Screenshot from Birdie Wing that depicts lead character Eve hitting a golf ball against a red starfire background

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Beyond Birdie Wing: COVID-19’s Impact On Golf Anime Adaptations


On March 28, Chris and Steve over at Anime News Network posed a curious question: Is Birdie Wing to blame for the sudden rise in golfing anime? Not only has Sorairo Utility been greenlit for a full series, we also have Rising Impact and Oi! Tonbo on their way to grace our screens with golfing goodness in the near future. Birdie Wing was no doubt popular on top of being a critical success, resulting in nominations for best original anime in both the Crunchyroll and Anime Trending awards.

Despite this, it would be reductive to attribute this golf anime renaissance purely to Birdie Wing’s success. According to prior trends, three major factors tie into sports anime being approved for production: the popularity of the sport, recent successes of its athletes from Japan, and major events occurring in proximity to competitions within the country. This is why, despite its popularity both in Japan and across the globe, ice hockey fans had to wait until 2021 to see the first—and so far only—anime about the sport.

Golf’s second major boom in Japan occurred in the 1980s when laws restricting land use were relaxed right as the country’s economy was thriving. The explosive popularity of the sport inspired golfing anime like A Great Super Shot Boy and Pro Golfer Saru1, the latter series spawning two films and a continuation throughout the ‘80s. When the economic bubble burst in 1989, resulting in at least 1,700 golf courses facing bankruptcy or financial trouble, there was a final smattering of golf OVAs. And, really, that was it until Dan Doh!! aired in 2004. 

Strangely, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that likely saved golf anime from languishing forever.

Golf had been losing popularity in Japan for years, especially among the younger players necessary to sustain the sport. In the wake of COVID-19’s initial wave, though, golf provided a space for social occasions during a time of necessary isolation. It allowed for social distancing outdoors, which helped reduce, but not eliminate, the spread of the virus. 

This resulted in a 40% increase in younger players in Japan alone, and a massive return of players who had previously quit. While golf had returned to the Olympics after a 112-year absence in 2016, the resurgence of the sport due to the pandemic alongside the competitions in Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—where Japan brought home a silver medal—was the perfect spark to reignite Japanese interest in the sport.

Following Japan’s success at the Olympics, Hideki Matsuyama won the Masters Tournament in 2021, going down in the history books as the first Japanese golfer to ever win a men’s major golfing championship. Even with his momentous victory, though, the focus for most of these series on women playing golf also makes sense. The LGPA of Japan Tour now has the second-largest prize pool globally for a women’s tour, and Asian women have absolutely dominated the sport. In fact, Japanese women’s golfing legend Hisako Higuchi not only became the first Asian player to ever win a major championship back in 1977, she was also the first Japanese golfer to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

With recent player success, an incredible surge in popularity, and a major event held in Japan, it comes as no surprise that golfing anime would be given a second chance in the spotlight.2 Birdie Wing also becoming widely beloved just made those chances that much stronger. With the audience for golf growing both nationally and internationally, across all genders and all age groups, it’s a hole-in-one for the anime industry to approve and produce new golf shows right now.

  1. It’s also curious that Pro Golfer Saru had a one episode special before eventually being made into a full series just like Sorairo Utility. ↩︎
  2. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics took place at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, historically famous for Japan bringing home the 1957 Canada Cup win which spurred on Japanese golf’s first major boom. This made it an emotionally connecting event for younger and older golfing generations. ↩︎
About the author

Borealis Capps

Borealis, AKA the LiteralGrill, is a disabled award-winning writer and poet living in Portland, Oregon. Her love of anime started with Sailor Moon and Outlaw Star before expanding ever outward from there. She is also an expert on timeloop media after watching Groundhog Day once day, every day, for 365 days. She's most active on Mastodon but can also be found on Bluesky. She occasionally posts videos to YouTube and PeerTube and you can keep up with what she's watching on AniList. For her more personal ramblings, check our her website.

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