Top 10 Most Famous Anime Rivalries Of All Time
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For every great anime character who aims to reach the top of their world, there is another who is right at their heels with the same goals. Whether it’s to become the de facto leader, defend their beliefs and philosophies or become the strongest in the world, these characters compete with each other tooth and nail to prove they’re the dominant party.
Across all genres of manga and anime, one of the most common tropes, if not the most common one, is rivalries. By this we are referring to the fact that in nearly every anime, the main protagonist—as well as many of the secondary characters—have a rival; someone who they aren't quite friends with, but aren't always enemies with that helps push them into becoming stronger in whatever facet they compete in and vice versa. It can, at times, be a bit of a tired and overused trope, at least when it is added for the sake of tradition or obligation, but rivalries can still be a fascinating and integral part of anime storytelling. Since rivalries are such a big part of anime, the question of which are the best arises, which is where we come in.
What are “Rivalries”?
A rivalry is the state of two people or groups engaging in a lasting competitive relationship. Rivalry is the "against each other" spirit between two competing sides. The relationship itself may also be called "a rivalry", and each participant or side a rival to the other. Someone's main rival may be called an archrival. A rivalry can be defined as "a perceptual categorizing process in which actors identify which states are sufficiently threatening competitors". In order for the rivalry to persist, rather than resulting in perpetual dominance by one side, it must be "a competitive relationship among equals". Political scientist John A. Vasquez has asserted that equality of power is a necessary component for a true rivalry to exist, but others have disputed that element.
Rivalries traverse many different fields within society and "abound at all levels of human interaction", often existing between friends, firms, sports teams, schools, and universities. Moreover, "families, politicians, political parties, ethnic groups, regional sections of countries, and states all engage in enduring rivalries of varying length and intensity". Rivalries develop from the product of competition and ritualism between different parties. In some cases, rivalry can become "so consuming that actors worry only about whether their actions will harm or benefit their rivals".
Top 10 best Anime Rivalries of All Time
1. Naruto and Sasuke
Let's start off with one of the biggest, most well known and most explosive anime rivalries off all time, the frequent clashing of Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha of Naruto. These characters became rivals very early on in the series, though it was sort of one-sided at first.
Originally, Naruto wanted to show up Sasuke, to surpass all the skills he showed off in school, which led to a competition between the two, and eventually they became enemies after Sasuke left, leading to multiple fights as the series progressed.
While Naruto truly is the story of an Uzumaki orphan becoming the hero he always dreamed to be, there's a lot more going on. For example, there are conspiracies, love triangles, and even comedy. However, one of the most important other parts of Naruto is the lead character's relationship with Sasuke Uchiha. Young genin friends turned bitter rivals and enemies, Sasuke and Naruto have a complex relationship. They may be on opposite sides of several conflicts, but they also are loyal to one another, in their own way. Sasuke always believes in Naruto's abilities, and Naruto always assumes his friend will one day come back to him. These are just two examples, among many other things, of course.
2. Gokuu and Vegeta
|Photo: AS USA|
These two are perhaps the most famous of all anime rivals and have been butting heads - literally and figuratively - for over 25 years. With each of the two last surviving members of the Saiyan race striving to be the strongest fighter, their rivalry is sure to last well after the series ends as one of the most memorable aspects of this famous anime series.
When they first met, Vegeta thought of him as nothing more than a mere low-class warrior that will never beat an elite like himself. Vegeta's pride was severely wounded when it showed that Goku was more powerful than he thought, he promised to one day settle the score between them. During the Namek Saga, Vegeta tearfully confided to Goku as a fellow Saiyan to avenge their race. When resurrected, Vegeta would hold onto the grudge, but the looming threats prevent that goal from coming to fruition, however in the Majin Bu arc, Vegeta finally caves in to his desire to exact vengeance, whilst ignoring everything else in the process (though he solemnly mentions Goku before sacrificing himself). In the final battle against Kid Bu, Vegeta finally laments that Goku is the better fighter, because of his selfless feats.
