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Almost Otaku: Sports Manga, Good, Bad or Just Plain Ugly?

Come play catch with me.

 I can tell that whoever's behind SLAM DUNK must've been a huge fan of the Bulls.
 I can tell that whoever's behind SLAM DUNK must've been a huge fan of the Bulls.

sotyfan16: Sports anime/manga: good, bad, or just plain ugly?

This is quite timely as I just recently perused the first volume of DIAMOND GIRL, a manga about a teen whose base-ballin’ skills are out of this world. I honestly haven’t read any other sports manga outside of that. I was always puzzled by SLAM DUNK when I was living in Asia, and I still don’t quite grasp how it’s continued to be such a smash hit (or should that be a cross-court 3-pointer?) for as long as it has. I know that’s a testament to manga being diverse enough to encompass every genre and every kind of story, and I shouldn’t be surprised when sports stories are so common at the movies. But still, I just can’t shake how… odd it is to see a comic about a basketball team.

How popular is the sport in Japan? Do any of you lunatics know? Is basketball exotic to the Japanese?

I have something of an unusual interest in sports in general. I did football, wrestling and baseball in high school, I practiced MMA in college and I play pick-up b-ball games every weekend… but I have next-to-no interest in watching sports.  I get bored almost immediately. I feel like I’m sitting on my hands. Seriously, I don’t have any favorite teams, I’m not counting the days until the World Series and I didn’t even know that the NFL’s season started until my room mate woke up early yesterday to watch the Packers game. It’s just not my thing.

That being said, I love plenty of sports movies. BAD NEWS BEARS (the original), MAJOR LEAGUE, ROCKYANY GIVEN SUNDAY, MIGHTY DUCKS, THE KARATE KID, THE LONGEST YARD… hell, even SPACE JAM. But I’m always a little leary of this genre because it typically goes for schmaltzy platitudes. I’ve rarely seen stories that have accurately reflected my experience of what it’s like to be on a team. So I generally prefer stuff that injects sports with some fantasy and absurdity. 

Maybe sports manga/anime is the answer, then? As I've said, the medium takes stories farther than they're usually allowed to go in Western entertainment. Maybe what I've been looking for has been here all along? 
Maybe you Anime Vice lunatics could recommend some titles I need to check out.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of  HYBRID BASTARDS!  &   UNIMAGINABLE .Order them on Amazon   here   & here .

titoxivon Sept. 13, 2010 at 9 p.m.
ummm i seriously cant say i like  sports anime/manga, maybe because i don't like watching many sports either, i do remember watching a lot of Super Campeones (CAPTAIN TSUBASA) when i was little but that's probably because I'm from Mexico and soccer is the sport of choice, I also watched it in Spanish and have not heard of it making it to the American audiences, I don't remember much about the show other than it was about some kids in a team growing up together and making it pro or something like that, also that it had some really exaggerating moves which of course made it interesting to watch, I remember one episode in particular where the goal keeper is like scared of the ball? and the captain tells him to "be friends with the ball" lol 
it was super popular in Mexico and of course Japan so i would recommend it =)
rubberluffyon Sept. 13, 2010 at 9:03 p.m.
I'm a fan of Nononono, which is about SKI JUMPING of all things.  Bamboo Blade (kendo), Eyeshield 21 (American football), Baby Steps (tennis), Teppu (mixed martial arts),  Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru (karate), and Hajime no Ippo (boxing) are all great too.  Outside of manga/anime, I'm not really into sports at all.
sotyfan16on Sept. 13, 2010 at 9:12 p.m.

I know some people like this year's Giant Killing (about soccer), Prince of Tennis (about tennis, duh), and Major (about baseball and has been running for a number of years now). Very few that I know of like Eyeshield 21 (about football but not exactly). Personally, I don't have interest in sports anime/manga (unless is has to do with fighting (I like the manga Shamo)) because the ones that I know of have to do with soccer, baseball, basketball, or football and my preferred sport is hockey (I do NOT want to see one about hockey). 

From what I can tell, sports anime/manga caters to exactly that niche of fans. While some of them have a good story and animation they end up boiling down to being known but not really watched or read. This subject isn't talked about much but it's one of those sub-genres that does it's job.

Lurkeroon Sept. 13, 2010 at 9:28 p.m.
I'll admit that the Japanese have a tendency to make almost anything seem exciting, but in the case of sports anime, I'm afraid it would take a lot to get me to pay attention. I dread the times when there is nothing on TV but sports.
Would fighting tournaments be considered sport? Dragonball had a lot of those.
djqjon Sept. 13, 2010 at 9:34 p.m.

I think this is a cultural thing the Japanese put all there effort into what they do this includes free time. If a Japanese salaryman likes baseball he's going to devote allot of his time to baseball that includes what he reads. I'm not saying it's exclusive is that group but thats how the Japanese work, play, and live, there devoted if nothing else.

Thats why you find such manga as Slam Dunk odd it's just a cultural difference.

If you want some proof watch the crowd at a Hanshin Tigers game, you think Americans are intense sports fans; keep in mind this is being done by the vary proper and polite Japanese.

