When you think about anime and manga, sports is probably not the first genre that comes to mind. Anime and manga are mostly associated with different fantastical settings, but sports-themed anime and manga are a thing, and there is a whole world of sports-related works that is quite popular not just in Japan but also around the world. Our list will include a total of 22 best titles, which will be ranked based on their quality and historical importance. We have tried to include titles from different eras and subgenres. So, if you’re interested in the best soccer/football anime of all time, stay with us!
22. Ganbare, Kickers!
The story follows a soccer team from Kitahara Elementary School lacking a skilled striker until Kakeru Daichi joins. Kakeru’s addition completes the team, inspiring them to challenge the formidable “Red Devils.” Despite losing 10-1, Kakeru scores a goal against the seemingly unbeatable goalkeeper, Uesugi. The team advances to the national championship, and Hongo, the goalkeeper, develops feelings for Kakeru’s sister. With a new coach, the team reaches the league semifinals, facing the Red Devils again. After a intense match, Uesugi’s team narrowly defeats Kakeru’s, leaving them emotionally shaken.
21. Hungry Heart: Wild Striker
The soccer anime centers around Kyosuke Kano, a rebellious and impulsive boy and the younger brother of the renowned Milan footballer Seisuke Kano. Kyosuke, inspired by his brother’s passion for football, discovers that he was adopted after the tragic death of his biological parents. Tired of constant comparisons with Seisuke, Kyosuke initially quits football and adopts a rebellious persona but eventually returns to the game. He coaches the women’s club at Joyo Akanegaoka Institute and later joined the men’s club. Alongside teammates Rodrigo and Koji Jefferson Sakai, Kyosuke aspires to secure a starting position and lead the team to victory in the regional championship, aiming to defeat the formidable Kokuryo team.
From childhood, Toshi, Kenji, Jim, and Cindy formed a tight-knit group of friends. In middle school, the boys played soccer, and Cindy cheered for them, leading the team to the brink of the national championship final. However, a fight involving Kenji led to the entire team’s disqualification, shattering their dreams. Years later, the once-united group has gone separate ways. Toshi, unaware of his friends’ enrollment, joins Kakegawa Scientific High School to play alongside his idol, Kubo, not realizing that Cindy, Kenji, and Jim are also attending the same school.
19. Victory Kickoff!!
Shō Ōta, an elementary school soccer enthusiast and member of the Momoyama Predator, faces disappointment when the team disbands due to players leaving for various reasons. Undeterred, Shō, inspired by Erika, a girl sharing his passion for soccer, resolves to rebuild the team with new members. Together, they aim to create an even stronger soccer team to compete in the regional championship.
18. Soccer Fever
As the 1994 soccer World Cup approaches in the United States, journalist Jim Ackerman reflects on the limited popularity of soccer in America. He recalls his old friend Brian Thompson, a retired English journalist and devoted World Cup attendee since the 1930s. Despite initial reluctance, Thompson, inspired by his granddaughter Alice and her friends, agrees to write a series of articles to revive interest in soccer among Americans. With the help of modern technology, Thompson embarks on a journey to recount the rich history of the World Cup and share his passion for the game.
17. Moero! Top Striker
“Inazuma Eleven: Ares no Tenbin” follows the football journey of Benjamin Lefranc, an eleven-year-old French orphan residing in Genoa. With a deep passion and natural talent for football, Benjamin’s story unfolds alongside a subplot involving his love interest, Catherine, who is the sister of Eric Townsend, Benjamin’s rival in the football arena. The anime explores Benjamin’s pursuit of excellence in football, intertwining it with the complexities of relationships and rivalries.
16. Forza! Hidemaru
The series revolves around Hidemaru, a boy with a strong passion for football. Upon arriving in the city, he aspires to join his favorite team and dreams of playing for one of the world’s strongest football clubs. However, he discovers that the team is on the brink of disbandment due to the nearby Sports Academy recruiting and training top players with an excellent coach. Undeterred, Hidemaru sets out to rebuild the team, gathering friends and unknown players. Their goal isn’t just to win but to savor the joy of the game, demonstrating the greatness of football despite challenges and mistakes.
