Manga is a comic book 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 manga are a very popular subgenre and although you wouldn’t really associate manga with sports, there are a lot of great sports-related manga series 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 25 different titles, grouped according to some major sports that are predominant in the world of sports manga. We have tried to encompass as many sports as possible, as well as older and newer anime series for you to enjoy.
Best football (soccer) manga
1. Captain Tsubasa
Original Release: April 13, 1981 – May 9, 1988
Number of Volumes: 37
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.
Original Release: April 24, 2013 – January 20, 2021
Number of Volumes: 42
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.
3. GIANT KILLING
Original Release: January 11, 2007 – present
Number of Volumes: 60
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.
4. Akakichi no Eleven
Original Release: 1970 – 1971
Number of Volumes: 6
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.
5. The Knight in the Area
Original Release: 2006 – 2017
Number of Volumes: 57
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.
Best basketball manga
1. Kuroko’s Basketball
Original Release: December 8, 2008 – September 1, 2014
Number of Volumes: 30
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.
2. SLAM DUNK
Original Run: October 1, 1990 – June 17, 1996
Number of Volumes: 31
Hanamichi Sakuragi, an immature and unpopular young man, is determined to put an end to romantic disappointments when he enters Shohoku High School. He then meets Haruko Akagi, a girl he falls in love with. Following her advice and to please her, he decides to play basketball and join the high school club. During an altercation with the captain of the basketball team, Hanamichi is forced to challenge him to a basketball duel.
Sakuragi ends up winning and learns that the captain is none other than Haruko’s older brother: Takenori Akagi. Despite some reluctance, the latter finally lets him join the basketball team. Unfortunately for Hanamichi, the boy Haruko is in love with, Kaede Rukawa, idol of all the girls and the most talented first-year player in the department is also there.
3. Dash Kappei
Original Release: 1979 – 1982
Number of Volumes: 17
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.
Original Release: 1999 – present
Number of Volumes: 15
Tomomi Nomiya has just been expelled from her high school. Passionate about basketball, he has not played since the motorcycle accident in which Natsumi Yamashita, his passenger, lost the use of his legs. His exclusion plays into Hisanobu Takahashi’s game, giving him the field to win as the leader of the high school basketball team.
While visiting Natsumi, Tomomi meets Kiyoharu Togawa, a leg amputee due to bone disease who has excluded himself from his own handi-basketball team, which he considers mediocre. It was then that Hisanobu was the victim of a serious traffic accident, hit by a truck while riding on a stolen bicycle. He then goes to the hospital for rehabilitation, but does not want to believe that he will have to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
5. Ahiru no Sora
Original Release: December 10, 2003 – present
Number of Volumes: 51
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 allowed 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.
Best tennis manga
1. The Prince of Tennis
Original Release: July 19, 1999 – March 3, 2008
Number of Volumes: 42
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.
2. Baby Steps
Original Release: October 17, 2007 – November 1, 2017
Number of Volumes: 47
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.
3. Aim for the Ace!
Original Release: January 1973 – February 1980
Number of Volumes: 18
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.
Original Release: 1993 – 1999
Number of Volumes: 23
Since the death of her parents, Miyuki Umino has been raising her siblings on her own. One fine day, she receives a visit from two yakusas who ask her to repay a debt of 250 million yen contracted by her older brother, of whom she has no news.
To escape prostitution, she leaves high school and decides to start a career as a professional tennis player. Gifted in this discipline, she has already won many awards, but now she must excel and win the biggest championships in order to quickly repay her creditor who would prefer to see her on the sidewalk.
Happy! has not been adapted into an anime series (although there are live-action adaptations), but it is so important historically that we had to list it here.
Original Release: February 10, 2012 – January 25, 2018
Number of Volumes: 15
Teekyū is a sports comedy manga, published on Comic Earth Star, owned by Earth Star Entertainment, since March 2012. Its name is a pun on the Japanese word for tennis, teikyū. An anime adaptation by MAPPA began airing on Tokyo MX and Crunchyroll between October and December 2012. According to Earth Star Entertainment, this is the fastest anime manga adaptation ever made. A
The series follows the crazy stories (with a great narrative speed of no more than 2 minutes) of four girls from the Kameido Institute tennis club. However, the story rarely has to do with Tennis and often only focuses on the antics of its protagonists, which frequently break any logic, often with random and meaningless situations appearing out of nowhere.