In Battle of Gods, Vegeta shows noticeable jealously towards Goku achieving the Super Saiyan God form. During the Future Trunks Saga, Vegeta was willing to use the Potara earring to turn into Vegito against the Fused Zamasu. In the Universe Survival saga, Vegeta was particularly awed Goku achieving Ultra Instinct and shared his energy to him after being eliminated (genuinely trusting in him to defeat Jiren).
In Broly, Vegeta noticed Goku was struggling and assisted him against SSJ Broly (eventually agreeing to fuse into Gogeta).
3. Satoshi (Ash) & Shigeru (Gary) from Pokemon
Gary is Ash Ketchum’s first major rival in the Pokémon franchise and served as a constant source of angst for Ash in the Kanto and Johto regions. The two finally battled and settled their differences in the Johto League and Ash has had many other rivals since that time. Nonetheless, Gary will always be known for his skill as a trainer as well as being Ash’s first rival. And also for being kind of a jerk.
Shigeru began his journey at the age of 10 around the same time as Satoshi. He chose a Squirtle seeing that it would be the type-advantage of Satoshi's choice, Charmander. During their first battle, Squirtle was easily beaten by Charmander despite the type-advantage. He has another battle with him on the S. S. Anne with the results being the same as the previous battle. The battle they had causes Satoshi's Charmander to evolve into a Charmeleon.
When Satoshi reached Fuchsia City, he and Satoshi were at a Safari Zone with Satoshi catching a Ditto and a Dratini, with the latter being given away to a fisherman. Shigeru ends up battling and defeating Sabrina in Saffron City, which made Sabrina depressed. Two chapters later around the end, he has his Pidgeot attack Satoshi's Charizard while he was midair, marking his first and only win against Satoshi.
In Indigo Plateau, he ends up becoming the champion of the Pokémon League after defeating the Elite Four. He challenges Satoshi for the final time after he defeated the Elite Four too, with his Blastoise against Charizard. During the midst of their battle, one of the pillars fall down and is headed for Shigeru. Satoshi pushes Shigeru out of the way which becomes the start of their friendship. Since they are now friends instead of rivals, both of them go to the Cerulean Cave to look for the legendary Pokémon, Mewtwo.
4. Light and L from Death Note
When the Death Note - a book that kills anyone whose name is written into it - came into the possession of Light Yagami, he decided to use this power to reshape the world in his image. As the body count began to rise and the police scratched their heads over the murders conducted by the killer they called Kira, a detective simply known as 'L' appeared. Dedicated to solving any mystery, the world’s deadliest game of cat and mouse soon ensued.
Without a doubt, one of the best relationships- due to how electric and tense their rivalry is- within the series has to be that of Light and L. The famously fun-to-watch cat-and-mouse game between them would have never happened without the clashing of their incredibly strong personalities, and it's no understatement to say there'd be no Death Note without them. Although some fans do pair them together romantically, they truly shine as rivals who aim to knock the other out of their little 'game completely.'
Light clearly has some respect for L. He’s actually angry when he sees Near wearing his mask, “You are far inferior to L. You have no right to be wearing a mask of L”. The last thing Light sees in the anime is L standing over him, a powerful physical representation of the influence L has over Light.
Light is shown throughout the series to be someone who had spent a solitary seventeen years of life. He seems detached from his friends and never once in the series shows interest in someone outside his family, unless it benefits his goals (such as in the instances of Misa and Takeda) with one exception - L.
Light is someone who has been deprived of an intellectual equal his entire life. The existence of L, someone who can keep up with him would be extremely significant to him; some form of validation that he isn’t alone.