Aoashi follows the journey of Ashito Aoi, a talented but challenging third-year student at Ehime City Middle School. Football coach Tatsuya Fukuda recognizes Ashito’s potential and, despite the boy’s difficult nature, believes in him. Fukuda extends an invitation for Ashito to join his own team, foreseeing the possibility of the young player transforming the landscape of Japanese football.
14. Inazuma Eleven: Orion no Kokuin
The story unfolds several months after the events of the preceding Inazuma Eleven: Ares. As the Football Frontier International approaches, the Japanese youth association assembles Inazuma Japan, a team comprising the best players from the previous national tournament. The lineup includes Axel Blaze, Elliot Ember, Xavier Shiller, Adriano Donati, Valentin Eisner, Sonny Wright, Jude Sharp, Caleb Stonewall, Hunter Foster, Ichihoshi Mitsuru, Heath Moore, Shawn Frost, Trevor Cook, Nathan Swift, Cliff Parker, Billy Miller, Duske Grayling, Dave Quagmire, and, as captain, Mark Evans. Mister Yi, Raimon’s coach, assumes the role of coach, with Percival Travis, the Stella Academy coach, serving as his assistant.
13. Inazuma Eleven: Ares
Sonny Wright and his friends unite to form a football team on the remote island of Normidia. After their original club disbands, they seize the opportunity to replace Raimon, relocating to Inazuma Town and entering the Football Frontier under the guidance of the mysterious Mr. Yi. Despite lacking a sponsor, Raimon plays a friendly match against the formidable Stella Academy, home to the notorious Elliot Ember, known as “the demon of the camp” due to his aggressive playing style. Despite an initial setback with a 10-1 loss, Raimon miraculously secures a sponsor and earns a spot in the tournament. The team is later joined by Regina Mulgrave, the new school committee president, who initially harbored animosity toward the new Raimon members.
12. Captain Tsubasa
Tsubasa Ohzora, a young and talented footballer, aspires to bring the FIFA World Cup to Japan. Under the mentorship of the legendary soccer player Roberto Hongô, who has returned from Brazil, Tsubasa undergoes rigorous training. Joining the Nankatsu team marks the start of an adventure filled with intense matches, encounters with formidable opponents who eventually become loyal companions, and a relentless pursuit to reach new heights and achieve greater success.
Shō Kazamatsuri dreams of becoming a professional footballer and aspires to join the prestigious football school, “Musashi no Mori.” However, unable to enroll there, he decides to attend “Sakura Josui” school. Despite the initial setback, Shō begins to assert himself at Sakura Josui, bringing him one step closer to realizing his dream of becoming a professional football player.
10. Blue Lock
Blue Lock starts with The Japan national football team’s disappointing 16th-place finish in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, prompting the Japan Football Union to hire Ego Jinpachi, a mysterious football figure. Ego introduces “Blue Lock,” an intense training program aimed at developing the world’s best egotistical striker. Participants failing to meet the standards of Blue Lock will be barred from representing Japan again. Yoichi Isagi, an obscure high school player grappling with his playing style, decides to join Blue Lock with the aspiration of becoming the world’s premier striker.
9. Captain Tsubasa J
Tsubasa Ozora, a 12-year-old boy, aspires to win the World Cup with Japan. Upon moving to Fujisawa, Holly meets Genzo Wakabayashi, the skilled goalkeeper and captain of the Saint Francis school’s football team. Eager to play alongside Genzo, Holly considers joining the team. However, he befriends Ryo Ishizaki, the clumsy captain of Nankatsu’s struggling football team, and Taro Misaki, a skilled midfielder recently moved to the city. Encouraged by Ryo and Taro, Holly decides to join Nankatsu. With Holly and Tom’s contributions, Nankatsu manages to draw against Saint Francis in the derby match.
