Anime is a genre that has a lot of different subgenres. And while some of them are pure fantasy, while others are more realistic in their take on the plot. Among the latter, sports anime are a very popular subgenre and although you wouldn’t really associate anime with sports, there are a lot of great sports-related anime shows that portray a variety of different sports, from classic team events to martial arts. This article is going to bring you a list of the best of them.
The list is going to contain a total of 35 different titles. We have tried to encompass as many sports as possible, as well as older and newer anime series for you to enjoy.
Best sports anime
The list is going to contain a total of 35 titles, ranked ranked from 35th to 1st place, based on their overall quality and historical importance. We have tried to pick the best shows that reflect either the genre, the style, or the spirit of the sports anime genre so that you might enjoy them. You’re going to get some basic production information on each of the shows, as well as a brief synopsis.
Original Run: July 1, 2011 – September 24, 2011
Number of Episodes: 12
Subaru Hasegawa was, from an early age, considered to be a basketball talent and a promising point guard. He was even noticed by the scouts of foreign youth leagues, but the guy was determined to build a career in his homeland and entered the Nanashiro Private High School, having received a sports scholarship. Here, the young star was trapped by a stroke of fate – because of the dark story with the team captain and the coach’s young daughter, the basketball club was closed for a year, and its members gained the dubious fame of lolicons.
But Subaru did not go around in upset feelings for long – Aunt Mihoshi was already waiting at home and offered him the opportunity to train the newly created girls’ team in her elementary school! Under a barrage of convincing arguments, the respectful nephew agreed. So, the aspiring coach arrived at Keixin Academy, where five sixth-graders were waiting for him.
34. Aim for the Ace!
Original Run: October 5, 1973 – March 31, 1979
Number of Episodes: 51
The story is about a girl struggling to become a good tennis player: the sporting adventures and thwarted love of Hiromi (Jenny in Italian), a shy tennis enthusiast student, are told. She starts playing as soon as she enters high school; upon arrival at the prestigious club, however, she immediately falls into awe in front of Reika.
She tries to imitate her and take an example from her, fascinated as she is by this girl older than her, who is also the best player on the school team, also known as “Madame Butterfly” for the grace of her game. She practices tennis courses with perseverance and great willpower, a sport that she adores, in order to be able to participate in the most prestigious tournaments, and thus fulfill her dream of emulating Reika, whom she esteems and admires so much.
33. Ganbare, Kickers!
Original Release: October 15, 1986 – March 25, 1987
Number of Episodes: 26
The story is about a soccer team made up of children who attend Kitahara elementary school, and who initially do not have a good striker. But when little Kakeru Daichi’s family moves to that city, the child decides to join the team just as a striker, proving to be a valid player.
With the help of Kakeru, the line-up becomes complete in every sense, and this motivates the team to challenge the very strong “Red Devils”. Despite Kakeru’s team losing 10 to 1, the young striker from Kitahara incredibly managed to score a goal against the opposing goalkeeper, Uesugi, hitherto considered invincible.
Original Run: January 7, 2020 – May 26, 2020
Number of Episodes: 16
The anime is centered on a group para-athletes who all meet an outcast sports scientist named Ren Narita. The anime is divided into four stories about four different sports: wheelchair basketball, track and high jump, goalball, and paralympic swimming. The story dealing with basketball tells the story of how Kai works hard in order to become a successful and cool basketball player, just as his brother Shun.
31. Stars Align
Original Run: October 10, 2019 – December 26, 2019
Number of Episodes: 12
With his mother’s move, Maki Katsuragi is entering a new high school. There he meets Tōma Shinjō, a friend from elementary school, who immediately tries to persuade him to join the boys’ soft tennis club. Because this is threatened with closure by the student council because, unlike the soft tennis girls, it has been unsuccessful for many years.
With the very sporty Maki, Tōma hopes to finally win a tournament. Maki finally agrees when the desperate Tōma even offers him payment for his time at the club. Maki doesn’t really have time because he helps his single mother a lot with the house. But he also wants to be able to contribute money to the household. On the same evening, Maki’s father, from whom the mother had separated, surprisingly gains access to the apartment, beats Maki and steals the money he has saved.
30. Inazuma Eleven
Original Release: October 5, 2008 – April 27, 2011
Number of Episodes: 127
The Raimon team a few decades earlier was considered one of the strongest football teams, but today the club is in danger of being dismantled due to a lack of members. It will be up to Mark Evans, the team captain, to restore Raimon to glory by winning the prestigious Football Frontier championship.
