Do you want to start watching now? If you quickly want to know what my choice is for the best basketball anime and manga, then I would recommend Slam Dunk as the best one.
With the popularity of basketball, it’s not surprising to find a handful of anime dedicated to it. I have watched a lot of basketball anime and I enjoy them because they are all different. The characters are always so unique and the show is always so exciting. They are also really easy to get into even if you don’t know anything about basketball.
In this article, I will be reviewing and sharing with you my top picks for the best basketball anime and manga.
- Slam Dunk
- Kuroko’s Basketball (Kuroko No Basket)
- Ahiru No Sora
- I’ll / CKBC (Crazy Kouzu Basketball Club)
Anime And Manga
Anime is a Japanese term for all forms of animation. The word is based on the shortened form of the English word animation. Anime is typically characterized by colorful graphics, exaggerated facial expressions, and fantastical themes.
There are many different sports-themed anime to choose from. From super-humanly competitive games to more laidback stories, anime capture the essence of basketball in a variety of ways.
Japanese animation is believed to have started in the early 20th century. These were a series of drawings stitched together to form moving figures across a screen. It was in the 1960s when characters with large eyes, big mouths and sometimes larger heads started to appear. This distinctive style has made anime characters recognizable against other forms of animation.
Manga is a Japanese word that refers to comics and graphic novels. The earliest forms of manga were drawings on scrolls dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries. You can say that manga has been an important part of entertainment in Japanese culture.
Why Do People Like Anime?
People like anime and manga because it’s a form of art that is unique to the culture. It gives people a different perspective on life from what they’re used to, and it’s a way for people to escape reality for a little while. Anime and manga also have a lot of action, which some people find entertaining.
Anime and manga especially those centered on sports will usually have sportsmanship, team work, loyalty, and love as underlying themes.
What I personally appreciate about anime is the great illustrations and the injection of comedy in the most unexpected places. I also appreciate the out of this world storyline that stretches your imagination but still manages to be relatable.
5 Best Basketball Anime And Manga
Many people love playing basketball, but not everyone has the opportunity to play. Wouldn’t it be nice to live vicariously through your favorite anime? Here are my top picks for the best basketball anime and manga.
1. Slam Dunk
Slam Dunk is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Takehiko Inoue. The Slam Dunk anime was an adaptation of the manga of the same name. The manga version is available here if you are interested. The series is about a high school boy named Hanamichi Sakuragi who joins the Shohoku basketball team.
Sakuragi did not have any interest or intention of getting into basketball. Having been rejected by 50 girls when he was in middle school, his top priority is to stop his rejection streak and finally get a girlfriend.
He falls head over heels in love with a pretty girl named Haruko Akagi. Akagi approached him and asked if he played basketball. Totally smitten by her, he answers yes even when he has no clue at all about the sport.
He later finds out that Akagi has a one-sided crush on Rukawa Kaede, the star rookie who joins the Shohoku basketball team at the same time. He also comes to know that the basketball team’s captain Takenori Akagi is his beloved’s (Haruko) brother.
The series follows Sakuragi’s struggles and hesitation with the sport. While he has the height and athleticism, he was purely into the sport to impress Haruko. He eventually grows to love basketball and continues with training to become a starting player.
The show follows his journey of growth as a basketball player along with the Shohoku team’s quest for the elusive championship.
The comedy and sports aspects of this anime make it enjoyable for people of all ages. The animation series has a total of 101 episodes. It started airing in the early 1990s and was one that I particularly enjoyed in my teen years.
It popularized the game of basketball in Japan. In fact, the writer Takehiko Inoue received a lot of letters from fans saying that they got into basketball because of it. Here is another review if you’d like to know more before watching.
- Relatable storyline
- Lots of funny scenes to make you laugh
- Sakuragi’s character shows how effort and determination can lead to self-growth
- Easy to understand for someone who is not very familiar with basketball
- 101 episodes may be too long for some
2. Kuroko’s Basketball (Kuroko No Basket)
Kuroko’s Basketball, also known as Kuroko No Basket, was first released as an animated series in 2012 and had a total of 25 episodes. The manga was written and illustrated by Tadatoshi Fujimaki. You can get your hands on the manga here.
If Slam Dunk’s main protagonist, Hanamichi Sakuragi had no basketball skills and no interest in the game at the beginning, Kuroko’s basketball’s duo is the opposite. The two main characters, Tetsuya Kuroko and Taiga Kagami are basketball prodigies.
Tetsuya Kuroko comes from Teiko Junior High. The school is famous for their phenomenal basketball team who has dominated the national games for three consecutive years. The secret to their success is the “Generation of Miracles”, a group of five students with amazing basketball skills. Kuroko is the unknown sixth man who has excellent playing abilities.
Upon graduation, the five members of “Generation of Miracles” went their separate ways. Kuroko went to Seirin High School, a new school with a strong but little known team. Apart from Kuroko, another talented basketball player by the name of Taiga Kagami also joined the Seirin basketball team. Kagami spent most of his time in the US and has a natural flair and love of the sport. These two formidable players join forces to bring Seirin to the top of the Inter Highschool competition.