8. Inazuma Eleven GO
In a world where football has achieved global prominence, the Fifth Sector dictates match outcomes in Japan by deploying Imperiali players. Ten years post-Football Frontier International, Arion Sherwind, the new Raimon Jr. High student, becomes the team captain, and Mark Evans, now 23-24 years old, resumes coaching. The series features familiar characters like Seymour Hillman, Percy Travis, Silvia Woods, Celia Hills, Axel Blaze, and others, as they navigate challenges posed by the controlling Fifth Sector.
7. The Knight in the Area
Kakeru Aizawa, once a forward with a traumatic experience, transitions to a managerial role. After a tragic accident where he and his football prodigy brother, Suguru, are hit by a truck, Suguru passes away. In a twist of fate, Suguru’s heart is transplanted into Kakeru, reigniting his passion for football as he strives to achieve both his and his late brother’s dream of winning the World Cup.
6. Inazuma Eleven
In the face of the imminent disbandment of the once-mighty Raimon football team due to a shortage of members, team captain Mark Evans takes on the responsibility of restoring its former glory by winning the esteemed Football Frontier championship. However, a twist in the tale occurs when aliens invade Earth but offer a chance for the human race to prevail through football. Mark, alongside top players from across Japan, competes in the Football Frontier International to defend the fate of the planet and secure victory against the extraterrestrial threat.
5. Akakichi no Eleven
In the newly developed suburban areas on the outskirts of Tokyo, Shinsei Senior High School stands, and among its students is Shingo Tamai, our energetic protagonist in his 6th year. As the school year begins, the arrival of the new physical education teacher, Tempei Matsuki, takes center stage. Matsuki, a former goalkeeper of the Japanese national soccer team and Olympic Games bronze medalist in Mexico, brings his expertise to the school.
4. GIANT KILLING
East Tokyo United (ETU), a football club in Tokyo, faces the threat of relegation, leading the management to appoint a new coach, Tatsumi Takeshi. Tatsumi, a former football champion and manager of an English amateur team, is tasked with reviving the struggling club amid a dwindling fan base. The season begins with challenges, marked by a series of losses after a draw with Tokyo Victory. However, a turning point occurs with a victory against Nagoya, followed by a mix of drawn matches and wins, as well as a defeat, culminating in a significant win against the Osaka Gunners.
Tsukushi Tsukamoto, a shy and awkward boy, starts attending Seiseki High School. During a visit to his childhood friend Sayuri Tachibana, he is targeted by bullies. Jin Kazama, an eccentric and extroverted schoolmate, saves him and invites him to play soccer. Despite Tsukushi’s initial struggle in the game, he is fascinated by Jin’s talent and decides to join the school football club. However, the Seiseki team is famous and competitive, requiring Tsukushi to put in effort and perseverance to be accepted.
2. Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun
Aoyama is a young football prodigy known for his unbeaten record, but he’s also a neat freak. Despite being a member of the Japan Under-16 team, he surprises everyone by joining the modest and unknown Fujimi High School football club. With a team of eccentric yet determined teammates, Aoyama is set on elevating Fujimi High School to the pinnacle of the national championship.
1. Captain Tsubasa
The best soccer anime features Tsubasa Ozora, a passionate and talented Japanese boy with a dream of winning the world championship in football. Upon moving to Nankatsu with his family, he joins the public school and befriends Ryo Ishizaki, the school football team captain. Tsubasa challenges the almost unbeatable goalkeeper, Genzo Wakabayashi, and, due to a mistake, breaks his unbeaten record.
On the day of the match, Tsubasa encounters Roberto Hongo, a skilled Brazilian player with Japanese origins, who becomes his personal coach. Tsubasa joins the Nankatsu football club, showcasing his defensive skills in the derby against Shutetsu and later leading the team to victory in the city-wide championship against rival Shutetsu. The narrative unfolds as a combined city team, featuring Tsubasa as the forward, competes in the national championship, ultimately triumphing against Kojiro Hyuga’s Meiwa in the final.
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