Relax This Summer with These 6 Binge-Worthy Sports Anime
Summer is the season of relaxation. Students are on break, families go on vacation, and the rest of us who don't fall into those two buckets enjoy the sunshine whenever we have a day or two to spare.
One of the most popular ways to appreciate the warm weather around the world is through sports. Whether playing them or watching them, sports are a staple part of any summer. However, for those of us who aren't about to spend long periods of time out in the sweltering heat (hello from Texas), the suspense and drama of a usual sports game can be experienced up-close through some amazing and entertaining sports anime.
These six series are the top of the genre in one way or another, whether they're refreshing visual treats or all-around gems.
1. Kuroko no Basket
AKA: Kuroko's Basketball; The Basketball Which Kuroko Plays
Available On: Crunchyroll (All Seasons)
If you're new to sports anime and are looking to dive in head first, Kuroko no Basket is a great place to start. The highly-rated, mega popular series consists of 75 episodes split between three seasons, numerous OVAs, and a feature film that brought the franchise to a suitable conclusion. Following the Seirin High School basketball team, Kuroko no Basket centers around American transfer student Kagami Taiga and the team's phantom player Kuroko Tetsuya.
While Kuroko looks like an underwhelming addition to the team at first, he reveals that he was the sixth member of the infamous Teiko Middle School basketball team that is commonly referred to as the Generation of Miracles. Using his lack of presence as his strength, the Seirin High School team quickly realizes that Kuroko is just as crucial of an addition as Kagami, an extremely gifted power forward. Kagami and Kuroko form a sort of partnership, learning to rely on each other, as well as the rest of their team, during challenging matchups against several different powerhouse schools which are the new homes to a member of the Generation of Miracles.
Kuroko no Basket really finds its strength in the balance of its arcs, using each member of the Generation of Miracles as a different sort of challenge for Seirin to overcome. While one secret move or technique will work to combat one member's specialty, it will have no effect on a different member. The show also is great at making you care just as much about the rival Generation of Miracles members as you do about the Seirin team.
2. Ookiku Furikabutte
AKA: Big Windup!
Nothing says summer quite like baseball. Since it's one of Japan's most popular sports, it should come as no surprise that there are tons of baseball anime out there. Some of them—I'm looking at you, Major and Ace of Diamond—have over 120 episodes. Big Windup! isn't that large of a commitment, with only 40 episodes and 2 OVAs being released.
Mihashi Ren is a pitcher who's lost all confidence in his skills playing the sport he loves due to three years of constant verbal abuse he received from his teammates in middle school. Now a first-year at Nishiura High School, who just formed a boy's baseball team, Mihashi is put in a team with all new players who are just as talented as him. He's paired with Abe Takaya, a skilled catcher who was part of an impressive Little League team, who constantly does his best to help Mihashi regain his confidence in his skills.
Big Windup! is just as much a story about self-confidence and the importance of teamwork and support as it is a story about baseball. It deals with training regimens and mental stability and how powerful just one person saying they believe in you can be. It's a great reminder that no one is perfect, but no one is downright evil, either.
3. Ballroom e Youkoso
AKA: Welcome to the Ballroom
Available On: Amazon Prime Video
Ballroom e Youkoso took the anime community by storm in summer 2017. With its unique art style and uncommon topic, the series stood out as something really special. Ballroom e Youkoso is the second shortest series on this list, ending at an easy-to-binge 24 episodes. The manga the show was based on went on hiatus for a year but has since returned, so the chances of a second season being made in the future are decent.
The series follows Fujita Tatara, a third-year middle school student who struggles because he has no particular aspirations for the future, despite how much he wants to find something to pursue. One day, when he's being picked on by a bunch of thugs, he's saved by Sengoku Kaname, a man on a motorcycle who happens to be the owner of a local dance studio. Fujita finds himself getting swept up into the world of competitive ballroom, striving to become as talented and accomplished as Sengoku, who is a world-tier champion.
Ballroom e Youkoso doesn't quite feel like something that could happen in real life, but that doesn't really deter from how enjoyable the series is. Seeing the world of competitive ballroom through the overly-dramatic lens of a sports anime is something different from anything else in the genre, but Production I.G. really pulled the whole concept off well.
4. Yowamushi Pedal
The idea of a cycling anime probably doesn't sound super interesting. I know. But four seasons and over 100 episodes should be testament enough that Yowamushi Pedal has found the secret sauce for making high school cycling into something continuously entertaining.
When he first enters high school, Onoda Sakamichi is a small, scrawny otaku with no friends to talk to. He's hoping to finally get some friends by joining the high school's anime club but finds out that it was disbanded due to lack of interest. As he looks to find others to join him to re-establish the anime club, Onoda meets Imaizumi Shunsuke and Naruko Shoukichi, two other first-years who consider themselves serious cyclists. Both are immediately impressed by Onoda, who has amazing cycling skills despite having only ever ridden a single-gear "mommy bike" his whole life. The three end up joining the school's cycling team, throwing Onoda into the world of competitive cycling and giving him tons of new friends along the way.
While Yowamushi Pedal has a lot going for it in terms of relatable themes and ever-developing characters, the most impressive aspect is the complexity of the show's main antagonist. Midousuji Akira, a crazy tall, super lanky first-year at Kyoto Fushimi High School, can sometimes come off as the usual crazy "villain" character on the surface, but his ability to predict the moves of the other teams and his training with his team are things that make each new progression in the story something different and fun to watch.
Energetic high schooler with limited skills but lots of drive and natural talent pairs up with a dedicated new team and grows stronger. Sounds familiar, right? It's not exactly an uncommon story in sports anime, but Haikyuu manages to take the trope and make it fresh. None of the characters are particularly OP all on their own, but together as a team, they have a chance.
Being the short kid even from a young age, Hinata Shoyo decides to dedicate himself to volleyball after seeing a clip of a talented high school player nicknamed the "Little Giant" on TV. In middle school, he's the only one interested in forming a boy's volleyball team, leaving him to practice by himself or with the girl's team or mother's club. In his last year, he's able to scrounge together a group of friends whose club activities already ended to finally compete in an official match, where he meets Kageyama Tobio. Though Hinata's team loses, the pummeling motivates Hinata to work even harder.
He joins Karasuno High School, the school the "Little Giant" competed for back when he first saw the clip on TV. The team has since fallen from its former glory, struggling in the shadow of its championship team. On the first day of practice, he learns that Kageyama also decided to attend Karasuno. The two, along with other first years and the existing members of the team, work to form the bonds needed to create a team that's able to climb their way back to the top.
6. Prince of Stride: Alternative
If bright, colorful visuals and techno music are more important than a solid, drama-filled story when it comes to the sports anime you watch, then Prince of Stride: Alternative has you covered. Based around Stride, a relay team sport that's a mixture of running and parkour, the show has a great set of characters that fill the episodes with funny or emotional interactions.
Prince of Stride: Alternative follows three first-year students at Honan High School—Sakurai Nana, Fujiwara Takeru, and Yagami Riku—as they work to reform the school's Stride team after an incident the previous year that lead to most of the members leaving. While the 12-episode series tackles several different plot strings, the overarching theme of trust and building bonds with your teammates keeps the show together.
While certainly not the most structurally sound series on this list, Prince of Stride: Alternative really excels in the interactions between characters. The extremely-rushed final episode leaves the series feeling a little underwhelming, but in-the-moment, each episode had at least a handful of moments that will make you laugh or feel something, which is more than can be said about some other longer-running series.