Among all the diverse themes explored in the world of anime, sports series have always been a popular choice. Sure, watching live sports events can be fun, but anime manages to heighten the experience in a way no other media can. The tournaments are typically portrayed with unparalleled intensity, and every game feels like a do-or-die situation. There’s also the advantage of getting insight into the player’s desperate thoughts, backstories, and motivations, helping get viewers hooked in a way that is impossible to accomplish in real-life sports events.
Some of the best and most popular sports anime include hits like Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyuu!!, Slam Dunk, and Free!, all of which have helped the genre become the staple it is today. Animated sports enthusiasts are likely already familiar with these series, though, and as a new year begins, it’s time for something different. For anime fans looking forward to a 2023 full of new, epic tournaments, here we list all the sports anime confirmed to release this year…so far.
Blue Lock—season one, part two
This anime has been making noise since its first cour premiered in October 2022. With illustrations by Yusuke Nomura and writing by Muneyuki Kaneshiro, Blue Lock started being published as a manga series in 2018 and is currently ongoing. The narrative focuses on Yoichi Isagi, a high school student with a passion for soccer and the ambition to become the greatest egotistical striker. In order to achieve that, he joins a training regimen known as Blue Lock Project, led by Ego Jinpachi, a cold-hearted coach set only on leading the Japanese soccer team to glory.
The anime concluded its first part on Dec. 24, going on a short hiatus before resuming Yoichi’s story. The second cour premiered on Jan. 7 to the delight of expectant viewers. If for some reason you’ve missed this release, it’s not too late to watch it; Blue Lock is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.
Mou Ippon!—season one
Created by Yu Muraoka, Mou Ippon! tells the story of Michi Sonoda and her teammates, who make up the high school’s judo club. Despite having left the sport behind after her crushing defeat in the junior high tournament, Michi can’t help being roped back into it when her former competitor and current classmate, Towa, attempts to create a judo club at their new school.
The manga started being serialized in 2018 and is still ongoing with 21 volumes released so far. Its success was enough to grant Mou Ippon! an anime adaptation, which was announced in 2021. On Jan. 9, the anime’s first episode premiered and is currently available for streaming on HIDIVE.
As avid sports anime fans must know, Tsurune’s first season premiered in 2018 with 14 episodes. Unlike most anime, which are adaptations of manga series, this one is based on a 2016 Japanese light novel created by Kotoko Ayano and illustrated by Chinatsu Morimoto. Following the success of season one, Tsurune came back in 2022 with an animated movie, and on Jan. 4, with a second season.
The series follows archer Minato Narumiya, a high school student who, despite his love for the sport, quit his previous archery club due to an incident. After a chance encounter, the boy is inspired to join the Kazemai High School Archery Club and, in true sports anime fashion, the team members give it their all for a chance to win the prefectural tournament.
Left-Hand Layup!—season one
Left-Hand Layup! is a Chinese original anime, sponsored by the Chinese Basketball Association, and animated by LHL Culture Animation Studio. The story will follow Xu Xing Ze, along with his basketball club members, as they struggle to work as a team on the court, united only by their love for the game. Most everyone loves a good underdog story, and it looks like Left-Hand Layup! will deliver just that.
The series had been previously scheduled to premiere in 2022, but for unknown reasons, it never came to be. Now LHL Culture has announced that the anime will premiere in February, but no exact date has been given at the time of writing.
Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story—season two
This original anime’s first season premiered in April 2022, with 13 episodes, surprising many viewers with its premise. On the surface, Birdie Wing appears to be a regular sports anime about golf, following Eve, a girl with exceptional skill at the sport who finds her perfect adversary in Aoi, a gold prodigy. However, the series mixes intense plays with an underground business, as the mafia places bets on the competing players, making for an interesting tone choice, to say the least.
Birdie Wing’s generally lighthearted air caught the eye of audiences and critics alike, quickly being renewed for a second season. While no exact release date has been confirmed for season two, it has been announced that it will premiere sometime in April on Crunchyroll.
MF Ghost—season one
When one thinks about sports anime, cars are not the first thing that comes to mind. More traditional sports like soccer, volleyball, and basketball are most often portrayed in this type of media, but car racing is not completely unheard of. MF Ghost follows in the footsteps of Initial D, a street racing anime that premiered in 1998. A few of the classic anime’s characters will make appearances in MF Ghost, but overall, the story will focus on Kanata Livington, a Formula 4 world champion who is searching for his father in Japan. While that goes on, racing takes place in the streets, treating viewers to some adrenaline-inducing scenes.
Right now, a premiere date has not been announced yet. The only detail shared is that car racing fans can expect the anime to drop sometime in 2023…if all goes according to plan, that is.
Unfortunately, 2023 is shaping up to be lacking in sports anime, but in fairness, the year is only starting. It’s possible that as time progresses, more anime will be announced. For now, sports enthusiasts will have to make do with the six series listed.