After another four long years, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is finally here to enthrall sports fans everywhere, but where the anime fandom overlaps, there are also some worthwhile TV series to check out in between matches. The sports anime subgenre has gradually become more ingrained into the mainstream space, with classics like Slam Dunk for basketball and Hajime no Ippo for boxing, as well as new shows like Haikyuu!! for volleyball.
Soccer doesn’t have that same level of depth just yet, but it’s been making strides in more recent years. Bluelock is the latest and ongoing sports anime hit for the subgenre, with the recently concluded Aoashi being more than noteworthy as well, and these soccer anime series and more are available to stream now on Crunchyroll.
Putting a more high-octane and bombastic twist on the sports anime subgenre, animation studio 8bit’s adaptation of Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yuusuke Nomura’s Blue Lock is a soccer anime for fans that like action shounen as well. Now stylized as Bluelock, the series follows high school player Yoichi Isagi as he joins an experimental soccer training facility designed to elevate the Japanese side of the sport to a new level.
Tired of dwelling on the disappointment and mediocrity of his high school team, the titular training facility sees brutal, cutthroat regimens in an attempt to forge Japan’s top-tier “egoist” striker. The facility injects an inventive element of sci-fi into a sports series, with the over-the-top action and stylish character designs feeling reminiscent of a battle shounen, but now with sports as the catalyst.
Yuugo Kobayashi and Naohiko Ueno’s Ao Ashi manga predates Blue Lock by a few years, but it just received its first anime adaptation this year as well. Animated by veteran studio Production I.G (coincidentally also of Haikyuu!! fame), Aoashi takes a much more grounded, somewhat more slice-of-life approach to its story, not unlike the aforementioned acclaimed volleyball series.
Taking place on a much tighter scale, the series follows third-year middle schooler Ashito Aoi, a talented yet self-centered soccer player that lets his ego get the best of him. However, he’s scouted by a youth coach from Tokyo to come to try out and fulfill his potential, where he sees the biggest change in his life. It’s almost the opposite of what Bluelock conveys, making Aoashi an excellent pick for a more intimate and realistic take on sports anime.
Adapting Tsuyoshi Yasuda’s soccer manga of the same name, animation studio MAPPA’s (Jujutsu Kaisen, Attack on Titan season 4) Days is a down-to-earth high school anime centering around two boys named Tsukushi Tsukamoto and Jin Kazama. The former is a timid, mild-mannered boy who often suffers at the hands of his bullies.
However, a fateful encounter with classmate Jin — a gifted soccer player — changes the trajectory of his life for the better. He invites Tsukushi to a futsal game, and despite struggling to keep up, he’s determined and persistent, leading him to join the school’s soccer club. Days is another relatable, feel-good high school anime with a soccer angle.
Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun
There’s been a well-rounded selection of soccer anime so far on Crunchyroll when it comes to telling a story through different angles, and Clean Freak! Aoyama-kun takes a comedic spin on sports. Animators Studio Hibari adapts Taku Sakamoto’s manga source material, as the story follows the titular schooler.
Aoyama is popular among his peers. He’s charming, a good cook, and stylish — but he’s an extreme germaphobe. That makes his role as his soccer team’s play-making midfielder all the more baffling. He plays while trying to make as little contact as possible, which paves the way for the story’s conflict in their team’s place in the Nationals and expected gag-focused comedy. It’s one of the more laid-back soccer anime to check out on the streamer.
Farewell, My Dear Cramer
Animation studio LIDENFILMS adapts Naoshi Arakawa’s Farewell, My Dear Cramer, which offers a fresh soccer perspective. This anime series focuses on the subject of women’s soccer, a side of the sport that’s also been making great strides in recent years in the real world.
In Farewell, My Dear Cramer, the story revolves around a high school girl named Nozomi Onda — a soccer prodigy since her middle school days. The interest in women’s soccer has been floundering in Japan, but several high schools in the country — hers included — are still fighting to keep the passion alive. Along with the teammates recruited to the same team, the group strives to bring this side of the sport under the spotlight.
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