The best sports anime series manages to capture all of the drama and character development of a typical anime series, but it is also based around sport. The sports that are typically involved include basketball, baseball, football, and volleyball. These sports anime series are often praised for their grounded stories lines that more closely mirror real life. But they also have the twists and turns that we have all come to love from anime. Not to mention the extraordinary feats of action.
With a plethora of sports anime series to indulge in, I couldn’t include them all. So I have opted for just the top 10 best sports anime series that you should add to your list. The variety of different sports in anime shows is a breath of fresh air when compared to its live-action counterpart. The unique storylines and enticing action sequences will have you hooked on sports anime series in no time.
Check out our top ten list of the best sports anime shows for you to add to your must-watch list this week.
Featured Sport: Basketball
Slam Dunk is a classic sports anime series whose central story revolves around basketball. What I like about Slam Dunk are the often outstanding stunts, but also some of the gameplay closely matches the real thing. Aside from the action, Slam Dunk is really funny and packed full of the usual drama and action that we are used to with anime series.
The protagonist in Slam Dunk is Hanamichi Sakuragi, a highschool student who was once again rejected by a girl he was trying to date. Unfortunately for him, she already likes someone else on the team. Hanamichi responds by lashing out. However, he meets Haruko, who teaches him how to play basketball and ends up falling in love with the sport and the girl who showed it to him. However, it’s not all smooth sailing from there, and Sakuragi must overcome a tonne of hurdles along the way, including Haruko’s older brother, Akagi. He is the captain of the team. On top of that, Rukawa is the best player on the side and also happens to be Haruko’s current crush.
Ookiku Furikabutte (Big Windup!)
Featured Sport: Baseball
Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, so it’s no surprise to see a show based around the game on our list. It also happens to be the second most popular choice for sports anime series, behind basketball.
Ookiku Furikabutte, or Big Windup! It may not be as action-packed as One Punch Man Season 3, but the tension starts slow and then begins to build tremendously. The show is exciting and has some fresh elements of realism, which make it super enjoyable. You’ll no doubt be rooting for some of the characters, even if at times you shouldn’t!.
This sports anime series focuses on Mihashi Ren, a freshman high schooler whose confidence and self-esteem are in tatters. His baseball experience in middle school ruined the sport for him, and he doesn’t want to pursue it anymore. However, he steps up after his new school needs a star pitcher. He most definitely comes off as arrogant and slightly selfish but has some incredible baseball skills. The twist is that Mihashi’s pitches are actually super slow, but with Abe’s help, this unusual skill evolves into an astonishing talent.
Hajime no Ippo
Featured Sport: Boxing
Hajime no Ippo centers around one of the most popular sports in the world, boxing. It doesn’t have the cartoonish action of an anime series like Teen Titans Season 6, but it makes up for it with the characters.
It’s one of the best sports anime series that most people don’t even know about. The show isn’t all bravado and punching, and its core themes center around perseverance, trying your hardest, and being diligent for those seeking a dose of action and drama this one’s for you.
The show centers around Makunouchi Ippo’s struggles with the sport of boxing and his complicated everyday life. He has always been bullied by his peers and pushed around. He is made to do things he doesn’t want to. While being picked on a boxing training one day, Takamura finds him and takes him to the gym to recover. Throughout the show, we see him move from a weak individual with no self-esteem to someone seeking redemption. He battles through numerous tests and struggles, and goes on to choose boxing as a career and finally be done with the weakness he was before.
Featured Sport: Tennis
You don’t see many shows about Tennis on TV, let alone sports anime series, but this one is just too good not to add to the list. It follows the general tropes of anime, with the protagonist rising from nothing to become the hero of the story. But Baby Steps centers around tennis, so it doesn’t have the bizarreness of a show like High School DxD Season 5.
Maruo Eiichiro has always been an excellent student who gets top grades. Baby Steps follows his journey from book work to tennis aficionado. However, as someone without much experience with anything physical, it is much harder than you think. Like any top sports anime series, it’s full of twists and turns and follows the story of someone who isn’t entirely happy enough in their current situation and wants a change.
Featured Sport: Baseball
Another baseball sports anime series on our list, but for a good reason. The comic book of Major is one of the longest-running anime series ever and has won critical acclaim. Sport acts as just one of the central themes alongside drama and also a dose of comedy. What Major does so well is how it intertwines and links storylines with the character development, you’ll never get bored.
Major follows Goro Honda’s life and his love of baseball. He is keen to win his father’s approval, who is one of the greats of the game. However, the drama in his personal life makes it difficult and gets in the way of the sport he loves. There are triumphs and tragedies throughout, and the show can be a real wild ride at times. Does Goro Honda have the strength to stick with the sport he loves?
