Sports Anime and the One Year Issue

I want to go into this first by mentioning that I am not the largest sports anime or manga expert at all. If you want, I can point you to people who trully are experts in this genre. By myself, I’ve only watched a small amount of them compared to the huge surplus of sports related media that exists in anime and manga. Still, the one-year thing is something that I’ve noticed in a lot of the sports and sports adjacent anime that follow a certain tournament arc flow. The tournament arc where the main protagonist are the under dogs of the universe and have to fight their way up winning against one opponent after another until they are the winner. I am also throwing in things like Angelic Layer and the two Gundam Build Fighters series to that list. They usually go for a year of in story content, and then stop. What’s up with that?

Yes, I know that I am writing this in complete ignorance because not every series does this. Pokemon kind of/sort of fits in this genre and it’s been ongoing for years. Yu-gi-oh could be called in this sports/game tournament thing and it also has multiple seasons and series. Chihayafuru is going through all the high school years and could go longer if it wanted to. Hikaru No Go skipped the high school tournament thing completely and focused on Hikaru going pro instead. Yowa Mushi Pedal goes on for multiple seasons and years too. So yes, there are sports or sports adjacent series that go beyond a year of in school time. That doesn’t shake the problem of this continuing to happening.

Is this really a problem? Yes but also no. This supposed “One Year Issue” is one of those situations which come with a lot more nuance then this is just bad. The want to see of seeing these characters involved in the following year in a different capacity is a good thing in its own right. The viewer is invested in these characters and their story. The mangaka and their crew achieved their goal and got their readers to love their story as much as they did from putting their well-earned efforts. That is a positive. It is also a way for the fans to make their own series loving communities and create their own stories based around these characters too. There are some very questionable interactions that can come from overzealous fans, but in general I think most fan connections from those series are good no matter how naught they might seem..

There is also the concept of these series to consider too. A lot of these series involve the underdog, right? That’s why you cheer for the team or players in question here. A team of people who used to have the legacy of being great or the best there was. Now, they are looked down on by all the other teams who are the current best. The new rookies that appeared give this team some way to get to that top and earn that reputation again. Something which happens, because otherwise there is no reason to watch the series. You can also say the same thing happening for newly formed teams with no reputation behind them. It’s a good and enduring story set up and once the team is at the top, what happens now?

All of that that kind of leads to what I think would be interesting if sports series went beyond one year in school time. A little bit of a reason why I get upset at shows ending so soon. There is an have an established cast of characters from the main cast and rivals now. The protagonists are at the top and must somehow work to maintain this new status quo with the third years gone and new first years appearing. A series with that cast keeping their place at the top would be interesting to say the least. Especially to prove that what happened wasn’t just lightning in a bottle. Or what about if what happened the previous year was a lightning in a bottle senario. What if there is character drama of this cast not performing to expectations again? There is a lot of sports media for people and teams gaining prominence, not them losing it. Wouldn’t that be interesting.

Well, the result of that can be a mixed bag too I suppose. Once again, I am not a sports media sort of person that watches a lot of sports movies either, but I can provide an example of that later part happening and it turning out not that great. Major League and Major League 2. Major League was a great movie about the raise of the Cleveland Indians from a team no one in their home town likes to a team that wins the World Series. A team of nobodies and has beens did that. Major League 2 followed that by immediately placing with the same team except everyone has an ego from winning and forgets about team work. It’s just not that interesting and plain awful, but it was very ambitious for a sports movie. Too bad about the execution though. Not everyone likes to watch a cast of assholes being complete assholes to each other.

There is the case for the One Year Issue as well. If the creator did make more, there is a possibility of not all ideas not working and everyone hating it after a well-established ending point. “This isn’t my sports thing, how dare you?” Or the usual “this thing isn’t going the way that I used to like” are some fan responses from this happening and all honestly, that’s fair. Same with creators wanting to work on something else after years of working on a manga because they have a new idea they want to try. Another completely legitimate thing. I’m just saying that there is a possibility of doing something with the relationships and rivalries that have a “see you next time” or “next time, I will win against you” attachments after the protag team beats an opposing one. It’s just a little annoying that we don’t see those happening. I guess the next installment usually comes from the fan’s minds, huh? All good fun.


  1. An anime story, especially sports anime story, should not be confined to follow the decisions of the viewers, yet a good story would be the one that would easily convince the readers/watchers to like it, no matter what. The essence of a good storytelling and arc-setting largely depends upon the current abilities and interests of the characters of the anime. Even if the “revenge” or “i will beat them” attitude is required to drag the story towards the mindset of the viewers, it is necessary to take into account the humanly possible mistakes and “character issues” to be displayed, which not only shows how twisted the things actually are in a real game, but also gives room for characters to develop (although this type of development looks very cliched in some ways if overdone).

