The popularity of high-profile sports anime has grown in recent years and generated more interest in the sports those series portray. In an attempt to get in on this boom, Shufu to Seikatsusha has published two issues of Spo-Ani!, a “sports animation magazine”, so far in the past 6 months. I received my copies of issues one & two today from Amazon Japan and had some time to flip through them.
The second quarter of 2015 in Region 1 home video releases just got two more sports anime additions as FUNimation announced today it plans to put out Ping Pong the Animation and Wanna Be The Strongest in the World! this June in Blu-ray/DVD combo packs featuring English & Japanese voice tracks.
Those two bring the total number of sports series with home video released currently scheduled in the next three months to five:
April 28th:Free! Season 1 DVD (sub-only; Discotek) May 12nd:Slam Dunk DVD set 1 (dub & sub; Cinedigm) June 2nd:Haikyu!! Blu-ray Collection 1, DVD Collection 1 (sub-only; Sentai Filmworks) June 2nd:Wanna be the Strongest in the World! Blu-Ray/DVD Combo set (dub & sub; FUNimation) June 23rd:Ping Pong the Animation Blu-ray/DVD Combo set (dub & sub; FUNimation)
There are a couple of sports anime series that have North American disc releases scheduled in coming months: Slam Dunk on May 12th and Haikyu!! on June 2nd.
Cinedigm’s first Slam Dunk DVD set was originally scheduled to come out last December but that month passed with no updates about a revised date until recently when the current May date appeared on Rightstuf and other retail sites. The set is listed with 14 episodes and English & Japanese language tracks; the English dub to be included is suspected to be the same as what was previously released in the mid-2000’s by Toei.
While adding entries to a side project I started a few years ago (sportsmanga.info), I’ve had to think about which series to add to it and which not to add. That’s because I’ve come across some series classified under the sports genre that I don’t really think belong there. I decided to come up with a guideline I could use when I’m about to add something to the sports manga information site as well as when considering topics for blog posts on here.
My definition of what makes something a “sports” series is one that primarily involves physical and analog effort in competition with others, usually under a set of established rules. That covers traditional sports such as those held at Olympic games as well as activities conducted without balls or pucks, like karuta. It excludes activities that seem to me to be more games than sports – examples include go, shogi, card battles, and mahjong.
Also just because something is a physical activity like martial arts doesn’t mean that I automatically think something with martial arts is a sports series. Kenichi and Sumomomo are a couple series that feature martial artists fighting each other but not in a way that I would consider organized. I think of those as action comedies rather than sports ones.
I don’t intend to belittle the types of series that I don’t classify as sports series since the activities involved can provide excitement and, in most cases, require strategic thinking in order to succeed. Other people have different methods of determining whether something counts as a sport and that’s fine. I just wanted to explain my thought process for the things I’m working on.
Known primarily for older titles, Discotek Media has gotten into releasing more recent series over the past few years including a few sports series announcements in the last couple months – first with announcing in December that they plan to put out subtitled sets of the 1st and 2nd seasons of Yowamushi Pedal and then tonight saying they will produce a subtitled-only set of Free! season 1 in 2015 with a possible dubbed version down the road that may come from another publisher.
FUNimation had previously simulcast the 2nd season of Free!, Free! Eternal Summer, and plans to release it on home video with an English dub. The main characters’ English voice actors were announced in November.
The split licensing of this popular swimming franchise is a bit of an unusual case since most times when there’s multiple seasons of a particular series that are localized, they all get released on DVD and/or Blu-Ray by the same publisher. I personally have only seen the first couple episodes of the first season of Free! but I imagine it’s frustrating to fans who want to own both seasons to have different publishers working on them.