Nothing beats the feeling we get from watching a fictional group of lads or ladies taking on the world and overcoming all their hardships to become the best of the…high school sports clubs? Sports Anime is a bit of an odd genre, on the surface, it seems like the type of show that shouldn’t be all that immersive.
But, for some reason, the audience can’t help but feel just as enthralled by the game as the players themselves. Well…most of the time, not every show succeeds at this. When they do, their heavy reliance on tropes helps out quite a bit. But, which ones come up the most often? And, which underused ones would do certain shows a whole lot of good?
10. Never See: A Male Manager Or A Female One That Contributes
Anime’s slowly becoming pretty mainstream, so much so that even the big-name sites are ranking their favorites. A trend that’s rampant in all anime is the fact that they are almost always required to take place in a high school. In any case, it’s common for clubs/teams in Japan to require a student manager for their team, and this somehow always ends up being a girl.
Other than the fact that this pushes the idea that women are only useful as cheerleaders or in a non-athletic role, it also doesn’t help that 90% of the time, these “managers” don’t do anything manager-like. Well, other than cooking or cleaning, which just add more sexist cinders to the flames. That’s not to say there aren’t great female characters, just that we’re sick of seeing the bad ones.
9. Too Often: High Schoolers That Look Like Jojo Characters
So we started on a bit of a negative foot, focusing on a trope seen too often rather than what it could be instead. But, this next one we see even more of.
Most people attend high school between the ages of 14 to 18, a period of time when kids are going through puberty, bad choices, and raging hormones. However, sports anime characters tend to look like superhuman adults. Asahi from Haikyuu looks like a middle-aged man, half the characters in Kuroko No Basket are 7 ft tall, and the entire cast of All-Out are built like Warhammer 40k Soldiers, with baby boy heads on top of JoJo character-esque bodies.
8. Never See: A Main Character Who Plays The Sport When They Can
We get it, if an anime is about basketball, the audience wants to see them play basketball. So, why even show the kids in class or hanging out after school? But, we can’t remember the last time a show had a protagonist that dedicated themselves to the sport as much as any normal person would.
Most, if not all of these main characters tend to dedicate every second of their time, body, and brainpower to the sport, and it becomes their entire identity. There is a real trend of characters showing expressions of true insanity when it comes to their sport of choice, and that shouldn’t be a good thing. It’s just not realistic! People need social lives, and many athletes know how to juggle both a social and professional life.
7. Too Often: The Power Of Japanese Spirit
This next trope is something that’s rampant in most anime but is particularly frustrating to watch in either sports or shonen shows. It’s the act of a character pushing through an impossible situation because “they want to really bad.”
It can be done well, after all, Gurren Lagaan was built on this concept! When it comes to “Japanese Spirit” in sports shows, it usually feels like an easy out for the writers so they don’t have to solve the fight in an intelligent way. These shows set all the rules and guidelines over multiple seasons and then this “spirit” just pushes right through it, ruining our suspension of disbelief.
6. Never See: A Protag Without A Superhuman Ability/No Talent By Default
Every single sports protag has something “special” about them. Heck, even the main character of Baby Steps is amazing at doing monotonous tasks over and over again. While that’s a lame ability, it sure is great for getting good at a sport quickly.
Where are the characters who truly have no talent? Or, at least, the ones who just have a normal amount of skill that they apply relatively well? It’d be a hard concept to nail, but we’d love to see someone try. Perhaps, some sort of “all-rounder” who helps bring their team together.
5. Too Often: The Taller & Cooler Rival
Since the days of Pokemon Red and Blue, games and animated media have been in love with the “rival” concept. You know, a fellow practitioner of whatever sport/activity the setting is about, that is just better than the protagonist in 9/10 ways? Hajime No Ippo has Miyata, Haikyuu!! has Shiratorizawa or Aoba Johsai, even Yuri on Ice has Yuri and Yurio.
Where are the unique rivals? Ones that are weaker than the main character, but grow faster? Why does every single one have to follow this unspoken rule of being prettier, cooler, and more innately skilled than the character the story follows?
4. Never See: Teams/Rivals Talking Out A Problem Like Normal People, Not Like A Soap Opera
Now, we did start this article off by saying that the over-dramatization of sports anime is one of its best aspects. But, there are plenty of times that this “soap opera-esque” drama hurts a show more than it helps.
The swimming-based show Free is a fantastic example of something that is constantly too-dramatic but manages to do it well. But, we’d love to see just one sports anime where characters don’t scream their inner-most feelings, resort to violence, or spout insults at each other when frustrated or desperate.
3. Too Often: Time Dilation
Narration is necessary a lot of times in films, tutorials are necessary for most video games, and time dilation is almost mandatory for sports anime. What does this mean? Well, the act of time seeming slower during the game so the audience can follow the team’s line of thinking.
Haikyuu!! is the biggest offender for this, as most plays have moments where players think entire monologues while the ball is in the air. We need time for dialog to happen, but in a real match, there just wouldn’t be enough spare moments.
2. Too Often: Must Pass Midterms To Go To Training/Summer Camp
Another tired trope that comes with many single sports anime is the same old “We’re smart/good at this sport, but awful at schoolwork. Oh and look! Midterms!”
Every single time there’s a lull between tournaments or some time between big matches, this entire genre relies on these “Midterms” episodes to fill the time before the next contest. While not all of them are awful, this plot development has been overused. We love Haikyuu!!, and couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming new season, but boy do we hope this trope doesn’t come up again.
1. Never See: Big Time Skips
Time skips are big in anime, it’s what a lot of mangaka resort to when they feel the audience is getting a bit tired of the current pace of progression for their characters. Sorts anime have time skips relatively often, usually, it’s done with a short montage or just skipping forward a few weeks.
But, where are the big ones? Where it skips forward years and we get to see the characters make it as professionals in their fields? Hinomaru Sumo‘s manga is one of the only recent examples that come to mind, and that’s kind of sad.