thanks to that mindset, I now have one more sport anime I can claim to know a little of, and an entire second season waiting for me to marathon during my Summer holidays. (!!!)


Onoda is an otaku who fervently believes that anime is the best thing in the whole world and that there is nothing that brings him more enjoyment than watching anime and talking about anime. (Hmm, that sounds pretty familiar …) As he attends Sohoku High, he resolves to join the anime club. However, a series of events led him to discover his innate talent in cycling and he joins the competitive cycling club instead. As Onoda starts to discover the competitive cycling world, he forges strong friendships with his teammates, all of whom are individual rivals with one another to an extent. He also discovers his love and motivation for cycling. Together they as a team aim for the Inter High cycling event.

The plot is no different from any other sports anime. We have characters that are slowly introduced as the team members in the Sohoku team, each with their different quirks (elaborated upon in the next section). Onoda starts off without knowing anything about pro-cycling, but his talent manages to surpass all expectations. Of course, like any other talented greenhorn, his current standards are not good enough to rival those that have been doing pro-cycling for a long time (like his arch rival and soon to be close friend, Imaizumi) but his immense potential and ability to adapt quickly makes him a rising star. I find myself raising my eyebrows a lot at the start when Onoda’s abilities were portrayed a tad ridiculous and overwhelming; especially when his love for cycling, and wanting to catch up to his nakama and sheer willpower manages to power him through at high speed, when we all know that there is a physical limit to muscle power and strength. This threw me off guard especially after a more realistic anime like Haikyuu!!, and even Kuroko no Basket wasn’t so unbelievable as this.

However, I came to realise that such ludicrity is actually part of this series’ charm. There is no denying that sense of euphoria when these characters win their races; even through the most ridiculous plot developments. It is enough to keep us on the edges of our seats, excitedly going through one episode after another as we pine for a conclusion to whichever ongoing race (but almost always getting disappointed, as the race drags on for some time.) I couldn’t possibly imagine watching this anime from the get-go and waiting weekly just for one episode; I would probably flip out and go crazy.


What I actually wanted to say about characters can actually be summed up in one line: LOL OMG WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE SO UNBELIEVABLY CUTE I CAN’T TAKE IT !!!!!

And therein lies the biggest charm of the series: the characters. Unlike Haikyuu!!, where I am still able to pick out favourites in characters and where each character has a distinct role which makes up the team and humorous interactions between team members that highlight the differences, here characters are not nearly so distinct for me to pick out any particular favourite, but I adore the team in general because of their unbelievably adorable undying positivity and camaraderie. While Haikyuu!! develops character friendships through realistic conflicts of interest, which upon resolving makes the nakama bond stronger, YowaPedal doesn’t develop these relationships that way. Here, the focus is mainly put on the common goal that the team has. In fact, the theme of self-sacrifice to further the team’s objective is more played upon here than in Haikyuu!! and Kuroko no Basket, and the cheeriness of the team makes the mood more uplifting in doing so.

Onoda Sakimichi

Onoda seems to be one of the ‘wimpiest’ male protagonists that you would ever come across (aside from Mihashi in Big Windup). His talent lies in climbing (as in, climbing up slopes). Yet he is also capable of achieving all levels of crazy as he strives to meet his objective; whether it is passing the extremely challenging training test, or to play his team role well in the Inter-High. His smile comes across as creepy at times, but I personally never found much fault with it.

Imazumi Shunsuke

Imaizumi is also a prodigy in his own sense, and a rival to Onoda with his all-rounded abilities. He has a slightly colder personality at the start and is extremely focused on practicing to perfect his biking abilities. However as he encounters Onoda and the rest of team, you could see him warming up.

Naruko Shoukichi

Naruko is a talented sprinter who is small, red and loud; similar to Natsu (from Fairy Tail) or Hinata (from Haikyuu!!). I believe Onoda considers him one of his closest friends in the team, and he does often look out for Onoda as well. I personally like the friendship here a lot. However, he bickers a lot with Imaizumi, and only seems to stop when Onoda turns up on the scene.

We also have the third year seniors of the Sohoku team, who are powerful bikers in their own right and are better than the first years; each having a specialty which coincides and hence are direct rivals of the first years. They also have their own ‘special moves’ to boot.

