Sports anime might not be as popular as anime in other genres like action or comedy, but they still are pretty well-known. There are quite a few awesome anime titles focusing on sports that you should definitely watch if you haven’t watched them already, and I have listed down some of them in this article!
Emotions tend to run wild when playing or watching sports and the feelings couldn’t be any different when watching an anime based on a chosen sport.
Actually, anime takes it up a notch with its intensity; a rather colorful display of raw emotion, human instinct, drive and desire. Sports anime are especially enjoyable and often dramatic as they tell compelling stories that portray the bonds between teammates, their thirst for winning and the work they put in before games and competitions.
Character development is also a huge part of sports anime shows and is evident in the evolution of the players as they constantly strive to improve and be the best versions of themselves. So, get ready to feel the raw emotions and have your heart racing with these picks for the best sports anime of the year!
Best Sports Anime of 2021
22. Slam Dunk
Hanamichi Sakuragi, a delinquent gang leader hasn’t had the best of luck with love. When he enrolls in Shohoku High School as a freshman, he finally meets the girl of his dreams, Haruko Akagi. Haruko introduces him to the basketball team which he joins reluctantly as he has no prior experience. However, Sakuragi turns out to be a naturally gifted athlete and comes to love the sport despite only playing to impress his Haruko.
Slam Dunk is the classic basketball anime with an art style and animation that accentuates its age. Sports and romance in one package is definitely a good deal.
21. Diamond no Ace
Diamond no Ace anime follows Eijun Sawamura, a gifted junior high school baseball pitcher with an unusual pitch. After suffering a devastating defeat, he makes a vow alongside his friends to reach the National Championship when they get to high school. Eijiun is then scouted by the assistant director of the prestigious Seidou High School to join the school’s elite baseball team. He soon finds himself surrounded by highly skilled players and sets his goal to be the ace of Seidou High School.
But, being the ace is no piece of cake. So, together with Miyuki and their other teammates they strive to be the best in Japan through hard work and determination.
20. Girls und Panzer
This anime gives you mayhem, fun, tanks and guns! Girls und Panzer is set in an alternate world where Tank Warfare isn’t about fighting and the destruction of other humans but a sport called “Senshadou” or rather the elegant art of battling tanks.
Miho Nishizumi comes from a line of popular and respected Senshadou artist, but tries to quit the sport and enrolls in Oorai High School; a school which she assumed doesn’t play the sport. Unfortunately, that proves untrue as she is pushed to join the new Senshadou to save the school from being closed. She takes command of the squadron and lead her team to victory.
19. Inazuma Eleven
Football is a thrilling sport to watch and it almost doesn’t get any better than this series which was adapted from the from the Nintendo DS game of the same name. Raimon Middle School’s football club is a mess and it is on the verge of being disbanded. The task of resurrecting the team falls upon Mamoru Endou; the grandson of Inazuma Eleven’s first generation goalkeeper.
Being a goalkeeper himself he decides to sets out on a mission to find new recruits. This fun-filled sports anime teaches teamwork while showing how the characters are passionate about the sport.
This series would leave your emotions all over the place! Ayono Hanesaki is an awesome badminton player who avoids playing the sport. When she meets Nagisa Aragaki, a former rival who trains to be the best player ever, all that changes. Encouraged by their coach, Kentarou Tachibana they both rise to face opponents and send them flying back home at shuttle speeds.
17. Yowamushi Pedal
What would an otaku do without the anime club? Stumble on the cycling club! After first-year student, Onada Sakamichi who is a cheerful but timid anime lover discovers the anime research club of his school has been disbanded, he decides to ride his old bicycle to Akihabara. On the trip he meets a renowned cyclist, Naruko Shoukichi and the encounter leads Onada to discover the world of high school bicycle racing!
16. Captain Tsubasa
Captain Tsubasa is an intense story about 11-year-old Tsubasa Oozora whose love for football is everything to him. He started playing from a young age and the sport evolves to become his obsession.
