The World Cup is currently underway in Russia, and fans around the globe have been biting their nails as upset after upset showed how the underdog can pull ahead in a dramatic way. One of the biggest examples so far is Mexico’s win against Germany, a first for the European country, who has never lost the opening game in defense of their trophy before. Japan also made history when the team defeated Colombia. The game marked the first time any Asian country has defeated a South American team at the World Cup.
Soccer can lead to high drama, and these kind of change-ups are what make the sport so enthralling to watch in both live-action and anime form. If you want to give the sport a chance, here’s seven soccer series to get you started!
The Knight in the Area
This underdog story stars two brothers, Kakeru and Suguru. Suguru is a soccer ace. He’s captain of his school’s team and even made it all the way to the U-15 team, Japan‘s national team for players under 15 years old. Suguru is a shoe-in as the star but it’s actually his brother Kakeru who goes through great change as the series progresses. The series first introduces Kakeru living in Suguru’s shadow and carrying guilt from a teammate-related injury. Kakeru resigns himself to managing a soccer team when he believes his skills playing right-footed aren’t up to snuff. It’s when his crush Nana returns that things start to change, and Kakeru must confront his fears of playing with his dominate foot.
Clean Freak! Aoyama kun
This series stars another soccer ace, but it’s more interested in the interpersonal relationships of the teammates than high-stakes matches. Aoyama is the aforementioned ace who has adapted his play style and interactions with others around his compulsion for cleanliness. Some of these habits are played for laughs but Aoyama kunalso has a sensitive side. The show dedicates at least some of its runtime addressing his germophobia and humanizing it beyond some weird quirk.
Many sports anime detail a character’s rise to stardom by discovering some latent ability to be really good at something. DAYS subverts that by picking super average kid Tsukushi as its hero. Tsukushi isn’t some undiscovered soccer genius. He has decent endurance and incredible perseverance, which he honed despite being bullied before joining the soccer club. In many ways, Tsukushi is an ‘everyman’ for sports, showing that dedication and sheer joy for the game can make a lot of difference even when a player lacks physical prowess.
The absolute classic! Captain Tsubasa remains an inspiration for soccer fans and even players today. As a quick example, Japanese pro soccer players starred in a bunch of videos in attempts to recreate some of the series’ famous kicks. Over in Hong Kong, giant statuesof the characters were erected to celebrate the 2014 World Cup. The series continues to hold a special place in the hearts of soccer fans around the world and hopefully we’ll be able to legally watch this year’s remake soon. Viz snapped the show up, but it’s still unavailable for North American viewers.
There’s soccer and there’s Inazuma Eleven. The popular franchise from Yo-kai Watch creators Level 5 follows talented goal keeper Mamoru Endō (Mark Evans in the dub) as he aims to bring his school’s soccer club to victory before it’s disbanded. What makes Inazuma Elevendifferent is the show incorporates aspects from the original game, giving characters supernatural-like abilities. Later the opposing teams graduate from skilled Earthlings to out-of-this-world aliens, in case you want a little sci-fi with your soccer.
A losing team only has one big shot to overcome their slump, but only under a manager the players all loathe. Takeshi Tatsumi knows soccer; he was once at the height of popularity in Japan before he traded over to England. His fans in Japan felt betrayed, and the players of East Tokyo United aren’t thrilled to welcome them as their new manager. Giant Killing is about overcoming the odds (and a less than stellar rep) to make it big again.
Who are you supporting during this years World Cup? Let me know in the comments