Sports anime used to be a mainstay of the anime industry with huge titles such as Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa, and Prince of Tennis. Nowadays you don’t see as many sports anime, but their influence lives on through anime based on what I would consider traditional games. When I talk about traditional games, I’m not so much referring to old games, but ones that you would expect seniors to play during their free time. Games such as go, mahjong, and karuta tend to have more aged players due to stereotypes, though a number of young people do gain interest in them. Despite the stereotypes associated with these games, they have spawned very popular anime such as Hikaru no Go, Saki, and Chihayafuru. What made them so popular, and can that be applied to any game?
When you compare anime like Hikaru no Go, Saki, and Chihayafuru to anime like Slam Dunk, Captain Tsubasa, and Prince of Tennis you start to notice major similarities between all of them. One of them is that of a talented underdog making his or her way up the ladder and facing tougher opponents over time. Not only do you get to learn about the game, but you get to see more and more intense battles every episode. This keeps the series interesting even though it could technically go on forever.
Another thing that these game anime have borrowed from sports anime is the strategic monologue. These are always delivered in such a way that no matter what the players are doing, it seems shocking. Everything from the simplest placement of a piece to the swift movements needed to snatch a card are explained in so much detail within the monologues that to the viewer it feels like a highly complex and complicated move. I think this really helps bring excitement to any series, as proven by all of the titles mentioned earlier.
Now can these aspects make any game, bingo for instance, interesting? Like go, mahjong, and karuta, bingo is stereotyped as a slow game for older people but it can be rather involved. As many people have discovered after watching anime based on go, mahjong, and karuta, those games are actually very tense and involve a lot of strategy. Similarly, bingo can be tense and involve strategy too, which you can see for yourself by trying it out at ballsupbingo.com. With the right execution, a bingo anime could become as popular as Hikaru no Go, Saki, or Chihayafuru.
Those who are still skeptical about whether aspects of sports anime can be applied to any game might want to consider watching Yakitate Japan. By most standards, it is a sports anime, but without the sport. Instead, it is about baking bread. If baking bread can be made into a popular and exciting anime, then I’m sure anything is possible.