Over the years, Japan has produced a lot of baseball-oriented sports anime series, and with good reason. The nation has enjoyed the sport for a long time.
It’s generally thought that baseball (yakyu in traditional Japanese; beisuboru in modern Japlish) first arrived during the Meiji Era of westernization. After a slow start, the game rapidly expanded with professional leagues. Soon they had teams capable of defeating international rivals. Japanese players are now common in Major League Baseball.
Naturally, there would be a lot of baseball in anime (even in series which don’t focus on the sport). Here are some of the better, more entertaining ones, from classics to current must-watch shows. These are the best baseball anime you can watch right now:
- The Hard-To-Find Classic
Touch is a classic 1980s baseball anime series which can be difficult to find online without feeling like you need to wear a pirate hat, or move to Asia. Which is a shame, because Touch is a worthwhile series.
In Touch, manga artist Mitsuru Adachi combined sports action with high school romantic comedy. The series is still fondly remembered in Japan. It features twin brothers Kazuya and Tatsuya, along with their childhood friend/ romantic love interest Minami. Netflix Japan has the original series, but it’s region locked.
- An Epic Journey
Between 2004 and 2010, the anime series Major followed Goro Honda/ Goro Shigeno over the course of several decades and six seasons. It certainly has a unique timeline. Some shows are content to have the main protagonist age from 12 to 16. But Major’s hero starts in kindergarten, before moving on to little league, junior high, high school, Minor League Baseball in the U.S., and the Baseball World Cup. In the end, he finally reaches Major League Baseball. Naturally, there are a couple of timeskips along the way.
The series has a sequel: Major 2nd. Here, the protagonist is Goro’s son, Daigo. Crunchyroll has the sequel series, but not the original.
Ace of Diamond
- Serious Baseball
Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace) takes its baseball very seriously, and that’s what makes it good. There’s plenty of room for comedy and humor on and off the field. But the meat of the series is baseball action, philosophy, and strategy. (And any baseball fan knows that there’s a lot of thinking involved in the game.)
Ace of Diamond features rising star and high school pitcher Eijun Sawamura, as he pushes himself on an elite baseball team. The series realistically depicts the drama and emotion of the sport.
The series is available at Crunchyroll.
- Moneyball Z
Fans hate to talk about it, but money is what makes the professional sports world go round. It’s what makes a pro athlete a pro, as opposed to an amateur.
The anime comedy series Gurazeni: Money Pitch takes the whole sad, sorry story of pro sports contracts and salaries, and cranks it up to 11. Here, the players are fully aware of the finances of the game. They study and compare salaries, like you might compare batting averages, slugging percentages, or other baseball statistics.
Incidentally, if you know anything about Nippon Professional Baseball, you should recognize the parody teams. For example, Bonda plays for the Jingu Spiders, based upon the Yakult Swallows in Aoyama, Tokyo.
Gurazeni: Money Pitch is available at Crunchyroll.
- Growing Up
The 2007-2010 anime series Big Windup! (aka Ookiku Furikabutte, or Oofuri) features high school pitcher Ren Mihashi. He has strong pitching skills, but he lacks self-confidence. He was on a losing team in middle school, and his teammates hated him. (It didn’t help that he was accused of nepotism.)
As a result, he planned to quit baseball when he entered high school. Instead, he ended up pitching for his new team, Nishiura High. Naturally, Mihashi will learn to deal with his issues while out on the field. As with other similar series, there’s some baseball strategy as well.
Crunchyroll has Big Windup! 2, which follows the team at the Invitational Tournament.
- A Team of Their Own
This 1998 series features a high school team which aims to go to Koshien, the big, legendary ultimate tournament goal for many baseball teams. Of course, the team in question is an all-girls team at a prestigious all-girls school.
The series takes a lot of typical sports anime tropes, but also mixes in some shojo touches. Princess Nine came out after A League of Their Own, but there are plenty of differences. The players aren’t playing other girls, but competing against the boys.
Crunchyroll has the series.
Taisho Baseball Girls
- Sports History
This unique baseball story takes place during the Taisho Era. (Taisho was the short-lived period between the Meiji and the Showa eras; known for its liberal democracy.)
In the 1920s, baseball was still getting started in Japan. A couple of professional teams existed, but Babe Ruth’s famous tour was still a decade away.
The 2009 anime series is based upon a light novel series, Taisho Yakyu Musume. Like Princess Nine, it features schoolgirls trying to start an all-girls baseball team. But the challenges and obstacles are even greater. Naturally, because of the time period, sexism is a huge issue. (It’s also a rare series where the sailor uniform is considered exotic, rather than traditional.)
You can find it at HIDIVE.