As of December 2022, soccer has been engulfing Japan in fervour. Most recently, Japan won over the powerhouse Spain, advancing to the tournament finals.
With the growing popularity, there has been an increase in manga and anime that depict soccer. As a result, many works have emerged, each with originality and unique elements.
Here are seven recommended anime selections from these works that convey the allure of soccer. You can enjoy the growth of various age groups, from elementary school teams to professional teams.
1. Blue Lock
If asked about the hottest soccer manga right now, Blue Lock is the first to come to mind.
This series tells the story of 300 high school forward players gathered to lead Japan to World Cup victory. They compete against each other in a facility called “Blue Lock” to become the ultimate striker, with only one player remaining.
With all members being forwards and strong egotistical characters, each with their distinct personality, you’re bound to find a favourite character among them.
At first, the suspenseful development of members being kicked out one after another keeps you on the edge of your seat. However, with such a talented group, this anime makes you believe that winning the World Cup is not just a dream.
Aoashi is a soccer anime that aired for two cours starting in April 2022, with the stage set in a youth team.
The protagonist, Ashito Aoi, is the ace striker of a specific weak team. However, he becomes captivated by the coach of the Tokyo City Esperion FC, a J-League youth team, and strives to become a professional player.
While Blue Lock and Inazuma Eleven captivate with the intensity of their characters and flashy tactics, the charm of Aoashi lies in its “grittiness.” The dynamics of human relationships and the harshness of reality are depicted realistically, making it a recommended choice for those who prefer human drama over flashy performances and for soccer enthusiasts who appreciate a more grounded approach.
The manga DAYS by Tsuyoshi Yasuda was adapted into an anime in 2016. In a setting where many stories revolve around characters starting soccer from a young age and aiming for nationals or turning pro, the protagonist of this series, Tsukushi Tsukamoto, is a beginner in soccer.
Tsukushi, a victim of bullying in middle school, is invited to play futsal by a boy named Jin Kazama, who will attend the same high school as her. This becomes her introduction to soccer. The two of them enroll in Seiseki High School, considered one of the prestigious soccer schools. Despite being a beginner, Tsukushi is determined to join the team and grows alongside her teammates, creating chemistry among them.
Tsukushi, who gains respect from others through her attitude and dedication rather than her skills, and Jin, who is hailed as a genius, form the central duo of the story. Numerous charismatic teammates appear alongside them, and their youthful journey is depicted with vibrant energy.
4. The Knight in the Area
The Knight in the Area is a manga written by Hiroaki Igano and illustrated by Kaya Tsukiyama. It was adapted into an anime in 2012, consisting of 37 episodes. The main character of the series is Kakeru Aizawa, the younger brother of Kyousuke Aizawa, a player who was expected to carry the Japanese soccer scene. However, at the story’s beginning, Kakeru is not a player but a manager of the soccer club.
However, with the help of the heroine, Nana Mishima, and events such as his brother’s death, the protagonist makes a comeback as a player. Upon entering high school, he actively participates in the soccer club and portrays his growth as a forward and eventually an ace striker, carrying his brother’s aspirations. The story follows the classic setup of a protagonist evolving into an ace player.
Another highlight of the series is that the heroine is also a female soccer player with considerable skill to the extent of being selected for the Japanese national team. The depiction of women’s soccer is worth paying attention to.
5. Inazuma Eleven
Inazuma Eleven is a media franchise developed by Level-5, originally based on a game. The anime adaptation aired from 2008 to 2011, starting with the first series, Inazuma Eleven, followed by Inazuma Eleven GO, which depicts events ten years later, airing from 2011 to 2014. It has become a popular series.
The story revolves around Mamoru Endou, the captain and goalkeeper of the struggling Raimon Middle School soccer club. When the legendary player, Shuuya Gouenji, transfers to the school, the story unfolds to rebuild the soccer club and compete in the national tournament.
The highlight of the series is the concept of “super-dimensional soccer.” It allows you to enjoy various techniques that would be impossible in authentic soccer. As the story progresses, it introduces science-fiction elements, with the adversaries becoming aliens.
Nevertheless, characters like Mamoru’s unwavering enthusiasm and positive attitude make it an uplifting and heartfelt series. Moreover, it consistently conveys their pure love for the sport of soccer.
6. Giant Killing
Giant Killing is a manga series written by Tsujitomo. As the title suggests, it revolves around the underdog soccer team ETU (East Tokyo United) as they challenge and aim to achieve victory against stronger teams. The anime adaptation aired in 2010.
The unique aspect of this series is that the protagonist is not a player but the coach, Takeshi Tatsumi. He was once a star player in Japan and had success as a coach overseas. Tatsumi takes on the role of the coach for ETU, his former club that has now become a weak team. The story follows his efforts to rebuild the team through strategic planning and effective player development, portrayed briskly and engagingly.
While the original manga is known for its meticulous attention to detail, the anime adaptation also focuses on realistic depictions. For example, the formations and movements of players during matches are portrayed in a way that makes viewers feel like they are watching authentic soccer. This attention to authenticity creates an enjoyable viewing experience for soccer fans.
7. Victory Kickoff!!
Victory Kickoff!! It is an anime adaptation based on the novel by Yuto Kawabata, which aired from 2012 to 2013. The story revolves around a children’s soccer team. The protagonist, Sho Ota, was a team member that disbanded. So he embarks on a journey to rebuild the team.
So, the main character is not exceptionally skilled but loves soccer. As if drawn by his enthusiasm, other members join the team, including a soccer-playing girl, a trio of talented siblings, and a girl who joins in losing weight.
The anime portrays the growth of the elementary school team as they enjoy playing soccer while developing both as players and individuals. Although not flashy, it is a well-crafted work that shows how sports can be enjoyed regardless of gender or experience.
The enjoyment of soccer can also be experienced through anime
We introduced seven recommended soccer anime titles. Each work has its unique setting and goals, but all of them capture the excitement of sports and the essence of youth, making you want to delve deeper into soccer.
Whether you’re an experienced player or someone looking to rediscover the joy of soccer, these anime series can serve as a catalyst. If you’re curious about the excitement of soccer, I recommend giving these anime a watch.