12 Days of Anime – #11 Fantastic Additions to the Sports Genre

It’s Christmas Eve!!! One more day!!!!!

2016 has truly been a fantastic year for fans of sports anime, as we’ve been gifted several unique additions to the genre, as well as quite a few sequels and staples. The shows discussed here today are the ones that stood out the most to me, and oddly enough all aired this past fall. I also think they would make the perfect recommendations for people who usually avoid sports anime. These anime dodge one of the most undesired aspects of the genre: overly drawn out matches. Opting for performances either given in real time or in snapshots, they move at a much quicker pace without sacrificing attention to the details that matter most to each of them. For those of you wondering, I did try to avoid naming immediate sequels or already decently represented sports (Haikyuu!!, DAYS, Battery, etc.).

Yuri!! on Ice is without a doubt my sports anime of the year. It packages so many things that I love with childhood memories of my own ice skating experience. Katsuki Yuri is a 23-year-old figure skater who at the beginning of the anime struggles with performance anxiety and returns home to Japan after having failed at his first attempt at the Grand Prix Final. His dream of skating with idol Victor Nikiforov as an equal seems further than ever. But thanks to his penchant for imitating Victor’s routines and a viral YouTube video, his role model shows up with plans to coach Yuri into success.

This show includes an ample amount of comedy, drama, and…romance?…for the viewer’s constant enjoyment and attention. There honestly hasn’t been a weak episode in the season so far. Essentially every scene contributes to the story and character development, and we see this reflected beautifully in each of Yuri’s performances on the ice. Do yourself a favor and give this anime a try if you haven’t already! And if you live record your reaction, you’ll be right on trend with the rest of the online community 😉

I came precariously close to skipping Keijo!!!!!!!! because of its premise and promotional artwork. Boobs and butts take center stage quite literally as the only permissible weapons in the professional sport of keijo. Young women use their assets to knock opponents off floating structures called “land” into the surrounding water. It looks just as ridiculous as it sounds, but is entertaining in the best ways possible.

While I had the first episode on my list to try, I didn’t get around to actually watching it until Crisu taunted me by saying, “Try 60 seconds and let me know what you think.” He was right. It takes a mere minute to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy this show, since the anime opens straight into a keijo match where swimsuit-clad girls bump bums and tits. What sets this show above is its very serious treatment of the subject matter. I’m not saying that there’s no comedy, because there’s ton of it. Keijo simply addresses the sport as legitimate and respected. Media looking to catch on to the next hot thing appropriately follows would-be professional athletes. Games are televised, and there are entire schools dedicated to training keijo skills. The various women’s strengths are displayed fairly realistically at the start, but eventually start to turn into almost legendary magic–one girl’s boob swaying hypnotizes her opponents straight into the water, while another girl’s butt rushes on its prey like a hunting dog, defying all physics. If titty hypnosis and Cerberus buttocks interest you, watch Keijo!!!!!!!! and thank me later.

ViVid Strike! almost completely missed my radar since it can only be found on Amazon Prime UK. The show is also the most recent addition to the Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha franchise, but, like its immediate prequel, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid veers far from the style and setting of the main series. The ViVid and ViVid Strike events take place in a now peaceful world where magic and battle arts are used for recreation and not war.

This particular season introduces two new leads, Fuuka Reventon and Rinne Berlinetta. Both girls are orphans with exceptional fighting talent who were childhood friends but grew up separately under very different circumstances. Fuuka is our protagonist, and we follow her as she encounters the Nakajima Gym girls we met in ViVid. She joins their group and hones her abilities, all with the aim of eventually confronting her estranged friend. Rinne’s life since adoption was originally everything she could ever dream of and more, but a traumatic experience changed her outlook on life forever. Like Fuuka, she is part of a gym with its own vision and style. Rinne becomes our antagonist as we fight alongside Fuuka in her attempt to understand and reconcile with her.

If you’re new to this franchise, then I suggest you back up and watch ViVid first. The prequel isn’t essential to understand ViVid Strike, but it does help in better understanding the world where these tournaments take place, such as the restrictions imposed on fighters and their use of intelligence devices. You might be a bit shocked, however, at the level of violence and injury displayed. Part of that has to do with Rinne’s development as a character, while another part is easily dealt with by the advanced medical treatment of this world. If you do watch ViVid Strike, let me know what you think of it!

The final entry on my list of notable 2016 sports anime is Shakunetsu no Takkyu Musume, which circles on junior high table tennis. If you’ve seen Saki, an anime about girls playing mahjong, then you’ll have an idea of the style of this show. Our entirely female cast (what happened to boys playing table tennis???) attends school and forms friendships bordering on girls’ love–a few of the relationships are transparent about their romantic intentions. The very first episode hits you over the head with gigantic bouncing boobs, sheets of sweat pouring off the players, and faces heated with excitement. If this sounds far too sexualized for you, either due to general content, or the characters’ ages, then your judgement is probably correct for your tastes and you should avoid this anime. But if you view and enjoy the characters’ passions for the sport and each other, then you may want to continue with Shakunetsu no Takkyu Musume

One of my favorite parts about the show is that much like Saki and Keijo!!!!!!!! our players start showing off some extraordinary skills that no real ping pong player would ever have. The first seemingly impossible rival is a girl with such an insane curve that she can immediately turn her back and know that the opponent won’t be able to hit the ball back to the table. She’s depicted like a tornado that you’ll never touch or make eye contact with. Since I’m only partway through this series and need to catch up, I’m excited to see what other “powers” we’ll come across.

