5 Animes That Helped Popularize Sports in Japan

Some sports considered traditional in the West, such as football, basketball and volleyball, were not so popular in Japan until the mid-90s and 2000s, before anime like Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa, Kuroko no Basket and Haikyuu became a rage. between children and young people.

With the popularization of these animes and mangas, the most varied modalities gained many fans and, consequently, more athletes for them. It is not known for sure the exact influence of pop culture on the daily life of Japanese people in general, but youth usually read and watch these sports anime/manga quite often.

Not only in Japan, but also in several countries around the world, there is an increase in children's interest in practicing a certain sport because of some anime. I myself started playing basketball during high school because of Slam Dunk, and fighting Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) because of the anime Hajime no Ippo.

In this article, we will see which anime and manga have helped to increase the popularity of some sports in Japan.

Slam Dunk

The first on the list couldn't be another. Slam Dunk was one of the great responsible for popularizing basketball in Japan. The manga, published from 1990 to 1996 by Shonen Jump, written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue (the same author of the manga “Vagabond”), tells the story of Sakuragi, a tall red-haired student, awkward with women, who joins the high school basketball team with the aim of conquer a girl.

The 31-volume manga has extremely well-drawn features, a funny, fun and motivating story, as well as teaching several concepts related to basketball. An animated version was produced by Toei Animation and aired from 1993 to 1996 on TV Asahi. The anime gained a lot of popularity at a time when the characters' red uniforms made a clear reference to the Chicago Bulls Dream Team in the NBA, and which, at the time, was led by world superstar Michael Jordan.

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In Brazil, Slam Dunk had its manga published for the first time by Conrad in mid-2005. More recently, Panini has released a new physical version of the manga, with better quality. On the other hand, the anime was not dubbed into Brazilian Portuguese and was also never broadcast on any Brazilian TV.

In Japan, Slam Dunk was a resounding success, being considered to this day one of the most popular sports manga/anime of all time. Due to the high popularity, many children and young people became interested in basketball, and this even earned praise and awards from the Japan Basketball Association to the creator of the series, Takehiko Inoue.

Below, you can watch the opening of the Slam Dunk anime:

Captain Tsubasa

Another well-known manga both in Brazil and Japan is Captain Tsubasa (or "Super Champions" as the Brazilian version of the anime became known). Tsubasa's manga was first published in 1981, a time when Japanese football was still extremely amateurish. Over the years and publications, the series was adapted for anime and distributed in several countries around the world, including Brazil, where it was a huge success both in the period in which it was shown by Rede Manchete (90s), and during the period when he appeared on Cartoon Network and, later, on RedeTV.

Super Champions tells the story of boy Oliver Tsubasa and his rise in football. In the course of the plot, we follow several games and moves that oscillate between realism and fantasy, a fact that also occurs with the anime Super Eleven (which is predominantly aimed at children), having a reasonably well-constructed plot and, in a way, , mature for a young audience, considering that, unlike Super Eleven, Super Champions does not exaggerate in fantasy and infantilism.

The manga has received several anime adaptations, the first being shown in the 80s (between 1983 and 1986), the second in the 90s (1994-1995), another in the early 2000s (2001-2002) and the last one recently, in 2018/2019.

Below, you can watch the opening of the 2001 version, titled “Captain Tsubasa Road To 2002”:

The Prince Of Tennis

Many of you may know or at least have heard of the famous tennis player Naomi Osaka. The 24-year-old Japanese woman was the first woman in the country to win the Grand Slam, defeating none other than Serena Williams in 2018. To develop an athlete like this, it took motivation, that is, a willingness to practice sport. Exactly for having this profile, Takeshi Konomi's manga/anime also had its share of importance in promoting tennis in Japanese lands and encouraging the practice of the modality.

The Prince of Tennis is better known in Japan as "Tenipuri" (テニプリ), being an abbreviation of the words テニス (Tenisu = Tennis) and プリンス (Purinsu = Prince). The original Japanese name is テニスの王子様 (Tenisu no Oujisama), which means "The Prince of Tennis".

- animes that helped popularize sports in japan

The "tenipuri" manga began to be serialized in 2000, gaining an anime version in 2001. The extraordinary success of the series yielded numerous films, musicals and related themed products, in addition to helping, and a lot, in the popularization of tennis court. in Japan.

In Brazil, the anime is better known than the manga.

Hikaru no Go

Maybe many don't consider “Go” (碁) as a sport, but if even poker or video games are already, then why exclude Go from this hall, right? Considering that it is a sport, Go also had its fame boosted by a manga. To find out what the game of Go is, read our article by clicking here!

As already stated in a previous article, the manga and the animated version of Hikaru no Go (ヒカルの碁) helped to democratize knowledge about a game that, until then, was more played by the elderly or a restricted group of individuals, providing young people an opportunity for them to start taking an interest in gambling.

Many professionals from Nippon Kiin (name of the Japanese Go Association) started playing Go precisely because they had watched the anime or seen something about it in some other series. In other words, the opportunity given to young people to get to know this complex game could probably have been beneficial for an increase in the number of players and supporters.

An interesting curiosity, but no less important, is the fact that Hikaru no Go was designed by Takeshi Obata, the same artist as Death Note.


Due to the short stature of most Japanese and the lack of interest of most young men in the sport, volleyball was never very strong in the land of the rising sun. However, after the overwhelming success of Haikyuu! that could change.

In 2016, the well-known broadcaster NHK showed a documentary with graphics that exemplified how the number of students entering volleyball clubs increased considerably after the publication of the manga. In the graph, it is possible to see that, from 2012 onwards, just after the start date of the serialization of the manga, the curve of students in volleyball clubs rose exponentially.

- animes that helped popularize sports in japan
5 Animes That Helped Popularize Sports in Japan

Such success, especially among young people, may have been influenced by the series' plot, given that the manga's protagonist, high school student Shōyō Hinata, does not have a tall stature, which must have generated a certain identification on the part of of real-life Japanese students with the character, given that they really, in general, are not very tall compared to Westerners.

What's up? Do you know any other sports anime or manga that impacted Japanese culture? Say it in the comments!

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- animes that helped popularize sports in japan

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