The aliens invade the Earth, however, they give the earthlings a chance: if they are defeated in football, the aliens will leave the Earth. Mark will defend the fate of the planet together with other players from all over Japan. Football Frontier International is organized and Japan will field its best elements to win this competition worldwide.
29. Air Gear
Original Release: April 4, 2006 – September 26, 2006
Number of Episodes: 25
Itsuki “Ikki” Minami is a rather feisty middle school student living with four girls whom he considers his sisters who took him in when he was still very young. One of them, Ringo, is secretly in love with him. Ikki is the leader of the “Higashi Guns” (or Higachû) and calls himself “Babyface” by his friends. According to them, he would have no opponent to his size in street fighting. He fights one day with a gang of Storm Riders but is beaten soundly. In revenge, he decides to steal a pair of ATs from one of his sisters.
Original Release: October 4, 2011 – March 24, 2020
Number of Episodes: 74 + OVA
When Chihaya Ayase was in the sixth grade of elementary school, she dreamed of seeing her sister become a recognized model. Her world is transformed from her when she meets Arata Wataya, a transfer classmate from Fukui, who, along with teaching her the true meaning of what was a dream, reveals to her the magic of the traditional Japanese card game: Karuta.
Arata also shares her ultimate wish: to become the best karuta player. Chihaya will quickly catch on to her passion for this game and she will decide to direct her new dream towards the horizon of becoming the best karuta player in Japan.
27. Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun
Original Release: July 2, 2017 – September 17, 2017
Number of Episodes: 12
Aoyama is a young football prodigy who has never lost a single game in his life, only he is also a neat freak. A member of the Japan Under-16 team, he created a surprise by choosing to join the Fujimi high school club, modest and unknown. With his teammates as crazy as they are determined, he is determined to bring Fujimi high school to the top of the national championship.
26. Ahiru no Sora
Original Run: October 2, 2019 – September 30, 2020
Number of Episodes: 50
Sora Kurumatani, who lacks basketball’s most important asset, has struggled with his small stature since he began to love the game. Despite the lack of this beneficial aspect, Sora’s unwavering will never allow his small stature to dictate his ability to play, to firmly believe in doing his best, and to persistently train to prove his abilities. Hoping to grant his mother’s wishes, Sora enters Kuzuryuu High School to become a member of the basketball club and participate in tournaments wholeheartedly.
However, Sora is disappointed to learn that the boy’s basketball team is nothing more than a retreat for punks who are not interested in the sport. Sora also learns that the brothers Chiaki and Momoharu Hanazono whom he meets have also lost their once fiery motivation to play.
Determined to revive the basketball team, Sora challenges the boys to a game against him in which his quick feet and swift movements overwhelm the group. Gradually affected by Sora’s formidable skills, exertion, and relentless devotion to basketball, the boys unexpectedly regain their exhausted passion for the game.
25. Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl!
Original Release: October 16, 1989 – September 21, 1992
Number of Episodes: 124
Yawara Inokuma is a seemingly ordinary high school girl, but her grandfather, a living judo legend, has been secretly training her since she was a child so that she can win the gold medal at the Olympic Games. Only, the latter has only one desire, to have a normal life.
24. Victory Kickoff!!
Original Release: April 3, 2012 – February 26, 2013
Number of Episodes: 39
Shō Ōta is an elementary school boy who loves soccer and is part of the Momoyama Predator. The team, however, is disbanded after all players leave the club for different reasons.
However, Shō does not lose heart and after having met Erika, a girl of his own age with the same passion for football as he does, he decides to look for new members to recreate an even stronger team to participate in the regional championship.
23. Baby Steps
Original Run: April 6, 2014 – September 20, 2015
Number of Episodes: 50
Baby Steps is a shōnen manga written and drawn by Hikaru Katsuki. It was published between October 2007 and November 2017 in Weekly Shōnen Magazine, then compiled in 47 volumes by Kōdansha. An adaptation of an animated television series produced by the Pierrot studio is broadcast between April and September 2014. A second season is broadcast between April and September 2015.
While a young student puts his studies first, Eiichirô Maruo one day decides to go watch the students of the tennis club. Quickly, Eiichirô was captivated by this sport, in particular thanks to Takuma Egawa and Natsu Takasaki, two members of the club, and decided to invest in it completely. Despite his poor physical condition, he uses his intelligence and analytical skills to progress quickly and beat his opponents to become a professional player.
Unlike a number of other sports manga and anime (like Prince of Tennis), the work does not involve any fancy and physically impossible techniques. She has a fairly realistic approach to this sport, both technically and physically and mentally.
