MANGA: Sports Manga May Not Be What You Think


While sports manga is immensely popular in Japan, otaku here just can’t seem to warm up to it. This both saddens and puzzles me. Especially considering the wonderful SJ titles released here like the legendary Slam Dunk and the hilarious Eyeshield 21. The only reason I can guess as to why these series aren’t super popular is otaku may have some misconceptions about sports manga. And with the lacrosse manga Cross Manage starting in SJ Alpha, I want to dispel these myths. In my SUPER IMPORTANT OPINION, everyone should give sports manga a chance!

Misconception: You have to like sports to like sports manga.

WRONG: Manga is really about characters! Most stories are character driven, and the fun comes from watching them grow and try to overcome the many obstacles in their way. These obstacles may be on the field or off. In fact, some of the best stories have nothing to do with the games, like in Slam Dunk when Sakuragi’s delinquent past comes back to haunt him and threatens his status on the team.

Misconception: You have to know something about the sport to like the manga.

WRONG: That’s one of the greatest things about sports manga—it teaches you all about the sport. And little by little, so won’t feel bogged down by too much information. You’ll learn right alongside the characters all the way from the basics, up to the finer points. Even if you know a lot about the sport, chances are you’ll still learn something.

Misconception: Learning about sports will be boring.

WRONG: This is manga, people! It’s larger than life! It has outrageous characters, super moves, outlandish scenarios, humor, drama, love, etc. Although some sports manga like Slam Dunk play it more serious, others like Eyeshield 21 are quite hilarious! Regardless, this is one of those rare instances, where learning actually can be fun.

Misconception: It’s just going to be a bunch of games.

WRONG:  In most sports manga, there are a lot stories that take place outside of the game. In fact, that’s often how you get to know the characters. You get to see their lives and what drives them to want to compete. Sometimes there are sizable story arcs where they’re not playing the game at all, like in Eyeshield 21 where they go to America to train by running from Houston to Los Angeles!

Misconception: All the games are going to be serious.

WRONG: In some manga, there’s often quite a bit of humor in the games. I’ve literally laughed out loud at some of Sakuragi’s in-game antics in Slam Dunk. And some of the funniest moments in Eyeshield 21 come from the games. 

Misconception: I’m afraid if I start reading them, I’ll start to like sports and turn into a super buff dude-bro.

NOT WRONG: That could happen! But it’s entirely unlikely, and even if you’re a dude-bro, you can still love manga!

So give sports manga a chance! You may discover some great manga you’ve been ignoring. And give Cross Manage a chance when it starts in SJ Alpha! I don’t know anything about lacrosse, but I’m looking forward to learning!

URIAN BROWN’S SJ Sports Manga Breakdown: 

Eyeshield 21: Super wacky, and really funny! Everybody has some kind of super move, the teams have hilarious names (Deimon Devil Bats! Bando Spiders!), and the games are very intense. Probably the easiest to get into if you really, really, really don’t like sports.

Hikaru no Go: While go is technically not a sport, it’s still competitive. The story’s got a cool twist, as the main character can communicate with a long-dead go master. They develop an interesting student-mentor relationship. Personally, I find games like go and chess to be insanely boring, but I was absolutely riveted by this manga.

Prince of Tennis: A fairly serious sports manga, with some eye candy for the girls. These are some handsome lads! While the tone of the manga is serious, the tennis moves are often quite outlandish, making matches more exciting.

Slam Dunk: A legendary manga. Considered by many to be the greatest sports manga (and for some, just plain manga) ever created. It has a lot of humor, and some funny characters, but gets more serious as the series continues.

Ultimate Muscle: This manga is just plain silly. It takes the wacky nature of professional wrestling and totally goes bananas with it. It has lots of absurd wrestlers, body humor and great gags. Fun stuff!

Whistle: Probably the most straightforward of all the sports manga. The main character is determined to get good at soccer, despite his small size. His crazy optimism is quite infectious.

Cross Manage: You’ll find out Monday when the issue comes out!

Related Links:

by Urian Brown


Submitted by TechGenusMaster on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 18:31

LOLz just posted about this. HAHAHA

Submitted by Rychy on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 22:52

Is this suppose to make us feel better since Alpha can't seem to add popular series people actually want like Medaka Box, SKET Dance, and Gintama?

Submitted by HolyPaladin on Fri, 09/28/2012 - 23:08

let me tell you somthing, Vizor just wants the cute girls for himself

Submitted by Shonenjump86 on Sun, 09/30/2012 - 20:03

I could not get into Eyeshield 21 or Whistle. Did not like the previews back in the SJ magazines. Howerever, I really like Hikaru No Go, Slam Dunk, and Ultimate Muscle. PrInce of Tennis is alright. I have all the vols of Hikaru, Prince of Tennis and Ultimate Muscle. I also have the vols of Slam Dunk that are released in the States. It would be nice if I could have the original Kinnikuman series and the sequel to Ultimate Muscle. Isn't there a basketball series running in Weekly Jump? How about we get that series? :)

Submitted by jkphantom on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 18:31

I agree with Urian on how sports manga doesn't receive as much positive feedback as many action manga do. Manga, regardless of genre, should be enjoyable no matter what it's about! So, I think I'm gonna give Cross Manage a chance. What about you?

Submitted by TechGenusMaster on Mon, 10/01/2012 - 18:34

It is good, as it is about real life. Unfortunatley, being about real life includes a lot of perverts. And girls.

Submitted by John Bae on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 10:24


And SLAM DUNK has to be one of the best sports...actually, one of the best manga series ever. Highly recommended for everyone, even those that despise basketball.

Submitted by bleachnaruto5 on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 10:59

I absolutely HATE sports and find them useless and boring and i'm afraid i'll get hurt if i play them but i started to read cross manage and... ANTISIPATE THE NEXT ISSUE JUST FOR A NEW CHAPTER OF CROSS MANAGE! p.s. cross manage is the only sjalpha series i read cause i can't get caught up with what's going on in bleach,toriko,naruto,ect. because it's too far into the series. the speed-up summary didn't help me much either. p.s.s. I LOVE CROSS MANAGE CAUSE IT'S AWESOME!!

Submitted by Ashirogi6 on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 14:42

this is pretty cool.I think this point is proven, in my opinion, particularly in hikaru no go and slam dunk.

Submitted by Lizzy on Fri, 11/16/2012 - 10:23

Oh, Very cool story! I liked Hikaru No Go in the old Jump magazine! And read the free preview to Prince Of Tennis and wow so got into Prince Of Tennis! And I don't usually like to many sports LOL! But, I do hope you guys find a manga that will run longer in Alpha.

Submitted by chocolatecm on Sat, 02/23/2013 - 20:18

I would love to see Kuroko's Basketball serialized in the U.S. If the manga is too far along in Japan (I don't know, because I've only seen the anime via Crunchyroll), maybe Viz would consider printing from vol. 1. That would be awesome -_- ...!

Submitted by liezelgordoncielo on Mon, 05/20/2013 - 20:53

I love anime especially the Slum Dunk animated series. Basketball is my favorite kind of sports. I like watching Sakuragi playing basketball doing a lot of funny stuff. I always read Manga since there are things in the series has deleted from the story.