If you’re reading this, it means you’re probably interested in reading the best sports manga ever made. Sports is one of the most popular genres nowadays, and there is practically an infinite amount of manga with a huge variety of sports as their main topic.
Whether you are a manga newbie that just started out, or a seasoned veteran, this list will probably have some recommendations that you’ve never heard of and that you’d enjoy reading. Here’s my top 10 list, in no particular order except for number 1 – the unquestionable best!
10) Ballroom e Youkoso
Written by: Takeuchi Tomo
What? A manga about dancing? Is dancing even a sport? Well, yes, it is. This is a relatively new manga, and it’s still on-going, but it has so much potential that I just had to put it on this list somewhere.
The art is beautiful and the visuals are done so well (highly important, in my opinion, for this genre of manga). The characters are believable, not one-dimensional like in so many shounen manga, and likable. When I read this manga, I actually feel nervous for the protagonists when they are challenged, and I want to read more. I get excited every time a new chapter comes out. If you don’t mind waiting for new chapters, definitely give this manga a shot.
9) Eyeshield 21
Written by: Riichiro Inagaki / Illustrated by: Riichiri Inagaki
If you’re familiar with sports manga at all, you’ve probably heard about this one. 37 volumes and over 300 chapters strong, I wouldn’t be surprised if you also decided that the time investment for this manga isn’t worth it. American football isn’t that popular either outside of the USA.
The first couple dozen chapters are nothing special, to be fair. The art feels a bit shoddy, and the story doesn’t progress as fast as you’d hope. They are important chapters, though, in which the author presents the protagonists that you will be following for many reading days.
Just give this manga a shot and read the first 50 chapters. It’s one of the greatest sports manga ever written, and even if you’re not particularly into American football, you will still feel excitement and nervousness every match Sena and his team play.
I’ve dedicated an entire review to this manga. Check it out!
8) Hajime no Ippo
Written by: Morikawa George
Yes, the 1000-chapter boxing one. Yes, I’ve read all of it so far. If you’re interested at all in old school manga, and in the history of Japanese comics, you definitely have to give Hajime no Ippo a shot. You don’t have to read all of it if you don’t want to – dedicated fans online have accumulated lists that mark when the most important events happen, so you can just skip to those.
But if you want to get to know some of the best developed characters in manga history, cheer for them when they fight, feel for them when they lose – then you have to read the whole thing. It’s a huge time commitment, but it’s definitely worth it, especially for the first 500 chapters or so. It’s still ongoing too, but don’t hope for an ending anytime soon.
If you’re interested in boxing, this is definitely the best boxing manga in the sense that it explains proper technique and training methods. Also feel free to check out this post with 5 great boxing manga recommendations.
Written by: Watanabe Jun
Another boxing manga. I promise it’s the last one on the list, but even if you don’t enjoy boxing, this is just a great all-around manga about growing up, being open to all kinds of opportunities and never giving up. I feel like I learned a lot from reading this manga. The art is gorgeous, too. It might not have the best reviews, but it has a special spot in my heart – please give it a try.
6) Kuroko no Basket
Written by: Tadatoshi Fujimaki
This is probably the most popular sports manga right now. It’s a manga defined by beautiful art, interesting characters and well-paced arc. I’ve included it in the list mainly because of its popularity, but it’s not like I didn’t enjoy it, either.
This manga manages to hook you in and make you root not only for the main characters, but for the side ones as well. It seems like every single person in it has an interesting backstory, or a cool look, an amazing technique, or all of those. The creativity of the author in regards to character creation and development truly amazed me. I’m looking forward to his next work and I highly recommend this manga to anyone.
Oh, I almost forgot: It’s about basketball, but the sport itself is probably the least important thing in the manga – any sport would do. Focus on the characters when you read it!
5) All Rounder Meguru
Written by: Endo Hiroki
If you’re looking for a realistic, informative manga about MMA (or fighting sports in general), look no further. It actually does not get any better than All Rounder Meguru. Through believable characters and training programs, and a realistic setting, it tells you the story of amateur MMA fighting in Japan and also in the entire world.
Get ready to learn a lot from this manga. There aren’t any superpowers, no “special techniques” or anything of the sorts; It’s pure, regular sports. The author still manages to make it extremely exciting. By the way, you should check out all of Endo Hiroki’s works – he’s one of the best manga artists of all time.
4) Baby Steps
Written by: Hikaru Katsuki
Baby steps, giant leaps. This is a great manga that follows the journey of a young man trying to improve at tennis. The protagonist is not a genius by any means, and he has no “secret talent” like so many cheap sports manga that sell you the idea of a weak protagonist just to make him super strong after all.
No, Eiichirou is by no means one of these characters – he becomes strong through intense training and teaches us, the readers, a very valuable life lesson: To achieve great things, you must start doing smaller things. Baby steps, giant leaps.
3) One Outs
Written by: Shinobu Kaitani
Alright, I had to add at least one baseball manga to the list, considering it’s the most popular sport over there in Japan. The baseball manga niche isn’t as good as many people think, in my opinion. It’s full of manga with no thought put behind them, just being printed out for sales, following stale formulas and no creativity.
This baby right here, though, is the exception. This is more of a psychological manga than a sports manga, to be honest. It follows Tokuchi Toua, a man that’s not necessarily skilled at baseball, but outsmarts his opponents every time and wins in a physical sport using his head and his head alone. It’s supremely interesting and the author is great at setting up impossible-looking situations for our hero to break out of.
If you’re a fan of psychological manga as well, this is definitely the sports manga for you. It’s not that long either, so read it! I know that when I did, I went through the whole thing in one sitting.
2) Kokou no Hito
Written by: Sakamoto Shinichi
OK, I’ll be honest. This is one of my top 5 favorite manga of all time. The only reason why I’m not putting it as number 1 is because I feel it hasn’t had the impact on the industry that number 1 has. But this is the best manga on this list for me. A perfect 10.
It’s a manga about rock and mountain climbing, and it follows a man called Mori on his quest to find himself through conquering mountains. A lot of people think that manga is just for kids, and that it’s not true art or literature – this is the book I would ask these people to read. Not only is it drawn beautifully, but it made me rethink my life in many ways. If that’s not the very definition of art, I don’t know what is. Truly a brilliant manga. If you read it, please let me know what you thought. I would love to discuss it.
1) Slam Dunk
Written by: Takehiko Inoue
When Takehiko Inoue, now one most recognized mangaka out there, proposed a basketball manga, he was laughed at. Nobody believed that a sport so unpopular in Japan could translate well to the medium. Well, they were completely wrong. Slam Dunk became the greatest sports manga of all time.
It truly does everything better than every single other one, and it set standards that all other mangaka are trying to reach even now. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will fall more and more in love with the characters every chapter. It’s the quintessential sports manga that has everything this genre needs: Good characters, fast pace, great art and exciting rivalries and games. In spite of my unconditional love for Kokou no Hito, those are the reasons why I just had to give the number 1 spot to Slam Dunk.
It also showcases Inoue’s growth as an artist: From an average mangaka in the beginning to one of the most recognizable art styles in the entire industry. This is the same man that writes Vagabond, one of the most beautiful manga ever written.
If you’re reading this list, you’ve probably already read Slam Dunk. In fact, you may have found it looking for other similar titles (sorry, pretty much nothing can match up to it). If you haven’t, though, make it number 1 on your priority list. Any half-serious manga enthusiast must read this one.