Sports anime is a genre that can take any regular training session for the athletic main characters and make it a moment of life-changing realization or a leap in their abilities. They are well-known for going over the top in portraying the characters’ actions, emotions, and the animations of the intense moments themselves.
RELATED: 10 Sports & Every Anime Associated With Them
The main characters of sports anime are typically passionate underdogs or unexpected opponents, and there is always a rivalry of some sort, whether it is within the team the show focuses on or against another team. The most outrageous moments occur when the lead character either defeats an enemy, hurdles over the obstacle they had been battling, or just does something unlikely to happen in the sport.
10 Yuri!!! on Ice
It’s probably the least intense in regard to moments that stick out from regular competitions, but one of the most popular and rewatched sports anime is Yuri!!! on Ice. Yuri Katsuki was one of Japan’s most promising figure skaters. During Yuri’s comeback season, with Victor as his coach, one of the most notable over-the-top routines actually comes from a side character.
Jean-Jacques Leroy, referred to as JJ, is a 19-year-old Canadian figure skater with a specific flair he calls “JJ Style.” He even skated to the music he had made that was about him as “King JJ.” He is typically big-headed but when his nerves got the better of him in the Grand Prix Final, he sunk into blackness. As he fought to finish, the audience was sobbing and singing his song for him to pull through.
Backflip is a men’s rhythmic gymnastics (MRG) anime focusing on Shotaro Futaba’s journey to finding what he wants to do in life. Up until high school, Futaba had only been trying sports and turning out pretty average until he saw an MRG competition where he saw Ao High’s team fly high.
Futaba, his fellow first-year Ryouya Misato, and second-year Koutarou Watari wanted to make sure they got their third years to the Inter-High competition. They added more difficult moves but because of his past mistakes, Misato was worried he would not only let his team down but potentially get him and Futaba hurt in the process. In episode 9, when Misato finally nails the lift, he and Futaba are mid-air realizing what each other has accomplished, and the gym floor suddenly becomes the sky.
8 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club gets a lot right about the sport of swimming, though it’s not always completely accurate. Haruka Nanase will swim anywhere, anytime, and, as a kid, he swam at the Iwatobi Swim Club with his friends Makoto Tachibana, Nagisa Hazuki, and Rin Matsuoka. Every time the swimmers enter the water, the world around them disappears as they hone in on their opponent or whatever thoughts might be holding them back.
RELATED: Free! Iwatobi Swim Club: 10 Ways The Sports Anime Gets Swimming Right
The only moment that tops those regular racing sensations is when Haru is racing against an old middle school friend, Kirishima Ikuya. Ikuya has difficulty getting weighed down by the water, and he realizes he has been trying to get strong on his own when he needs to reopen himself to his friends. The sound comes back, and he realizes he is swimming with Haru, he yells, reaches out, and the classic colorful racing streaks of him versus Haru ignite him to push through.
7 WAVE!! Let’s Go Surfing
Masaki Hinaoka gets hooked on surfing after seeing Shō Akitsuki on his beach in Oarai. The show is consistent in its intensity of the sport by slowing down the motion, the water, and the emotions of the surfers as they take to the air on each wave.
But the moment that stands out the most when it comes to riding the waves is when Sho and Tanaka are in the finals of the Forest Cup in Oarai, and, instead of each taking a turn, they wait until the last 20 seconds of their time and take a wave at the same time, pulling off the same trick. All the while, the countdown is closing in on them.
6 Run With The Wind
When Kakeru Kurahara was down on his luck and Kansei University student, Haiji sees his running skills, he opens his dorm to Kakeru with ulterior motives to help him join the Hakone Ekiden Marathon.
Their most over-the-top moment came when Kakeru experienced a new version of the “runner’s high,” and a rainbow and white lights illuminated his whole body and the world around him only became the sensations he felt while running.
5 Ace Of The Diamond
Eijun Sawamura was an enthusiastic baseball team captain in middle school, but, when he sees what Seido High School’s baseball club and catcher, Kazuya Miyuki, has to offer, he learns he has the ability to be the greatest.
RELATED: 10 Best Sports & Fitness Anime Of All Time, Ranked
By Season 3, Eijin is granted the #1 as the ace, and, while his pitches have been electric before with literal lightning surging around them, he exceeds sports anime standards when he pitched a no-hitter until the top of the seventh inning.
4 Yowamushi Pedal
Anime is always known for being extra when it comes to facial expressions or vocal volume, but Yowamushi Pedal exceeds that for a sports anime, especially considering they’re biking the whole time and it’s not the easiest thing to sing and carry on while pedaling up and down hills.
The most unbelievable thing these cyclists experienced is Onoda versus Midousuji. #91 was trying to force his way between Onoda and the wall by using his head. Just because he has a helmet on does not mean that wouldn’t completely take him out or at least cause some serious damage.
Karasuno High’s Volleyball Club and tiny middle-blocker Shoyo Hinata will do anything to make it to the top. Hinata specializes in a quick attack, and, when vollyball powerhouse school Shiratorizawa heard of this infamous player’s move, they declared war.
The game against Shiratorizawa was one of the best and most anticipated moments in Haikyuu!! In season 3, episode 10, all the players are exhausted and Ushijima, Hinata, and Tsukishima appear on the screen with Ushijima physically pushing his rivals into the ground, metaphorically. This moment gets elevated even further by Hinata and Tsuki’s upperclassmen appearing in the frame and lifting Ushijima off of them as Karasuno rallies back to beat Shiratorizawa.
2 All Out!!
All Out!! is a single-season rugby anime with unrealistically built and intense high schoolers who battle out their issues of youth on the rugby field. Gion is shorter and considered an underdog, while Iwashizumi has to overcome his past to play his best.
This anime is filled with overwhelming strength and tackles, but, when the captain, Sezikan Takuya, gets full-force kicked directly in the face instead of the ball getting kicked, he still stands and is more determined than ever.
1 Kuroko’s Basketball
This basketball anime showcases Seirin High School’s journey to the top with determined second-year leaders and the first-year duo of Kagami Taiga and Kuroko Tetsuya. Kuroko’s near-missing presence allowed him to sneak passes around the court, earning him the role of the phantom sixth member of the Generation of Miracles and status as one of the best characters in Kuroko’s Basketball.
The Seirin team plays each of the teams that gained a player from the Generation of Miracles after they all moved on from Teiko Middle School. The ex-leader of said miracles, Seijūrō Akashi, and now captain of the Rakuzan team, manages to get all of his players “in the ZONE” but Kagami realizes he does not have to try and win alone and steps into the full power of the “zone,” as well. The ball streaks across the court with colorful lightning and unmatched speed, Kagami is fast enough to retrieve it on the other end of the pass and make a record slam dunk.
NEXT: 10 Most Unbelievably Over-The-Top Moments In Sports Movies, Ranked
Sex And The City: 10 Ways Carrie Bradshaw’s Character Hasn’t Aged Well
About The Author
(51 Articles Published)
Cheyenne Hoover is a writer, podcaster, and cosplayer based in Atlanta, Georgia. As the podcast host for Kessel Run Weekly, she often dives into Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney media discussions for episodes. Her passion for film and pop-culture led her to ScreenRant. In her downtime, Cheyenne rides horses, is pursuing a Master’s degree to become a screenwriter, and cares for her crested gecko, Drogon.
More From Cheyenne Hoover