15 best sports and fitness anime of all time 

From underdogs to heroes, these captivating anime series embody discipline, hard work, and perseverance

Fitness and sports anime
Our pick of the 15 best sports and fitness anime of all time

Anime has always been known for its ability to transport viewers to imaginative and often fantastical worlds. But did you know that there are quality anime series dedicated to the world of fitness?

Fitness anime combines the thrilling storytelling of traditional anime with the motivation and determination found in fitness culture. These shows follow characters who strive to become stronger, faster, and healthier, providing viewers with a unique blend of entertainment and inspiration.

Whether it’s following a group of athletes as they train for a prestigious competition or witnessing a character’s journey as they transform their body and mindset, fitness anime offers a diverse range of narratives and themes.

From intense workout routines to incredible displays of physical prowess, these shows promote the importance of fitness and encourage viewers to pursue their health goals. So grab your workout gear and get ready to be inspired as we delve into the world of fitness anime.

Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit) 2000 – 2014

Hajime no Ippo
Ippo Makunouchi in a still from Hajime no Ippo

Hajime no Ippo is an adaptation of a Japanese manga of the same name. The intense Madhouse Animation Studio boxing series is often hailed as one of the best sports anime out there.

The action-comedy anime follows the story of Ippo Makunouchi, a reticent high school student who discovers his passion for boxing after a chance encounter with renowned boxer Mamoru Takamura.

As Ippo joins the Kamogawa Gym to pursue his newfound aspiration, viewers witness his transformation from a reserved young boy to a formidable athlete. The anime’s storytelling is comparable to franchises like Rocky and Creed, serving as a testament to its quality.

This classic has multiple seasons delving deeper into character development and storyline intricacies while showcasing a realistic portrayal of dedication in the sport of boxing—earning it an ardent following and making it a recommended watch for all lovers of sports anime.

Eyeshield 21 (2005 – 2008)

Eyeshield 21 Kobayakawa
Kobayakawa in a still from Eyeshield 21

Eyeshield 21 takes the sports anime genre and gives it a unique twist, focusing on American football, which is popular in Japan. The comedy-drama anime is an adaptation of a manga series that goes by the same name.

Sena Kobayakawa isn’t your typical hero – he starts out as a run-of-the-mill high schooler until his hidden talent and passion for running leads him to join Deimon High School’s American football team.

Sena steps onto the field using the alias “Eyeshield 21.” To conceal his identity, he wears a helmet equipped with an eyeshield, ensuring his features remain hidden. The anime diverges from traditional sports narratives often seen in Japanese media to provide thrilling storytelling and complex characters for viewers to enjoy.

Danberu Nan-Kiro Moteru? (How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?) – 2019

How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift
Hibiki Sakura and Akemi Himuro in a still from How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift?

Based on a manga series of the same name, Danberu Nan-Kiro Moteru? is an over-the-top comedy anime series that aired from July 3 to September 18, 2019.

The anime’s engaging narrative follows gluttonous high schooler Hibiki Sakura on her fitness journey. After growing conscious of her expanding waistline, Hibiki joins the newly opened Silverman gym with schoolmate Akemi Soryuin and meets eccentric trainer Naruzo Machio, renowned for his impressive strength.

The series helps fans learn about the benefits of weightlifting and how to get in shape. What sets this show apart is its blend of comedy, edutainment, and motivational sports themes, which keeps viewers engaged throughout.

Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko’s Basketball) 2012 – 2015

Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko's Basketball)
A still from Kuroko no Basket

Kuroko no Basket or Kuroko no Basuke (Kuroko’s Basketball) is a highly acclaimed sports anime story that revolves around the Seirin High School’s basketball team and its pursuit of the national championship.

Tetsuya Kuroko is an elusive player with exceptional passing skills, and Taiga Kagami is a basketball prodigy with a fiery spirit. Together, they form an unstoppable duo, aiming to surpass the renowned Generation of Miracles.

