I have recently gotten into a new genre of anime, sports. It started with Free!, then I found Chihaya Furu and now I’ve been working my way through Kuroku’s Basketball. All of these are very good and different shows dealing with different sports.

free-iwatobi-swim-club-wallpaper-kyoaniWe’ll start with Free! It’s a really popular show because it features a small team of half naked pretty boys who swim. Let’s be honest here, that’s why I started watching it and that’s why it’s a big hit among the boy loving crowd. But beyond the pretty boys, it’s a solid show about friendship and what it means to be a team. The characters are well developed and fun. My personal favorite is Makoto. He would be the perfect boyfriend/husband and it’s a good thing for my marriage he’s not a real person. πŸ˜‰

I recently re-watched the show after I saw Crunchyroll had the first season dubbed. The dubbing is very good, with some of my favorite male voice actors like J Michael Tatum, Vic Mignogna, and Todd Haberkorn. So if you like swimming, pretty boys, beautiful animation and good story telling, I highly recommend Free!

imageNext up is Chihaya Furu. This is a very different sort of sports anime. It’s a love story wrapped around an ancient Japanese card game (no, not like Yu Gi Oh). It’s a real game that people really play in Japan called kurata. In simplest terms it’s basically a memory/concentration type game based on a set of 100 classic Japanese poems.

Since kurata is kind of a niche thing, even in Japan, the show spends some time explaining how the game works and I found that really interesting. It’s a very mental and strategic game that can be played individually or as a team.

The central conflict in the show, besides winning, is a love triangle between the main female character and two boys. I normally find love triangles annoying, but this was done rather well. It’s important to the story but it doesn’t overwhelm everything. Partly because the female character has no idea she’s in this triangle, she’s too focused on the game to see these boys quietly pinning for her.

Anyway, Chihaya Furu is cute, beautiful and interesting. I actually learned something by watching it.

kuroko-no-basuke-full-1299702Finally is Kuroko’s Basketball. One of several basketball anime. I got into it because I saw people making a lot of parallels between this and Free. I haven’t finished all three seasons yet, but I did look ahead to see how it ends.

Which brings me to something I’ve noticed in Japanese sports shows that differ a bit from how we tell sports stories here in the USA. From the movies I remember growing up with, it’s always an underdog story but the team always goes on to win the big championship game. On the flip side, Japanese stories don’t seem to be as interested in winning all the time. The team might not make it into the final round of the tournament or if they do, it’s not a given that they’ll win.

This might not be the case all across the board, but it seems that way in these three anime. My assessment might be wrong here in general because sports aren’t my forte. But I did really enjoy these three shows. It was fun to watch something different that wasn’t magical or had a lot of romance.

Question time! Have you seen any of these anime? Which one is your favorite? What do you think I should watch next?

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