Are Sports Anime The New Norm?

Concurrently we have seen a recent spike in sports anime the last couple of years. From the ever popular Haikyuu!!, Yuri on Ice, Kuroko no Basket, and Free!…all the way to more recent shows like Welcome to the Ballroom, Megalo Box, Uma Musume: Pretty Derby and Hanebado. There is no doubt that sports anime are becoming more and more popular amongst the otaku community. So is it safe to assume that sports anime has become the new “norm” with anime fans?

While the sports genre isn’t anything new, considering it started to appear in 1983, it HAS made a more recent climb in today’s popularity charts. Well known titles such as Captain Tsubasa, Kyojin no Hoshi (Star of the Giants), Ashita no Joe, Tiger Mask, Mach 555/Speed Racer, and Ace wo Nerae (Aim fot the Ace) really paved the way for the sports genre we know and love today. Captain Tsubasa’s themes and many other stories from sports anime during this time were a formula that would be used in many sports series that followed, such as Slam DunkPrince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21. 

As Sean O’Mara states over at Otaku Magazine, “The most common perception of sports anime (or manga) tends to be the typical shounen sports saga, wherein a determined underdog overcomes his own insecurities and shortcomings to eventually become the best. Usually told in long, drawn-out story arcs driven by the need to sell more and more issues of weekly manga magazines, it’s a formula that has existed (and thrived) for decades.”

What Sean states is absolutely true! Sports anime/manga is a formula that is both consistent and substantial in the otaku community. It is something that everyone and anyone can enjoy without having to be too deeply invested in the characters or possibly even the sport itself. I even asked some of you guys over on Twitter what you favorite thing about watching sports anime was and I really surprised by some of the answers I received!

Karandi stated that while she isn’t hugely into sports anime she still enjoys watching the protagonist and their interactions with others around them. The sport itself is just a setting for her. MelinAnimeLand also agreed that she liked watching sports anime for the characters, but also how they help each other in order to develop their skills and potential. LacklusterStuff loooves the ridiculously large cast that sports anime tends to have. Again, another person who is a fan of watching the characters interacting with one another and the slice-of-life moments that happen in-between competitions.

Raistlin tends to dislike sports anime, but is happy to see that the current show Hanebado! is focusing more on the characters than the sport itself. Lastly, InfiniteZenith stated they like when sports anime becomes a facilitator for the characters to learn more about themselves.

I find it rather compelling that all of these people watch sports anime not for the sport, but for how the characters grow and develop throughout the series. I think all of these answers definitely tie into the concept of character relatability. I dove into this topic in an old post of my back in August of last year. It was essentially a collective narrative on why anime villains are so alluring to their respective audience. If you want to check that post out you can do so here: https://kawaiipaperpandas.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/topic-tuesday-why-are-anime-villains-so-alluring/.

I don’t think sports anime is going to stop anytime soon. I believe sports anime is going to have a snowball effect and continue to grow larger and larger over time. Which I am not opposed to! As a person who didn’t play any sports in middle school or high school, I can live my sports fantasy vicariously through these anime characters. I am also super into the drama elements that sports anime tends to bring to the table. Just like everyone of my fellow anime bloggers, I also watch sports anime for the characters progress and improvement. I ALWAYS get hyped when I see how good the main character gets as they hone their skills or when a new rival challenges them. Pushing a character to their limits is what makes me root for them even more. I mean…who DOESN’T love a well-developed and articulated underdog story? I know I do!

If you missed my question over on Twitter then tell me what your favorite thing about watching sports anime is in the comments section below! Do you think we are going to get more sports anime in the future? Do you think sports anime can become widely popular like other genres such as fantasy, shounen, or comedy? I would love to hear all of your thoughts. As always, thank you guys for joining me on this lovely Sunday afternoon. I hope everyone is having an amazing weekend ❤


Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them.

