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It's all about the sports

Various sports have been featured throughout anime, from boxing (Hajime no Ippo) to basketball (Slam Dunk/Kuroko no Basuke) to judo (Yawara!) and tennis (Prince of Tennis).

No matter which sport the anime features, it is able to get your heart pounding, and your hands clenched, ready to do some active fist pumping or table slamming when your favourite team/character scores a point. It's hard to deny that after watching these shows, one would suddenly have a strange urge of wanting to learn the sport, despite previously being horribly lazy and completely uninterested in the prospect of getting remotely sweaty.

I'll have to admit, one of the first few anime I watched was a sports anime, Prince of Tennis, a shounen show for a girl... strange you might be thinking but there was a lot to talk about the show back then. Did I want to learn tennis after watching all the cool moves? Sure I did, I even started watching Wimbledon in my enthusiasm for the sport. But then of course, I figured that reality would never be as awesome as the crazy special effects in anime.

Prince of Tennis
People who watch sports anime know the moves are exaggerated, and often grossly so, the special action sequences over used and over played after a while. The general storyline of a school team aspiring to be the best, and a rookie with 'something special' is also nothing new.

Nevertheless, it is still so compelling to watch and finish that 100 or 200 episode long series. The camaraderie that you would feel when watching such anime forces you to root for the team, cheer for the character, share with them in the pains and joy. You learn along with the characters. Teamwork, personal values, no one is alone, it's okay to fail, setting goals, and finally... life... living it with passion and great friends. In some strange way, sports anime drive that message home harder than any counselling session, to say you've learnt nothing after the hundreds of episodes would be a lie.

Prince of Tennis, is one of the few anime I've watched that has actually stuck with me through the years of watching anime. To put it simply it is about the tennis adventures of a cocky but talented rookie, Echizen Ryoma and his school tennis team.It was published as a manga in 1999 and released as an anime in 2001, after years and years, this series hasn't died. The 42 book long Prince of Tennis series may have ended in 2008, but it is now continuing in the New Prince of Tennis. Just two years back, the New Prince of Tennis had a come back in anime after the end of Prince of Tennis: The national tournament finals. 

New Prince of Tennis
Recently, it was announced that the New Prince of Tennis series would have an OVA released sometime in 2014. The excitement I feel from first watching the series in 2008 till now, it's still the same, or even better because now I know each and every character and every inside joke, like an old friend. I've watched the characters grow in values, grow together and of course, grow in terms of crazy moves added to their repertoire every season. 

You can watch the New Prince of Tennis 2014 trailer here:

In this new OVA, it looks like Echizen's long lost and mysterious brother will be making his appearance, I'll definitely be anticipating the release of this new OVA.

Enough about tennis though, currently I'm watching what I think will be the next Prince of Tennis for me. It's Kuroko no Basket, a basketball series, which is still on-going. Kuroko started in 2008 and was animated in 2012 with a second season currently airing. I know little about basketball, but the the first few episodes of Kuroko already had my heart racing, and I could feel the same sense of kinship I had with Prince of Tennis characters building. The main characters of the two series may be very different, with one being an attention seeking cocky brat and the other, almost invisible. Not to mention Kuroko has a very hardcore and awesome coach. However, the lessons learnt in both anime can be seen echoed within each other. 

Kuroko no Basket - with characters named after their hair colour...
With Kuroko having the right amount of action, rivials, and with a sprinkle of humor. I can see myself following this series with the same fervour as Prince of Tennis.

From the above trends though, it looks like sports anime are largely dominated by men and testosterone, which is all fine for a shounen audience, but I did find one sports series that I loved with a female star. It is an old series (published in 1986) but I think it is little known and deserves more credit thus I'm giving it special mention here, it's title is Yawara! The Fashionable Judo Girl. Yes, it is about a girl who does judo, due to her grandfather's insistence. This manga has a special place in my heart, I thought it was amazing that this girl was strong, funny, knew what she wanted and did judo. 

Yawara! - Ippon Seoi Nage~
Remember what I said about having a strange urge of wanting to learn sports after watching or reading sports anime/manga? Well, this was the manga that moved me the most, to go so far as to dabble in judo. It's an interesting manga, that really delves into competitive judo and the way of judo, while still keeping the story light hearted and easy to read.

There are definitely many more sports anime and manga out there, but these are the ones which left me distinct memories. So, what is your favourite sports anime/manga?

Written by Neko

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