Watching a sports match is exhilarating. A game, a team, a player, a crowd — they create a full picture. Whenever I’m watching a sports match, I feel like I can do anything. They definitely encourage me to do my best, even if I’m not talking about doing a sport. Because it speaks to more than that: it speaks to you going after a personal goal. You see each player give their all to achieve their ultimate dream, which, in this case, is winning. And that? That’s outstanding. You see this happen in sports manga most of the time — one character who wants to be the best at something and all the trials that they have to go through to make it happen. People relate to that so easily because it’s what you face in your daily life. The next best sports manga are going to make you want to be part of something bigger.
A sports match feels like a concert. Every single person on that field, on that stage, has something specific to do. If they do it wrong, if they don’t focus on their task, everything will eventually crumble. For it to work like a well-oiled machine, every player has to do their job. When you’re reading these best sports manga, you will encounter drama, emotion, surprises, friendships, but you will also find characters who have done everything in their power to play their favorite sport.
Sports manga are huge. If they’re not making an action anime, they’re making sports anime. I think they’re the next best thing to mac and cheese, because I grew up watching sports, and I love them. I also enjoy finding manga about sports that aren’t so popular. We’ve seen basketball, we’ve seen tennis, we’ve seen baseball. But what about skating? What about ballroom dancing? Competitive sports are all around the world, and it’s a joy to find them on-page as well.
Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate
Haikyuu!! is already considered a legendary manga. Between the anime and the manga, it has garnered a good amount of fans from all around the world. This story, about a short kid named Hinata who only wants to play volleyball just like his hero, is well-loved. With its unique characters and inspirational storyline, Haikyuu!! has positioned itself at the top of many important lists.
Blue Lock by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Yusuke Nomura
If your sport of choice is soccer, Blue Lock is the one you should be reading. With an animated adaptation set to come out this year, this story is only going to get bigger and bigger.
It follows Yoichi Isagi, a high school student, who decides to join the soccer program to lead Japan to a victory in the World Cup.
Chihayafuru by Yuki Suetsugu
Now, let’s leave the usual sports on the side for a bit, and let’s talk about karuta. Chihayafuru tells the story of Chihaya Ayase, a young girl who suddenly meets a boy in her school who shows her the world of karuta.
Karuta is a very competitive sport. It’s also really beautiful. If you don’t know how this is played, karuta is a traditional Japanese card game that involves two players and a card reader. The players must clear the cards of their opponent’s board before they clear theirs. You’re wondering what the card reader is saying, right? They’re reading poems. And the players must find the ending of the poem first before their opponent.
Ace of the Diamond by Yuji Terajima
This is another hit manga that will bring you plenty of emotions while reading it. You’re a baseball fan? Keep reading!
Ace of the Diamond is your typical story of boy leaves small town to go to the big city to train with the best. But what’s endearing about it is the characters who are introduced. Eijun Sawamura, a boy with a very unusual changeup pitch, wants to become the Ace of his high school team. But before that happens, he has trials to conquer and teams to beat.
Crimson Hero by Mitsuba Takanashi
We’re going to go back to volleyball for one second, okay? If you wanted a story with a female-only volleyball team, you got it. Oh, you also want romance? Say less.
Crimson Hero follows Nobara, a 15-year-old girl with a passion for volleyball. When she transfers to Crimson Field High School expecting to play in their team, she finds out that the team has been disbanded! With the help of her sister and her friends, she manages to reinstate it and recruit some new players in the process.
Real by Takehiko Inoue
From the mind of Takehiko Inoue, who also brought you Slam Dunk, comes Real, a sports manga following the lives of three individuals who have one thing in common: a passion for basketball. Disability representation is seen throughout the whole story, but mainly in its main characters. Togawa, diagnosed with bone cancer, lost his right leg below the knee, while Takahashi, the captain of the basketball team, is paralyzed from the chest down.
Welcome to the Ballroom by Tomo Takeuchi
Competitive ballroom dancing is the real deal. And Welcome to the Ballroom shows you the ups and downs of this world.
You see ballroom dancers start from a very young age, right? Not for Tatara Fujita. He fell in love with dancing in high school, but many say he’s already too old to find a partner. Watch Tatara learn to dance, compete, and find the future he has always wanted.
Days by Tsuyoshi Yasuda
You’ll find that most sports manga have an animated adaptation. They’re so very popular with the anime crowd and they create a huge fandom for an already-loved story. Days had this happen when they released an adaptation in 2016.
This story is different than the rest in this list, because most of the other ones have a main character who already is very good in their sport. But when it comes to Tsukushi Tsukamoto, his character is very frail, weak, and doesn’t play well. But his determination will motivate his team to win championships.
TOPPU GP by Kosuke Fujishima
I’m a huge fan of racing. Whether driving cars or motorcycles, racing is a dangerous game. In Toppu GP, you meet Toppu Uno, a kid who never wanted to race motorcycles. He enjoyed watching his sister do it, and with his eagle eye, he knew her lap times faster than a stopwatch. He was content with that life! But when he finally climbs up on a moto and rides it, his life is forever changed.
Eyeshield 21 by Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata
Another favorite sport of mine is football. I religiously watch it every Sunday with my dad, so when I found out about Eyeshield 21, I had to read it!
This story follows Sena and his football team at his high school. He gets recruited by the team’s captain because Sena knows how to run. And fast. But because they’re afraid other teams will want to take him away from them, they protect his identity by wearing a helmet with an eyeshield, so no one can recognize him while playing. Be part of Sena’s story and how he went from a nobody to a champion.
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
In a best sports manga list, you have to include Slam Dunk. It’s just impossible to believe a list without it, because this manga was ahead of its time. With beautiful art and an impressive story, this manga is about Hanamichi Sakuragi, a delinquent who has a massive crush on this girl. Because of that crush, he joins his high school’s basketball team to impress her. But being there, playing with this team, he realizes that it’s bigger than that. Maybe…he loves playing basketball after all.
All Out!! by Shiori Amase
Now, this is a sport I don’t normally follow. But whenever the Olympics show it, I’m very tempted to start watching it. A rougher game than football, rugby will capture your attention quickly in All Out!!.
On his first day of high school, Kenji Gion meets a tall guy named Iwashimizu. They both join the rugby team, even though Gion is on the short side. But rugby is a game where each player has a job to do. It doesn’t matter if they’re short or tall: if they don’t do it correctly, the team crashes down.
Sugar Princess: Skating to Win by Hisaya Nakajo
Ice skating is a beautiful sport where you not only have to be very athletic, you also have to be able to create dancing programs. Sugar Princess is a classic, but if you want a newer, more modern story, check out the anime Yuri!!! on Ice as well.
Meet Maya in this adorable tale of partnership and dreams. When she put on the skates for the first time, she made an impression on a man who decides to scout her right there and then. He wants to make her Shun’s partner, but Shun refuses to do so. He has some secrets of why he doesn’t want a new partner, making it hard for Maya to achieve her dreams.
Cheeky Brat by Mitsubachi Miyuki
Finally, if you want a full-on romantic sports manga, Cheeky Brat is the way to go. Look, if you follow my articles, you know that I’m a huge romance fan, so putting romance and sports, my favorite two things in the world, together in one manga? You bet I’m going to love it.
It follows Yuki Machida, the manager of her school’s basketball team, who has a big crush on the captain. At the same time, there is Sho Naruse, a student who is a year her junior, who also decides to join the basketball team.
Be it as an anime or as a manga, sports make you feel so many different things. One minute you’re in shock because your favorite character just made the greatest play ever and the next you’re crying because they lost. If you want more similar content, check out this list about sports manga and anime.