The sports anime scene has no shortage of popular and well-made series . Think of a popular sport – there’s probably an anime for that. Despite the wide variety of sports, sports anime can be roughly divided into two archetypes: the shounen-esque battle sports anime like Kuroko no Basket or Inazuma Eleven or the reality-bound portrayals of matches the likes of Slam Dunk or Haikyuu!!. Embodying the latter in its fullest form, the recently released Blue Lock anime twists the common sports anime formula to tell a well-crafted story.
Blue Lock flips the genre on its head just from its main premise. It breaks away from the common themes of camaraderie, teamwork and selflessness in most (group-based) sports anime. Instead, it focuses on developing the strongest “egoist” to push a team forward. Based on real-life soccer, Blue Lock takes in multiple young aspiring strikers to train them to become the world’s best striker to break out of Japan’s failing soccer scene. Characters go head-to-head to survive and even went as far as to reinvent the sport for them to flourish with their individual strengths.
One of shounen anime’s plot progression “trademark” is a training arc followed by tournament arcs – which Blue Lock deviates from.
Blue Lock is a full-on training arc with almost no breaks in between. This dynamic and surreal take on the soccer genre attracts many audiences, especially those that are under shounen influence. In true shounen fashion, characters find themselves pairing with new formations and eventually facing former comrades, a true, bold, and unapologetic showcase of rivalry and growth.
In contrast to the ego-driven mentality of Blue Lock, the popular volleyball anime Haikyuu!! focuses on the team while members shine through individually.
Haikyuu displays various strategies and routines in volleyball that are usually done in normal plays. Some examples of these are the popular ‘synchro attack’ of the Karasuno Team and the ‘freak quick’ performed by both Hinata and Kageyama . Another strategy employed in this anime is the tempo system which was explained by former coach Ikkei Ukai to Hinata during his visit to Coach Ukai’s home . Haikyuu also exhibits a realistic success rate with the various moves used in the various gameplays such as that of the jump serves performed by Oikawa. Jump serves can be a strong counter for an opponent but possess a high service error rate, as seen in the anime and also in real life . Lastly, Haikyuu perfectly recreates the overall mood for a volleyball player and a team during training and within the game. All the hardships that the players go through and all the sacrifices needed to be made are illustrated realistically , wherein even volleyball players can sympathise with the show. From the various gameplays and strategies to the hardships they experience during training, Haikyuu portrays a down-to-earth approach to the sport while maintaining the tension and hype during games. This realistic plot of Haikyuu can be attributed to the personal experiences of the author (Haruichi Furudate) since he was a former volleyball fan and player .
In an industry filled to the brim with isekai, fantasy or virtual elements, Haikyuu!! and Blue Lock stand their ground with a realistic take on the shounen/sports genre while showing that any sport can be fun and interesting when executed well.
 Siddiquee, A. S. (2022). The appeal of sports anime. The Daily Star. https://www.thedailystar.net/shout/news/the-appeal-sports-anime-3086111
 Zhang, M. (2020). Haikyuu!!: How Real Athletes Use Hinata’s Moves. CBR; CBR. https://www.cbr.com/haikyuu-how-real-athletes-use-hinatas-moves/
 Haikyuu Fandom. (n.d.). Tempo (Episode). Haikyū!! Wiki. https://haikyuu.fandom.com/wiki/Tempo_(Episode)
 AnimeMangaTalks. (2020). animemangatalks.com. https://animemangatalks.com/how-realistic-is-volleyball-in-haikyuu/