Featured Sport: American Football
Eyeshield 21 is definitely one of the crazier shows on the list and has an intense amount of action. Anyone who has watched a real game of American Football knows the brutality involved, and this makes its way into the sports anime series as well. The intensity will keep you on the edge of your seat and make sure to keep you watching over and over again. However, the entertaining nature and humor of the show will win over your heart. The storylines aren’t as bizarre as shows like Seven Deadly Sins Season 4, but it more than makes up for it with the action.
Sena Kobayakawa is the protagonist in Eyeshield 21 and is a high schooler who has been severely bullied. However, all the running away he did from his bullies and while doing errands has given him incredible speed. The captain of the American Football Team, Youichi Hiruma, discovers his speed and entices him to come and play for the team. The Devil Bats are his school team, and Sena is initially reluctant to join. But with the support of his team and its manager, he is soon dashing across the field, scoring touchdowns, and securing victory for his entire team.
Featured Sport: Cycling
While cycling is widely prevalent among casual enthusiasts, the actual sport of cycling is somewhat niche and only down by a small minority of people. So it may seem weird that there is a cycling sports anime series, but Yowamushi Pedal’s concept works really well. It gives viewers an insight into the strange world of competitive cycling and does an excellent job of shining it in a positive and exciting light.
The main character, Sakamichi Onoda, is an otaku who has an absolute passion for anime and all things computers. He never had any friends in middle school and wants to turn his around in high school, so he has people to share his passions with. He often rides the long journey to the Anime Mecca of Akihabara with his mum. However, his rickety old bike is not well suited for the trip. Due to the frequency in which he makes the journey, he actually becomes a remarkable cyclist, which helps him get into his new school’s bike racing team.
Sakamichi Onoda isn’t as competitive as the others in the team, just by his nature. But this sports anime series shows us that participating and enjoying sports is one of the best ways to meet lifelong friends and create inseparable bonds with people. Of course, he also manages to get his fair share of victories along the way.
Prince of Tennis
Featured Sport: Tennis
The Prince of Tennis has had a fair share of critical acclaim, running for 178 episodes and spawning its own movie. It takes the usual sports cliches but applies them in a way that feels fresh and unique. It has some great twists and turns alongside the general sports formula that most shows follow. It also does a great job of making the matches suspenseful, which can be a difficult feat to achieve. Prince of Tennis is exciting and will keep you glued to your seat, just remember to come up for air before indulging in the enormous library of episodes.
This sports anime series has Echizen Ryoma as the protagonist and Price of Tennis. He is young but already has a variety of championships under his belt. But there is just one person he can’t beat—his dad. Ryoma enrolls in a specialist tennis school, Seishun Academy, to become an outstanding tennis player. Playing in such vigorous competition makes him stronger, and their support helps him overcome the obstacles he faces. However, will he finally get good enough to beat his dad?
Featured Sport: Volleyball
Just missing out on the top spot is Haikyuu. Not to say the other sports anime series on our list don’t have great plots, but for me, Haikyuu is a standout. On top of that, it is a lot more well-rounded than other shows. While the action does play a big part in the show, the key themes also include teamwork and perseverance. As the show progresses, you become more attached to the players and their brilliance. It has some great insights into the lessons that can be learned through sport, and I also have a soft spot for it because volleyball is one of my favorite games.
Hinata Shouyou is an aspiring volleyball player. However, his previous school didn’t focus on the sport, and he had to play it wherever he could. In his case, it was with the girl’s volleyball team, old ladies in his neighborhood, and then begged his friends to toss the ball around. He brings together a ragtag group for a middle school competition but is crushed by the team that is led by Tobio Kageyama, aka King of the Court. Following his embarrassing defeat, he endures to find a school that supports his volleyball passion and has a good team, to try and defeat Kageyama. Of course, drama ensures, and who else is planning to join the same side as him? None other than his arch-rival Kageyama.
Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko’s Basketball)
Featured Sport: Basketball
Kuroko no Basket is the best sports anime series going. The generation of Miracles is inspirational in navigating the court and showing off their skills. In fact, they are practically perfect and unbeatable.
The action sequences in the show are what give this the top spot for me. Of course, their moves on the court are almost god-like, but the animation makes it feel like the moves may actually be possible in real life. The character development throughout is also significant, and the plot unravels at a great pace.
In junior high, there was a team filled with five basketball prodigies that practically crushed any team that got in their way. The team won every match they played and became known as the Generation of Miracles. The team went their separate ways in high school, and years have passed. However, the team actually had six members, with the last being a virtually unknown player called Tetsuya Kuroko. He never got the same level of praise as the others, but things are about to change. His legacy is just beginning, and he has chosen to lead Seirin Gakuen, a little known school, to victory.