Soccer is the most-watched sport across the globe. Sadly, for basketball fans, it has to be soccer. According to the website Sports for Business, soccer is proud of its 3.5 billion fans worldwide.
This sport is also prevalent in Japan, especially since the country actively participates in the FIFA World Cup. In this sporting event, the farthest this East Asian nation has reached was progressing to the round of 16 in 2002, 2010, 2018, and 2022. In 2018, it is interesting to note that Japan became the first-ever Asian nation to beat a side from South America.
So, manga and anime creators in Japan usually take inspiration from soccer. There are several mangas and animes created that have this sport as their overarching theme. Wondering about the best soccer animes and mangas today? Here’s a countdown.
“Whistle!” is originally a manga series written and illustrated by Daisuke Higuchi. Later, it is adapted into an anime broadcast exclusively by Animax in Japan and by Viz Media in North America.
The story of “Whistle!” revolves around a middle school boy named Shō Kazamatsuri who transfers school from Musashinomori School to Sakura Jōsui Junior High School as he hopes to make it to the school’s soccer team. He never got into the soccer team in his former school because of his small stature.
One day, his teacher, Yūko Katori, introduces him as a former star of the famed Musashinomori team. As you follow the manga and anime, you will see Kazamatsuri’s struggles to make it to his school’s soccer team despite his height.
5. ‘Inazuma Eleven’
“Inazuma Eleven” is something that anime fans will be familiar with. In fact, “Inazuma Eleven” is also a franchise comprising manga, TV series, and movies.
Its story revolves around Raimon Jr. High goalkeeper Endou Mamoru, with six other players on his team. However, their team gets threatened by disbandment unless they win a match against the Teikoku Gakuen, Japan’s best team. You will see how Mamoru does his best to save his beloved team.
OLM produces the anime under the direction of Katsuhito Akiyama, while the manga is written and illustrated by Tenya Yabuno based on a video game series created by Level-5.
It may sound as simple as it is, but the story of “Days” is never little. This sports manga series, written and illustrated by Tsuyoshi Yasuda, is later adapted into an anime TV series by MAPPA, the studio behind anime big names like “Jujutsu Kaisen” and “Attack on Titan.”
“Days” follows the struggles of a shy, clumsy, and bullied teenager named Tsukushi Tsukamoto, who is about to start high school. With the help of Jin Kazama, the person who saves him from his bullies, he rekindles his passion for football, eventually leading him to become part of their school’s football club.
3. ‘Ao Ashi’
“Ao Ashi” is a manga that is later turned into an anime series. Its story revolves around youth football player Ashito Aoi, and his journey and experiences in the Tokyo Esperion youth academy.
The manga series is written and illustrated by Yūgo Kobayashi, based on a concept by Naohiko Ueno. Its anime adaptation is produced by Production I.G, also the brains behind TV series like “Le Chevalier D’Eon” and “Bunny Drop,” among others. In 2020, the manga won the 65th Shogakukan Manga Award for the general category.
2. ‘Be Blues! – Ao Ni Nare’
“Be Blues! – Ao Ni Nare” is an award-winning Japanese association football manga written and illustrated by Motoyuki Tanaka.
Its story revolves around Ryū Ichijō, a prodigy football player who aspires to become a professional player and a member of the Japanese national team by the time he turns 18 years old. But, one day, just as he is preparing to start his junior high school, he succumbs to a fall, which gives him serious injuries. As a result, he needs to go through a long process of rehabilitation and healing.
Two years after his accident, he is able to play again and work hard to achieve his dream of becoming part of the national team. Quite inspiring.
1. ‘Blue Lock’
And now we’ve come to unveiling which has made it to the top spot. Wondering which clinches the crown? The best of the best has to be “Blue Lock.”
“Blue Lock” is a manga and anime combining fiction and real-world events. Its story starts in 2018 when the Japanese national team won 16th place in the FIFA World Cup. Because of this, the Japan Football Association decides to hire football enigma, Ego Jinpachi. His master plan to lead Japan to stardom is Blue Lock, which is a training regiment designed to create and hone the most fantastic egotist striker in the whole world.
Athletes who fail Blue Block will never be allowed to represent any Japanese team and raise the country’s flag again. But, eventually, it seems that it has found the right player. Yoichi Isagi, an unknown high school soccer player who finds himself conflicted with his playing style, decides to sign up for the program, becoming the world’s best striker.
“Blue Lock” is originally a manga written by Muneyuki Kaneshiro. It is later adapted into an anime produced by Eight Bit, the studio that brought you “Stars Align” and “The Slime Diaries: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime,” among many others.
Other soccer-themed mangas and animes that also deserve a spot in this countdown include:
- “Giant Killing”
- “Captain Tsubasa”
- “Hungry Heart: Wild Striker”
- “Farewell, My Dear Cramer”
- “Sayonara, Football”
Wrapping up, those are the best soccer-themed mangas and animes you can find around. If you are an avid soccer fan, you better be watching these animes and reading these mangas. Many of them have stories that are truly inspiring.