Welcome to my sports manga recommendations.
Sports manga started rising in popularity in the late 90s and has become one of the most beloved genres of manga around.
There is something about sports manga that warms the heart because you see members of a team become such good friends who would literally have your back in-game and outside of game. It is the ultimate show of camaraderie that tests and strengthens the bonds of friendship that will last even after graduation.
Of course, some of the scenes in sports manga are dramatised for entertainment’s sake but the underlying sense of achievement and the devastating blow that comes from a loss are there.
Sports manga is a really good way to have some of those feel-good emotions because the relationships are so pure which will no doubt brighten your day. I personally love sports manga for this friendship focus that gives me such hope for the days to come. It’s really something heartwarming to look at.
So without further ado, allow me to present 5 sport manga recommendations.
This manga is a top contender on this list I admit. This is because it is the manga that pioneered the sports manga fad in the first place.
Coming out in 1990 and running for six years before ending officially in 1996, Slam Dunk is the manga that defined the friendship characteristic that would come to be a staple in any sports manga.
Hanamichi Sakuragi is a gang leader who joins his school’s basketball team cause he fell in love with a girl whose brother is on the school’s basketball team and in order to impress her, he takes up her suggestion on joining the basketball team (ノ_<。)ヾ(´ ▽ ` ). At first, Sakuragi couldn’t really care less about the people on the team cause all he wants is a girlfriend lol but he soon realises that the members of the basketball team really care about him and he starts to open to them and eventually become really good friends with each of the members.
Wanna know where the sports manga fad came from, read Slam Dunk to find out! It has the basic tropes of a typical sports manga since it was literally the first series to give rise to the genre. The protagonist Sakuragi is a pretty well-rounded dude who while is a rough-and-tough kind of dude also has a pretty interesting soft side and would be loyal to those who treat him and his buddies right. At least compared to some of the shounen protagonists associated with sports manga (yes, a lot of sports manga is under the shounen umbrella), Sakuragi is a lot more relatable and I highly suggest you pick up this title to see that.
Hajime no Ippo
This title came out a year earlier than Slam Dunk but it is comparably less popular so it didn’t really pioneer the sports manga fad as Slam Dunk did.
Makunochi Ippo is a shy high school student who was rescued by a professional middleweight boxer after some bullies beat him to pulp one day. Inspired by the boxing gym and arena, Ippo vows to work hard and become a professional boxer and trains day-in, day-out while at the same time slowly comes out of his shell and becomes a more confident person in the process.
This manga, while talking about a serious sport like boxing, focuses more on character development and likes to show each fighter’s past and characteristics even during matches. I guess that’s where the ‘rapid-fire thoughts during high-tense moments’ trope comes from (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch a few episodes of any sports anime and you’ll get it (ᵔ.ᵔ) )
In any case, besides Slam Dunk, Hajime no Ippo is also one of the earliest sports manga to come into the manga scene and while it is not as popular as Slam Dunk, it is worth looking into.
This manga is very well-known and is extremely popular, spawning a 4-season anime adaptation and even some crossover chapters in the manga.
Hinata Shouyou aspires to be a famous volleyball player like his idol “Little Giant” because they both are short in stature but make up for it through their impressive agility. He enrolls in Karasuno High School to follow in his idol’s footsteps to get closer to his dream while making friends and rivals in the process.
The plot is pretty simple but the dynamics of each character and character development are pretty spot on. Like a typical sports manga, there are times of triumph and times of sorrow and the friendship aspects really shine the best during those times. Haikyuu! is on this list mainly because of its massive popularity but the protagonist is something to take note of because he isn’t just a hyperactive dude who wants to be the best volleyball player ever lol. He’s actually a pretty charismatic person albeit retaining the annoying tropes that come with being a shounen protagonist which can make a series all the more enjoyable to look at.
So if you are new to the sports manga genre and want something to start with, I highly suggest you pick up Haikyuu! It can get you to the more obscure series if you start with something more well-known first.
This title is a little special as it is one of the few non-shounen sports manga to hit the shelves. Chihayafuru is a josei manga so expect drama and romance to be involved.
Ayase Chihaya is perfectly content just supporting her sister in her modelling career. One day, she meets Wataya Arata, a talented karuta player who convinces her to find her own dreams and work hard to achieve them just like how Arata is working hard to become Japan’s best karuta player. Chihaya then decides to take up the mantel of becoming Japan’s best karuta player and forms a solid friendship with Arata. As they grow up, Arata and Chihaya separate and it’s only in high school then Chihaya and her childhood friend Mashima Taichi form the Mizusawa Karuta Club. Chihaya vows to become the best karuta player in the world and stand on the same stage as Arata.
If you have no clue what karuta is, you can google it or you can read the manga (Arata kindly explains the rules for both Chihaya and the reader (*^.^*) ). In fact, did you know that karuta tournaments do exist and there are lots of people in Japan that play karuta in a professional capacity and even compete?
This manga is technically for the girls out there who want a little more emotion (non-friendship capacity) in sports manga because friendship gets boring after a while, why can’t sports manga have something a little different?
So if you want something other than the bonds of friendship if your sports manga, give Chihayafuru a shot.
Ever heard of a manga about street racing? Well, strap in because you’re in for a ride (ง ื▿ ื)ว
Fujiwara Takumi is a high school kid who delivers tofu to customers in his father’s Panda 1983 Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT Apex AE86. HIs deliveries train his extraordinary skills in driving and his friends introduce him to Touge Racing. Takumi comes to love the sport and aims to be the number one racer in Gunma (a prefecture in Japan. Kinda like a province or a state).
If you happen to be a fan of street racing or cars in general, then this manga is for you! This title is in my list because it is the first of it’s kind and I want to recommend it to anyone who is interested. This manga is not particularly popular and I myself only got to know it just last year when I was searching for new sports manga to read.
It’s such an interesting take on cars and racing and the manga portrays the excitement behind the wheel and the adrenaline rush that is experienced when the car is moving at high speeds across the track.
If you want something a little unique in the realm of sports manga, pick up Initial D and experience something new.
Sports manga is extremely versatile as there are many sports played all around the world. They mostly have the underlying theme of friendship and perseverance which is really the main selling point of sports manga in general.
There are sports manga aimed at all kinds of audiences. Most sports manga is shounen but there are even shoujo, josei, and seinen sports manga. I have plans to do lists that categorised sports manga in terms of target audience which will be interesting to see since some titles will surprise some of you (and me lol).
As for now though, this list is just a general one; for you to see which sports manga I would generally recommend to anyone who asks, “what sports manga do you recommend?” So I hope you enjoy this list regardless of target audience.
As always, if you have anything to say about the manga I’ve listed here, feel free to comment down below, I’d love to hear it 🙂