Are There Sports Anime With A Female Protagonist?
by Justin Sevakis,
are there any sports manga with a female protaganist? with my introduction to the haikyuu franchise, i found my self empathizing & swept up in a world I never appreciated before - sports manga. This led to some reflection. slam dunk, real, I'll, Prince of Tennis, Hajime no Ippo, Eyeshield 21, Hikaru no Go, Ace of Diamond, Yowamushi Pedal…are there any sports manga with a female protagonist (or) female ensemble cast?
It's true, the world of sports anime does tend to be mostly male-dominated. This is largely because until recently, the subject was mostly treated as a subgenre of the "shounen tournament" stable of manga and anime aimed at boys. Sports series featuring attractive boys making bedroom eyes at each other, obviously with girls in mind, are a relatively new phenomenon. I first remember noticing this in the early 2000s with shows like Dear Boys (AKA Hoop Dreams) and I'll/CKBC. Around the same era, we had Prince of Tennis, which was a fujoshi staple for many years. The intent was to bring female readers into the world of Shonen Jump and other boy-oriented manga magazines, by keeping the stories relatable to boys but simply making them all hot. It worked. Really really well. Of course now we have Free!, Big Windup!, and several you mentioned.
There has never been a true absence of girls' sports anime, however, as one of the most formative anime series ever made was, in fact, a college girls' volleyball series. Attack No. 1 started as a manga series in 1968 and as an anime in 1969, running 104 episodes, and to this day it's remembered in Japan as a classic. I don't think the series has ever been properly subtitled (maybe a fansubber once tackled an episode or two years ago), but it was made into a TV drama in 2005, and that has been fansubbed, if nothing else.
A few years later, legendary director Osamu Dezaki, hot off the success of his boxing anime Ashita no Joe, tackled the high school girls' tennis world in Aim for the Ace! Though it only initially ran 26 episodes, the adaptation of Sumika Yamamoto's super-melodramatic manga was a gigantic hit, and further established Dezaki as one of the top directors in anime. Dezaki later went on to direct Rose of Versailles, Space Adventure Cobra and many others; Aim for the Ace! gets dusted off for a new adaptation every decade or so.
Here is a list of every sports anime series I could find that had a female protagonist. Be aware that not all of them are really meant for girls -- some take a more sexual approach to their characters (especially when wrestling is involved). Also, some of these are quite old, and a handful have never been subtitled.
- Aim for the Ace! (Tennis)
- Air Master (Wrestling)
- Angelic Layer (Toy fighting)
- Attack No. 1 (Volleyball)
- Attack on Tomorrow (Volleyball)
- Attacker You! (Volleyball)
- Ayane's High Kick (Kickboxing)
- Bamboo Blade (Kendo)
- Battle Athletes (general athletics)
- Chihayafuru (...does an ancient Japanese card game count as sports?)
- Fighting Beauty Wulong (Martial arts)
- Ginban Kaleidoscope (Figure skating)
- Kenko Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho (Swimming... naked)
- Metal Fighter Miku (Mecha-enhanced wrestling)
- Moshidora (Boys' baseball, but main char. is the female manager)
- Princess Nine (Baseball)
- Ro-Kyu-Bu! (Basketball)
- Shion no Oh (Shogi)
- Slow Step (Baseball)
- Taishō Baseball Girls.
- Teekyū (Tennis... kinda)
- Wanna Be the Strongest in the World (Pro Wrestling)
- Wanna Bes (Pro Wrestling)
- Yawara! (Judo)
Not on the list is Mitsuru Adachi's famous series Touch which features two protagonists, one is male and into baseball, the other is female and into rhythmic gymnastics. Similarly, Adachi's H2 is about a couple that are both great at baseball, as his most recent series Cross Game. So those could conceivably go either way.
Did I miss any? Perhaps there are a few more debatable cases? Let me know in the forum!
Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.
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