As you can probably tell from my last wrap up post, I’ve been reading a lot of manga recently… But something I didn’t mention in that post is my extreme, irrational love for sports manga (and anime!), which is probably my favourite genre of manga. It’s not something I can explain – I find watching real-life sports dire, and playing is only marginally better. For some reason, though, it’s an entirely different story when it’s in manga-form! 😀 Here are some of my favourites:
1) Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate. My most recent obsession is a volleyball manga that follows two first years in high school: Hinata, who adores volleyball, but who’s never been part of a real team before, and Kageyama, a genius setter known as the “King of the Court” because he’s prone to making unreasonable demands of his teammates. After ending up at the same school, they’re forced to learn to work together in order to join the volleyball club. This series has everything: a full cast of wonderful characters, plenty of character development, a heavy dose of realism, an interesting storyline, exciting matches, and beautiful artwork.
2) Whistle! by Daisuke Higuchi. A football anime that follows a middle-schooler called Shou Kazamatsuri, who transfers to a new school in hopes that, at a school with a much smaller football team, he might actually be able to play in games sometimes. This is one of the best sports manga I’ve ever come across, and it really holds up, even though it’s quite old (it ran from 1998-2002), with an engaging story, and a whole cast of incredibly relatable characters – but the realism is really what sets this manga apart. No magic football to be found here! 😉
3) Kuroko no Basuke by Tadatoshi Fujimaki. Basketball, this time! Our main character Kuroko was once the “Phantom Sixth Man” in the legendary middle school basketball team known as the Generation of Miracles for their miraculous skills on the court, but… people tend to forget about him. Now his teammates have all gone their separate ways for high school, hoping that facing off against each other will provide them with a real challenge – while Kuroko hopes that he will be able to rekindle their dwindling love for the sport. Suspension of disbelief is required from the get-go for this one, but the story is gripping, and the humour is spot on. You should also be prepared for feelings. Lots and lots of them, particularly as the series progresses.
4) The Prince of Tennis by Takeshi Konomi. A super-popular manga that follows a tennis prodigy called Ryoma, who returns to Japan from the U.S. at his father’s request, in order to attend his old middle school. Be warned that the actual tennis in this series gets rapidly more and more ridiculous as it goes on – most people who love it, seem to love it for the characters (of which there are many), and it inspires a huge amount of loyalty from its fans. I’m a Rikkai girl through and through (and not just because they wear Hufflepuff colours!), and I experience inexplicable joy whenever the team reappears in the story. 🙂 This series isn’t for everyone, but give it a chance, and you might just fall in love with it, too!
5) Eyeshield 21 by Riichiro Inagaki. This follows a high school American football team (called “Amefuto” in-series) that’s struggling to survive with incredibly low membership. Enter Sena, a first year whose main talent is running away from bullies… and who the team captain decides will make a brilliant running back. Consent not required. This series is heavy on the comedy, but the characters are great fun, as are their interactions (Sena often comes across as the sole sane man, surrounded by lunatics). The match scenes are fairly realistic, and it’s quite easy to follow the rules of the game, even for someone like me who doesn’t really know anything about American football…
Honourable Mentions: Area no Kishi by Hiroaki Igano, and Giant Killing by Tsunamoto Masaya. These are both football manga, and are great so far. They haven’t been included in the main list only because I haven’t actually read that much of either of them yet… Area no Kishi follows a high-schooler who’s dealing with the tragic death of his super-football-star brother, while Giant Killing focuses (interestingly) on the coach of a professional team who are hoping to play their way out of mediocrity. Also Baby Steps by Hikaru Katsuki, which is a more realistic take on a tennis manga. I haven’t even started reading the manga yet, but the anime is excellent (despite the weird art style), and anime adaptations tend to be quite faithful to their source material, so I expect that the manga is, too!