Nagisa Aragaki from Hanebado

A Competitive Ranking of the Best Sports Anime

SPORTSBALL!!!

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Some love it. Some hate it. Some were forced to play it by their father who wanted to relive the high school glory days through his children. But if you spend more than five minutes a day on this website, odds are you simply weren’t born with the coordination to play it. That’s okay! There are other things that nerds like you (and me) are really good at! Like creating new Pokémon! Or lusting over fictional characters! (As long as your Pokémon creations aren’t also the things that you’re lusting over, you’re gonna be just fine.) And hey, maybe you don’t like sports, but you enjoy sports anime.

So let’s get back to the game, sports fans. What game is this? One that you’d be good at! It’s the ranking game! The rules are simple: I rank the top 10 sports anime of all time and you rip my opinions to shreds in the comments section! It’s a full contact sport! Your mean words are making contact with my heart and tearing a hole in it. And you can score points based on how hard you dunked on me!

Ready? PLAY BALL!

10. Yowamushi Pedal

the boys of yowamushi pedal, pedaling.
(TMS Entertainment)

This sweet little Anna May isn’t what you think of when you think of “sports.” After all, Yowamushi Pedal is about biking. And we all know that biking stopped being a cool sport once we found out Lance Armstrong was getting Lance Armstrong-er with steroids. Bummer! But if you’re looking for new cyclists to believe in, this show is for you! It’s about a young nerd (you can already relate!) who discovers a love for cycling. He and his friends work together to become the best bikers in Japan. Dynamic characters! Intense races! Fancy bikes that you can’t afford! This show has it all.

9. Hanebado!

Nagisa Aragaki from Hanebado
(Liden Films)

Again we have a series about a sport that isn’t really a sport. After all, the only people who play badminton are rich New Englanders who pronounce the word “yes” like you say “ears.” Hanebado! follows a young girl named Ayano Hanesaki, a once-talented badminton player who has lost her love for the sport. Wonder why? But her new teammates help invigorate her to be the best! This anime does what sports anime does best: make dinky real-life sports look TOTALLY BADASS. Never has badminton seemed so thrilling and cool. Hanebado! will make those New Englanders spit-take the olives from their martinis.

8. Chihayafuru

Characters playing karuta in 'Chihayafuru'
(Madhouse)

More sports that aren’t sports! Chihayafuru is about a girl named Chihaya Ayase who develops a passion for a traditional Japanese card game called karuta! Kurata is honestly a fascinating game. It’s part summer camp speed card game and part spoken word poetry. Confused? Same! But it’s beautiful to watch.

7. Ace of Diamond

A player from ace of diamond running
(Madhouse)

FINALLY! REAL SPORTS. Ace of Diamond is about America’s favorite past time! Guns! I mean baseball! Except silly Americans are thankfully uninvolved in this story, which is set in Japan. Eijun Sawamura is a young baseball pitcher who joins Seido High School’s baseball team. He and his teammates work to become the finest team in all of Japan. Ace of Diamond dives in to Japan’s rich relationship with baseball, and it’s a must watch for anyone who ever struck out at the plate.

6. Slam Dunk

The cast of Slam Dunk
(Toei Animation)

Slam Dunk is, as you might’ve guessed, about the coolest sport in the world: basketball. No, I won’t be taking criticism on this hot take. Hanamichi Sakuragi is a young delinquent who joins his high school basketball team in order to impress a girl. But the joke’s on him! Turns out he’s way more into basketball than the girl. He develops a passion for the sport, and he and his teammates shoot to become the greatest team in the league.

5. Major

Goro from Major about to make a play
(SynergySP)

Yay, more baseball! Major is about Goro Honda, the son of a professional baseball player. The series follows Goro from childhood into adulthood, when he begins playing baseball professionally. Major is great if you’re sick of watching shows about high schoolers and want to see what life is like for the PROS. After all, this series is critically acclaimed for its realistic depiction of what it means to play baseball professionally, and all the glory and strife that come along with it.

4. Yuri!!! On Ice

Yuri and Victor being adorable
(MAPPA)

Listen, all sports are gay if you think about it. It’s a bunch of sweaty people of the same gender sweating on each other and slapping asses in the locker room. And yet, sports fans across the world are in denial of this simple fact. But they cannot deny the glorious gayness of this series! Yuri!!! On Ice follows a young ice skater named Yuri Katsuki, a talented figure skater who suffers a devastating defeat at the Grand Prix Final. But with the help of his coach Victor Nikiforov, he’s gonna make a comeback! And fall in love with Victor in the process. Oh god, it’s so cute and romantic.

3. Free!

The cast of Free!
(Kyoto animation)

Remember how I said sports are gay but no one wants to admit it? This anime is case in point. Free! is the story of a group of ridiculously handsome twinks who form a swim club at their high school. If you want to watch a series about beautiful young men splashing around in the water together, look no further. And while none of the characters are canonically gay, this series is slash fiction heaven.

2. Kuroko no Basket

The boys of Kuroko no Basket
(Production IG)

In Kuroko no Basket, Kuroko Tetsuya is a genuine talent at basketball. He just keeps getting overlooked! That all changes when he and the boys from Seirin High School set out on a quest to become the greatest team in Japan. The only problem is that the boys of the legendary “Generation of Miracles” team are standing in their way. Want heart-pounding B-ball action? Dribble no further.

1. Haikyuu!!

The cast of Haikyuu!!
(Production IG)

Volleyball is not exactly a first choice for sports fans. It just doesn’t have the thrills or cultural impact that baseball, basketball, and football, and soccer (which is also football?) have across the world. But you know how anime makes not-so-cool sports WAY COOLER? Haikyuu!! makes volleyball look SO COOL that it spiked its way to the top of this list. Shoyo Hinata is a young boy who dreams of becoming a great volleyball player despite being a short king in a game that favors the tall. But with the help of his more vertically gifted teammates, they’ll become the best in the league.

They’re already the best on this list.

(featured image: Liden Films)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.