When he moves with his mother to Nankatsu City which is well known for its excellent elementary school football teams, he meets special friends like the beautiful Sanae Nakazawa and the highly talented Genzo Wakabayashi; they become close friends that help him fulfill his dream of representing Japan in the FIFA’s World Cup.
15. Tsurune: Kazemai Koukou Kyuudobu
Minato Narumiya resolved to quit Kyuudo, a modern martial art form of archery after an incident in his middle school. However, when he attends high school, he has an encounter with a mysterious archer, inspiring him to pick up his bow again and with encouragement from his childhood friends, he joins the Kazemai High School Archery Club, teams up with Nanoa Kisaragi and Kaito Onogi and they work on themselves and improve their skills in order to win the prefectural tournament.
14. Eyeshield 21
Turns out running from bullies is the perfect way to get discovered! Eyeshield 21 is one of the best sports anime that follows the story of Kobayakawa Sena who always gets picked on and played the role of ‘errand boy’ throughout elementary and middle school, so much so that he becomes agile and swift with his movements.
The captain of his high school’s American football team, Hiruma notices his speed during an escape from bullies and he recruits him to the school team, The Devil Bats. To protect him from being recruited by other teams, Sena is enlisted as “Team Secretary” and is given a helmet with a visor and the nickname “Eyeshield 21.”
13. Baby Steps
All A’s and no exercise student Eiichiro Maruo gets worried that his lack of exercise may affect his health and joins the Southern Tennis Club after seeing a flyer. At the club he meets Natsu, a girl who is passionate about tennis.
Although Eiichiro only started playing the sport to keep his body healthy, he starts getting more and more fascinated with the sport the more games he plays. So, he end up using his smarts and hard-working personality to become better and better at tennis, developing his own unique style of play.
12. All Out!!
After observing a rugby match, Kenji Gion is certain that he has found a sport that is a fit for him despite his small stature. He signs up for the rugby club and convinces his classmate Iwashimizu, who initially declined to join also. Under the Captain Sekizan, who is intense and the vice-captain Hachioji, who looks out for his club members, they train to become champions.
11. Ping Pong the Animation
Some people will assume that an anime about ping pong may not be interesting. We follow 5 talented table tennis prodigies who all have different reasons for playing. The most beautiful thing about this anime is that there is no real main character, these five characters are fully explored and they are portrayed in the most human way possible. It’s a coming-of-age compelling story with ping pong at the center of it all.
10. Hajime no Ippo
Bullies have created some monsters and some fighters and this story is about one of the fighters. Makunouchi Ippo is shy and reserved high schooler who spends most of his time helping run his family business. This is why he is unable to make friends and it also puts a target on his back for bullies.
His life changes for the better one day when he was saved from yet another bullying session by Takamura Mamoru, who happens to be a boxer. He starts to train under Takamura, following his footsteps to reach the top of the boxing world.
9. Kaze Ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru
Haiji Kiyose is a fourth-year student at the Kansei University with an insane plan to gather a team to participate in one of the most prominent university marathon relay races on Japan – Hakone Ekiden.
He crosses paths with a former star high school runner, Kakeru Kurahara, who is being chased for stealing and saves him. Haiji persuades Kakeru to come live in Chikusei-sou, the Kansei University Track Clubs dormitory where he discovers that all the residents are novice runners with the exception of the both of them.
When it comes to Sumo wrestling, size is everything! But that doesn’t matter to the young Hinomaru Ushio who despite being small has big dreams to be a pro Sumo wrestler.
He does not meet the minimum requirement to compete so he aims to be the best in high school to force the sumo regulatory body into allowing him fight. Ushio enrolls in Odachi High and builds the sumo club from its non-existence along with Shinya Ozeki.
7. Tennis no Ouji-sama
You would be used to most sports anime starting off with the main character being bad at the sport then follow their development to becoming the best but this takes a completely different approach.
It follows the story of a young tennis player, Ryoma Echizen, who is a very good player, better yet a prodigy who moved from America to Japan after winning four consecutive titles in the American Junior Tennis tournament. He attends Seishun Academy and together with his friends pushes his limits further to make their dreams come true.
