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2D Adrenaline Rush: Sports Anime

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/08 Pop Culture & OTAKU , , , , ,

You might think that the idea of combining anime and sports is boring. Well, think again. In this blog series, we’ll round up popular sports-themed animes and try to see for yourself how fun to watch these shows are. First will be Basketball and Soccer.


Slam Dunk

When we talk about basketball in the manga/anime, nothing beats the classic Slam Dunk. While the world is getting hyped for the upcoming FIBA 2014, teams in Slam Dunk are vying for Japan’s best high school team. It follows the story of Hanamichi Sakuragi and the rest of his team in grabbing that title. Slam Dunk’s original run started in 1990 and ended in 1996 and was cited as one of the catalysts of basketball popularity among the Japanese youth in the 90’s. [1] Slam Dunk is not only popular in Japan but also in its neighboring countries and even in the West. In the Philippines, where the series was shown a couple of times already on Philippine TV, a local basketball celebrity gained the moniker of “Pinoy Sakuragi (Filipino Sakuragi)” for his addiction in the Slam Dunk merchandise. It also inspired the name of the naturalized Japanese basketball player, J.R. Sakuragi.

Kuroko no Basuke

Another popular basketball anime is Kuroko no Basuke (a.k.a. The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays/Kuroko’s Basketball). A dream team composed of NBA’s Jordan, Bryant, James, O’Neal, and Johnson would be no match for the Kiseki no Sedai (Generation of Miracles). Each member of the Generation of Miracles has its own extraordinary specialty: a long-range 3-point shooter, a copycat, a former streetballer, an iron wall, a can-see-all-movement point guard, and a pass specialist. The story follows Tetsuya Kuroko, the pass specialist, and his quest to win against his former teammates so that he can show them the real essence of team and of winning. The manga also made it to Japanese news last year after a hater sent threatening letters to producers of events related to KuroBas(as it is popularly called). These threatening letters include poisonous substances. The suspect was arrested December 2013, admitting he was just jealous of the author’s success despite not knowing him personally.[2]

Other popular basketball titles are Buzzer Beater, Dear Boys and the 1979 Dash Kappei.


In Japan, soccer is more popular than basketball. That’s why you’ll notice that the former is more referenced than the latter in Japanese media.

Captain Tsubasa

Before we mention other soccer-related anime, it’s important to pay tribute to their grandfather, Captain Tsubasa. Perhaps the oldest soccer anime of all time, Captain Tsubasa did inspire real soccer players to be what they are now including Lionel Messi, Fernando Torres, and Zinedine Zidane.[3]

Inazuma Eleven

Inazuma Eleven which is a story of a group of kids trying to dominate the world, er, universe of soccer. Universe I say because there’s a point where they deal with aliens and other not-from-earth creatures. Inazuma Eleven first came out as a game on Nintendo DS, later made into anime and manga due to its popularity as a game. Its audience are mostly kids in grade school, thus merchandises that featured the characters of this series are a common with them.

Aside from these two, popular soccer titles include Area No Kishi, Giant Killing and Hungry Heart Wild Striker which is also from the Captain Tsubasa author.

This will be just the first of this sports anime series. In the next post, we’ll talk about Baseball and Boxing.

  1. “スポーツとメディアの関係性 (Relation between sports and media)”. students of Rikkyo University.
  3. Fernando Torres credits Japanese cartoon Captain Tsubasa for inspiring him to be a footballer
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