It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a list article, but I’m finally at a point where I can try to start doing some different kinds of posts again.
This time, my list is focusing on my favorite anime that feature sports. I hesitate to call this a list of my favorite sports anime, because while some of these titles do feature a sport, they might not necessarily have as much of a focus on the competitive side of the sport.
I should also add that rather than being a top 5 list, this list will be presented in alphabetical order.
At the time I’m writing this list, I have seen the Free! Iwatobi Swim Club and Free! Eternal Summer anime series. This is a series that features competitive swimming, with the first series focusing a little more on getting the swim club back up and running at Iwatobi. Once the team gets up and running, there is definitely some swimming competition… but the lives and personalities of the characters plays just as important of a role as the sport of swimming.
While Free! Eternal Summer did include some of the character development that the first series was known for, this second series focused more on the competitive side of the sport. To be honest, I think you really have to watch both series to truly appreciate what the Free! Franchise has to offer.
When I watched the first episode of Haikyu!!, I realized rather quickly that it followed many of the tropes associated with sports anime. However, the main character of Shoyo, along with his backstory, were intriguing enough that it didn’t feel like this was “just another sports anime.” And as the series progressed, the characters became so engaging that I didn’t always necessarily notice the various sports anime tropes that were being used.
Even though I’m not a fan of volleyball, this series kept me interested with its characters and the story development. I have to say that this franchise has helped me gain a better understanding of how to play volleyball, and the matches that appear in this series are exciting to watch.
Speed Racer (aka Mach Go Go Go)
Some might argue that this shouldn’t appear on the list, if they don’t consider car racing to be a sport… but I think Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne might disagree with that assessment.
Speed Racer features the title character participating in the world of professional car racing and participating in races, but there’s usually also some kind of intrigue or danger mixed in with the competitions. With each race Speed participates in, I find myself always rooting for him to win. With that being said, though, I do have to admit that I tend to prefer the earlier episodes in the series over the later ones, because the story premises become stranger as it goes on. While the style of the English dub is annoying at times, I can still tell that there’s something there from the original that makes this series better than what it appears on the surface in the English dubbed. I would love to see the original Mach Go Go Go at some point, but I just have to hope that FUNimation Entertainment will eventually release it in a way where you don’t have to buy a ridiculously priced collector’s edition that includes a lot of junk and repeat content that I’m not interested in.
Even though I’m not a fan of cycling, I found myself getting hooked on this series very early on in its first season. I especially found myself riveted to the action that takes place during the racing scenes. But there’s more to Yowamushi Pedal than just bicycle racing, however. The series does a fantastic job of character development, and it is able to combine this with memorable character interactions and humor in such a way that it raises Yowamushi Pedal from simply being a sports anime to something even more.
As of this writing, I have seen Yowamushi Pedal, Yowamushi Pedal Grande Road, Yowamushi Pedal: The Movie, and Yowamushi Pedal New Generation in their entirety, and am in the middle of the Yowamushi Pedal: Glory Line simulcast. What I’ve appreciated is seeing how the various teams and the characters have evolved over the course of all these episodes, and there’s still obviously more to come.
Yuri!!! On ICE
This series about ice skating grabbed me from the very first episode. Yuri Katsuki seemed like he was just going to fade away after his various failed showings at skating competitions, but his life and career are turned around after he is filmed doing a perfect imitation of an advanced skating routine by a famous Russian figure skater named Victor Nikiforov. When Victor sees this video posted on the internet, he takes it upon himself to be Yuri’s coach. But Yuri finds more than just a coach in Victor, and the various character interactions that take place in this world of professional figure skating are intriguing and make the viewer want to continue following the series.
The writing on this series is fantastic, and it’s through this writing that Yuri and Victor’s relationship evolves in a realistic way. It’s made clear that Yuri idolizes Victor, and Victor is clearly shown flirting with Yuri from early on after they meet. So when the infamous kiss happens in episode seven, it feels natural and not forced. When Yuri later buys rings for the two of them as a good luck charm for his skating, I appreciated being able to pick up on the subtext that this gesture could potentially mean more in the future. But it wasn’t just these two characters who got all of the character development… Yuri’s various competitors at various events were also developed as well. The weaving of competition with character development is almost perfect in Yuri!!! On ICE.