Kuroko no Basket, Known as the “Dragon Ball of Sports Anime,” offers a unique storyline and visually stunning graphics that have captivated fans worldwide.

Haikyuu!! (Volleyball!) 2014 – 2020

Shoyo Hinata in a still from Haikyuu!

Haikyuu!! or Haikyū!! is often considered the best sports anime of all time, captivating viewers with its engaging characters and plot. The anime centers around short-statured junior high student Shoyo Hinata, who loves volleyball and decides to join his school’s club, only to discover that he is the sole player.

When Shoyo eventually gathers a team to support him, he crosses paths with Tobio Kageyama. A brief rivalry ignites between Hinata and Kageyama. They go on to become a powerful duo, working hard to become top volleyball players and striving to restore their school’s reputation and make it to the Nationals.

With its intense action and global fanbase, Haikyuu!! has become a favorite among sports anime fans and is a gateway for newcomers to the genre.

Yuri!!! on Ice (2016)

Yuri!!! on Ice
Katsuki Yuri in a still from Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri!!! On Ice is an acclaimed anime TV series that centers around figure skating. It has gained popularity both in Japan and internationally. The series follows Yuri Katsuki, a skater struggling with anxiety and self-confidence. Through his journey, viewers witness the competitive world of figure skating and the importance of healthy sportsmanship and relationships.

After being thoroughly defeated at the Grand Prix Final, Yuri Katsuki, once Japan’s most promising skater, faces uncertainty about his future in the sport. Everything changes when a video of Yuri performing a routine goes viral, catching the attention of five-time world champion Victor Nikiforov, who offers to mentor him.

As Yuri aims to return to the world stage, he faces fierce competition from the determined Russian skater, Yuri Plisetsky, who also seeks Victor’s guidance.

Slam Dunk (1993 – 1996)

Slam Dunk
Hanamichi Sakuragi in a still from Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk is a renowned sports manga by Takehiko Inoue, which later got made into an anime series. Highly recommended for sports and fitness-themed anime enthusiasts, Slam Dunk introduces rebellious otaku Hanamichi Sakuragi, infamous for his temper and towering height.

As he enters Shohoku High, he aims to find a girlfriend and break his streak of rejections. However, a chance encounter with Haruko Akagi changes everything when Haruko discovers Hanamichi’s hidden talent for basketball.

Watch as Hanamichi overcomes his initial disdain for the sport and dives into the thrilling world of teamwork and competition on the basketball court. With relatable characters and engaging storytelling, Slam Dunk has captured the hearts of fans, particularly in Japan. Even 25 years after its conclusion, the series maintains a lasting cultural impact in sports anime.

The Prince of Tennis (2001 – 2005)

Prince of Tennis
Ryoma Echizen in a still from The Prince of Tennis

The Prince of Tennis first premiered in the mid-2000s; it quickly gained a large following and has since become a popular franchise with multiple manga adaptations, TV series, films, OVAs, and even a live-action movie.

Based on a manga series of the same name, the story follows Ryoma Echizen, a tennis prodigy, as he joins the Seishun Academy’s tennis team. Ryoma’s determination to surpass his father, a renowned tennis player, drives him to excel on the court.

Yowamushi Pedal (2013 – present)

Yowamushi Pedal
Sakamichi Onoda in a still from Yowamushi Pedal

Yowamushi Pedal is a popular Japanese manga and anime series that centers around the Sohoku High Bicycle Club as they strive to compete in the Inter-High, an annual cycling event that brings together the finest high school cycling clubs from Japan to compete against each other.

The protagonist, Sakamichi Onoda, is an otaku who joins the club and embarks on a journey filled with challenges, personal growth, and intense bike races. Yowamushi Pedal stands out for its detailed depiction of matches and its focus on character development, making it an enjoyable and light-hearted series for casual viewers and avid sports anime fans alike.