Of worthy mention is how the characters of their direct rival team, Hakone High, are also fleshed out and developed. Each member also has an awesome and touching backstory, which is focused upon as they feature during the different stages of the Inter High. In fact, I respect this team from the bottom of my heart, and emotionally identify with this rival team so much that when Hakone and Sohoku at fighting I can’t honestly say who I would want to win more. (picture below)

Strange that this school contains more bishounen ….

All in all, absolutely adorable characters and a delight to watch. I wanted to also point out this particular scene in the Inter High when Onoda was trying to pull his senior, Tarokocchi along, by making him sing the ‘Princess’ song (an anime song), to motivate both of them. Obviously, Tarokocchi is not an anime fan, but he sings it anyway.

This probably won’t mean much to those who haven’t watched this anime; but during that scene was seriously torn between my heart melting from the adorableness of those two and this:


Art, Animation and Atmosphere

The scorching sun beats down on the gravelled roads. Puddles are water are glistening from the sun. The trees lining the path are lush and leafy. The air is still, the cicadas screeching under the shadows of the tree branches. Suddenly, something yellow arrives at the bend of the road. Within seconds, he has come within view and before you know it, he whizzes past you at such a speed , creating the first gust of wind in this unbearable heat and scattering the leaves in your face. Before you could register his presence, he is gone, leaving behind a pile of scattered leaves that slowly comes to a rest on the roadside, unmoving.

The art and animation here really creates that summer atmosphere along biking tracks. (I could literally feel that heat myself) In my book, I can ask nothing more than background atmosphere to life in complementing the story. I wish I had some screencaps to show but unfortunately I was too mesmerised with the show when I was watching it to organise any of these things.


YowaPedal is an all-time recommendation, unless you couldn’t stand anything that is remotely more unrealistic than Kuroko no basket. If you are looking for some optimism with a dose of fun and joy, with fujoshi/fudanshi material and bromance, look no further! 😀

*All images are hosted by Google Images and belong to their respective owners.*

Haikyuu!!: the overwhelming intensity of emotions


Finally, I blog about the anime that overturned my expectations about the sports anime genre, and got me finding out all the kinds of sports anime that were ever released. This is the anime that got me started on my subsequent rampage of any anime to do with the tripartite alliance of competition, working in a team (with extra emphasis), and the theme of effort vs. talent.

This is, however, hardly my first sports anime. I had started on Kuroko no Basket as my first foray into the genre. It was exciting, kept me on edge, and amazing. I still love Kuroko as one of my favourite characters. There was lots of sportsmanship and friendship too in that, and I still consider it my favourite sports anime, ever.

However, Haikyuu!! is an anime that I ventured into with an expectation that it was similar to Kuroko no Basket and hence that a guaranteed 25 episodes of enjoyment would await me. I was pleasantly surprised that it was similar in certain ways (which makes it awesome), and yet..evokes new emotions in me that I have never felt that I would have experienced while watching a sports anime.

This brings me back to the point that I feel that anime enables me to experience things vicariously, through the stories of characters that feel so real to me. I know I would never again live the life of high school, middle school while feeling that I am giving my all, living the best way I could and having the most fun with people. I guess my anime addiction can be explained by the fact that I have never lived those experiences, and my love for the characters makes me feel alive, like the fact that they experience these things makes me feel happy for them in itself.

But I digress. Haikyuu’s plot premise is nothing very new; it tells the story of a passionate boy, Hinata, who fell in love with volleyball by chance, meeting his eternal rival in a middle school match, Kageyama. Alas, they realise that they have ended up in the same high school and hence volleyball team together. This is a story depicting their volleyball journey as they put aside their differences and learn to work together to defeat other schools in the Inter-High tournament.

Haikyuu!! started off at an easy pace as we are introduced to Kageyama and Hinata. They, of course, don’t hit off well, and are seen to be always fighting. However, when they inevitably have to work together, they manage to gain a chemistry with each other that is unrivalled, resulting in a strong bond and trust that becomes one of their team’s strongest weapons against their adversaries. The fact that their skills complemented each other so well helped, too. Their other teammates are also well introduced, and their motivations are also given airtime in the series to enable the audience to identify with them. The way the series portrays their internal struggles, the complicated feelings they harbour towards each other (especially between rivals for the same position on the team) is spectacular. All these culminates in the barrage of an intense desire to win their opponents in competition. I realise that the series portrays something very well – their intense desire to win is as strong as any other team they play against – and this is also shown. Another aspect of this show I am pleased with is the way the ‘enemy”s backstories are developed as well, like any other good sports anime (Chihayafuru, Kuroko no Basket)

However, what makes Haikyuu stand out is its fiercely volleyball-loving, teammate-loving team, which just makes me melt into a puddle because their interactions are so freaking adorable. Their comedic moments are never forced nor repetitive, and I am glad each character does not have this pet phrase they utter or reaction they have that are all too common in other shounen anime. It feels refreshing whenever they talk and fight with one another, and that adds to the realism of the characters.

