As society gravitates towards healthier lifestyles, many are starting to look for inspiration to exercise in creative ways. Interestingly, Japanese manga and anime have proven to be a rich source of entertaining media focused on promoting exercise and sports.
Even more surprisingly, sports-based manga has been in circulation since the 1950s and saw a significant rise in popularity after the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo that year. Since its creation, there have been countless anime franchises that depict exercise in a uniquely motivating way.
10 Fighting Spirit Will Inspire You To Take Up Boxing
Fighting Spirit (Hajime No Ippo) was first introduced as part of the Weekly Shōnen Magazine back in 1989. The manga was adapted into an anime consisting of nearly 100 episodes. The premise follows Ippo Makunouchi, a timid high-schooler who spends most of his time helping his mother run their family business.
Unfortunately, Ippo is the victim of relentless bullying, unable to defend himself. One day, after a group of bullies savagely beat Ippo, a skilled boxer named Mamoru Takamura intervenes to save the protagonist. Mamoru recognizes Ippo’s raw talent for boxing and decides to help him pursue a career in the sport.
9 Run with the Wind Will Inspire You To Take Up Running
Interestingly, Run with the Wind is actually based on a Japanese novel published in 2006 titled Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru. The book, written by Shion Miura, was later adapted into a manga, live-action film, and anime in the late 2000s.
The story begins with Kakeru Kurahara, a high school track star who is pursued after getting caught shoplifting from a store. After his pursuit, he runs into Haiji Kiyose, who is impressed by Kurahara’s speed and agility. Kiyose eventually convinces Kurahara to help the Kansei University Track Club win the Hakone Ekiden, a famous University level track marathon.
8 Haikyuu!! Will Inspire You To Take Up Volleyball
Haikyuu!! is a volleyball manga featuring a junior high school student named Shōyō Hinata. The manga was first published in 2012, and the comedic sport series just recently concluded in 2020.
Though he is smaller than most of his classmates, Hinata is relentlessly determined to become a famous volleyball star. Hinata has an undeniable passion for the sport, though it turns out his classmates don’t share his enthusiasm. He soon realizes he’s the only member of the “Volleyball Club” at his school, forcing him to recruit his fellow peers.
7 Welcome to the Ballroom Will Inspire You To Take Up Dancing
Welcome to the Ballroom is not only unique in its premise, but it has a notably exaggerated animation style that captures the movements of dancing. The award-winning manga iteration was first published back in 2011, with new volumes still being released.
Like Fighting Spirit, the premise of Welcome to the Ballroom revolves around a high school student, Tatara, who is saved from bullies by a professional dancer. Though he initially does not have any interest in ballroom dancing, he demonstrates a natural skill for the sport and quickly becomes passionate about dancing.
6 Prince of Tennis Will Inspire You To Take Up Tennis
In 2001, TV Tokyo co-produced an anime adaption of Tenisu no Ōjisama, or Prince of Tennis as it’s known to Western audiences, which spanned across almost 200 episodes. Oddly enough, the anime also spawned 15 stage musical adaptations since 2003. For those with a passion for tennis and musicals, this franchise may be perfect.
Prince of Tennis follows Ryoma Echizen, a twelve-year-old tennis sensation who returns to Japan to attend a private school known for its competitive tennis team. Echizen not only has a passion for tennis, but he also wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, who also attended the prestigious school.
5 Ace of Diamond Will Inspire You To Take Up Baseball
Ace of Diamond is an anime adapted from the manga Daiya no Ēsu, which was first published in 2006. Originally intending to play baseball with his friends at a local high school, Eijun Sawamura’s skills and unique pitching style eventually catch the attention of a scout from a well-known school.
The scout offers Sawamura a full scholarship to Seidou High, which he happily accepts. Though skilled himself, Sawamura is intimated by the professional level of baseball at the prestigious high school, where his abilities are soon put to the test.
4 Yowamushi Pedal Will Inspire You To Take Up Cycling
Yowamushi Pedal, which literally translates to “Weakling Pedal,” follows Sakamichi Onoda, who struggles to adapt to the social life of a freshman in high school. Frustrated by the fact that his school’s anime club has been canceled due to a lack of members, Onoda decides to find another hobby.
Though Onoda rides an outdated “mamachari” bicycle, his friend and fellow classmate, Imaizumi, is impressed by Onoda’s endurance and abilities on his bicycle. Eventually, Imaizumi convinces Onoda to join their school’s bicycle racing club.
3 Baby Steps Will Also Inspire You To Take Up Tennis
Like Fighting Spirit, Baby Steps was first serialized as part of the Weekly Shōnen Magazine in 2007. Like many people today, the health-conscious protagonist, Eiichirō Maruo, is concerned about his lifestyle and wants to get more exercise.
Inspired by a school flyer, he decides to take up tennis and joins his high school’s tennis club known as the “Southern Tennis Club.” Though Maruo is inexperienced and noticeably out of shape, he uses his book smarts to tackle tennis with a strategic approach, quickly becoming a skilled player.
2 Kuroko’s Basketball Will Inspire You To Take Up Basketball
In 2012, Production I.G. adapted the manga Kuroko no Basuke into an anime, which has since become increasingly popular amongst fans of the genre. The story focuses on a junior high basketball team with five prolific players called the “Generation of Miracles.”
The premise begins with the teammates graduating and attending separate high schools. However, the focus soon shifts to Tetsuya Kagami, a skilled player who traveled from the United States to join Seirin High’s basketball team, hoping to compete with the “Generation of Miracles.”
1 Free! Iwatobi Swim Club Will Inspire You To Take Up Swimming
Iwatobi Swim Club is the first season from the adaptation of the award-winning manga series Free!. Interestingly, a feature-length film installment was slated for release in 2020; however, it was unfortunately postponed due to the pandemic.
The story follows Haruka Nanase, a high school student with a passion for swimming. Nanase is inspired to reestablish his high school’s swim club, with the hopes of competing in various tournaments in Japan.
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