Count_Zeroon Sept. 13, 2010 at 10:49 p.m.
I'm going to put in a big recommendation (thus seconding rubberluffy's recommendation) for Hajime no Ippo. The first season was released in the US as Fighting Spirit. The second season, unfortunately, has not been licensed and thus *ahem* would have to be acquired through other means.
SamJazon Sept. 14, 2010 at 1:21 a.m.
The first three seasons of Major are gold, but that may be due to the impressive character development and portrayal than anything. 
Eyeshield 21 is amazing. I'm English, and it got ME into American Football. That's how good it is.
I usually don't have much time for sports manga, but if it's good, it's GOOD.
sate2801on Sept. 14, 2010 at 2:11 a.m.
IMO the earlier sports manga were better
the recent ones seems to aim at the market of fujoshi/yaoi fandom
all they have is pretty looking guys playing some kind of sport and it feels kinda lame :/
agila61on Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:18 a.m.
@sotyfan16 said:
" From what I can tell, sports anime/manga caters to exactly that niche of fans. "
Lots of comments on Crunchyroll are the opposite: people like Giant Killing for the story, and for the fact that you do not have to be a soccer fan to enjoy it. All you need to know about soccer to enjoy Giant Killing is that goals are a big deal ... and someone who knew nothing about soccer would pick that up pretty fast.
Kuma_From_Argentinaon Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:33 a.m.
I love Sports anime and manga, Hajime no Ippo, Prince of Tennis (or Dragon Ball Z with Tennis and I dont even know) Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa and Eyeshield 21, is a shame there isnt a Rugby themed one, as an Otaku and former Rugby player I alwas wanted one Rugby themed sports manga.... 
@titoxiv:  Aguante Steve Hyuga y el Tiro del Tigre!
Tommy_Xon Sept. 14, 2010 at 7:39 a.m.

Never had a chance to    read any sports manga but can't say I'm very interested about it. I'm not very much into sports. Watching who kicks or throws the ball best feels to me pretty boring but ofcourse manga & anime have a way to turn pretty much anything into good entertainment by exaggerating things a little bit.
Catolfon Sept. 14, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
I don't mind it, Prince of tennis was pretty good I thought, and I've never even seen a sports anime before and I liked it. Shame it was taking off the CN
Darth Paulon Sept. 14, 2010 at 10 a.m.
Sports manga is just too boring imo. I probably wouldn't mind it if it was an anime since there would actually be some action to follow which is what sports are all about, but just reading a story with still pictures of people playing sports is kind of dull.
cfatalison Sept. 14, 2010 at 10:05 a.m.
Sports mangas are fine, but they go beardy along with time
if something have surpassed the international tournament , and proceed to win it without being famous in that category then our suspension are broken.....
If the feat is ridicoulously stupid and we got this really talented non training guy, stupid, unless accompanied with fictional condition
Gaffon Sept. 14, 2010 at 11:45 a.m.
Memories... Probably the first sports manga / anime I saw or heard about was Touch? Should probably ring familiar with some older fans, but I think its onus was always more on the romance / drama aspect rather than a in-depth look at the sport. 
Which probably explains a lot of their appeal? It's less about the sport and more about the youthful, sweating examples of male testosterone. Boys want to be like them and girls want to be with them (damn jocks...). Which could also explain its lack of appeal to the less couch potato-ey examples of our species. 
Two asides: 
  1. I distinctly remember a surge of interest in basketball in my circle of friends when Slam Dunk aired (or when tapes were rented from the local Chinese video place). 
  2. As someone with a passing interest in sports, Slam Dunk and Giant Killing were interesting exercises in recognition: Shohoku was obviously modeled after the Chicago Bulls and for someone outside of the US it was quite a meta game to recognize the other teams (also, NBA Jam helped). Giant Killing also has some straight takes on football personalities (most obvious one is Cruijf). Also... That Dulfer's Dutch is deliciously TERRIBLE and I think I recognize him from Samurai Champloo.
jlanzeron Sept. 14, 2010 at 12:05 p.m.
I'll add One Outs to the sports anime list.  This anime delves into the psychological realm of baseball dealing with the complex rules and mental game for a pitcher.  I love watching this anime because I was a pitcher in high school and it represents the battle between pitcher and batter really well.  If you do like the psychological angle in sports anime then Giant killing, previously mentioned, is a good one to follow that is airing now.
LPon Sept. 14, 2010 at 2:08 p.m.
I've never understood this either, and for me most sports animes ARE incredibly boring and awkward, I have seen Slam Dunk and I like that one but I skip pretty much every other one.
(PS: It's great to be able to use every WM site now without having to make different accounts!)
zaldaron Sept. 14, 2010 at 2:13 p.m.

going to have to go with just plain ugly.  None of them have every worked in America and honestly since manga attracts the intellectual crowd here rather than the athletic one mostly shouldn't suprise anyone.  I have never read one that I liked, and yes I expect basketball is exotic to the Japanese as it is exotic to most non-american countries.  Much like soccor used to be exotic to us.
Friezaon Sept. 14, 2010 at 2:35 p.m.
Hajime no Ippo is one of the best sport anime ever.
DonChipotleon Sept. 14, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.
I love sports anime, it is my favorite genre. I've been watching Major since it started and I've loved every season. And last year's Cross Game was really excellent. I'm all for sports anime/manga.

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