22. Yowamushi Pedal
Original Release: October 7, 2013 – June 25, 2018
Number of Episodes: 112
Sakamichi Onoda is an otaku who is entering the first year of high school. He intends to join the anime club and make friends but, due to lack of members, said club was shut down. He needs to find enough members to reopen it. Not discouraged, he decides to find companions to reopen the club and realize his dream: to spend time strolling with friends in the Akihabara district in Tokyo.
Noticed almost by chance by Shunsuke Imaizumi then by Shōkichi Naruko, he was invited to join the cycling club. Curious about the sensations that led him during his experience with these two young riders, he decided to give the club a chance.
21. The Knight in the Area
Original Release: January 7, 2012 – September 28, 2012
Number of Episodes: 37
Kakeru Aizawa is the younger brother of Suguru Aizawa, a football prodigy belonging to the Japan under-15 national team. Prior to the start of the series, Kakeru left his position as a forward after a traumatic experience that prevented him from playing with his left leg and settling for a managerial position.
After the two are hit by a truck, Suguru dies and his heart is transplanted into Kakeru. With it, Kakeru returns to football to fulfill his and his brother’s dreams of winning the World Cup.
20. Dash Kappei
Original Run: October 4, 1981 – December 26, 1982
Number of Episodes: 65
The hero of the story is a teenage boy named Kappei Sakamoto, who is a high school student with amazing athletic abilities who joins the basketball team of Seirin High School and quickly becomes one of the most skilled players. Kappei has one unusual handicap for a basketball player – his height; he stands not even one meter tall.
19. Ping Pong the Animation
Original Release: April 11, 2014 – June 20, 2014
Number of Episodes: 11
The story centers on Tsukimoto (‘Smile’) and Hoshino (‘Peko’), childhood friends who have played ping pong since they were elementary school students. Tsukimoto – the impassive boy with glasses, described as a robot by all who know him – plays “to kill time”; Hoshino – the passionate and charismatic ‘hero’ Tsukimoto idolized in their childhood – plays because he “loves ping pong and hates losing”.
18. Hikaru no Go
Original Release: October 10, 2001 – March 26, 2003
Number of Episodes: 75
Young Hikaru discovers one day in his grandfather’s attic a goban (go board). The object turns out to be haunted by a ghost named Sai, the emperor’s former go teacher in the Heian era. Sai finds himself trapped in Hikaru’s mind and gradually gives him a taste for go. Letting himself be guided in his beginnings by Sai, Hikaru meets and defeats Akira, a young prodigy. From then on, the two young boys will not stop progressing and continuing.
17. GIANT KILLING
Original Release: April 4, 2010 – September 26, 2010
Number of Episodes: 26
East Tokyo United, (ETU) is a Tokyo football club on the verge of relegation. To revive his fortunes, given that even the most ardent fans are abandoning him, the managers decide to hire a new coach, Tatsumi Takeshi, a former great football champion with experience as a manager for an amateur English team.
The season did not start well for the ETU which, after a draw with Tokyo Victory, suffered five losses in a row which, after the victory with Nagoya, was followed by a series of victories. This is followed by a series of drawn matches, a defeat, and a match won against the Osaka Gunners.
16. Kaleido Star
Original Release: April 4, 2003 – March 27, 2004
Number of Episodes: 51
Sora Naegino, a young Japanese girl, has always dreamed of becoming a member of the world-famous Kaleido-Stage troupe and becoming its star artist. At barely 16, she therefore decided to take the entry audition for extra artists, unfortunately for her, as soon as she arrived, a bad combination of circumstances made her miss the exam.
Having promised her parents to forget her dream if she failed, she was preparing to return to Japan when an opportunity would allow her to prove her talent and join the troupe.
Original Release: April 13, 2012 – 28 June 28, 2012
Number of Episodes: 12
Yuki Sanada is a high school student who moves often and has trouble communicating with others. When he arrives on Enoshima Island, he meets Haru, who explains to him that he is an alien and that he must help him catch a fish. Helped by Natsuki, who is nicknamed the prince of fishing, and later by Akira, they have the mission to save Enoshima.
14. Ginban Kaleidoscope
Original Release: October 8, 2005 – December 24, 2005
Number of Episodes: 12
Sakurano Tazusa is a figure skating champion. During a performance, she misses her face and falls. At the same time, aviator Pete Pumps misses his acrobatic figure and scratches himself. Arrived in Paradise, he learns that there is no more room. He will have to wait 100 days. In the meantime, he has to haunt Tazusa, which he doesn’t like.
