One for All/All for One

The sports anime scene has  no shortage of popular  and  well-made  series [1]. 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 banner - © Studio 8bit

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.

Yoichi Isagi in the "zone" - © Studio 8bit

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!! banner - © Production IG

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  [2].  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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [4],  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 [3]

Exhibition of minus tempo - © Production IG

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.


[1] Siddiquee, A. S. (2022). The appeal of sports anime. The Daily Star.
[2] Zhang, M. (2020). Haikyuu!!: How Real Athletes Use Hinata’s Moves. CBR; CBR.
[3] Haikyuu Fandom. (n.d.). Tempo (Episode). Haikyū!! Wiki.
[4] AnimeMangaTalks. (2020).

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