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The List
7 Anime About Women in Sports

by Lynzee Loveridge,

We're approaching the end of Keijo!!!!!!!!, so it seems a perfect time to revisit a classic list about women in sports. Keijo!!!!!!!! has really taken a twist on these classic approaches, and we've also gotten a multitude of other women-only sports shows since then; specifically focusing on ping pong, cycling and motor biking. Perhaps we could see a revival in sports series with female casts soon?

Sports fans got exciting news this weekend with Yen Press picking up competitive biking manga Yowamushi Pedal. Sentai Filmworks also plans to bring the hit volleyball anime Haikyu!! our way. Both these announcements are important, because when it comes to the world of sports anime and manga, there's an unspoken rule that it just doesn't sell in the U.S. Series like Big Windup! died on the shelves. If male-centered sports shows are considered a no-go, female-centered shows' chances are even slimmer. Here's hoping that shows like Free! and Haikyu!! can make way for even more diversity in the North American sports anime market, paving the way for some of these classics to finally show up on our shores. Here are seven examples of seven different anime series focusing on women-led sports (in no particular order).

7. Ginban Kaleidoscope (figure skating) Like the majority of the entries this week, Ginban Kaleidoscope is a "lost" anime that's received no legal release stateside. The story follows aloof figure-skater Tazusa Sakurano, who is far from the media darling. Tazusa has Olympic aspirations though, but that all gets more complicated when, in a pseudo-Freaky Friday moment, she becomes possessed by a dead Canadian boy named Pete Pumps. While most Americans have probably visited an ice rink, and figure-skating isn't unheard of, Japan's love of the sport is on another level. Skaters start young and the pressure for perfection is a common theme, just like other more "traditional" sports stories. Professionals achieve a celebrity status akin to movie stars. Tazusa's struggle to please the media is a result of those expectations.

6. Ace o Nerae! (tennis) With art akin to Dear Brother and Rose of Versailles, Ace o Nerae! (Aim for the Ace!) is a tennis manga by Sumika Yamamoto from the 1970s that was adapted into an anime series by Osamu Dezaki. The classic shojo story follows 15-year-old Hiromi who finds herself enthralled by her senior Reika "Madame Butterfly" Ryūzaki on the tennis court. She decides to dedicate herself to becoming the team's ace under Coach Munakata. The story reinforces a lot of the dangerous work ethic that permeates sports series, like battling through a serious injury or abandoning emotional "dalliances" like romance. Still, the manga is one of the best-seller sin its genre of all time and the anime garnered fan followings from both men and women.

5. Kaleido Star (acrobatics) Junichi Satō's post-Sailor Moon work follows Sora Naegino as she aspires to take her acrobatic gymnastics to the biggest stage she can. The Kaleido Stage is a fantastical circus, but auditions are cut-throat and Sora has more than her own share of bad luck simply making it on time. The series puts a strong emphasis on teamwork and friendship as the protagonist works to better her own abilities and prove her worth to Kaleido Stages' incumbent members.

4. Taishō Baseball Girls. (baseball) This is a defiant little series about two girls, after being told by a baseball player that there's no room for women in the sport, decide to form their own team in 1925. The girls look to defy gender norms in a world where girls couldn't even run track, much less convince their friends' parents to allow their daughters to play a "manly" sport like baseball. The show is organized around its sport, but its target audience is decidedly not baseball fanatics. Taishō Baseball Girls. is a little more concerned with "cute," but it's also an interest (albeit light-hearted) look at the difficulties girls in the past faced when it came to something as simple as wanting to play baseball with their friends.

3. Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (martial arts) Yawara is another anime show pushed as a tie-in to the Olympic Games, this time the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Yawara Inokuma has a natural talent for martial arts, namely judo, but really has no interest in pursuing it. Her grandfather has other ideas and forces her to compete with hopes that she'll make it to the Olympic level. The show's focus on judo held important significance at the time because 1992 marked the first year women could compete in the sport and be awarded a gold medal. Japanese politician Ryoko Tani took home the silver medal that year at the age of 17.

2. Shion no Oh (shogi) Shion no Oh (Shion's King) is equal parts strategy game and murder-mystery. The show's star is middle-schooler and aspiring shogi player who is seeking her parents' murderer. Mute since she witnessed their deaths at the age of five, Shion suspects that her parent's killer plays the game when she found a King piece at the murder scene. The anime is interspersed with Shion working on her shogi skills, which she is quite gifted at, and putting together the pieces of that fateful day from her past. As an aside, the show also spends a decent amount of time criticizing the treatment of female shogi players by their male counterparts and the somewhat convoluted system in place to separate female and male players, and their rankings.

1. Attack No. 1 (volleyball) The shojo sports drama Attack No. 1 was hugely popular when it aired in 1970, with no small credit to the 1964 Japan Olympic games. The series was one of the first anime to target an older female demographic and its legacy was firmly cemented with spinoff manga and a live-action revival in 2005. The story follows Kozue Ayuhara, an aspiring high school athlete with big dreams. However, as the series goes on, Kozue discovers that fame and prestige aren't all its cracked up to be. Her success garners as many enemies as it does admirers. It'll be interesting to see if anime gets its next Attack No. 1 with the upcoming 2020 Olympic games, the first time the country has hosted since 1964.

The new poll: Regardless of your opinion on the winning or losing presidential candidates, which of these characters do you think would be suitable for country's highest office?

The old poll: Last week we asked which anime grandma do you wish you were spending the holidays with?

  1. Sakae Jinnai (Summer Wars)
  2. Pinako Rockbell (Fullmetal Alchemist)
  3. Tsunade (Naruto)
  4. Biscuit Kruger (HUNTER × HUNTER)
  5. Zeniba (Spirited Away)
  6. Genkai (Yū Yū Hakusho)
  7. Otose (Gintama)
  8. Kanta's Grandma (My Neighbor Totoro)
  9. Dora (Castle in the Sky)
  10. Tomi Ichimonji (K-ON!)
  11. Grandma (Aria the Animation)
  12. Reiko Natsume (Natsume Yuujincho)
  13. Tamashiko (RINNE)
  14. Megabaa (Dennou Coil)
  15. Kaede (Inuyasha)
  16. AiRI Masaki (Tenchi Muyo GXP)
  17. Kaoruko Hanasaki (Heart Catch Pretty Cure!)
  18. Dr. Kureha (One Piece)
  19. Tae (DRAMAtical Murder)
  20. Take Hayashi (The Great Passage)
  21. Chi-chi (Dragon Ball)

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as the Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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