Original Release: July 2, 2016 – December 18, 2016
Number of Episodes: 24 + 5 OVA
Tsukushi Tsukamoto is a shy and awkward boy who has recently attended Seiseki High School. While visiting Sayuri Tachibana, his childhood friend, and his senpai at work, Tsukushi is targeted by a group of bullies: to save him is Jin Kazama, an eccentric and extroverted school friend who invites him to play a game of soccer while not knowing it.
For Tsukushi, the match proves his incapacity, but Jin’s great talent fascinates him enough to convince him to join the school football club. Unfortunately, the Seiseki team is very famous and requested by young people from all over the country: Tsukushi will therefore have to give his best with effort and perseverance to be accepted.
12. Princess Nine
Original Release: April 8, 1998 – October 14, 1998
Number of Episodes: 26
Keiko Himuro, the principal of the Kisuragi School, forms a women’s baseball team, led by Ryo Hayakawa, the daughter of a legendary pitcher, in order to prove that girls can compete in sport on a par with boys. Their goal is to make it to Koshien, where only the best teams in Japan have the opportunity to compete.
11. The Prince of Tennis
Original Run: October 10, 2001 – March 30, 2005
Number of Episodes: 178
The hero of the story is called Ryōma Echizen, a Japanese man who lived for many years in the United States. His father, Nanjirō Echizen, known as the Samurai, became an internationally recognized great tennis champion. The story begins as Ryoma arrives in Japan and decides to enroll in Seishun Gakuen College, also known as Seigaku, which has a very competent tennis team.
10. BAMBOO BLADE
Original Release: October 2, 2007 – April 2, 2008
Number of Episodes: 26
Kojirō is a teacher who also runs the high school kendo club where he works. Having financial difficulties to feed himself, the latter makes a bet with a former senpai who also owns a dojo. If Kojirō’s women’s team manages to win against Kojirō’s, then he will be able to eat sushi, for free and to his fill, for a whole year.
The only problem for the young teacher is that his club only has two female members, including a student who hasn’t been seen in a while. The bet seems lost in advance until he meets Tamaki Kawazoe. This young girl, with a frail physique, indeed hides an extraordinary talent for kendo. Refusing the invitation at first, she will finally join the club following an incident, as an “ally of justice”. With the arrival of Tamaki in the team, winning the match seems possible to the delight of Kojirō and the other members of the dojo.
9. Big Windup!
Original Release: April 12, 2007 – June 24, 2010
Number of Episodes: 38 + 2 OVAs
The series takes place in Saitama, and tells the story of Ren Mihashi. Mihashi was the previous No. 1 pitcher on his college baseball team, but it seems he only owed the job because his grandfather owns the school. His teammates (especially the receiver) hated him, and they lost all their games. Mihashi is convinced that he is a bad baseball player and therefore has very low self-esteem.
He then joins Nishiura High School and plans to quit baseball, believing he is not good enough to make it. However, he gets drafted into Nishiura’s baseball team by their coach. Helped by his new teammates (and especially the receiver, Takaya Abe), he gains in confidence and skills, helping his team to surpass themselves.
Original Release: July 4, 2013 – September 26, 2018
Number of Episodes: 37 + OVA
Haruka Nanase is a young boy keen on swimming. Along with his elementary school classmates, Nagisa Hazuki, Makoto Tachibana, and Rin Matsuoka, they participate in a swimming tournament, which they win. But at the end of the school year, the four friends take different paths and separate.
A few years later, Haruka, Nagisa, and Makoto reunite at Iwatobi High School. But Rin, who had gone to live and study in Australia, reappears and challenges Haruka to a swim race. His two friends propose to Haruka, along with a new recruit, Rei Ryugazaki, to found the Iwatobi swimming club to see Rin again, who joined the Samezuka swimming school for him.
Original Release: April 6, 2014 – December 19, 2020
Number of Episodes: 85 + 5 OVAs
Hinata Shouyou, a little middle school girl, discovered an unexpected passion for volleyball while watching a national championship match on television. Shouyou, a tiny kid dubbed “the little giant,” joined his school’s volleyball club, determined to emulate the championship’s standout player. Unfortunately, he was the sole member, and the group lacked even a practice space.
He did not let this discourage him, and after recruiting five more players in his last year, he was able to participate in a real tournament – only to have his team draw the title favorite and its star player, Kageyama Tobio, dubbed “the king of the court,” in the first round.
6. SLAM DUNK
Original Release: October 16, 1993 – March 23, 1996
Number of Episodes: 101
Slam Dunk tells the story of Hanamichi Sakuragi, whose evolution as a basketball player and as a person is the central theme of the anime. Sakuragi is a troubled 15-year-old and gang member with an impressive record of love rejections behind him. At the beginning of the series, Hanamichi does not know anything about sports or more than anything about basketball.
