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It’s true, the world of sports anime does tend to be mostly male-dominated. But actually there are some really good girls’ sports anime out there.
Now get ready for the 7 different anime series focusing on women-led sports (in no particular order).
1. Attack No. 1 (Volleyball)
The shojo sports drama Attack No. 1 was hugely popular when it aired in 1970, with no small credit to the 1964 Japan Olympic games.
The series was one of the first anime to target an older female demographic and its legacy was firmly cemented with spinoff manga and a live-action revival in 2005.
The story follows Kozue Ayuhara, an aspiring high school athlete with big dreams. However, as the series goes on, Kozue discovers that fame and prestige aren’t all its cracked up to be. Her success garners as many enemies as it does admirers.
It’ll be interesting to see if anime gets its next Attack No. 1 with the upcoming 2020 Olympic games, the first time the country has hosted since 1964.
2. Shion no Oh (Shogi)
Shion no Oh (Shion’s King) is equal parts strategy game and murder-mystery.
The show’s star is middle-schooler and aspiring shogi player who is seeking her parents’ murderer. Mute since she witnessed their deaths at the age of five, Shion suspects that her parent’s killer plays the game when she found a King piece at the murder scene.
The anime is interspersed with Shion working on her shogi skills, which she is quite gifted at, and putting together the pieces of that fateful day from her past.
As an aside, the show also spends a decent amount of time criticizing the treatment of female shogi players by their male counterparts and the somewhat convoluted system in place to separate female and male players, and their rankings.
3. Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl (Martial Arts)
Yawara is another anime show pushed as a tie-in to the Olympic Games, this time the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Yawara Inokuma has a natural talent for martial arts, namely judo, but really has no interest in pursuing it. Her grandfather has other ideas and forces her to compete with hopes that she’ll make it to the Olympic level.
The show’s focus on judo held important significance at the time because 1992 marked the first year women could compete in the sport and be awarded a gold medal. Japanese politician Ryoko Tani took home the silver medal that year at the age of 17.
4. Taishō Baseball Girls. (Baseball)
This is a defiant little series about two girls, after being told by a baseball player that there’s no room for women in the sport, decide to form their own team in 1925.
The girls look to defy gender norms in a world where girls couldn’t even run track, much less convince their friends’ parents to allow their daughters to play a “manly” sport like baseball.
The show is organized around its sport, but its target audience is decidedly not baseball fanatics.
Taishō Baseball Girls. is a little more concerned with “cute,” but it’s also an interest (albeit light-hearted) look at the difficulties girls in the past faced when it came to something as simple as wanting to play baseball with their friends.