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 is going to include a total of 22 best titles, which are going to 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!
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 soccer 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.
Kakeru’s team subsequently gets to participate in the national championship. Meanwhile, the team’s goalkeeper, Hongo, falls in love with Ayumi Daichi, Kakeru’s sister. The team later hires a new professional coach, whose instructions help the team make it to the league semifinals, where they meet the Red Devils again.
After a dramatic match, which takes up two twenty-minute episodes, Uesugi’s team finally manages to defeat Kakeru’s team, which comes out devastated by the game.
21. Hungry Heart: Wild Striker
Original Release: September 11, 2002 – September 10, 2003
Number of Episodes: 52
This soccer anime revolves around Kyosuke Kano. He is a boy with a rebellious and impulsive character, the younger brother of the famous Milan footballer Seisuke Kano, who transmits to him his passion for the game of football. In fact, over the course of the series, Kasuga discovers that he was adopted following the death of his biological parents in a car accident when he was just one year old and that his biological father, Keisuke Narumi, was a promising forward.
Tired of being subjected to constant comparisons with his famous professional footballer brother, Kyosuke decides to stop playing football, dyes his hair orange, and becomes a hooligan.
Subsequently, he gets back to football, first coaching the women’s club of the Joyo Akanegaoka institute and then resuming playing by joining the men’s club of the same institute.
His teammates are the Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo and the English-born goalkeeper Koji Jefferson Sakai, with whom he forms a promising but discontinuous trio of freshmen who first aspire to conquer the starting position and then to win the regional championship by beating Kokuryo, the strongest team in the region.
Original Release: November 7, 1993 – December 25, 1994
Number of Episodes: 58
From an early age Toshi, Kenji, Jim, and Cindy were a close group of friends. Also in middle school, the three boys played on the school soccer team and Cindy cheered for them.
The strength of this group of friends had brought the team one step away from the final of the national championship of the category; unfortunately, Kenji had been involved in a fight between gangs of thugs and according to the rules of honor and loyalty in force, the whole team had been disqualified from the tournament.
Kenji had retired forever and the dream of winning the championship was shattered. A few years have passed since then and the group of four friends so united has now dissolved: each of the boys has taken other paths and has other interests.
Toshi decides to enroll in the Kakegawa Scientific High School because his idol Kubo plays on the institute’s football team, without knowing that Cindy, Kenji, and Jim are also enrolled in that school.
19. 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 soccer 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.
18. Soccer Fever
Original Release: April 4, 1994 – April 3, 1995
Number of Episodes: 51
We are on the eve of the 1994 soccer world championship, which will take place in the United States. On the streets of New York, there are many people at the inaugural parade, but the journalist Jim Ackerman knows that unfortunately, this game has not yet entered the hearts of Americans and that after the World Cup people’s interest is destined to wane.
However, he remembers Brian Thompson, an old English friend of his, a former journalist, the only one who has attended all the world championships since the early 1930s, and decides to talk to him.
Old Thompson, now retired, enjoys coaching his nephews and their friends during football matches. At the proposal of his friend Jim to write a series of articles on the world cup, to awaken the interest of the Americans in the game of football, he initially refused: he was too old and his memories had vanished.
But granddaughter Alice and her friends tidy up his old archive and get him a computer, so Brian Thompson can refresh his memories and start writing a long series of articles that will trace the history of the event.
17. Moero! Top Striker
Original Release: October 10, 1991 – 24 September 1992
Number of Episodes: 49
This soccer anime tells of the football adventure of Benjamin Lefranc, an eleven-year-old French orphan living in Genoa, who has a great passion (and an innate gift) for football. At the same time, the love story between the protagonist and Catherine, dancer and sister of Eric Townsend, Benjamin’s rival, coexists to a minimum.
16. Forza! Hidemaru
Original Release: April 6, 2002 – September 28, 2002
Number of Episodes: 26
A series about a boy Hidemaru who wants to play football. He arrives in the city, wanting to join his favorite team and dreaming of one day playing for one of the strongest football teams in the world.
But it turns out that the team that interests him is in fact on the verge of disbandment due to the fact that the nearby Sports Academy gathers the best players and trains them under the mentorship of an excellent coach.
Hidemaru gathers friends and unknown players to rebuild the team. However, the hero’s goal is not to win, but to enjoy the game. They may face problems and make mistakes, but they want to show everyone how great football is.
15. “Hitsugaya, Karin and Soccer Ball” (Bleach)
Original Release: July 4, 2007 (EP132) / October 5, 2004 – March 27, 2012 (series)
Number of Episodes: 366 (series)
On a riverbank near a bridge in Karakura Town, Karin Kurosaki walks down the path behind four other people with a soccer ball in a net bag in her hand, solemnly recalling how her brother Ichigo Kurosaki took his shinigami form and refused to answer her questions while she pondered him doing something similar to when he saved her from Fishbone D before angrily kicking her soccer ball, which slipped out of the net bag, down the side of the bank onto the street below.
Startled and alarmed, Karin jumps over the nearby railing of the stairs set into the hill and runs down to the street, where she sees the ball roll across the road before the 10th Division captain, Tōshirō Hitsugaya, who is in his gigai, stops it with his foot and kicks it up into his hand.
As Karin stares at him in amazement, Hitsugaya asks if the soccer is hers. When she confirms that it does, Hitsugaya admonishes her to be more careful and kicks the ball to Karin, who catches it and looks up to see Hitsugaya gone from the street. One of the best soccer anime out there
14. Inazuma Eleven: Orion no Kokuin
Original Release: October 5, 2018 – September 27, 2019
Number of Episodes: 49
The story begins several months after the events of the previous Inazuma Eleven: Ares. With Football Frontier International almost upon us, the Japanese youth association forms the Japanese youth team, Inazuma Japan, made up of the best players from the previous national tournament, the Football Frontier.
