While writing my piece for Yuri on Ice last week, I realized that some of the best moments in anime for me personally were actually thanks to unexpected sports drama. Even in some cases, the surprises didn’t exclusively come from actual sports anime.In the meanwhile, reminiscing about how much I enjoyed this show made me think back on some of the great moments from competition in anime. It is really surprising that most of these actually aren’t even from sports anime, but I wanted to go through moments that stuck through to me as the most wholesome and well executed. You know the drill: I’ll try to be as vague as possible with the massive spoilers (only enough to get the point across) but if it is something like “Character x wins the baseball game”, I’ll probably not keep the safety on for that one. Titles in bold, followed by a small break to keep the text out of it (more advantageous to those on mobile).
I’m well aware that most of these top moments for me are from Key visual novel that were adapted into anime- I don’t know how else to justify it other than they know how to make feel good sports moments without actually being sports centric.
With that said, in no particular order:
With the Stardust Crusaders getting closer to the end of the tunnel in their quest to give ol’ DIO the smackdown, the guys come across (surprise, surprise) another one of DIO’s lackeys: Telence T. D’Arby. D’Arby challenges them to play him in various video games, with the stakes being something akin to the dub of Yu-Gi-Oh!- the soul of the loser. After some chippy moments that will be glossed over for the sake of not needing to be spoiled, Jotaro goes head to head with D’Arby in a baseball video game. Now, I don’t know of if any of my readers have ever played a sports game (ie NBA 2K, Madden) with buddies, things can get heated. Recently, a star on one of the best college basketball programs broke his hand punching a door after getting fired up over a game of NBA 2K. With that said, Jotaro pulls off a move that would make even the calmest player of sports games probably break their hands as well (you know, since their souls were on the line).
The first season of Little Busters! and, in some respects, the sequel season, Refrain, was centered around the premise of a gang of misfits joining together to form a baseball team. It is kind of anything but a baseball anime, but there certainly is plenty of baseball practice going on. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a four foot something Russian-Japanese girl was the best outfielder? Perhaps you wanted to see kendo players crush homers with one hand (given how the guy ended up having to use one hand instead of two, anything is possible). Whatever the situation was, there had to be some payoff to the ahem plot of playing baseball. Most baseball games in anime usually end with a team of a teenage girls, someone’s sister, a mom/aunt/teacher/adult woman who totally is saucing, and the protagonist somehow destroying the team of actual adult baseball players. In this series, however, the score was not the same. The game was long, hard fought, and the Little Busters were destroyed by the team of baseball players. In the end, however, they were all exhausted and learned the real lesson was to be found in the experiences they had to come together...
...just kidding, you already know what happens. The team composed of teenagers who don’t have an ounce of athletic ability in their bodies steamroll some random baseball players who probably deserve to never play the sport again after this beatdown. It is really fun and has a fantastic song playing while the girl who was recruited out in the courtyard playing with stray cats throws fastballs that would make Max Scherzer look like a pansy.
I wrote about this one already when I was listing off anime characters LeBron James would want on his anime team. Since then, I’ve become a little more forgiving of most people’s favorite slice of life drama series’ dabbling into my favorite sport. We’ve been over how absurd the premise of a drama club having to play for survival against a basketball team who I can only assume wants to take over the small club room so that they can throw ragers in there with cheap beer. This pits Tomoya (who I always get confused with the other character in this series who has an almost identical name in Tomoyo- it is like having two characters named Sam) in a desperate battle with his past to call up what little basketball ability he has left. Never mind that I can assure you still that the last shot in the game will never, ever, ever happen even in a local YMCA pick-up game, this is a really awesome episode of the series that is often forgotten about when people look back on the series. We learn so much about Nagisa and Tomoya, which pays off in the long game. There are the seeds planted for the drama between the young man and his father, and maybe most importantly, we learn that Fujibayashi Kyou is the greatest three point shooter since Ray Allen (yeah, the guy who wrote a hate article about the Golden State Warriors on an anime website left Curry out of that title, go figure!).