The series follows their triumphs and defeats in facing the teams led by the individual members of the former Generation of Miracles: Ryota Kise, Shintaro Midorima, Daiki Aomine, Atsushi Murasakibara, and Seijuro Akashi.
I enjoyed the action-packed episodes with a lot of spectacular plays including dunks and passes.
- Easy to follow even for someone who is not very familiar with basketball
- Has elements of comedy
- The series is not too long for someone to finish end to end
- Great soundtrack
- Some may find the skills of the characters to be unrealistic / exaggerated
3. Ahiru No Sora
This anime was first aired in 2019. Ahiru No Sora is one of the newest animations in this line up. The manga series was written and illustrated by Takeshi Hinata. You can get access to the comic book here.
Ahiru No Sora is a story of underdogs, perseverance, determination, and hope. The main protagonist, Sora Kurumatani is not the typical high flying basketball hero..
Unlike Hanamichi (Slam Dunk), Kuroko and Kagami (Kuroko’s Basketball) who have the athletic build for the sport, he does not have the height typically expected of basketball players. Not only does he not have the height, he also lands in a team that has little to no chance at winning.
Sora joined Kuzuryuu High School to become a member of the basketball team. This was his first step to fulfill his promise to his mother. His mother used to be a top female basketball player in her time. He promised that he will be a star basketball player in his high school. Unfortunately, he started to get disheartened when he found out that the Kuzuryuu basketball club was a team of non-achievers who have no interest in the sport.
What Sora lacks in height, he makes up for with his playing ability, dedication to perfecting his craft through consistent practice, and intense love of the sport. This love of the sport gradually influences the other players in his basketball team.
The series shows how the team members strive to become a contender for the championship. They work hard on their skills and team coordination. Sadly, I did find it rather slow in pace and with 50 episodes, there is certainly a tendency for the viewers to get bored.
- The most realistic of the animes in this list
- Every character has an interesting backstory with genuine struggles and challenges
- Lighthearted and funny moments give a nice twist
- The story can get dragging at times and stretches to over 50 episodes
4. I’ll / CKBC (Crazy Kouzu Basketball Club)
Released in 2002 with only two episodes, this anime is a good one to watch if you do not have the time to invest in watching a series that has a huge number of episodes. This is an OVA (Original Video Animation) which was not aired on TV. It is based on the manga of the same title written by Hiroyuki Asada.
Hitonari Hiiragi comes from a family that is heavily influenced by basketball. His older brother, Takuya Hiiragi, is a star national player. His father is a competitive coach who desires nothing but to have his sons reach top player status. This was something that he was not able to achieve for himself. Both his older brother and father are part of a top team, Hyamazaki.
Coming from this background, one will expect Hiiragi to face a lot of pressure and expectations to do well in the sport. Hiiragi joins Kouzu High School in the hopes of making a name for himself in basketball with a new set of teammates. He meets his rival, Akane Tachibana, who is already a star in the team. The OVA shows how the two former rivals try to play together to win as a team.
Along the way, Hiiragi questions his decision on joining Kouzu and entertains the thought of moving to another team. There is quite a bit of introspection on the part of the main characters in this OVA.
One may argue that this leans more heavily towards outside of court drama rather than the game itself. I would say that it will cater to those who are just starting to get into basketball anime and not looking for a lot of game action.
- Good one to start your journey into basketball anime
- Only two episodes, requires less time investment
- Presents a different side of competitive basketball players
- Not much character development due having very few episodes
- Limited game sequences
Unlike all the other recommendations in this round up, Basquash is not your typical basketball underdog story. First aired in 2009 with 26 episodes, this series blends sports anime and science fiction. It is something that I would recommend for someone looking to stretch their imagination and forget about reality even for a while.
If you are a little bored of the usual action in basketball anime, give this one a try. The story is set in the fictitious planet Earth Dash. A young man named Dan wants to take his sister to the more advanced lunar city of Mooneyes for medical treatment. Unfortunately, they have neither the society status nor the money to travel and leave the planet.
Dan finds his chance of gaining fame by playing BFB (Big Foot Basketball). Instead of the usual games where humans run and play on foot, players ride robots called “Big Foot” and play in a giant arena. BFB takes basketball to a whole new level. It is much more fast paced and destructive owing to the power from the large mechanical robots.
Apart from the basketball action, the series also includes a bit of drama, romance, and a save the world narrative.I found the illustrations of the Big Foot robots quite amusing with Nike shoes getting some prominent advertising.
- Shows a different way of portraying basketball as a sport
- Fantastic illustrations
- Great soundtrack
- Storyline starts to get confusing and at times boring around halfway through
The Awesome Choice
My choice for the best basketball anime or manga is Slam Dunk. While it may be too long for some, I like how the characters progress and develop in the story. It has the key elements that make anime interesting – great basketball action, romance, comedy, a lot of heart and determination. This is a classic piece of sports anime which paved the way for basketball to become more popular in Japan.