Expanding focus from “sports” to “sports and recreation”

a stacking game and playing cards from “Waiting in the Summer”

In one of my first posts on this blog in early 2015, I wrote about what I considered when characterizing a particular anime or manga as a “sports” series. I asserted that a key element was “physical and analog effort in competition with others, usually under a set of established rules” and said that definition included traditional sporting activities — baseball, soccer, and volleyball among others — along with karuta but excluded more game-like activities such as go, shogi, card battles, and mahjong as well as non-competitive examples of martial arts.

A couple people left comments on that post asking why I separated karuta from other card games and saying that sports-focused and games-focused series “tend to share thematic threads and carry the same historical influences”. I had tried to haphazardly craft a guideline to fit the particular athletic disciplines I had already accepted as “sports” and I now regret using that method.

Almost two years later, I am revising that previous “sports” scope into a broader “sports and recreation” one that covers table games including shogi, mahjong, and go; outdoor pursuits including mountain climbing and hiking; competitive hobbies including model kit mecha battles and trading card games; and an assortment of other activities.

I plan to write many “home stretch” posts for fall 2016 anime series that have varied subjects including rugby, exercising, volleyball, shogi, wrestling, and figure skating. Expect to see those over the next few weeks.

Personal criteria of what’s considered a “sports” series

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.