Football is the most popular sport in the world. With so many fans, it’s no surprise there are great football manga and anime, too.
Games pack stadiums with thousands of cheering fans. More people watch matches on TV at home. Football is huge in Japan. Because it’s so beloved there, many manga artists have made up stories about the sport.
These anime help teach people who don’t know what makes soccer special. Over time, cool anime about football spirit have come out too.
So here are some of the best soccer anime, going from oldest to newest:
Best Football Anime
1. Captain Tsubasa
- Episode: 128, 4 Film
- Studio: Tsuchida Production
Captain Tsubasa is an iconic manga and anime series credited with influencing the trajectory of Japanese football since its debut in 1981. Penned by Yoichi Takahashi, its enduring popularity has left an indelible mark on the sport.
At its core, Captain Tsubasa revolves around the aspirations of a young boy named Tsubasa, driven by the singular ambition of leading Japan to victory in the World Cup. Gifted with remarkable talent from an early age, Tsubasa’s journey unfolds under the guidance of a mentor, propelling him into the spotlight of the biggest soccer matches.
With over 80 million copies sold worldwide, Captain Tsubasa has entrenched itself as one of the most beloved manga series ever created. Its impact extends beyond the pages, with renowned footballers like Alessandro del Piero and Andres Iniesta citing it as a source of inspiration.
2. Fight! Kickers
- Episode: 26
- Studio: Pierrot
“Kickers” is a classic anime series from the 1980s that aired around the same time as “Captain Tsubasa.” Many viewers initially found it confusing because the club jerseys the characters wore were quite similar.
The story revolves around a new player named Daichi Kakeru, who joins a school team facing consecutive defeats. With Daichi’s arrival, however, everything begins to change. His passion and motivation inspire the team to shed their reputation as losers and strive for victory.
3. Aoki Densetsu Shoot!
- Episode: 58, 1 Film
- Studio: Toei Animation
“Aoki Densetsu Shoot!” or “Legendary Blue Shot!” is a soccer anime that centers around the journey of three high school freshmen: Toshihiko Tanaka, Kenji Shiraishi, and Kazuhiro Hiramatsu. Their friendship blossomed during their middle school years while playing football together.
Nicknamed the Kakenishi Golden Trio, they played pivotal roles in elevating their middle school’s football team to prominence. Upon entering Kakegawa High School, they were drawn by the reputation of star soccer player Yoshiharu Kubo, whom they admired.
Yoshiharu led the Kakegawa High Soccer Club to a remarkable top 8 finish in their prefecture during their debut appearance, despite the team’s being comprised mostly of freshmen. He declined offers from overseas professional football clubs to continue leading Kake-High towards the All-Japan High School Championship.
As the trio joins Kake-High’s soccer team, they encounter challenges, romance, and setbacks on their quest to establish themselves as Japan’s premier high school soccer team.
4. Dragon League
- Episode: 39
- Studio: Gallop
“Dragon League” is a unique blend of soccer and fantasy set in the mystical world of Elevenia, where magical powers and human-sized dinosaurs abound.
The story begins with Tokio and his father, Amon, visiting Elevenia and witnessing a parade featuring the country’s renowned soccer team, Winner. Amon impulsively challenges the team captain, Leon, to a soccer battle, but unfortunately, he loses and is transformed into a mini dragon by Leon’s magic.
Determined to restore his father to his human form, Tokio bravely challenges Leon to a soccer showdown. The anime follows Tokio’s journey as he strives to become the best soccer player in Elevenia, overcoming challenges, honing his skills, and unraveling the mysteries of this fantastical world.
With magical powers, thrilling soccer matches, and the presence of human-sized dinosaurs, “Dragon League” promises an exhilarating adventure filled with excitement and wonder.
- Episode: 39
- Studio: Comet
“Whistle!” is an acclaimed soccer manga and anime series penned by Daisuke Higuchi. The narrative revolves around Kazamatsuri Shou, a young boy aspiring to become a professional soccer player.
Shou encounters a significant hurdle on his journey—the lack of proficiency in playing soccer at a competitive level. However, upon enrolling at Sakura Jousui High School, he embarks on a transformative path to refine his skills. With unwavering support from his teammates and friends, Shou inches closer to realizing his dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
- Episode: 39
- Studio: Ashi Productions
Goro Kumagaya, a determined and towering high school goalkeeper, aspires to join Yokonan High School, which is renowned for its prestigious soccer club. However, despite his efforts, he falls short and enrolls in a less esteemed school opposite Yokonan.
Undeterred by this setback, Goro encounters Shingo, Hideki, and Kazuhito Oda, talented footballers at his new school. Together, they form the Kawasaki High School football club and embark on a journey to challenge Yokonan and other formidable opponents, striving to elevate their skills and emerge victorious.
Throughout their journey, every setback becomes an opportunity for growth and improvement. One notable revelation is Goro’s innate talent as a formidable striker, a discovery that adds a new dimension to their team dynamics and aspirations for success.
7. Inazuma Eleven
- Episode: 127
- Studio: OLM
The series chronicles the exploits of the Raimon Middle School soccer club, which has long been plagued by turmoil. Turning things around falls upon Mamoru Endou, the current captain. Yet, he quickly discovers that the road to improvement will be fraught with challenges.
