A lot of anime have dramatic moments that inspire, but there’s something special about the simple power a sports anime can have. Burdened by the rules of reality, sports anime follow hopeful athletes in their quest to be the best and have succeeded at capturing the hearts of many who need an inspiring win.
The journey for these animated athletes is never easy, with a great deal of sweat and tears shed along the way, but with a never-say-die attitude, they achieve the impossible. These sport anime match-ups may have worried the audience at first, but the main protagonists pulled it together at the last minute to take the lead.
10 Diamond No Ace – Seidou High VS Akikawa Academy
The Seidou High athletes from Diamond No Ace are given their first overwhelming game in the Summer Tournament. They’re up against Akikawa Academy, which takes up a strategy that exhausts the usual pitcher, Furuya, forcing Seidou to give the newbie Eijun a shot.
Eijun rises to the occasion, striking out Akikawa’s batter’s, but his own teammates can’t make it to any bases themselves. The teams are stuck in a tie until Seidou manages to cover all three bases and score with a clean-up, lead by Kawakami, putting them ahead by four points in the final inning.
9 SK8: The Infinity – Langa VS Adam
SK8: The Infinity builds up Adam as the top skater and main antagonist, so of course, this race would be a tough one. The stakes are higher with an even more dangerous course that the hero Langa has trouble with. Even in his laser-focused state, Langa falls and it seems like it’ll be a crushing loss, but his friend Reki pokes out of the crowd with an uplifting reminder on his own skateboard: the word “fun.” At this moment, Langa is reminded of how much he enjoys skating and the pressure fades away. He continues the race, a weight lifted off his chest and winds up winning against the champ.
8 Megalo Box – Gearless Joe VS Shark Samejima
In Megalo Box, boxing athletes wear enhanced prosthetics to pack stronger punches, which is why the audience is shocked when Joe steps into his first professional match with no gear. Ruthless with his punches, Samejima doesn’t hold back and nearly kills Joe with a strike that almost knocks him down for the count.
Although disoriented, Joe manages to dodge Samejima’s strikes and utilize his footwork to land a knockout punch that wins him his first match. It was a close call, but worth the win to put Joe’s name in the spotlight.
7 Initial D – Takumi Fujiwara VS Takeshi Nakazato
In Initial D’s world of street racing, Takumi manages to catch the eyes of the most notorious racers, including Takeshi Nakazato. After some last-minute adjustments to his car, Takeshi maintains a lead against Takumi as his rival Keisuke watches closely from behind.
While Takeshi looks down on Takumi’s decades-old car, Keisuke predicts the underdog’s clutch movements gradually overtaking Takumi. Around the final hairpin corner, Takeshi swiftly drifts around Takumi, not just passing him, but tricking him into spinning out his car, unable to finish the race.
6 Eyeshield 21 – Deimon Devil Bats VS Bando Spiders
The big dream in Eyeshield 21 is the Christmas Bowl football tournament. Before making it, the Devil Bats struggle to defeat the Bando Spiders, a powerhouse team with already famous players. Their ace in the hole was to be a kicker, but the senior’s old teammate Musashi refuses to come back due to family problems.
Bando has the upper hand throughout, even with Deimon using every trick up their sleeves. The game doesn’t change until after Musashi is urged to return to football by his bedridden father and enters the game with a 45-yard field goal. Even with Musashi, the team is still behind until one final play evens the score, followed by a kick that takes the lead at the last second.
5 Kuroko No Basket – Seirin VS Tōō
High school basketball teams in Kuroko No Basket enter the Winter Cup with hopes of complete victory, but Seirin is immediately faced with one of the best, Tōō academy. The rising team has Aomine, one of the nation’s most promising basketball players and a rival to Kuroko.
With every attempt made to take the lead, Tōō pushes Serin down further and the only player who stands a chance against Aomine is Kagami, who struggles, buckling under the pressure. Not giving up hope, the team finds a way, making their first breakthrough in the third quarter and Kagami finally steps up, holding his own against Aomine. With one final push as the final buzzer sounds, Seirin wins the match.
4 Free! – Iwatobi High VS Samezuka Academy
In season 2 of Free!, Iwatobi makes it to regionals and is pitted against Samezuka Academy, where their old friend Rin is the team captain. Haru fails under the pressure of being watched by scouts and loses his individual swim, but even as hopeless as he feels about his future he presses on with the team relays.
Both teams are head-to-head in the relay, finishing with an intense race between Rin and Haru. The athletes are both tenacious in their swim, but at the last millisecond, Haru takes the win.
3 Yuri On Ice! – Barcelona Grand Prix Finale
Going from hopeless to heroic in Yuri On Ice!, Yuri’s final two skates were to be the culmination of all his hard work, but the start was a rocky one. In his short program, Yuri aims for excellence with a planned quadruple flip, which would’ve wowed the judges if it’d been successful. With a less than stellar performance, Yuri ends up in fourth place out of six, his worst standing throughout the series.
On the final day, Yuri shows confidence never seen before and increases the difficulty of his routine on the fly. The intense jumps shock everyone, including Yuri’s own coach, and are enough to not only put him in the lead, but surpass his own coach’s world record. Although Yuri won silver in this competition, it’s still an incredibly emotional comeback.
2 Haikyuu!! – Karasuno VS Inarizaki
In the Spring Tournament of Haikyuu!!, Inarizaki High was the team everyone thought would win and that promise proved a challenge for Karasuno. Inarizaki had a foolproof strategy with frightening talent in every player, which brought Karasuno close to breaking down.
In the first set, Karasuno manages to scrape by, but as the match continues their efforts prove worthless as Inarizaki takes the second, standing as a powerful defensive and offensive team. With everyone in Karasuno overwhelmed by the struggle, Hinata makes two unexpected plays that turn the tide, boost morale, and prove how much he’s grown. After an exhausting rally, Karasuno’s Hinata and Kageyama make one last push to finally win the match.
1 Hajime No Ippo – Ippo VS Hayama
In Hajime No Ippo, Hayama was the famous boxing contender of the Rookie Championship, and his match with Ippo was almost an easy win. Early in the fight, Ippo is knocked down and can’t stand. As the referee counts up to eight, Ippo rises from the floor.
Ippo manages to slip some hits in and gradually push Hayama back. Both players land a critical hit, but still stand. To push the fight back in his favor, Hayama unleashes his most powerful move, but the damage from Ippo’s strike slows his punch, allowing for Ippo to dodge and make another impressive attack. After more blows are exchanged, Ippo makes a powerful uppercut that sends Hayama down for good.
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