Four Football Anime and Manga Titles to Look Out For
It may be because football is not as a big deal as baseball or basketball in Japan, but there has never really been a huge amount of anime or manga with the sport as its subject. The themes and stories could be the same, but it just hasn’t happened.
But with sports fans from California to Connecticut – and well beyond – getting ready to enjoy the annual extravaganza that is the Super Bowl, we thought it would be a good time to shine a light on some football anime and manga. There are some real standout stories here, so hopefully there will be some more we can add to the list in the coming years.
This was a very popular shojo manga series that was around in the late 1980s. It originally appeared in a monthly magazine but was later released in a set of 12 volumes. The main story followed two twins – Shiva and Cipher – who began to trade places, ultimately becoming synonymous.
The entire story takes place in the mid-1980s, across America – but mainly in New York City. Although Cipher was not wholly a football-themed manga, the sport did feature and was probably one of the first times that Japanese readers heard of gridiron and saw the kinds of uniforms featured.
UFO Warrior Dai Apolon
Loosely based on the Galactic Warrior Apolon manga, this mecha anime update added the football element. That was quite a strange decision considering that this was first shown in the late 1970s, when the sport was little known in Japan – or anywhere else outside the US.
The story follows a 16-year-old boy called Takeshi who forms a football team at his orphanage. But one day a game is interrupted by a light from the sky and Takeshi discovers he is the son of a king from another planet – and that he can control UFOs. There were 47 original episodes but an English language version was released in 1986 that moved the action to California.
This is definitely the most well known manga series about football – and one that spawned countless spin off TV series, games and other merchandise. The original manga series ran from 2002 to 2009 for 37 volumes. But the anime TV show began soon after that started and ran to a very impressive 145 episodes as well.
Sena is a shy boy who joins a football club as a secretary. But the star quarterback forces him to become a running back when he sees how fast he is. To make sure that Sena is not poached by any of the rival teams, he wears an eye shield to conceal his identity. He also wears the number 21 shirt – just in case you were wondering about the strange title!
Over 20 million copies of Eyeshield 21 have been sold in Japan, and it is consistently named one of the most popular series in the country. It is so inspirational that many have put the modern-day popularity of football down to this famous manga and anime title.
Figure 2 Football does lend itself to anime and manga well, so it is surprising that there haven’t been more titles
Ashita e Kick Off
Another late 1970s creation, Ashita e Kick Off is the story of a high school student who stupidly decides to pick a fight with kids from a rival school. Unfortunately the members of the rival school’s football team join in and he is left licking his wounds and plotting revenge.
His plan is to get back at those rich kids by forming his own school’s very first football team. He somehow manages to recruit an entire team in double quick time and they pledge to spend the summer learning this new game. It is only then that realize that no one knows anything about the sport.
This is another curious example of a manga series using football as a plot driver when the sport was little known in Japan. Thanks to increased airtime, there will be many more fans watching the Super Bowl at the beginning of January. But they may all have also been fans of some of these titles first.