These 5 Sports Animes Are Totally Underrated and Can Keep You Motivated During the Pandemic

Goose Weeb

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(Still from "Ping Pong")

Slam Dunk and The Prince of Tennis were part of my childhood. Those classics opened the gate of Japanese anime for me, and I have always been a sports anime fan since then. Whenever new shows are coming out, the keywords I would search for are baseball, volleyball, tennis, basketball, etc. But at the same time, I know clearly that a lot of these shows exaggerate the sports pretty crazily - if you have watched Kuroko No Basket, you know what I am talking about. Each basketball match almost feels like a magical fight, and the characters have their personal special skills that could help them win the match. They would even yell out the name before using the skill - I can't hold my laugh by imagining it happening on a basketball court in real life.

No offense to the shows, though - they are still entertaining to watch, but you can't treat them seriously as sports. In general, I'm not too fond of characters that have superpowers at the beginning and are too strong to defeat. I like witnessing a team's growth and how everyone in the anime learns sports spirit throughout different games. Some other sports animes are not popular but very down to earth, and I actually learned some sports rules. Here is a list of those sports animes that are very underrated, and I would totally recommend you to binge-watch them if you are trying to find new shows to watch during the pandemic.

WARNING, SPOILER ALERT!

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(Still from "Ookiku Furikabutte")

1. Big Windup!

Baseball is a crucial part of Japanese culture. Almost every high school in Japan has a baseball team, and they all work very hard to get into the final round of the Japanese High School Baseball Championship at Koshien every summer. I know nothing about baseball before watching Big Windup, and I totally fell in love with this sports afterward. The team in this show belongs to a high school in a small city in Japan. Mihashi, the pitcher, has been traumatized by his teammates from middle school. He feels guilty about playing baseball, blames himself for all the losses, and is not even confident enough to again pick up the ball until he meets his high school teammates and finds his true potential.

What I really like about this show is that everyone is so normal but also so focused on things they specialized in at the same time. They do not have superpowers, but they grow up together as a team. Most importantly, this show spends so much time explaining the detailed strategies and the main characters' inner activity. Some might find the pacing of this show very slow, but that's the charm of baseball. It is not violent at all, in my opinion, unlike the matches we see in the United States. It is supposed to similar to playing chess.

So little people know about this show, and god knows how long I have been waiting for Season 3 - I wish more people could watch it and see how genuine this piece is.

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2. Ace of Diamond

Yes, I know—another baseball anime on my list. I am not biased at all. But seriously, there are too many legendary shows about baseball. This one is a bit different from Big Windup - Seido, the main characters' team, is one of the strongest teams in Tokyo, and it is about how the top teams fight each other before getting into the final round. It is more about the pitcher's personal growth in the team - you will witness how he climbs up from #30, the bottom of the rank, to the ace of Seido. Eijun Sawamura, the main character, has overcome too many obstacles and mental breakdowns to become who he is today. Sometimes I even doubt if he is really the main character because he is too miserable, but all his hard work pays off eventually, and that is all it matters.

The matches are much more intense than Big Windup, and the characters are sometimes over the top. But the pacing is always very great, and you cannot predict the results. They still lose their games, and some episodes are too heartbroken to watch. The best part of watching Ace of Diamond is to see them win - it is satisfying to see these kids accomplish their goals.

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3. Run with the Wind

"Do you like running?" This is the most famous line in Run with the Wind, and it still touches me the most after such a long time. I hate running, but I even thought about running Marathon after watching this show. It motivated me so much as a human being, and it really saved my soul at my downtimes.

It is a story about Marathon - Haiji Kiyose, one of the main characters, formed the most random Marathon team you could ever think of and promised to become the number 1 in the national game. Almost no one is a professional runner on this team except for Kiyose and Kakeru, but they are all similar to each other at the same time. They are not perfect, and they all have their own personal obstacle to overcome in life. Marathon completes them as human beings, and it feels so good to forget all the troubles and have a simple goal to work hard for.

I will not spoil too much, but you need to get yourself some tissues ready when watching the last two episodes. It hit me so hard.

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4. Ahiru No Sora

I have been reading the Manga since high school, and I was so glad to see the anime come out. Unlike many other popular sports anime, this show is very ordinary and stays true to the root of game rules and strategies. You might be disappointed if you like high-pacing animes - sometimes, it feels like barely anything has happened in the story, but it feels so authentic and true to our lives.

The main character, Sora, is shorter than everyone on his team but practices basketball so much harder. Everyone has their personal lives outside basketball, and they experience emotional ups and downs, just like normal high school students. But it still maintains a great amount of dramatic and funny elements to keep the show attractive. The actions and music are also both very high quality. I would totally recommend this to those of you who enjoy plot intensive animes but also tired of broken ass main characters.

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5. Ping Pong

I know what your first thought is - this is Japanese anime?! Yes, it is, and it is a masterpiece in Japanese anime history. The characters do not have colorful hair or massive eyes, and the Ping Pong ball may not even be perfectly round. But it fits the story so well, and you cannot find a second anime with a similar and extraordinary art style like Ping Pong. I have seen clips of Ping Pong going popular around the fans because of its smooth and fantastic action drawn by the creators, but people rarely finish the show because of its unique style.

The story follows two high school students, Makoto and Yutaka's Ping Pong career. Even though there are only 11 episodes, the story never feels too short or too much information packed together. Everything is perfectly intertwined with each other without overwhelming the audience. The characters all have complicated inner activities, and their personalities feel too realistic. Even if you are not used to the style of it, you should still give it a watch. It is an art piece you cannot miss.

That is all I want to recommend for sports anime - I am, in general, a fan of sports anime that is more about a slice of life and the actual game strategies. Which sports anime do you like the best and want to recommend? Let me know in the comments down below. I will soon write about anime food that you could try at home.

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