Sports anime are a staple of just about every new season’s lineup, with new seasons of popular franchises like Free and Haikyu or series like Tsurune hitting the scene. There is literally an anime series for every sport you can think of from the more mainstream sports like basketball, baseball, and soccer to the more traditional Japanese pastimes like kyudo, karuta, and shogi. But, what if this is your first time giving sports anime a try? Well, I have just the list of you! I’ve compiled a list of the ten tried and true rules you need to know before watching sports anime! Each of these rules will help you make the most of your sports anime experience! So sit back relax and give this list a gander!
Rule 1: There is no such thing as a favorite character
Usually you can watch an anime and easily identify your favorite character. Maybe it’s a character that has a funny quirk, maybe they’re the strongest, or maybe they’re the character that reminds you of yourself. Whatever the reason is, you like that particular character more than you like the rest. However, with sports anime, you might have a hard time picking just one character as your favorite, because they’re all just so damn lovable! Even the rival teams have characters that you’ll just love to hate (or just plain love). So, at least when watching sports anime get rid of the notion of a single favorite character, because I guarantee you’ll have two or three or four…
Number 2: Prepare for feels
Okay, so this rule is kind of the standard with most anime series, the more you watch the more attached you get to the characters and the more invested you get in the stories… these are facts not opinions. But, due to the high stakes action of sports anime, it’s really easy to get swept up in the emotions of the characters and teams. You watch them grow from total novices, slowly honing their skills, training until they perfect move they’ve been working on since episode one. Or maybe they’re the underdogs with their sights set on the number one team in the prefecture… Whatever their goals, you are totally, 100% going to get your heart wrapped up in the struggles of the characters. When they lose, it’ll feel like you lost too… When they win, it’ll feel like your victory!
Rule 3: You don’t need to like sports to watch sports anime
Now, this one is super important, because some folks seem to be under the misguided impression that you need to actually like sports to watch anime. This is not true. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I love sports anime, there is just something exciting about watching sports anime that I don’t get from watching real life sports. Beside, don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with whatever sport is the focus of anime, the series will pretty much teach you everything you need to know about it in the first season. Hell, half the characters don’t even know much about the sports they play (especially the first years), so you’ll be learning right alongside them!
Rule 4: DO NOT fall in love with the 3rd Years (You will anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to warn you)
Right, so this goes without saying, but don’t get too attached to the 3rd years, nothing good ever comes from getting attached to characters that are going to graduate. So, do yourself a favor and try to avoid falling too hard for them. Of course, if you do ignore this rule, prepare your heart for some serious heartbreak when they eventually graduate. But, don’t worry there will be a new set of cute first years arriving shortly to fill the void.
Rule 5: That subtext is not in your head (just ask the shippers on Tumblr)
Sports anime are notorious for their not so subtle subtext, especially in the sports anime focusing on all boys teams. Just look at any of the fanfiction sites, you’ll notice that the sports anime series will have some of the highest numbers of fics. But, the subtext isn’t all in your head, by its very nature being on a team means the characters are going to really close, they eat, sleep, train, and study together, most of the time teammates spend more time with each other than they do with their own families… deep bonds are formed… feelings get intense… strong words are shared…
Rule 6: Everyone is shippable
This goes along with Rule 5, but seriously everyone is shippable! If two characters pass each other in the hall, it’s grounds for shipping. Maybe they help each other learn a difficult move, that’s grounds for shipping! Time and proximity mean nothing, to a shipper and in sports anime there are so many characters to mix and match, the sky’s the limit!
Rule 7: Make sure to hydrate (no seriously, you can get pretty worked up watching sports anime)
You think I’m kidding, but I’m so serious about this one! You may not be playing sports like the characters on the screen, but cheering them on is pretty hard work too! Make sure you stay hydrated so you can show them your love in each and every episode. You don’t want to get to the finals only for your parched throat to give out on you right at the most crucial moment. So, keep your fluids up and for the diehard fans out there get you a bottle of Pocari Sweat!
Rule 8: Generally speaking, the “protagonist” will either be a 1st Year or a complete noob at the start of the series
Sports anime tend to focus on the new guy as a way to get viewers integrated into the series and whatever sport the characters are playing. It’s a good way for you the viewer to learn along with the character, which also helps you form an attachment with the character faster. Usually the protagonist character is super energetic and personable, which makes up for their actual skill in the sport. They’ll also be the one that gets the rest of the characters to come together as a team, usually by way of an emotional pep-talk.
Rule 9: DO fall in love with the rivals (they need love too)
So, remember in Rule 1 where I said it’s hard to have just one favorite character? Well, this is an offshoot of that rule, if a sports anime is really good, it’ll definitely have you falling in love with the rival teams too. One of the biggest offenders for me is Haikyu, since the series spends all this time building up the rival teams alongside the main team. So, it’s not unusual that you want them to win their matches too (yes, I am still heartbroken about Aoba Johsai). You get to know them as rivals, but also as characters with their own needs and wants, they aren’t just faceless nameless obstacles, their people.
Rule 10: Drag your friends into [Insert Sports Anime] Hell with you (sharing is caring)
Now, this is the most important rule of them all: share your love of sports anime with your friends, by dragging them kicking and screaming into your favorite fandoms (trust me, they’ll thank you for it later)! Anime is community, more so with sports anime, since the focus is on the team/collective coming together for a common goal. Each character shares in the victories and defeats of the team, so it only makes sense that you should share your sports anime experience with others! Some of my best online friends are people I met through Haikyu and it makes for a more wholesome experience, since we get excited about new announcements and our reminisce about our favorite moments from the series. So, don’t just watch a sports anime alone, get your friends involved too!
Give A Sports Anime a Try Today!
There is nothing like watching a sports anime series, from the dynamic characters to the emotional storylines and even the actual sports matches. There is just something special about watching a team grow from a disjointed mess to regional champions. I’ve seen quite a few sports anime over the years, but each one is a unique experience that I’ll never forget. So go forth, watch a sports anime today and be sure to keep these 10 Rules for Watching Sports Anime handy!