5 Anime That Helped Popularize Sports in Japan

Some sports considered quite traditional in the West, such as football/soccer, basketball, and volleyball, weren't as popular in Japan until the mid-90s and 2000s, before anime like Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa, Kuroko no Basket, and Haikyuu became popular. fever among children and young people.

With the popularization of these anime 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 influence 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 (also author of the manga "Vagabond"), tells the story of Sakuragi, a tall red-haired student, awkward with women and who enters the varsity basketball team with the goal of winning over 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 his manga published for the first time by Conrad in mid-2005. Recently, Panini has released a new physical version of the manga, in better quality. The anime, on the other hand, was not dubbed into Brazilian Portuguese and was 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 young people became interested in basketball, a fact that even earned praise and awards from the Japanese 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 is known). Tsubasa's manga was first published in 1981, a time when Japanese football/soccer was still extremely amateurish. Over the years and publications, the series was adapted into 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 the extinct Rede Manchete (90s), and in the period when he appeared on Cartoon Network and, later, on Rede TV.

Super Champions tells the story of boy Oliver Tsubasa and his rise in football/soccer. 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, to a certain extent, way, mature for a young audience, considering that, unlike Super Eleven, Oliver Tsubasa's anime doesn't 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 name, in Japanese, is テニスの王子様 (Tenisu no Oujisama), which means "The prince of tennis".

- anime 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.

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

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 mostly played by the elderly or a restricted group of individuals, providing young people an opportunity to start getting interested in gambling.

Many professionals from Nippon Kiin (name of the Japanese Go Association) started playing Go precisely because they watched the anime or saw 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 not least, 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 Haikyuu's overwhelming success, this could finally 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.

- anime that helped popularize sports in japan
5 anime that helped popularize sports in Japan

All the success achieved, especially among young people, may have been influenced by the plot of the series, since the protagonist of the manga, a high school student named Shōyō Hinata, does not have a tall stature, which must have generated identification on the part of the students. real-life Japanese towards the character, as they are generally not high compared to Westerners.

- anime that helped popularize sports in japan

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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