Watch this game, really. Let me break this down for you: this must be the worst high school team of all time because even though they play their freshmen at first, their actual starters come in for what I’m assuming is the last five to seven minutes of the game. What 3 on 3 game is playing on a timer? I don’t know. Let’s keep going with it. I got some flak from people for putting Kyou in the list last time (some of the...ruder people said that I was catering to a waifu, which is absurd), but the final score was 27-26. On screen, she shoots 5-5 from three, meaning she scored at least 15 points. Between the two other players, there are roughly five or six shots that go in. Maybe these guys they’re playing here don’t know anything about defense, or maybe they deliberately didn’t show Kyou moving so you didn’t see her travel on every shot, but numbers don’t lie: she hit 100% of her shots and scored over 55% of her team’s points. She really should have played ball overseas instead of becoming a preschool teacher, because there would have been bank in her future.
Really though, as improbable as this whole game is, is there a better feeling than an underdog rallying and beating the giant? As much fun as I have messing around about the details of it, it is just fiction and is there to be heartwarming.
Just kidding. Seriously though, what even was that?
Knee injuries suck. I mean they really, really, really, suck. Nothing made me wince worse than watching the abuse Kiyoshi Teppei goes through during the title run his school goes on in Kuroko. Playing against a team that makes the New Orleans Saints’ BountyGate look like child’s play, Kiyoshi is taken out the season before the show starts and suffers injuries to his knee(s). Evidently this is so brutal that they have to cart him off the court to have surgery that next day. I don’t know how big Japanese basketball players are, but in this world they are built like NBA players and people are evidently getting life-altering injuries from normal games.
When he gets his chance to step up as a leader against the same team he played the previous year, things get tough fast. Doing a bunch of gritty things every coach loves to see in basketball like setting screens for his teammates and taking hits from cheap plays, the guy got banged up really bad. It got so bad he was bleeding like he was in an MMA fight and had to go to the locker room. After doing the “I’ll never talk to you again if you don’t let me go” routine, he goes back in and gives one of the best speeches in sports anime history. It was so motivating, I actually have a poster of the speech. There weren’t any clips of it left on Youtube, but trust me it is worth watching if you ever get the chance, it goes:
“If their hearts get fragile, I’ll become their support. If they’re threatened, I’ll become their shield. I’ll sacrifice myself any day to protect everyone. That is why I came back”
Alright, so this is a super underrated moment as most people tend to forget about it altogether. When Yuichi’s cousin Nayuki goes for gold with their school’s big running event (it is called “track and field” but the runners are obviously doing cross country stuff, so it is baffling to me...guess it is a relay on the street???), everyone attends to cheer her on. The fastest on her team and running on the last leg of the race, Nayuki gets the relay super late (they claim it is seventh, but that is absurd) and just trucks through everyone in the middle of the field (look at her go, her animation is double speed of a run cycle than the others). Yuichi decides to steal a bike from his buddy
Kitagawa Greg Ayres and take off to keep up with the speedster.
Just when she starts to fall short of breath and motivation, Yuichi shouts out to Nayuki with support alongside of her the whole last stretch. This pushes her enough to finish strong and make up for more space than LeBron did in the Finals that one year. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more empowering than knowing someone you care about is there for an event, let alone actually cheering you on side by side. When I was picked by my run team to represent us in a big run, I dug deeper than ever for overpassing two individuals I had no business beating on a run just because the team drove side by side with me, cheering me on. That’s going to be the most hidden gem you find in all of these moments, and it is a shame there is such a bad stigma this anime had on it thanks to the....questionable source material.
This one is stretching it so much, I know. But we’re deep down the Key rabbit hole. You want wholesome? YOU WANT FEELS? DO YOU?!
I usually exaggerate that scenes make me cry when AniTAYers discuss a series, but there is something about Hinata confessing to Yui that just finds a way to obliterate me every time. It still works as a sports moment, even if it is in the most obscure, broken window turned love story way. Honestly this scene alone will have me champion the series any day of the week. I’m such a stupid sucker for this crap.
So there ya go, those are some of my favorite sports moments from anime. What are some of yours? Hope you all have a safe holiday, and take care!