A peculiarity of the anime series is that several of the episodes have movie names with the addition “and the Senpai”, which often have to do with the plot or an event within the episode (As in an episode called ” The Hangover with Senpai “, in which a complete parody of the aforementioned film is made).
Best martial arts manga
1. Hajime no Ippo
Original Run: October 11, 1989 – present
Number of Volumes: 134
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 the 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.
2. Ashita no Joe
Original Release: January 1, 1968 – May 13, 1973
Number of Volumes: 20
The protagonist is Joe Yabuki, a troubled young man who has spent most of his short life in state orphanages (in fact he has never met his parents). When he finally manages to escape to Tokyo, Joe lives by wandering from place to place like a stray dog. In the slums of the city, he meets Danpei Tange, an old boxer and retired former boxing coach, now reduced to a life of a bum and perpetually drunk.
And it is precisely the periphery (a place of social and psychological exclusion) the supporting co-protagonist at the beginning of the story: an area that in the immediate post-war period, at the time of reconstruction and the economic miracle, was disadvantaged, poor, and full of organized crime. (the famous yakuza, the so-called Japanese mafia) and juveniles.
The two main characters, Joe and Danpei, at their first meeting (as if it had been marked by destiny), end up fighting each other for a futile reason. But immediately after taking a lot of punches, the drunk ex-boxer suddenly comes to his senses, immediately realizing the great talent possessed by the young man.
He then begins to follow him, continually repeating his proposal: to be trained by him and become a boxer. At first, Joe just doesn’t want to know, he doesn’t even think about considering a proposal that seems so odd, made to him by a drunken old man.
3. Kengan Ashura
Original Release: April 18, 2012 – August 9, 2018
Number of Volumes: 27 + 1 extra
Since the Edo era, in certain areas of Japan there have been arenas for fighters, where entrepreneurs and wealthy traders hire them to make them fight in bare-knuckle fights in which whoever wins can dominate the market. In modern times, these fights still take place in secret form between the great entrepreneurs around the world.
Ōma Tokita is a fighter with a mysterious past, whose fate accidentally crosses over with that of Kazuo Yamashita, a middle-aged man without a backbone, very fearful and submissive, an employee of the entrepreneur Nogi, a shrewd and unscrupulous businessman.
Tokita and Yamashita find themselves involved by Nogi in a dangerous tournament called “Kengan”. Oma immediately demonstrates his superior technique and will have the opportunity to settle some outstanding bills for years, while Yamashita will have to pose as an entrepreneur for a bizarre strategy developed by Nogi.
4. BAMBOO BLADE
Original Release: December 3, 2004 – September 3, 2010
Number of Volumes: 14
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.
Original Release: 1986 – 1993
Number of Volumes: 29
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.
Best sports manga (other)
Original Release: February 20, 2012 – July 20, 2020
Number of Volumes: 45
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.
2. Big Windup!
Original Release: September 2003 – present
Number of Volumes: 34
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.
3. Speed Racer
Original Release: June 1966 – May 1968
Number of Volumes: 2
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.
4. Ginban Kaleidoscope
Original Release: 2003 – 2006
Number of Volumes: 9 (light novel)
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 Run: December 28, 2007 – present
Number of Volumes: 48
Chihaya Ayase is a little girl who has spent most of her life supporting her sister in her modeling career. But everything changes when she meets a boy her age named Arata Wataya, a talented karuta player. He thinks Chihaya has the potential to become a great player.
While Chihaya dreams of becoming Japan’s best karuta player (Queen), she is soon separated from her friends, Arata and Taichi, as they grow up and go to different futures (Arata has to go to Fuikui, take care of his sick grandfather and Taichi leaves to go to a big school). They then promised each other to always play karuta and that they would meet again when the three of them were in class A (level in karuta ranging from class D to A then to the highest title of the player in Japan: the Master or Meijin for boys and Reine or Queen for girls).
Now in a new high school, Chihaya, who is in class B (in karuta) in her early high school days, continues to play karuta and finds there Taichi who quit karuta under the pretext that it was of no use to him since he wanted to join the football club and not karuta. But he ends up giving in to Chihaya’s demands.