As someone who has had the privilege of watching many hours of anime throughout my twenty-four years, there is one that I’ve never been the biggest fan of, and those were sports anime. Granted, I’m more of a fantastical and bloody anime kind of person – I mean, my favorite ever is Attack on Titan, so do with that what you will – but the bigger truth was that it felt as if there wasn’t really a sports anime that I connected with.
Until I discovered soccer anime.
Let it be clear that I am not an athletic person by any means. I workout and eat healthy, but I am so uncoordinated when it comes to sports it's almost laughable. However, I can appreciate a good game of soccer – or football, as it’s called in other countries across the world. And, when one of my favorite sports and my favorite kind of animation decide to cross over, that’s when I get to have fun.
In honor of the 2022 World Cup that’s literally right around the corner, here are six awesome soccer anime that you should check out on Crunchyroll right now.
The newest title on the list, BLUELOCK’s first season is still airing at the time of writing this article. In this battle royale-esque anime, hundreds of the best soccer players in Japan compete in a competition called “BLUELOCK” in order for the chance to be crowned the next best striker in all of Japan – and through this, friendships are made and allies are betrayed for the chance to win it all.
Let me be clear in saying that BLUELOCK is unlike any other sports anime out there, which is why it’s perfect for me and why I have to suggest it to anyone that has never seen a sports anime. If you want something that is all about trying to be the best by stepping on everyone else, and conflicting morals, this is the way to go. Not only are the characters intriguing and really cool to learn more about, but you actually learn some really cool soccer lingo, too.
To be honest, I sort of consider it to be the Attack on Titan of the sports anime world, because it really is a one of a kind soccer show that more people need to check out – and it’s only in Season 1. It’s like soccer meets Squid Game.
Farewell, My Dear Cramer
If you’re looking for something a little more light-hearted, be sure to check out Farewell, My Dear Cramer. This anime follows two girls who were the stars of their soccer team in middle school, and now as they join their high-school's low-performing team, they intend to try and improve it, not only to take on new and more powerful opponents, but to prove themselves worthy to the school.
When I look at this series, it reminds me intensely of the Apple TV+ original series, Ted Lasso. No, there’s no happy-go-lucky coach who is down on his luck and trying to get everyone through tough times through the power of kindness, but what does draw similarities is that both shows are about a group of soccer players who are good, but have just been beaten down by society and need to work together to prove that they aren’t quite underdogs anymore. It’s a real gem – not the most unique sports anime out there, but fun all the same. And, its character base is centered around female friendships, so there’s a win for me.
If you’re looking for a protagonist you can really root for, DAYS is the soccer anime for you. In this anime, we mainly follow Tsukushi, a young boy who is clumsy and is bullied, but has a heart of gold and a perseverance that all of us could use. When he proves his worth during a football (soccer) game one day, he decides to join the football club at his new high school with a new friend – not knowing that now, the nation has its eyes on him.
At first, I checked this out because the studio behind the animation, MAPPA, have done two of my favorite anime in the last few years – Attack on Titan Season 4 (both parts so far), and Jujutsu Kaisen (as well as its prequel). I’ve always been a fan of their anime style. But, dang it, this show is so hard to not love because Tsukushi is such a relatable protagonist and you can’t help but root for him to prove all the bullies in his life wrong. You just gotta love him.
Aoashi, or stylized as Ao Ashi, is a recent, 2022 anime that follows Ashio Aoi, a football prodigy of sorts – but with an attitude to boot. However, when he ends up meeting a football coach who believes he could really become a talented player if given the right opportunities, his life changes forever.
While the premise is something that’s been done a decent amount of times in sports anime — about a player learning to become a better person through the game – the reason I put Aoashi up here is that I really enjoy the animation style – especially many of the scenes that feature the games. It feels as if I’m a spectator at the game watching these teams play, but I’m rooting for them from my couch. Really well-done.
Shoot! Goal To The Future
For fifty-eight episodes, Shoot! Goal to the Future was a very popular sports anime that also released in 2022. Otherwise known as Shoot!, the series mainly follows Toshihiko, who is just beginning to play soccer at his high school so he can turn this into a career – and end up playing with his soccer idol. Soon, this dream starts to turn into a reality when his team gets so good, they travel to a championship.
This is another example of where the story looks so basic on the surface, but I promise you, this story actually has a lot of heart and a surprisingly good amount of twists that I was not expecting. Granted, I hadn’t read the manga beforehand, but it had my jaw on the floor a couple of times. This one is a little more heartfelt and meaningful than some of the others, and it's a great show.
Last but not least, we take a look at FUTSAL BOYS – or, otherwise stylized as FUTSOL BOYS!!!!. This anime series, which was also released in 2022, mainly follows Haru Yamato, a young man who aspires to be in the world of futsal after watching star player Tokinari Tennoji. As he starts to explore the world of futsal more and joins a club, he realizes that there is much more to the sport than he ever thought.
For those who don’t know, futsal is basically like football (soccer) but it takes place on a hard court, usually indoors, rather than a grassy field. FUTSAL BOYS is one of the only anime on this list that wasn’t previously based on a manga, but yet it’s still written as if it was one and tells a really compelling story about how you never really know what someone is going through until you get to know them and learn to work with them. Out of this whole list, this one reminds me of a lot of coming of age movies I’ve watched, and for good reason.
With these in mind, you’ll have a packed couple of weeks watching the players work their way around a ball. I’ll gladly return to these and enjoy them bit by bit. Now I need to go out and buy a soccer ball.
Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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