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21 Comments

  1. Well I guess I’m not even going to say that I don’t like sportsanimes anymore, as I have pretty much proven to myself that isn’t true with Hanebado! (and thanks for mentioning me in the post 😀) Even though I don’t think it will ever become my favorite genre, I did find a new appreciation for it.
    I do think you have a point though as a lot animebloggers this season have really embraced some of the sports shows on offer. So who knows what’s next? Great post as always! 😊😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I watch a lot of sports anime and for the same reason as the ones you have gotten from Mel and the others above. I like to see the interaction between characters, the life outside of the field, the growth as a person. There are only two sports anime I have started to watch because of the sport itself (I actually don’t like sport in general in real life except for these two) and that is Yuri!!! on Ice for the ice skating and Welcome to the Ballroom for the dancing. I was plastered to the tv when I was little (and I still sometimes is) completely mesmerized when they showed competitions with either of those sports. But other than that I have always started to watch for everything but the sport itself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely can relate to like icing skating and ballroom dance. Ice skating was always my favorite thing about the winter Olympics! I was enthralled with how graceful the competitors were on the ice. It takes a lot of guts to do what they do. I love watching sports, just not competing in them XD

      Like

  3. I always avoided stuff tagged with sports because, well, I don’t care about sports, but after I watched Ping Pong: The Animation I changed my mind & started to try them out more. & now I’m really enjoying Hanebado!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Personally, I love a good sports anime! Although they’re cliché in terms of plot, there’s just something about the hype involved in a sports anime that I love. Like many others, I watch a sports anime for the character development, but this isn’t really the case for one example. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of volleyball but never got to play it for it’s not a common sport where I live. So, when Haikyuu! came out, I just had to watch it for the sport itself and, well, that was the first sports anime I truly loved. Since then, I’ve enjoyed Free! a lot more than I initially did, as well as enjoy other sports anime such as Uma Musume. The genre certainly isn’t going anywhere as seen by the amount of different and new sports that are being covered recently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think sports anime can be just as good, if not better than some of the other anime out there in the scene right now. It is all dependent on how the characters are presented, the story-line, whether or not the characters learn/grow from their challenges, and if the ending is satisfactory. I think a lot of the studios pushing out sports anime right now are doing it right!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you mentioning me!
    Great post you have here.

    the formula of the sport anime it’s pretty much always the same, it is truth there is exception like Prince of Tennis, but usually one main love the sport but lack in a lot of aspect to practice it when he main is just too good for his own good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course Mel! Most specific genres of anime have some kind of formula that they follow. The same could be said of romcoms, shounen, horror and everything in-between. It is just the nature of the game.

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  6. I believe whether the Sports genre will grow more in the future depends on the approach that the story is told – do they want to focus on the technicalities and explain them? Or other genres integrated with it like drama/romance/comedy? The latter serves much like commentary, building on the action and drawing people in… I mean… no one wants to watch a Soccer match being played in silence right? 🙂
    Nice write up and intriguing discussion!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally agree with you! I think sports anime has to be mixed in with some kind of other genre such as comedy/romance/drama in order for it to be successful and relatable. As you stated, no one wants to watch a sports anime that doesn’t have any substance or meat to the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have never been a big sports anime fan. But if you want something that I found interesting, it doesn’t get better than Chihayafuru. If you don’t want to get competitive with sports, try Encouragement of Climb. (Be sure to have an ample supply of psychological insulin on hand.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it seems a lot of fellow anime bloggers aren’t big sports fans. I enjoy watching some sports, but I was never an actual sports player. I like watching sports anime mainly for the drama. I’ll have to look into your suggestions!

      Like

  8. My favourite sports manga is Slam Dunk and anime is Megalo Box. I’m not a huge fan but it’s not my least favorite genre. I would rather sports take over instead of isekai

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When something is a hit you can expect more people to copy the formula. I agree, we can expect more sport shows for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind though. Whether the hero has to defeat a villain who wants to take over the world or a rival team, a story with good characters is still fun to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I personally am a fan of sports anime and seeing the sudden influx of sport anime’s really took me by surprise and won my heart. But what I do love seeing in a sports anime would be a more in depth story between the relationship between the characters and having a good group of characters would be fun to watch. I do hope to see more upcoming sports anime soon~!

    Liked by 1 person

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