Farewell, My Dear Cramer (Sayonara Watashi no Kuramā) 2021 – present

Farewell, My Dear Cramer: Fitness anime
A still from Farewell, My Dear Cramer

Farewell, My Dear Cramer is a Japanese sports anime series about women’s association football. The story follows Nozomi Onda, a talented player who joins the Warabi Seinan High School’s girls’ soccer team after playing for the boys’ team in middle school.

Unlike many other sports anime, Farewell, My Dear Cramer focuses on portraying the sport itself without relying on fanservice. As women’s soccer’s reputation in Japan wanes, Nozomi and her teammate, Sumire Suō, showcase their exceptional skills and determination to revitalize the sport. With their teammates’ support, Nozomi and Sumire aim for victory, hoping to bring women’s soccer back into the spotlight.

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club (2013)

Free - Iwatobi Swim Club
A still from Free – Iwatobi Swim Club

Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club follows the story of Haruka Nanase, a passionate swimmer who forms a close bond with Rin Matsuoka, Nagisa Hazuki, and Makoto Tachibana during an elementary school relay race. After winning the tournament, they part ways.

They reunite in high school, but Rin devotes his focus to proving that he’s a better swimmer than Haruka. Undeterred, Haruka, Nagisa, and Makoto established the Iwatobi High School Swim Club but needed a fourth member to compete.

They recruit Rei Ryugazaki, a former track team member. As the competition approaches, the four train intensely, strengthening their friendship and resolving the rivalry between Haruka and Rin.

Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru) 2018 – 2019

Run The Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)
Kakeru Kurahara in a still from Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)

Unlike most animes that are adaptations of mangas, Run with the Wind is an underappreciated sports anime that is based on a novel. Centered around competitive running and the journey of its protagonist, Kakeru Kurahara, Run with the Wind brings the intensity and drama of high-stakes gameplay to life.

Despite leading a team of novice high school runners, Kakeru Kurahara aims to conquer Japan’s challenging university relay marathon races. Along the way, the characters face hurdles and personal growth as they strive to achieve their dreams.

Chihayafuru (2011 – 2012)

A still from Chihayafuru

Chihayafuru is an anime series that revolves around the competitive world of Karuta, a traditional Japanese card game. Adapted from the eponymous manga, Chihayafuru follows the story of Chihaya Ayase, a girl whose sole focus was supporting her sister’s modeling career.

Everything changes when she meets Arata Wataya, a talented Karuta player, and a deep friendship blooms. Recognizing her potential, Arata encourages Chihaya to pursue her dream of becoming the best Karuta player in Japan.

Ace of Diamond (Daiya no Ēsu) 2013 – 2015

Ace of Diamond
A still from Ace of Diamond

Ace of Diamond, also known as Daiya no Ēsu, is a popular sports anime and manga series written and illustrated by Yuji Terajima. The story revolves around the protagonist, Eijun Sawamura, a talented and passionate left-handed pitcher who dreams of joining the prestigious Seidou High School baseball team and leading them to victory.

The series takes us on an exhilarating journey as Eijun faces various challenges and obstacles, both on and off the field, and strives to improve his skills and prove his worth.

The intense and fast-paced matches, combined with the compelling character development, make Ace of Diamond a gripping and entertaining series for fans of sports and anime. Whether you are a baseball enthusiast or enjoy a good underdog story, this anime will keep you hooked from start to finish.

Baki the Grappler (2001)

Baki the Grappler
A still from Baki the Grappler

Baki the Grappler is widely recognized as one of the best sports and fitness anime series. It follows the journey of Baki Hanma, a young man determined to become a formidable fighter like his father.

Raised by his wealthy mother with this goal in mind, Baki undergoes intense martial arts training to become a prizefighter. The anime showcases the underground world of fighters from various battle sports, including boxing, Muay Thai, and street fighting.

Sources: ScreenRant, CBR

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