This anime takes playing card to the extreme in a physically and mentally challenging Japanese card game called “Karuta.” Chihaya Ayase is tomboyish girl who has spent most of her life under her older sister’s shadow supporting her modelling career.
When a quiet boy named Arata Wataya transfers to her elementary class, he introduces her to Karuta and he believes she possesses the potential to become a great player. Along with Arata and her friend Taichi Mashima they spend their days playing together until they get separated. When she gets to high school, she reunites with Taichi, recruits new members to form a club and gets a step closer to achieving her dream of being the best Karuta player in Japan.
5. Yuri!!! on Ice
Figure Skating may look like it is all grace and elegance but this series shows a surprisingly fierce side to the affair. After suffering a demoralizing defeat at the Grand Prix Finale, Yuuri Katsuki who is considered a prodigy, returns home and gives up skating.
When he goes to visit his friend Yuko, he perfectly executes a difficult and advanced skating routine performedby Victor Nikiforov, a Russian figure skating champion and also his idol not knowing he was being secretly recorded. When the video finds its way to the internet, it brings him back to limelight and Victor himself travels to meet him at home and offers to be his mentor and trainer.
Yuri makes his way back to world stage and encounters Yuri Plisteky, a former student of Victor who is determined to defeat him and get back to being trained by Victor once more.
4. Megalo Box
Get your boxing gloves ready because Megalo Box takes you into the world of boxing like never seen before. In this world where boxers wear gear to enhance their boxing skills, an underdog called “junk dog,” who is used to throw matches believes that he has what it takes to take down the champion at that years “Megalonia” (the mecha boxing championship). Megalo box keeps you entertained with wonderful matches and also emotionally invested as the characters get their own development.
Swimming is such an awesome sport so there’s bound to be an anime about swimming. Free! revolves around 5 high school boys. Haruka Nanase has a deep passion for swimming and even wins against his friends, Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki and Makoto Tachibana in elementary school. They all part ways until high school where they end up in one school except Rin who has had advanced swimming classes in Australia, taunts Haruka with it and goes to a different high school in order to beat him in swimming.
The three friends form the Iwatobi high school swimming club along with Rei in order to settle things between Haruka and Rin. They practice and bond with each other through their love for swimming.
2. Kuroko no Basket
Kuroko no Basket takes basketball to a different level. Teikou Junior High School had a team of awesome basketball players called “the generation of miracles,” and these players move on to join different high schools. The anime picks up when an unnoticed member of the generation of miracles, Testsuya Kuroko enrolls in Seirin High School. An upcoming player, Taiga Kagami also enrolls in the same school.
At first glance they are complete opposites as Kagami’s build and strength is perfect for basketball but although Kuroko is terrible at actually playing basketball, he is perfect for passing balls because he is so plain and unnoticeable. These two thrive to become the best in Japan but they will have to defeat other members of the generation of miracles first. This anime is filled with unpredictable competitions, you never really know who will win. It keeps you on your toes and if you aren’t a fan of basketball already, you will definitely be one after watching this show!
There are a lot of sports anime about insecure players making it to the top but none like this. Hinata Shoyo is a short volleyball player who was inspired to learn the sport after watching a short player from Karasuno High School paying in the nationals. After a less than encouraging middle year, he joins Karasuno High School but soon realizes that their team is not what it used to be.
It is the usual sports, makes friends with teammates and rise to the top shonen anime but Haikyuu!! is executed so spectacularly that every episode moves the story. There is a lot of comedy that brings the whole story together with realistic matches. We also get to see the entire team get better and better through hardwork and consistency.
What’s Your Favorite Sports Anime of 2021?
Whether you are a sports lover or not, its never too late to watch a sports anime. You don’t have to stick to the sports you are familiar with, you may even get motivated to start a new hobby. This list gives you the best selection of sports anime in existence that makes you have a deep appreciation for the sports.
So, make sure to watch some of the shows listed above and do let me know which one is your favorite using the comments section below!