Sports anime has been around for a long time, with classics such as Slam Dunk and Prince of Tennis. Recently, sports anime has risen in popularity with a handful of said genre airing each season. The same can be said for sports anime movies. A topic that is not brought up too much. Whether it be sports-slice of life, sports-romance, or sports-action, there’s something in the genre that everyone can enjoy. Even if you’re not into sports yourself.
It’s also one of the few categories that will have an equal amount of fanservice for both men and women. But we digress. The following are the most popular anime sports films to date. If you’ve run out of sports anime series, or are trying to get into sports anime, then this list should do the trick. With all that said, let’s get into it.
10. Yowamushi Pedal: Re:ROAD
- Aired: Jun 2015
Yowamushi Pedal (or YowaPeda for short) follows Sakamichi Onoda, a relatable otaku who has no interest in sports. But after being captivated by the world of cycling, and having quite the knack for riding up slopes, Onoda decides to join Sohoku’s team and lead them to victory. But before he can compete, Onoda will have to prove his worth through a variety of races with his classmates and senpais. Will Onoda make the team? With the power of his favorite magical girl anime, and a mommy’s bike, he just might make the cut.
One factor that a large amount of sports anime share is multiple seasons, with each season having at least 25 episodes. Sometimes, we don’t have the time to sit down and watch all those episodes. The alternative is a recap movie. For every season of YowaPedal, there is a recap movie to help you keep up to speed until you do have the time to watch the series. A great start for beginners, YowaPedal is sure to keep your heart racing with it’s intense meets and funny antics.
9. Free! Movie 1: Timeless Medley
- Aired: Apr 2017
A recap movie of the first season to Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. Haruka Nanase, or Haru, thinks of nothing but the water and swimming in it. After a falling out with his childhood friend, Rin, Haru now swims without a purpose. As fate would have it, an awkward reunion with Rin and Haru’s other friends happens at their old swim club. Rin challenges Haru to a swimming competition, but in order to compete, Haru’s school needs a swim club. Together, Haru and his friends try their best at creating a swim club worthy of challenging Rin.
Free! Has two seasons with a recap film for each season. There’s also a prequel film, and three sequels films. So it wouldn’t be bizarre if you decided to skip the series and just start with the recap movies. Free! shines with its characters as you get to learn why they swim. The highlights aren’t the swim meets, but the characters’ bonds. A unique anime in the sports genre, with more drama than actual sport, Free! is sure to make you crave an eternal summer.
8. Prince of Tennis: Eikokushiki Teikyuu Shiro Kessen!
- Aired: Sep 2011
The special 10th anniversary of the Prince of Tennis anime. Seigaku is offered the rare opportunity to represent Japan at Wimbledon. While practicing with other junior league representatives, Seigaku gets attacked by delinquent tennis players. After cooling down, Seigaku decides to listen to the delinquents. Turns out, these street tennis players were banned from any official competition. Will Seigaku bridge the gap between the streets and the pros?
A classic anime reborn for a new generation. As much as we like to recommend older anime from the 90s and early 2000s, we know that they may turn off a lot of people due to the outdated animation. And so, a rebirth of Prince of Tennis films were made so that new fans of anime can get into this timeless hit. The movie has a lot of comedy similar to that of Yowamushi Pedal, yet having extreme action reminiscent to that of Kuroko no Basket. If you need a kickback anime to watch with your friends, then look no further.
7. Yowamushi Pedal Movie
- Aired: Aug 2015
Onoda’s first Inter High is over, but that doesn’t mean there’s time to rest. It’s summer vacation, and like all sports teams, the training continues. To spice things up, Sohoku’s captain, Kinjou, accepts a joint practice invitation from a cycling team in Kumamoto. But they’re not the only ones attending. Your favorite characters from Sohoku to Hakone, and even Kyoto, are back for another thrilling race. Only, this time, all eyes are on Onoda to get their revenge from Inter High.
When you’ve finished the first two seasons or recap movies, make sure you watch Yowamushi Pedal Movie, as it is canon to the overall story. More YowaPeda is always good news. Seeing old faces with even more determination than ever before, and having the senpai race one last time before they graduate is a really nice send off. There is a third season; however, we needed this race as the official goodbye to our favorite teams. But before we say sayonara, get pumped for an epic ride.
6. Initial D Third Stage
- Aired: Jan 2001
Recent high school graduate, Takumi, is quickly thrusted into the real world. He’s offered a position on a professional racing team, and then challenged by multiple drivers. But before Takumi can begin his new life, he has to avenge his name by beating Kyouichi Sudou. Humiliated from their first match, will Takumi be able to take his revenge against Kyouichi? If not, then he can kiss future opportunities goodbye.