Realizing he can’t do it alone, Mamoru seeks assistance revitalizing the club. He sets his sights on Shuuya Gouenji, a remarkably talented soccer player who has lost interest in the game. Undeterred, Mamoru embarks on a mission to persuade Shuuya to join the club, believing that his involvement could make a significant difference.
8. Hungry Heart: Wild Striker
- Episode: 52
- Studio: Nippon Animation
Hungry Heart: Wild Striker is a beloved soccer anime series adapted from Yoichi Takahashi’s manga. The story revolves around Kano Kyosuke, a middle schooler attending Jyoyo Orange High School. Kyosuke’s passion for soccer stems from his older brother, an AC Milan player who imparted his knowledge and love for the sport to him.
Despite his initial enthusiasm, Kyosuke grapples with the weight of comparisons to his brother, dampening his interest in soccer. However, upon enrolling at Jyoyo Orange High School, Kyosuke’s perspective shifts, reigniting his passion for the game and setting him on a journey of self-discovery and soccer prowess.
9. Giant Killing
- Episode: 26
- Studio: DEEN
“Giant Killing” centers around East Tokyo United, a struggling Japanese football club, as they navigate challenges in the country’s top football league. Despite narrowly escaping relegation, the club faces ongoing difficulties in improving performance. To turn their fortunes around, the club takes a bold step by hiring a new coach.
The new manager, Takeshi, is tasked with revitalizing the club and steering it toward success despite competing against teams with significantly larger budgets. Complicating matters further, Takeshi’s arrival is met with resistance and animosity from the club’s fans due to his controversial past reputation, adding another layer of difficulty to his already daunting job.
10. Area no Kishi (The Knight in the Area)
- Episode: 37
- Studio: Shin-ei Animation
“Area no Kishi,” also known as “The Knight in the Area,” follows the journey of middle and high school students as they navigate the world of soccer. Set against the backdrop of national tournaments and aspirations for world titles, the series delves into the growth and challenges its characters face.
At the heart of the story is Kakeru, his revered older brother Suguru, and his childhood friend Nana Mishima. Together with their teammates, rivals, and even world-class soccer players, they embark on a journey filled with passion and determination.
The anime explores the deep bond between Kakeru and Suguru, the love of their families, and the camaraderie shared among teammates and rivals. Amidst the backdrop of soccer, the series also touches upon themes of friendship, rivalry, and fleeting first love, resonating with viewers as they witness the characters’ journeys unfold.
11. Detective Conan: The Eleventh Striker
- Episode: 1 Film
- Studio: TMS Entertainment
In the 16th Detective Conan film, the storyline dives into the world of Japanese football. As Conan and his friends engage with professional J-League players, they eagerly attend a major match between Tokyo Spirits and Gamba Osaka. However, their excitement is soon overshadowed by the discovery of a bomb threat within the stadium.
With the safety of the spectators at stake, Conan takes on the challenge of uncovering the culprit’s identity and thwarting their sinister plans. Conan’s deductive skills are tested as the tension mounts as he races against time to prevent disaster and ensure justice prevails.
- Episode: 24
- Study: MAP
“Days” is a soccer manga penned by Tsuyoshi Yasuda, delving into the personal struggles of two boys, Tsukushi and Jin. Tsukushi, deemed talentless by others, often goes unnoticed. Conversely, Jin is hailed as a prodigy, destined for greatness in the sport.
Their paths intertwine one fateful day, leading to an unexpected connection that alters the course of their destinies. Through their encounters and challenges, Tsukushi and Jin embark on a journey that explores the intricacies of talent, determination, and friendship in soccer.
13. Farewell, My Dear Cramer
- Episode: 13
- Studio: LINDEN FILMS
In “Farewell, My Dear Cramer,” the sequel to “Sayonara Football,” the spotlight shifts to a women’s football club, highlighting that football is not exclusive to men.
Sumire Suo and Midori Soshizaki debut at Warabi Seinan High School in this sequel. Together, they take on the responsibility of elevating the school team’s performance in competitions.
With the arrival of a new coach, Naoko Nomi, the team undergoes development and faces off against some of the top teams in the country, aiming to make their mark in the world of women’s football.
- Episode: 24
- Studio: Production I.G.
“Ao Ashi” is a manga series by Yugo Kobayashi that has been adapted into an anime, premiering in April 2022.
The story revolves around Ashito Aoi, a talented player on his middle school soccer team. However, after losing his temper during a match, he is expelled from the team, leading to its downfall and causing him to doubt himself.
Fortunately, Ashito encounters a coach who recognizes his potential and invites him to Tokyo to develop his skills further and pursue his passion for soccer.
15. Blue Lock
- Episode: 24
- Studio: 8-bit
In the Fall 2022 anime lineup, one notable soccer anime to watch out for is “Blue Lock.”
The story follows as the Japanese National Team undergoes a drastic transformation, appointing Jinpachi Ego as the new coach. Ego believes that the team needs a top-notch striker to turn things around, leading him to establish a unique facility where 300 strikers compete fiercely for the coveted position.
Among the contenders is Yoichi Isagi, who joins Blue Lock to redeem past setbacks and emerge as the world’s best striker. As the series progresses, viewers follow Isagi’s journey filled with challenges and triumphs in pursuing his goal.
“Blue Lock” promises to be an engaging sports manga and anime, offering football enthusiasts and manga/anime enthusiasts a thrilling storyline worth exploring. Add it to your watch list for an exciting soccer-themed adventure!