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6 thoughts on “12 Days of Anime – #11 Fantastic Additions to the Sports Genre

  1. Scorching Ping Pong Girls for me was one of the more enjoyable series of the season, but Shakespeare it ain’t. However, as a (perhaps too intense) fan of the Saki franchise it should be no surprise that I enjoyed this one, because, as you rightly pointed out, they are cut from the same cloth.

    I had tried some of the Keijo manga before the adaptation came out, and while I admit that the adaptation was pretty good (at least based on the first ep) it did not hold my interest either.

    Yuri on Ice is a curious one for me. I tried the first episode and some of the second before I stopped. What turned me off was the style or manner of presenting the story. For whatever reason it grated against me, especially what I felt to be a whiplash’ish manner of trying to be funny and not clicking so. But in this regard I seem to be in the minority. Ah well. Some things work and some don’t.

    Vivid Strike is a different cup of tea, and one that is completely a personal thing. For me the Nanoha franchise begins, continues and ends with Nanoha. Stories branching off of it without her presence just do not work for me. Heck, the previous Vivid season lost my interest as well. No “defense” can really be made in this regard other than a great, great live for Nanoha’s character and a certain close minded wearing of blinders in conjunction with the series. XD To come back to the first paragraph, though, this pattern is not always the case for me. There are quite a few spinoffs I enjoy of the Saki franchise without Saki present (the recent Shinohaya and the Toki spinoffs being examples).

    Finally though, I find that for me the sports anime is a hard sell unless they are about “non Western sports/activities”. Most of the series I enjoy are focused on these: Saki, Chihayafuru, Yawara, Shion no Ou, the currently airing Sangatsu no Lion (though the manga is mountains better), Hikaru no Go and others. Would non competition based Yosakoi count? If so add Hanayamata, and I am curious about the upcoming series focusing on Kabuki in Spring 2017….

    Interestingly Ping Pong seems to be an exception, though I am not sure why. I enjoyed Scorching Ping Pong Girls, yes, but also thought the series Ping Pong (there is your boys playing the game series) from a few years back to be brilliant.

    Stories about soccer, basketball, cycling, rugby, swimming, etc. don’t seem to do it for me interms of holding my attention. I will make an exception for Haikyu, but to be fair I only finished the first season and it was only “okay” for me even though it was obviously exceedingly well done. Will keep trying to give sports series a chance though (like I do mecha series). Perhaps I may come across an unexpected gem that will click with me one day.

    Anyhow, good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a pretty accurate observation of yours to realize that you tend to only be interested in sports/game anime that focus on non-Western activities, with ping pong as the exception. I think I was that way for quite a while, as well, though I can’t remember which sports anime finally broke me out of that mold. It might have been one of the baseball classics, like Cross Game, or a soccer show since I myself played soccer growing up and that was an easier route for me to appreciate in anime. Kudos to you for still trying!
      ViVid is interesting because I completely understand your sentiments. I love the original franchise and it does feel odd to be without Nanoha and Fate for the most part in these spin-offs. But I see them as different entities and merely nod and appreciate the occasional references to the past. I might not be able to do this with another series for which I’m passionate. Maybe if a spin-off occurred with ARIA using the same world but totally different characters, I’d go completely blank and refuse to give such a creation a chance. It hasn’t happened just yet, though I admit I did get really annoyed with the Achiga events in Saki.

      Liked by 1 person

      • By the by … I did like Cross Game quite a bit, but almost solely for the characters. Baseball is a snoozer sport for me and pretty much always was. I also liked the Taisho Baseball Girls series, though … although that was part characters and part insight and depiction of the era.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hah, I can relate! I actually really dislike watching real baseball–one, because I find it so boring, and two, because I have a bit of resentment in not being allowed by my parents to play the popular sport when I was a child. Any show I’ve completed with baseball as the sport has strong character interactions. Watching them has just re-instilled the need for me to not judge by the cover since I might miss out on some truly outstanding character drama.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I was truly surprised and amazed that Keijo!!!!!!!! was such a great show. And you’re exactly right: It treated it seriously, and that let the viewer watch it without embarrassment. And even with the subject of the show, and even with them ripping parts of swimsuits, it never felt like they were doing anything inappropriate. They were all doing something they loved to do, they were competing, and everyone else treated it the same way. And like you say, it didn’t get too much into the “sports anime” feeling, where things drag out, and there’s too much time spent in the heads of the characters. Just a lot of fun.

    Burning Ping Pong girls was the other one I was watching, and I enjoyed that as well. Akari was a little grating, but overall I really liked the way they showed the matches, and the way they didn’t make the whole show all tournaments (this is the main thing that I dislike about sports anime, and the reason that I didn’t even bother with ViVid Strike). It also wasn’t totally ridiculous with the abilities, just kinda sorta ridiculous.

    I might give more of Yuri on Ice a chance, but I’m really not sure about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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