The soccer players are 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, is appointed as coach, flanked by his deputy Percival Travis, coach of the Stella Academy.
13. Inazuma Eleven: Ares
Original Release: April 6, 2018 – September 28, 2018
Number of Episodes: 26
Sonny Wright and his friends together formed the football team on the remote island of Normidia, their home. Following the dismemberment of their original football club, the boys take the opportunity to replace Raimon, moving to Inazuma Town and participating in the Football Frontier, trained by the mysterious and bizarre Mr. Yi.
However, Raimon lacks a sponsor, and to find him a friendly was called against the dreaded Stella Academy (where Jude was sent), whose bomber, Elliot Ember, is called “the demon of the camp” [or the devil himself ] due to his athletic ability and aggressive playing style which makes him capable of beating many teams.
Despite a good start, the new Raimon sensationally loses 10-1 but miraculously manages to find a sponsor, thus being able to participate in the tournament. The team is joined by Regina Mulgrave, the new president of the school committee (a position previously occupied by Nelly Raimon), who was initially hateful towards the members of the new Raimon.
12. Captain Tsubasa
Original Release: April 2, 2018 – April 1, 2019
Number of Episodes: 52
Tsubasa Ohzora is already a brilliant footballer despite his young age. His dream is to deliver the FIFA World Cup to Japan. Roberto Hongô, his mentor, is a legendary soccer player who has returned from Brazil and Tsubasa is undergoing particularly rigorous training.
He integrates the Nankatsu team then it is the beginning of an adventure rich in frenzied matches, in encounters with formidable opponents who will end up becoming faithful companions in arms, to go always higher, always further, and always faster.
Original Release: May 5, 2002 – February 3, 2003
Number of Episodes: 39
Shō Kazamatsuri is a boy with a dream of becoming a professional footballer. To do this he would like to be part of the best football school, the “Musashi no Mori”, but he can’t. But when he enrolls in the “Sakura Josui” school he manages to assert himself, getting closer and closer to the realization of his dream.
10. Captain Tsubasa: Road to 2002
Original Release: October 7, 2001 – October 6, 2002
Number of Episodes: 52
All the teams in the city merge into one, the New Team. The new team participates in the national elementary school championship. In the last qualifying match, against Stella Shimada, Benji is injured and is replaced by the reserve Alan Crocker. The New Team still wins 3-1 and qualifies.
At the national championship, he suffered a first 3-2 defeat against Mark Lenders’ Muppet. Many matches are not shown and the team still makes it to the semifinals against Julian Ross’ Mambo. Despite his heart problems, Julian scores three goals (the match will still end 4-3 for New Team).
In the final Benji returns from injury and Oliver meets again the Muppet, who finds his strong goalkeeper Ed Warner. Regular time ends 1-1 (goals from Mark and Oliver) and, despite Warner’s miracles, Oliver scores 2-1.
At the end of the championship, however, he discovers that his personal trainer, Roberto Sedinho, has gone to Brazil without him (he had promised him that if he won the championship he would take him to Brazil).
9. Captain Tsubasa J
Original Release: October 21, 1994 – December 22, 1995
Number of Episodes: 47
Tsubasa Ozora is a 12-year-old boy who dreams of winning the World Cup with Japan. match, which was 2-2, a reference to the Doha Agony, the match that cost Japan qualification for the 1994 World Cup after Iraq scored the equalizer in the final minutes).
Having just moved to the city of Fujisawa, Holly is initially eager to enroll in the football team of the Saint Francis school, as he is determined to meet and play as a team with the very strong goalkeeper and captain Genzo Wakabayashi.
Even before that, however, he meets and makes friends with the clumsy defender and captain of the poor school football team of Nankatsu, Ryo Ishizaki, and the midfielder Taro Misaki also recently moved to this city, which, seeing great potential in Holly, eventually convince him to join the same team. Thanks to Holly and Tom, Nankatsu manages to equalize the derby against Saint Francis.
8. Inazuma Eleven GO
Original Release: May 4, 2011 – March 19, 2014
Number of Episodes: 141
Ten years have passed since the events of Football Frontier International, which saw Inazuma Japan as world champion; in this era, football has reached a world level, and the Fifth Sector controls and directs all the teams in Japan, deciding in advance the results of the matches and sending players called Imperiali.
The story is about Arion Sherwind, a newcomer to Raimon Jr. High and the captain of Raimon Riccardo Di Rigo. Raimon’s coach will be Mark Evans (aged 23-24).
Seymour Hillman, Percy Travis, Silvia Woods, Celia Hills, Axel Blaze, Jude Sharp, David Samford, Shawn Froste, Archer Hawkins, Nelly Raimon, Scott Banyan, William Glass, Steve Grim, Byron Love, Kevin Dragonfly, Camelia will also appear in the series, as well as Travis, Austin Hobbes, Darren LaChance, Xavier Foster, Jordan Greenway, Nathan Swift, Jack Wallside, Caleb Stonewall, Professor Wintersea and Mr. Veteran.
7. 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.
6. 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.
5. Akakichi no Eleven
Original Release: April 13, 1970 – April 5, 1971
Number of Episodes: 52
In the new neighborhoods that have sprung up in the countryside on the outskirts of Tokyo, there is the Shinsei Senior High School institute, attended by the young and restless Shingo Tamai, a 6th-year pupil, our protagonist.
At the beginning of the school year, the new physical education teacher, Tempei Matsuki, former goalkeeper of the Japanese national soccer team and bronze medalist at the Olympic Games in Mexico, is introduced.
4. 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.
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.
2. 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.
1. Captain Tsubasa
Original Release: October 13, 1983 – March 27, 1986
Number of Episodes: 128
The best soccer anime on our list. 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.