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The Appeal of Sports Anime

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‘Haikyu!!’, ‘Kuroko No Basuke’, and ‘Free!’ are some of the most popular trending anime right now. What do all these shows have in common? Answer: all of them are sports anime.

Right now, in the animation world, sports anime has become an international phenomenon, attracting fans from all walks of life to this genre. Go to any anime convention and you will probably see a mock volleyball battle in between panels and cosplayers in various types of sports uniform.

The question, though, is why sports anime? Why are so many people interested in watching a show entirely revolved around something as seemingly random as a swim team or volleyball?

In reality, there are several reasons why someone would be attracted to this type of fictional media.

For instance, for team sports oriented anime like ‘Haikyu!!’, many fans are attracted to the large group dynamic, seeing a bunch of very different characters come together to create a cohesive unit.

Like in any other TV show, one’s attention is captured when individuals with different types of personalities and skill sets are thrown into a highly-charged environment, such as an athletic competition, and must figure out how to cooperate in order to survive whatever situation may occur.

Another part of the appeal to sports anime is the concept of found family. Unlike biological bonds, which are pre-determined by genetics and blood, joining a team sport involves a perpetual type of agency. An athlete makes a series of choices, starting from joining a team, to making the active choice to stay on that team and learning how to interact with its members.

Then there’s the vicarious adrenaline rush. Games, fictional or otherwise, capture an audience’s attention with high-stakes risks, an often thrilling binary of victory or defeat.

Watching the focus and determination of the characters in sports anime, as they delve into a heightened psychological state, is an experience that can almost be compared to watching a game in real-life. Watching a team strive toward their goal, even something as simple as one point, leaves a fan on the edge of their seat, waiting for the next move with baited breath.

Additionally, similar reasons to watch sports anime can be linked to watching the Olympics.

First, there can be a sense of international camaraderie fostered in watching these sporting events. For instance, the famous ice-skating anime, Yuri on Ice, focuses on its central character, a talented figure skater named Yuuri Katsuki, training to compete in the Grand Prix Final (a senior level international figure skating competition which exists in real life as well).

In the show, a number of characters participating in the Prix come from different backgrounds, representing various nationalities such as Japanese, Russian, Korean, Kazakh, and more. As seen in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, transcultural relationships are formed, bearing resemblance to real-life friendships such as the one between skaters, such as Japanese representation Yuzuru Hanyu and Spanish representative Javier Fernandez.

The symbolized elements within sports anime, such as friendship and family and charged emotional drama, manifested from watching, are some of the reasons explaining the mass appeal of this captivating Japanese genre.

Sports Anime has introduced new fans to incredible sports they otherwise would not have paid attention to, and it has allowed fans to feel the fictional characters’ enthusiasm and perseverance for themselves.

By: Michele Kirichanskaya

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