The story follows Kyōsuke Kanou, a highschool student who once dreamed of being a soccer player. His older brother Seisuke, an already famous player, is the one who trained him and taught him all he knows. But after Seisuke left to play in Italy, people started comparing the siblings and that plus a life-wreaking discovery about himself made Kyōsuke's self-esteem plummet, making him quit sports altogether.
After transferring to a new school, Kyōsuke has a fateful meeting with Miki Tsujiwaki, a Passionate Sports Girl from the girls' soccer team. He at first coaches Miki's team but later he checks on the boys' team and joins it, befriending the goalkeeper Sakai Jefferson Kouji and the scorer Rafael Rodrigo del Canto. With their help and Miki's support, he begins to rediscover his passion for the game...
Hungry Heart could be called a more down-to-earth and mature version of Captain Tsubasa with some Slam Dunk mixed in between. Just to name a few points, the protagonist Kyōsuke is not as Ace-ish as Tsubasa (and the actual ace is his brother), his love interest Miki was more outspoken than Sanae, a little bit more of drama is included, less important players are still relevant to the outcome of the match and the maneuvers are a lot less exaggerated. On the other hand, though, it makes use of visual gags and occasional super deformed, which Captain Tsubasa never really used.
Unluckily it was a lot shorter than its Spiritual Predecessor, having only reached the 6th volume of the manga, and the 52nd episode of the anime. The series has a became very popular in Latin America (most likely due to LatAm appreciation of Soccer and how many times Animax LatAm reran it), following the trend of other obscure series like Dotto! Koni-chan or Ghost Sweeper Mikami.
This series contains the following tropes:
- Almost Kiss: At least one between Kyousuke and Miki.
- Berserk Button: Kyōsuke really hates being compared to his brother. Actually, he never had a problem with the comparison in his younger days, it's only when he was in Junior High, after he inadvertantly learned he was an adopted child), that he developped the button. Coming to terms with it during a match against a team which tries to use the button at its advantage, is a crucial moment of his Character Development.
- Big Brother Mentor: Seisuke, who taught Kyosuke everything about soccer.
- Book-Ends: The first opening has a scene in which Kyosuke enters a stadium and needs to cover his face due to appreciate the scenario. The anime ends the same way (even with the same music) albeit with minor changes.
- Cool Big Sis: Kaori takes up the role towards not only Kyousuke, but the rest of the team.
- Does Not Like Men: Gender-flipped with Kyōsuke. He's so allergic to girls, pimples appear on his face whenever a girl comes close to her. The only ones who can approach him without causing this effect are his eventual sweetheart Miki, and the team's physiotherapist and nutrionist Kaori, who he has a crush on before finding out that she's Seisuke's girlfriend.
- Expy: considering this series could be described as Slam Dunk meets Captain Tsubasa, expies are to be expected.
- Kyōsuke: a high-egoed newbie who dyes his hair red and is a natural for Soccer. That says Hanamichi Sakuragi all over the place.
- Miki: is clearly Sanae, but more Hot-Blooded and one who becomes a soccer player rather than a team manager.
- Rodrigo: Kojiro Hyuuga. Both are dark-skinned, arrogant, rough players who care a great deal for their families.
- Sakai: Genzo Wakabayashi. Both are gifted goalies, very popular, but with quite the attitude problems and prone to injuries.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Three victims: Rodrigo, Kyosuke and Esaka. Seisuke also has one but offscreen.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the Beach Episode, Kyousuke and his friends have a kakigori stall. Kaori helps them out... wearing a bikini... and then putting on an apron over her bikini...
- Hello, Nurse!: Kaori a gorgeous Hospital Hottie, and both Kyousuke and Sakai feel drawn to her.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Kyousuke is very tall while Miki is slightly waifish, so this trope takes place between them. It really doesn't help that the anime itself can't decide how *exactly* tall Kyosuke is.
- It Runs in the Family: Kyousuke's deceased biological dad, Keisuke Natsume, also was a soccer player.
- Japanese Delinquents:
- Kyousuke was one in junior high, when he mentally/emotionally broke down after learning that he was adopted
- In the anime, Kiba's friends were street brawlers until Kiba got them into soccer. That's why they're so devoted to him; he "saved" them from being nobodies.
- Jerk Ass: Kiba and his friends began as this and, as a result, the regular team members took prolonged offence to them. Thankfully, they underwent Character Development.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kyousuke, Sakai and Rodrigo start as apparent jerk asses, but soon they show their Hidden Depths and become this.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Kyousuke didn't learn that he was the adopted child of the Kanou family until he was in junior high. Understandably, he didn't take the discovery super well.
- Made of Iron: Or something even stronger. In the manga's beginning Kyosuke breaks iron.
- Mixed Ancestry: Sakai, who has Swedish blood.
- Mr. Fanservice: Kyosuke, who rather nice body and gets to show it off more than once.
- Parental Abandonment:
- Keisuke and Mitsuko Natsume, Kyosuke's birth parents, died in an accident. And Kyousuke was there.
- Sakai's beloved mother was an Ill Girl and died early in life, which marked him deeply. It doesn't help that his relationship with his dad isn't the best either.
- Plucky Girl: No one should ever get between Miki and her decisions.
- Self-Plagiarism: Of Captain Tsubasa, another series by Takahashi.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend: Kyōsuke and Miki, who vehemently do this in a synchro way, when meeting Kyōsuke's headmaster, and his Soccer team captain of his former Junior High School. They don't buy it one second.
- Theme Music Power-Up: When you hear an insert theme song Kyosuke will pull an awesome move. However, it sometimes cheats the viewer. The insert theme song does not mean Akanegoaka are gonna win. Heck, in one occasion the music ended, Kyosuke failed but still made the goal without the insert song.
- To Be a Master: Well, duh.
- Tsundere: Miki, a Type B: cheery and sweet to almost everyone, skittish to Kyousuke.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Kyōsuke, Rodrigo and Sakai love to bicker between each other, but they're tight-knit friends who share the same love for soccer, and will always jump to each other's help: Rodrigo and Sakai helping Kyōsuke come to terms with his hesitations after he tried to quit soccer a second time, and Kyōsuke spearheading the operation to raise funds through part-time jobs to help Rodrigo's poor family and allow him to stay in Japan, are the best examples of this.
- Wax On, Wax Off: After Miki's goading, Kyosuke accepted her offer to coach the women's team, only to have them pick up stones and pebbles on the pitch as their "training". It appears that Kyosuke was only bullying them, but Miki believes that it is some conditioning exercise of sorts. It is later revealed in a flashback that Kyosuke and Seisuke used to do the same as a warm-up and to have a clean pitch to play on. Kyosuke also does them the favor of leveling the pitch using a manual roller before starting off their proper training.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The anime has lots of colored hairs.