2016 was a phenomenal year for sports anime, with Yuri on Ice, Haikyuu season 3, 3-Gatsu no Lion season 1, and All-Out ending it on an explosive note. Expectations were naturally high for 2017. And while maybe this year didn’t quite live up to those expectations, there were definitely some interesting shows that managed to sneak their way onto the airwaves. We decided to count down every sports anime as a way to round out the year! As a side note, this list will only cover shows that made their debut in 2017, so you won’t be seeing All-Out, Tiger Mask W, or 3-Gatsu no Lion season 1 on this list even though they aired through 2017. These are all great shows, but unfortunately we had to make a cut-off somewhere!
10. Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu (Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club)
Maiharu Hiromi is a new girl around Kamakura. Everyone uses bikes to travel, but she’s not really used to getting herself around. A chance meeting with Akizuki Tomoe gets her more invested in learning how to ride her bike. However, what the two don’t know is that their high school requires all students to join a club, and when nothing else strikes their fancy, they settle upon creating a club specifically for cycling appreciation. They’ll need to prove to the principal that their club idea has more value than an excuse to get out of joining a club! Minami Kamakura Koukou Joshi Jitensha-bu isn’t a series with high stakes. Rather, it’s meant to be akin to a relaxing stroll through the countryside, with the girls discovering new little things around town. Maybe sometimes they’ll be drawn into a competition here or there, but really, it’s all about the setting. Sit down, relax, and have a peaceful afternoon gazing at scenic Kamakura.
9. Two Car
Miyata Yuri and Meguro Megumi have a problem. They’re both hopelessly in love with Tanahashi, their kneeler racing coach from their high school club. However, Tanahashi’s moved into the world of international competition at the Isle of Man tournament in the UK. As rivals in love, they despise one other, but they also need each other, as Yuri and Megumi complement one another’s strengths. The duo has one shot to win their town’s tournament and qualify for the Isle of Man championship, where Yuri and Megumi can finally be reunited with Tanahashi! While the overall plot of Two Car surrounds around Yuri and Megumi, really, Two Car is about all of the different competitors. You’ll bounce around from Chiyuki and Misaki’s struggles with separating their social positions from their friendship, a pair of twins who can’t decide if they want to be the same person or not, and an unhealthy sado-maso pair of racers. Better yet, you’ll find some exciting kneeler racing sequences, with cycles that move at blistering speeds and some not-terribly-subtle camera shots of shapely girls in bodysuits.
8. Keppeki Danshi!! Aoyama-kun (Clean Freak Aoyama-kun)
Maybe Aoyama would do better at a different sport. Not one that’s quite as filthy and close to dirt and grass as soccer. But, for some reason, Aoyama is determined to grit his teeth and show the world his talent for the sport. It doesn’t really sound like a problem at first… until you realize that Aoyama has obsessive-compulsive disorder. He cannot for the life of him deal with having even a spec of grime on his body or clothes. But he’ll try to keep up with soccer, as his raw talent allows Aoyama to carry his entire high school team throughout the national tournament without getting himself dirty! Soccer anime have been done to death. However, no one’s really made one quite like Keppeki Danshi. It’s certainly a different take on the genre, dealing with a character with such a unique handicap. It doesn’t come up as a terribly serious plot point most of the time though, as Keppeki Danshi is largely meant as a comedy without outright making fun of poor Aoyama. Anyone craving more humor similar to 2016’s Sakamoto Desu Ga? might find a suitable fill-in with Keppeki Danshi.
Diving just doesn’t have the same draw it once did to the youth of Japan. The Mizuki Diving Club (or MDC) is struggling to bring in new members these days. They’ve lucked out with some new talent though, as Fujitani Youichi has been winning competitions left and right. Youichi’s success has even drawn in more promising members, such as Sakai Tomohiro, who’s unpolished but is real eager to catch up to Youichi and make a name for himself. Tomohiro better get to it soon though, as the MDC is in real danger of getting shut down soon if they don’t at least get one member to the Olympic team this year. The first few episodes of Dive really capture the spirit of adolescence in that you’re confused about everything and have no idea what you’re doing. Tomohiro has a girlfriend, not necessarily because he likes her, but she confessed to him and he wasn’t really sure if he was allowed to turn her down. He struggles to balance his relationship with her while also maintaining his rigorous training schedule to make it to an Olympic training camp in China.
6. Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation
It’s a new era for the Sohoku cycling team, and boy are they feeling good about their victory in last year’s Interhigh! However, just because Sohoku won last year doesn’t mean they can rest. Kinjou, Tadakoro, and Makishima are all graduating and leaving the team in Teshima and Aoyagi’s hands. With only Onoda, Naruko, and Imaizumi returning as champions from last year’s team, they’ve all got to work to assemble a strong team for this year. Better make sure they’re prepared too, as both Hakone and Kyoto Fushimi have picked up some scary new talent themselves. Yowamushi Pedal: New Generation is pretty much more of what everyone liked from the past few seasons. It’s more intense cycling action, grandstanding rhetoric about the meaning of each race that would make politicians blush, and well-toned boys interacting with one another in suggestive relationships. It’s not quite as strong as prior seasons due to the removed focused on a central goal beyond just re-winning the Inter High, but fans of the show will most likely find New Generation to be some nice comfort food.
