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 Dunk, Prince 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.