Sports anime is quite the heaven-sent gift, managing to get me to consider something I typically dislike by combining it with something I enjoy.
You’ll never catch me doing a lot of physical activities, but you’ll find me immersed in animated sports shows. There’s just something about them that frame sports beyond their athletic conventions.
Granted that a number of sports anime banks on fanservice, exaggerated moves and a plethora of bishies in the cast, many of us stay for the raw emotions and gravitate towards characters who share similar goals―to achieve our dreams and find a sense of fulfillment in our passions.
Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru
Sport: Track and field
Fourth year university student Haiji dreams of competing in Hakone Ekiden, a prestigious marathon relay in Japan, and assembles his own track and field team. He recruits former high school runner (and shoplifter) Kakeru as the last member, but the pressure largely rests on the two of them as the rest of the team have little to no experience.
This show caught my attention as running is one of the few physical activities I can tolerate and it steps out of the “high school sports team” trope. Plus, it was adapted by the same studio as “Haikyuu!!” (whose manga’s impending end I won’t be shutting up about for a while).
Talented pitcher Yomi reignites her long-lost passion for baseball and decides to revive her school’s baseball team along with her childhood friend Tamaki, the only one who can catch Yomi’s “magic throw.” It’s a slow start, but their all-girls team is determined, making it their goal to reach the national championship league.
Baseball is one of the most beloved sports in Japan, spawning many popular (albeit mostly all-male cast) shows like “Diamond no Ace.” My knowledge of the sport is limited to terms like “homerun,” but this series is an interesting blend of sports action and wholesome female friendships.
Some fight for honor, and some fight for… a yearlong buffet. A broke kendo instructor takes up his upperclassman’s challenge: If he can assemble a skilled team of kendo athletes to beat his team, he gets free meals for a whole year.
This show explores kendo, a traditional martial art grounded on discipline with the use of weaponry, and it manages to blend its eccentric characters and lighthearted plot with the way of the sword.
Ping Pong the Animation
Sport: Table tennis
Smile and Peco are both on their way to becoming table tennis prodigies, but each has something holding them back from kicking things up a notch―Peco is a sore loser and Smile is uninterested in joining competitions.
This show is a standout for its animation style, music score and carefully crafted character development. And it takes time to tell the stories of the characters on the other side of the table. The thing about sports anime is that most of them are coming-of-age stories too, and “Ping Pong the Animation” captures that with its two protagonists’ journey to self-discovery.
Still from “Haikyuu!!”