5. Ballroom e Youkoso (Welcome to the Ballroom)
Fujita Tatara didn’t really have much going for him. His parents are divorced, his grades aren’t great, he gets bullied all the time, and he doesn’t even have any hobbies. One day, he stumbles upon a dance studio headed none other than by Sengoku Kaname, a world-renowned champion ballroom dancer. Tatara immediately falls in love with the sport and desperately wants to command the same level of charisma as Sengoku, so he joins his studio and sets off to become a dancer himself. Ballroom e Youkoso was only one of two “classical” sports series that premiered this year that weren’t based on an already established franchise. You know what we mean; the newbie who enters a world they’ve never experienced and immediately develops a fierce attachment to it despite lacking experience. Said character goes on to smash all expectations, steadily rising through the ranks and revolutionizing how people go about playing the sport, and the stoic but fiery rival who rekindles their own passion thanks to the enthusiasm that the hero has. Welcome to the Ballroom takes this exact formula and gives it its own flair with some really dynamic and stylized animation to go along with it, making it a solid watch if you’re waiting for the next season of Haikyuu.
4. Free! -Take Your Marks-
There’s not a lot of competition in Free! -Take Your Marks-. Rather, you’ll find short stories about Makoto and Haruka apartment-hunting in Tokyo, Rin’s farewell party before he heads off to Australia, and the Iwatobi Club trying to draw in new members to the club before they graduate. Free! -Take Your Marks- isn’t really meant to be a story sequel so much as it is a love letter to the fans who have kept up with the franchise for this long. The levity of the special is what makes it endearing; no longer are we chained to Haruka’s brooding inner monologues about not wanting to part from the water, but rather we get fun character interactions as a swan song for the current cast and a potential bridge into a new generation of swimmers.
3. Gekijouban Kuroko no Basket Last Game (Kuroko’s Bastketball: Last Game)
In an act of arrogance, and American street basketball team called the Jabberwocks travels to Japan to take on Strky, a Japanese team filled with players who once played in the past Inter High and Winter Cup tournaments. The Jabberwocks crush them single handedly, and in their victory mock Japanese basketball. Kagetora Aida challenges the Jabberwocks to a rematch in a fit of rage, and when they accept, Kagetora sets out to craft a Vorpal Sword to slay the mythical beast. No, seriously, he assembles a team called the Vorpal Swords composing of the entire generation of Miracles to take down the Jabberwocks once and for all. Last Game is a movie adaptation of the extra chapters Fujimaki Tadatoshi wrote for the manga, making this the rare movie that’s actually canon. It also serves as closure to the entire Kuroko’s Basketball series, letting us see the whole Generation of Miracles in action together. Finally, after three seasons of buildup, we finally got to see what the entire crew could actually do together!
2. Nana Maru San Batsu (Fastest Finger First!)
Quiz bowl isn’t just about knowing trivia. It’s also about understanding when to time in, how to throw your opponent off their rhythm, and being able to deduce answers quickly under pressure. Turns out it’s a good fit for the bookish Koshiyama Shiki, as all he’s done with himself is separate himself from his peers and read classic literature. He befriends the school’s idol, Fukami Mari, who turns out to be a quiz bowl nut. She convinces him into attending a quiz bowl competition, and there Koshiyama discovers a passion for quiz bowl! Nana Maru San Batsu is the second of the two traditional sports series that came out this year, but has a bit more of a subdued take of the sport compared to the other entry on this list. Quiz bowl isn’t an epic narrative about the purity and evolution of a sport, but rather just a kid who needs a social group and finds one in a unique hobby. Games don’t take place on grand stages with passionate fans who cheer on our heroes, but just a bunch of nerds who get together on weekends and ask each other quiz questions. It’s this air of realism that makes Nana Maru San Batsu a refreshing change of pace from your normal battle shounen.
1. 3-Gatsu no Lion 2nd Season (March Comes in Like a Lion 2nd Season)
It’s been one year since Kiriyama Rei decided to give high school a shot. Maybe he’d be better off focusing on his shogi career, but something within him has made him want to see if he can actually find friends his own age. But things haven’t been going too well. He just got held back in school for missing too many classes, he embarrassed himself at a recent tournament, and he hasn’t been able to move up his professional ranking in a while. He’s starting again from square this year, and unfortunately the Kawamoto family, Rei’s one support system, has come into hard times themselves. Hina, the middle daughter, is struggling with some nasty bullying issues at school. Rei’s going to have to figure out how to balance his own life while returning some familial love that the Kawamotos have given him. You may not see 3-Gatsu no Lion as a sports anime immediately, but it actually fits into the sports anime mold. While it is largely a personal drama, Rei’s shogi career is still front and center as the driving force of the plot. And though last season was all about failure and the struggle to find a place, the second season is suitably more uplifting and we finally get to see Rei come into his own, both in the shogi world and as a person. It’s still continuing into 2018, so we can’t wait to see what comes next!
We’re pretty sure we covered every sports anime that aired in 2017, but please, if we missed one or disagree with something on this list, don’t hesitate! Please let us know in the comments below!
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