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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 .

OroJacksonon Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:27 p.m.

Like many others have recommended, I'll recommend Hajime No Ippo
nephrahimon Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:39 p.m.
I was always a fan of Slam Dunk, but then, I played Basketball in school, so I suppose I'm close to the subject matter. 
 
It's fascinating to learn how different the sport is there then it is here, and the strange relationship the two have.
Sin4profiton Sept. 14, 2010 at 5:25 p.m.
What i saw of Prince of Tennis i enjoyed. Does Initial D even count as a "sports" Anime? i liked that series as well. Both equally formulaic as hell, but i guess ya gotta expect that kinda thing from these series.
discraceon Sept. 14, 2010 at 5:26 p.m.
@SamJaz said:
" 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. "

I second this!!

Im also from the UK, but i wasnt even into sports, period! Yet watching Eyeshield, it got me interested in american football. I bet if i watched captain tsubasa I would probably get into soccer too.

What I like about eyeshield is not only the characters, but the fantasy element that is present on the field, its awsome to watch.

Eyeshield 21 was my official convert to sports anime and so i didnt hesitate to watch Hajime no ippo when my friend told me about it, ill never look at boxing the same again!

Im looking for my next sports anime to watch and so far i keep seeing anime banners of Major all the time, so i think that will be my next one!

frsty13on Sept. 14, 2010 at 8:59 p.m.
It's not sports, but Hikaru No Go seems like it fits into the same feel and style.  I've actually liked that series even though I know nothing about Go.  They really do a good job of building drama and tension between characters.
atesh42on Sept. 14, 2010 at 10:08 p.m.
There's only one sports anime I like and that's Kaiji. And you can barely call that a sports anime since it's all about gambling.
NexusOfLighton Sept. 15, 2010 at 6:24 a.m.
I'm sorta like that. Actually, exactly like that. Love to play the game, but hate to watch it, but don't mind watchin' a movie about it. Outside of that, I don't really care for the genre of sports manga, but I did thoroughly enjoy Slam Dunk. Mostly because of the characters and the story. Yeah, it was cookie cutter shonen starting out, but it was still cool, and the fact that it was about basketball somehow made it cooler. As for why it became "popular," well, I don't know. 
Jnason Sept. 15, 2010 at 6:25 a.m.

Hajime No Ippo is pretty awesome.
RecSpecon Sept. 15, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.
Hajime no Ippo is my favorite manga series, hands down.
 And I think Eyeshield 21 was pretty good too until it started going downhill towards the end of the series.
 It's just funny though, I'm a huge American football fan, so it made me laugh when they 
treat things like an onside kick like a brand new weapon for the heroes in other manga.
LordCmdrStrykeron Sept. 15, 2010 at 9:38 a.m.
I tried to watch the Eyeshield 21 anime a bazillion years ago.  Got like 20-some episodes into it before I finally gave up, and that manga is "only" 37 volumes total.  Crazy stuff like Hajime no Ippo is 90+ volumes and still going, so I guess somebody is still reading it.  It ain't me, though.  I'm not gonna read/watch the same thing for the majority of my natural life and have it never end.
Kenshiro28on Sept. 15, 2010 at 11:14 a.m.
I used to read some Harlem  Beat. Shit was pretty cash.
Hymmison Sept. 15, 2010 at 12:20 p.m.
 Why hasn't anyone mentioned Big Windup?  I had to create an account because I'm surprised that no one did...
Anyway, it's the one great sports anime I've watch and made me respect baseball a lot more. All the strategy planning by Abe, the different pitching methods. But what mostly sold me on it was the fun characters, like Tajima! :D 
 
The one other sports anime I watched was Taishou Yakyuu Musume. It's about a bunch of girls (nine, to be precise) who form a baseball group... in 1920s Japan! It's very mediocre, but the premise was so alluring.
 
For sports manga, the one I follow is Girl Fight. It's about a high school women's volleyball team. Reasons are 1. It has a unique art style and 2. The characters are pretty interesting.
 
So in conclusion, I get into sports anime/manga if the characters are appealing, no matter the sport.
LooseChangeon Sept. 15, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.
What about that Eyeshield 21 one? That seemed cool. I love sports so if theres some sports manga out there I would probably read it just to get the Japanese perspective on american sports. Which is, I'm sure, bat shit crazy. 
Addfwynon Sept. 15, 2010 at 1:30 p.m.
In regards to basketball, it isn't terribly popular over here, but there are people that play it at school or in college circles.  (Granted, there are circles at uni here for just about anything, including just going out and getting drunk).  I don't see a lot of basketball covered on TV, unless you get some of the international sports channels, but it's played often enough at school that I don't think it'd quite be classified as exotic.  But hey, there is manga for just about everything, so for the people really into basketball, somebody has to do manga for it. 
 
I'm a pretty big fan of sports (okay, mostly football/soccer to you americans but it counts), but honestly I generally prefer watching an actual game to reading manga or watching anime about it. 
AgentJon Sept. 15, 2010 at 5:37 p.m.
Don't judge sports manga until you have read Eyeshield 21.
 
Bigheart711on Sept. 15, 2010 at 7:28 p.m.
I don't mind, but it depends on my interest. I was thinking about watching Giant Killing, though...
RecSpecon Sept. 16, 2010 at 1 p.m.
@AgentJ: 
 
The anime is just depressing though.
The "final" game in the anime is the last one BEFORE my favorite game in the manga.
 
The game vs. the Dinosaurs was just amazing
Mesoianon Sept. 16, 2010 at 1:02 p.m.
@AgentJ said:

" Don't judge sports manga until you have read Eyeshield 21.
 

"
With a heavy emphesis on "READ" it. 
 
Now that the manga is over and you can take it at your own pace, it really is a fun little Shonen where over the top attitudes and vilence don't seem out of place. 
 
Unfortunately though, the anime suffers from traditional Shonen-itis, each episode slogging along at a dismal pace. It really did get hard to watch after a while, to the point where I had to drop it.
AleMon Sept. 16, 2010 at 8:55 p.m.
The existence of mangas/animes such as Eyeshield 21 and Slam Dunk is a reflection of the admiration (without good reasons, I would say) the japanese people show toward the american way of life. Despite football being the number one sport in Japan, ironically, the variety of football animes is quite slim. The only ones that got a hold of me were Captain Tsubasa (which inspired some players such as Francesco Totti and Fernando Torres to be footballers) and, more recently, Giant Killing.
kenichi_sanon Sept. 17, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.

Major is my number 2 favorite anime ^^, says it all.

Other good ones are: Hajime no Ippo & Eyeshield 21, History`s Strongest Disciple Kenichi (manga is better)

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