Before watching the movie, be sure to check out the first two seasons of Initial D. There are 4 seasons in total, with this being the only movie in the franchise. There are no updated recap films. Even so, an anime as old as Initial D still is widely talked about today. Mainly for it’s unique EuroBeat soundtrack. A must watch classic for anyone who calls themselves an otaku.
5. Haikyuu Movie 1: Owari to Hajimari
- Aired: Jul 2015
A recap film of the first season of Haikyuu!!. Hinata loves volleyball but there are some drawbacks; his height. What he lacks in height, he makes up for with his incredible jump. After budding heads with the King of the Court, Kageyama, in the middle school tournament, Hinata is shocked to find out they now go to the same high school! The two will have to get along if they want to join Karasuno’s volleyball squad. There will be fights, challenges, and plenty of teamwork.
Now, why should you watch Haikyuu? Well that’s because it’s the most popular sports anime to date! With three seasons and an ongoing manga in Weekly Shounen Jump, why would anyone want to skip on this? Don’t have the time to watch 60 episodes? No problem. With three recap movies, and a stage play, you’re sure to jump on the Haikyuu!! hype train in no time.
4. High Speed Free! Starting Days
- Aired: Dec 2015
A prequel to Free! Iwatobi Swim Club. Taking place after Haru and Rin’s falling out, Makoto convinces him to join their middle school’s swim team. There, they befriend more swim lovers with their own unique stroke. With something on each of the members’ minds, the new team falls behind. Together, they’ll have to work out their personal problems in hopes of competing in the medley relay.
Fun fact, this film is an adaption of the original light novel, while the animated series is its own original anime. Discover the origins of said anime, as you see your favorite characters as middle schoolers. Just because they’re children, doesn’t mean the feels train is over. What’s it like for Haru and Makoto now that Rin and Nagisa aren’t around? How will they fare when being teamed up with new members?
3. Major: The Ball of Friendship (Major Movie: Yuujou no Winning Shot)
- Aired: Dec 2008
Major: Ball of Friendship continues right where season 4 left off. Goro returns to Fukuoka after winning the US Minor League. The town where Goro learned to play baseball, Goro remembers something that changed his life forever. Taking viewers into a flashback of the events that happened before season 2, you see the early developments of Goro’s fast pitch. Will Goro be able to move on from the past? Or will he use it to make himself a stronger player?
Out of all the sports, both fiction and nonfiction, that have been made into an anime, baseball is the most popular. Major has a total of six seasons with two movies. Known as a masterpiece for having well developed characters, the greatest of matches, and a heartbreaking tragedy. Major didn’t have six seasons for no reason, as its popularity lives up to this day. If you’re looking for an anime that’s more than just teamwork, then look no further. For Major will inspire you to pursue your dream, even though it seems impossible to reach.
2. Kuroko’s Basketball: Last Game (Kuroko no Basket: Last Game)
- Aired: Mar 2017
The final movie to the hit anime series, Kuroko no Basket: Last Game takes you to America for one last showdown. This time, the Generation of Miracles will have to team up to face off against an American team. Even though these are foreign lands, the Generation of Miracles still have their talent to back them up. However, they’re not exactly the best team when they constantly argue. Can the gang put aside their differences to work as a team once more?
The Dragonball Z of sports has returned. We’ve seen the Generation of Miracles face off against each other, but never have we seen them on the same team. During the series, we only had flashbacks to when they competed in middle school. Now, stronger and complimented with a new set of skills, can the team use their new talent to the fullest? That’ll be difficult, since Kagami, the man who beat each member, is on the same team.
- Aired: Aug 2009
An intense race across the galaxy is held every five years, with no rules whatsoever. Danger is what every racer seeks, including JP, who finally qualifies. Being one of two humans to participate, JP also hopes to dazzle fellow racer Sonoshee McLaren. This year, the race is being held on a planet where criminals thrive. JP is ready for anything, or so he thinks.
Taking seven years to make, Redline is one of the most thrilling films you will ever watch. Not only is Redline a modern classic in the sports genre, but in anime movies in general. You’ll feel like you’re having a heart attack with how fast the racers are going. The irritating obstacles will get you frustrated, only to make you joyful when JP figures out a way to get by. With its stylish animation, brilliant english dub, and a satisfying conclusion, Redline is a movie you can’t skip out on.
Whether we play sports or not, the genre in anime is without a doubt one of the best. It’s versatile, with an endless amount of possibilities. Even if you don’t know the rules of the sport, you’re so immersed in the characters that you want them to succeed no matter what they do. Sports anime take risks by having the main team lose from time to time. It’s more than just a sport, as each player has a reason for trying so hard.
With so many sports anime and so little time, it can be difficult for a beginner to know where to start. So hopefully, this list was able to be put on your queue, as films are much easier to watch than long-running series. Have you seen any of the listed movies, or the series they’re based off? Do you have a favorite sports anime film? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!