5. Hajime no Ippo
Original Run: October 4, 2000 – March 29, 2014
Number of Episodes: 127 (+ 1 film + 1 OVA)
Ippo Makunouchi is an extremely shy student who cannot make friends because he has to constantly help his mother run her fishing business. Because he stays to himself, he is bullied by a group led by Umezawa. One day he is badly beaten, but a passing middleweight professional boxer Mamoru Takamura stops them and takes the injured Ippo to the Kamogawa gym owned by retired boxer Genji Kamogawa. This treats his wounds.
After Ippo wakes up to the noises of boxing training, Takamura tries to cheer Ippo by letting him drain his frustrations on a sandbag. The men get a first glimpse of Ippo’s talent for boxing. After this incident, Ippo thinks a lot about the situation and decides that he wants to start a career as a professional boxer. In delivering this message to Mamoru Takamura, Takamura believes Ippo is taking professional boxing too lightly. He can’t turn Ippo down right away, however, especially because of his feat of punching the sandbag much harder than anyone in the gym except Takamura.
4. Kuroko’s Basketball
Original Release: April 7, 2012 – June 30, 2015
Number of Episodes: 75 + 3 OVA
The story takes place in contemporary Japan. The Teikō Junior High basketball team rose to distinction by demolishing basketball teams within Japan, winning the junior high Nationals for three consecutive years. Teikō’s last basketball team, in particular, was made up of extraordinary players who towered above all others in such a way that they have been called the Generation of Miracles.
They are Ryōta Kise (who can copy every move directly), Shintarō Midorima (a 3-point expert whose range is the entire field of play), Daiki Aomine (a gifted technician with great athleticism), Atsushi Murasakibara (a huge center and defensive expert with very quick reflexes) and the team captain Seijūrō Akashi (who can foresee almost every move and throw the opponent off the shelf with his game). All five now play at different high schools.
3. Yuri!!! on ICE
Original Release: October 6, 2016 – December 21, 2016
Number of Episodes: 12 + OVA
After coming in last place during his first participation in the Grand Prix, the young Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki continues to lose and begins to doubt his career. Months later, Yuri returns to his hometown of Hasetsu in Kyūshū, which he had left five years earlier, and there perfectly reproduces a choreography by the famous Russian skater Victor Nikiforov.
When a video of his performance filmed without his knowledge goes viral and catches Victor’s attention, the latter decides to become Yuri’s coach and train him with one of his prodigy students, Yuri Plisetsky.
2. Speed Racer
Original Release: April 2, 1967 – March 31, 1968
Number of Episodes: 52
Go, with the help of his trusted mechanic friend Kei, prepares to upgrade his racing car in preparation for the race, adding a new windshield. However, he soon discovers that the racing world has been tainted with corruption and is about to fall under the control of a megalomaniac businessman. He is in fact asked, in exchange for a large sum of money, to lose the next race on purpose; if he doesn’t, it will be worse for him.
But our hero will not give up, because Go is willing to fight for justice alongside his friends; he will use the sports car to fight unfair competition and criminals. This terrorist organization will then attempt to kill them by any means at their disposal. They will thus find themselves involved in the hidden plots of a successful corporate group, between new engine projects and sabotaged races, sometimes putting Go’s own life at risk.
1. Captain Tsubasa
Original Release: October 13, 1983 – April 1, 2019
Number of Episodes: 279
Tsubasa Ozora is a Japanese boy with an immense passion and talent for football and who dreams of winning the world championship. Together with his family, he moves to the city of Nankatsu, where he enrolls in public school for the last year of elementary school.
After meeting Ryo Ishizaki, captain of the school football team, he decides to challenge the goalkeeper of rival Shutetsu, Genzo Wakabayashi, who enjoys the reputation of being almost unbeatable, a record that will end due to Tsubasa’s fault.
On the day of the match, Tsubasa meets Roberto Hongo, a great Brazilian player of Japanese origin, saved by Tsubasa’s father sometime before, after he had tried to commit suicide due to an eye problem that had forced him to end his career prematurely. In gratitude, he will become Tsubasa’s personal coach and refine his technique.
After joining the Nankatsu football club, Tsubasa starts his first match playing as a defender in the derby with rival Shutetsu, preventing Izawa, Taki, and Kisugi from scoring in the first half, while in the second half he moves to attack, allowing his team to emerge undefeated for the first time from the confrontation with rivals.
Later a team with the best elements of all the schools in the city is created to face the national championship, and Tsubasa becomes the tip, dragging Nankatsu to the final victory against Kojiro Hyuga’s Meiwa.