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  2. Your viewpoint with respect to a story revolving around the protagonist associated with a “well formed” or to be price, the top teams is also a good idea. It will drive towards a new character development strategy since the mindset of an established team and their purpose of defending their royal positions will be visible to the audience. Since going to the top is always a top priority, many would fail to realize that achieving the top position involves taking a lot of responsibility and burden upon one’s own self. Adjusting to the ever changing environment is crucial. The most important thing would be the message that the top team delivers to the newbies through their actions.

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    1. See, that’s my argument. Watching underdogs is always fun. Absolutely fun. At the same time, there are ways to add more layers to each character by putting them into a different situation an handled in a different way. Like, the latest Haikyuu arc shows that there are so many interesting ways to take this now that the game is centered on young professionals.

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  3. An anime that breaks the one year cycle issue that I highly recommend is Ace of Diamond. It goes beyond year one as the high school baseball team grows and develops as players come and go throughout the years.

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  4. I totally agree with your “Year One Issue” being a huge problem with sports series. Troupes are well and good, but everyone always starts with year one. I mean, starting at the ‘beginning’ is usually a good place to start lol. But you can look at any of the big titles, Slam Dunk, Haikyuu!!, Prince of Tennis, etc. All of those big successful stories used this pattern. So I think a lot of mangaka’s and then by default animation studios are scared to deviate from this formula since anything other then what’s expected in sports anime tends to not do as well.

    I also think a lot more studios are cautious about what the market can handle. We have Slam Dunk and Kuroko no Basket, as the arguably biggest basketball titles, how is a smaller series going to compare with that? Will the ratings be okay? Are they going to be unfairly compared from the jump even if they deviate? There’s so much to consider!

    But you do ocassionally get series that don’t follow the year one rule. Number24 actually focuses more or the main character adjusting to the role of a manager verses player in rugby (he has to repeat a year due to the accident but age-wise he’s a second year). I’ll throw Yuri on Ice!! in here since all the core cast are mult-season professionals verses their first year of competition. Levius and Megalo Box since the storylines make it clear this isn’t their first bouts. One Outs also being about pros, but also a psychological anime disguised as a sports series (on my list but might be what you’re looking for!)

    I feel like my giant comment can be summerized as the following; mangaka’s, studios and even fans don’t like change. So if a story follows a familar pattern they’re more likely to consume it then if tries to do something new.

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      1. Comfy patterns are indeed comfy. And hey, we need people like you to call us out so we find new-ish stuff!

        You know what? You’re the winner if you’re getting free recommendations lol. (I might steal a few fyi, lol)

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  5. I was thinking about this not too long ago in regards to Saki, just speculating on how things would look if the story carried into second year since many of the teams (including both protagonist teams) will lose key players to graduation. Some of the smaller schools might not even have enough players to field a team the next year. Then again, Saki has been in publication for 15 years now and in-universe the story’s only progressed by about four months, so unless the writer wants to keep it running for 50+ years like Golgo 13, I can’t see it ever making it to year 2 at the pace it’s going.

    To be fair, though, this seems to be an issue with school anime/manga in general – I can think of lots of series that only cover one year of high school, or if they tried to carry on beyond that one year they either zoomed through the rest of high school at warp speed (like Silver Spoon), or they fizzled out somewhere along the way and couldn’t manage to keep the story going all the way to graduation (like Haruhi and Food Wars).

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    1. Ah, all fair responses to my little inquiry. A lot of creators really do only can maintain their ideas and thoughts for a short amount of time.


  6. My thoughts when this landed in my inbox (email notifications are good but time-consuming to get rid of, y’all) was that one year gives a writer a defined time limit for characters to become the best at whatever they do and it gives them pressure if they’re not on track to their goals, but it’s enough time to develop characters if they suddenly start hanging out with each other a lot.

    A lot of anime and manga I can think of have set time limits, actually, for similar reasons – the entirety of Detective Conan so far, I think, was stated to only have occurred in less than one year of in-universe time (because they haven’t hit Ran/Rachel’s birthday yet and that’s apparently plot-relevant…somehow), which has led to many, many people trying to calculate how many cases Conan solves a day…welp, I haven’t been up to date on DC for a while so don’t quote me on that, but it shows you what happens if you try to make the time limit last (seemingly) forever.

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    1. Yeah, I have a feeling that detective Conan shouldn’t have stayed within a limited time frame just like Ash in Pokemon who is still 10 after decades too. Just don’t have any dates for those types of stories.


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