If you’ve ever thought that what the world really needs is a Japanese high school football anime, there is in fact such a thing. Eyeshield 21 is one of those immensely long, game-filled shonen sports manga (a series targeted toward boys); it lasted for seven years. The anime is over a hundred episodes long, so if you like this sort of thing, there’s plenty to love.
The concept is pretty charming. The protagonist is a short, slight boy who doesn’t do terribly well in school and is used as a fetch-and-carry minion by the school plug-uglies. He passes the exams and makes it into a good high school by the skin of his teeth and a lot of tutoring. But it seems as if history will repeat itself — until he is saved by a member of the American football school club. This new friend gives him the courage to resist and evade the newest crop of bullies. Also, he finds himself recruited onto the football team as a running back.
Which puts the total number of football players on the high school team at… um… three. That means they have to recruit 8 more players if they even want to play against other schools. But these guys are dreaming of winning the national high school championship at Christmastime. This being anime, they might just make it….
It’s pretty cool to see a show where an American game is the exotic, trendy new sport. Sometimes I even know the football quiz answers. :)
Crunchyroll has this show in subtitled form for you to watch, free and legal. They have 125 episodes.
(I guess a few episodes dubbed into English were on the Cartoon Network’s Toonami on-demand site for a while in 2008, but I could never get that site to work.)
You can also watch the long-running high school basketball anime, Slam Dunk, at Crunchyroll. In which a Japanese high school boy joins the basketball team in the hope of impressing girls, and finds himself in the middle of some kind of basketball epic. They’ve only got 101 episodes of that up.
Oh, and in case any of you parental types are wondering — shonen sports series aimed at middle-schoolers, like this one, usually keep it pretty clean. Violence is more of a concern, but it’s usually either not very violent or simply cartoon violence. You’re much more likely to lose your mind from seeing games dragged out over two or three episodes, a la all the tournament shows inspired by Dragonball Z.