What makes Haikyuu outstanding for me is the fact that so many emotions were literally bursting out of me when I was watching the last match of the series. The match was not particularly long, but it was intense as you could literally feel the desire of both teams to win the match. My palms were sweating like crazy and my entire body was on fire as I was watching that match, and I am not even exaggerating any of that here (I wrote that down when I was feeling it). While I am thoroughly inclined to reveal the eventual outcome of that match, I shall not do so here. But what I felt then is something I would remember for a long time.

While I initially felt that the beginning of the series was not as exciting (as I was comparing it to Kuroko no Basket, I realised belatedly), I am glad they did not immediately jump into competition, full shounen style. The slow pace in developing characters and portraying the training that the characters go through paid off in the end, for it made the audience (me) identify with the characters a lot more, and suffer more when they lose and be infinitely more happy when they win.

Overall, I would recommend Haikyuu!! as an anime that appeals to everybody, for die-hard sports anime fans and those who have yet to touch a single one. If you want an emotional, exciting ride, this is the anime that you should go for.

I devote the end of this post to Tobio Kageyama’s numerous facial expressions, who is is the most adorable male tsundere ever xD

and my favourite:



and, of course, for my most favourite team:

and kageyama x hinata! 🙂

*Disclaimer: All images in this post are the rightful property of Google Images. I do not own any of these images*

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


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.


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.

Kaleido Star: Final Impressions

Kaleido Star tells the story of a 15 year old girl named Sora, who travels to America to realise her dream of being a member of the world renowned circus troupe Kaleido Stage, and is a tale detailing her personal growth and struggles as she strives to become a unique beacon of light on stage.

Kaleido Star is a beautifully executed drama of a girl’s aspirations and the unwavering effort that she puts in in realising her own dreams. Trapeze artists, theatre and gymnastics combined into this performance concept , “Kaleido Stage”, makes the setting a very attractive one. I have always been enamoured by gymnastics, perhaps mainly because their emphasis on form is an aesthetic experience which requires more than a few years of toil, blood and sweat, complete with heightened risk of bodily injuries and/or permanent damage to their bones and muscles. Yet, the outcome is always pleasing to watch as a member of the audience. Perhaps because it is so hard to portray such a sport realistically that very few films have used this sport as a basis of their story. Hence I was naturally looking forward to the show when I was reading the synopsis.

However, as I continued watching, I realised Kaleido Star was more than that. Sora Naegino is a very strong, tenacious female character. The older I grow, I realised that though I give in to my guilty pleasures of well crafted, good looking male characters in a story (resulting in much fan-girling and squealing), well crafted, strong female characters manage to stick in my mind more. In fact, if the main female character is someone I truly admire, identify with as a person, and realistic, that book, story or show is the one that remains at the back of my head, the one that flashes through my  mind as I toss and turn in bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Sora Naegino is such a character. She is good-hearted, ready to help others, and an eternal optimist, able to look at things in a positive way which makes her perspective rather refreshing. Yet, she still manages to stay realistic in her pursuit of her goals, and definitely does not come across as overwhelmingly idealistic or naive. Though her intentions may seem too angelic and altruistic at times, her journey is fraught with obstacles which she struggles to overcome. The process in which she suffers, even loses hope and is sometimes even caught in a downward spiral of negativity and depression, which is in stark contrast to her optimism, makes her more real as a character and one that viewers, or whoever who has had to work hard to get something they want, identify and feel for her.

The people around her also form a close circle and do a great job of supporting the story. Her interactions with her friends and supporters does not make one feel that these characters are merely supporting her, as their backstories are also explored well enough to make them stand alone as memorable characters. The humour is not overdone and repetitive, and the gags that accompany each character trait continuously gives one a good laugh despite the general content of the gag remaining the same each time.

However, some drawbacks remain in the story as it is a tad unrealistic for Sora to continuously get up by sheer power of will when her physical ability to endure painful training is clearly exhausted. This makes her success in achieving her goals one that is too good to be true, especially since they take an astonishingly short time to be achieved.

Last but not least, SORA x LEON = ❤ *fangirls*