The Hero With 1000 Sportsballs

So you wanna write a brand new sports anime, but you don’t know how to structure your story. Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Thankfully, I’m here to make sure you know exactly how to make sure your sports anime won’t miss a beat and disappoint millions of fans of the genre. These simple steps will take your characters on a poetic journey to learn the value of hard work and the power of friendship. Spoiler warning for every sports anime ever since you too will be able to predict exactly how each one goes after learning this.

1. Fateful Encounter
Would-be rivals end up on the same team in Haikyuu!

It’s the start of freshman year, our protagonist has sports on their mind. Who do they meet? Is it their childhood friend? their rival? or just a really enthusiastic player? No matter what, this meeting gets the ball rolling on our story. You usually want to make sure the protagonist and their partner have extremely identifiable strengths and weaknesses, usually that compliment each other.

2. Show Me Your Moves
Stealth is a skill in Kuroko’s Basketball

What can the protagonist do? They might jump super high or throw a cool pitch. Likely, the two characters work together to make their powers extraordinary. This power will define their team moving forward because it’s the best shot they have at going to nationals. It turns their team, which was all around solid but just missing something, into a real threat.

3. Get The Gang Back Together
2.43: Seiin High School Boys Volleyball manages to complete this entire step in one shot

Not the whole team is here at the start. It’s hard to introduce so many characters at once and make them memorable and well defined. Sports anime tend to spend the first couple of episodes gathering players whether they be new, retired, injured, or suspended. The special trick and our bright protagonists will encourage just about everyone that this is a team worth putting in the work for. The advisor or coach might be introduced here if their role is vitally important to improving the team.

4. The Practice Game
HANEBADO! includes a practice match

Now that we have a team and a strategy, it’s time to have a practice game. Usually this game is with a top tier team in their region. A pratice match shows the strengths and weakness of a team. The special move will likely get context on how it actually plays out, and it allows the move to not have a surprise factor when they fight this team later. This will define a rivalry and give viewers a rematch to look forward to in the upcoming tournament. Usually the protagonists’s team will lose this match, but they can also win because some key enemy players are missing or show up late. This match will set the tone for every match to come with just how good the team is. Will they breeze through every match until the late stages or struggle on the way there.

5. Training Camp
Training camp brings big issues and big bonding in Free!

Our team has a goal and the drive to get there, and what better way to practice than a good ol’ training camp. This shows how our team really is willing to put in the work practicing and is probably an excuse to show off some fun bonding moments. After this our team is for sure ready to take on regionals. You can fit some extra practice matches in a montage as part of this section as well.

6. Bump In The Road
This is apparently a scheduled day in ALL OUT!!

Right before regionals starts, something has to go wrong. It can be as small as people failing their midterms or some big inner team fight about working too hard or starting positions. This small trial will bring the team even closer together when they overcome it, and truly show their resolve.

7. The Tournament Begins
Harukana Receive makes it’s first match count

The big tournament is here whether that means regionals or maybe even nationals. The earlier practice match set the pace for our characters to breeze through or struggle with these earlier matches. If our team is going all the way to nationals, then basically all of regionals could fall here.

8. The Big Win
A big break for the Breakers in Cheer Boys!!

Your team worked hard, and that needs to pay off. They could fight a team that should’ve perfectly countered them, the best in the region, or maybe their rival from the practice match. This is the big climax of the show, so almost all the best moments have to be here.

9. The Big Loss
The Queen is a power opponent in Chihayafuru

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Your team has to lose at some point. There’s so many monoliths that you can choose from to stop our beloved team, but someone has to show the protagonists that their super cool move isn’t the only thing needed to win. The tension’s high regardless of if the match ends in a buzzer beater or is a complete sweep. Losing isn’t always bad; there’s a lot to gain from it.

10. The Somber Taste of Defeat
Ruminating in Ahiru No Sora

The loss is over and your players need to learn from that defeat. They let their emotions boil and bawl. The loss informs them of their mistakes and also shows them the value of everything they did up until then. Victory was never the point; the process of getting there was. Show how this loss effects the characters and all of their different views on competition. This also sets up our team to learn for the next tournament and be set to do even better

And that’s it! Pretty much every sports anime is going to follow this rough outline. If there’s multiple seasons the steps loop but they might skip over a few. They might not always introduce new characters, but they will practice hard and learn some new strategies for the next tournaments. Some sports anime focus on individual sports instead of team sports, but generally the ideas still work. They probably practice on a team, but each characters results will vary in individual competitions. There’s always going to be anime that break the mold with having the team actually win the tournament or have the team lose every match. You can get creative with how to not strictly follow this formula. Be wary, Stray to far and you might just not be making a sports anime but an anime with sports instead.

Images taken from Funimation and VRV. Thumbnail taken from Polygon‘s Youtube Channel

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