5. Lupin and Zenigata
|Photo: Lupin III Fandom|
Zenigata has developed a relationship with Lupin that is both complicated and straightforward. Even though his goal is to arrest Lupin, he also cares about him and both have an unusual friendship to each other despite both being rivals. Originally in the manga, Zenigata just wants to deal with Lupin and has in one occasion wanted him dead- and eventually, at the end of the second manga series, in the chapter Conclusion Edition - Endless... fulfils this wish and has him killed by detonating an island the thief and his gang are on, although he allows time for the grave moment to sink in and seems to give something of a premature eulogy to Lupin before killing him. His obsession with Lupin that would show up in the anime manifested in the manga, but in a slightly different form; in Chapter 85 of World's Most Wanted he muses, "I can't live in a world without Lupin... Who would I have to hate?"
However in the anime, Zenigata does not want to kill Lupin and only to arrest him. In Part 1 Episode 1, Zenigata is so obsessed with arresting Lupin that he gets Fujiko to help him in exchange for her freedom; the first hint of him having some affection for the criminal is in a monologue he makes in his head where he believes that things wouldn't be different if Lupin weren't Arsene Lupin's grandson and he weren't a descendant of Heiji Zenigata. In Part 1 Episode 4 he arrests him and has him put on death row, but over time begins to panic when no-one appears to be breaking him out of prison, the first suggestion in the series that he enjoys the thrill of chasing Lupin more than anything. Jigen even says out loud to Lupin, "If you die, Zenigata will put on a sad face, having lost his life's purpose and all." In Part 1 Episode 8, he respects Lupin, but still gets his squad to shoot at him when he makes a getaway, indirectly tries to light him on fire and stands idly by while Mr. Gold's personal police ambush the gang with clear murderous intent. For Part 1, he was just focused on the job to the point of conflict with the Commissioner and even though Lupin helped him stop art dealers with their beauty contest scam and saved Rie Makita, Zenigata was not interested. In Part 1 Episode 23, he finally realizes how much he actually cares about Lupin and is distraught when he thinks he's been killed in an explosion. From Part II, they talk to each other and had moments where they are forced to work together including when they were trying to escape from the Foreign Legion. Since then when they meet each other, they have some banter between them and, once in a while, he would come to Lupin for help, such as in Part 2 Episode 69. Depending on the episode, he either wants Lupin to serve a prison time, or he's following orders to try and have Lupin executed, even though he doesn't like it and is unhappy about it.
He and Lupin get along very well when they're both off-duty. There were times that Lupin saved Zenigata's life and his job at Interpol as he believes that it is not the same without him.
Like most of the inspectors in animes, Zenigata has become addicted to arresting Lupin, but Zenigata is different. While others couldn't arrest their target, Zenigata was able to do it few times, but gets depressed when Lupin is in jail and hopes he can break out so he can chase him again. In Part III Episode 32, when he arrests Lupin, the embattled Inspector spends the night in front of the thief's cell, drunk and miserable.
6. Amuro & Char from Mobile Suit Gundam
|Photo: Gundam Fandom|
Char and Amuro do not know each other for the majority of the first series, though Amuro knows his name and the reputation of the pilot he is fighting. Amuro often is prompted into battle by knowing Char will be there, likely due to a combination of fear of his attack for the other members of the White Base and a desire to settle the score that gradually mounts as the series goes along. Towards the end of the series, the two meet face-to-face for the first time after Amuro's car gets stuck in a mudhole, and Char and Lalah pull over to assist him. In this conversation, Char reveals that he doesn't know Amuro is the pilot of the Gundam, the mobile suit he has been pursuing for months. Though they are on enemy sides, Char chides Amuro for his nervousness, even though he acknowledges Amuro is still young. Amuro, meanwhile, reveals to Char that he finds it hard to see him as his enemy, though he quickly tries to distract Char from this statement. Char and Amuro meet again under devastating circumstances, as Lalah, a girl Amuro has began to achieve a deep understanding of and that Char cares deeply for, takes a strike intended for Char from Amuro, leading to her death. In Char's grief, he relentlessly pursues Amuro into a swordfight, but the suggestion of a deep Newtype connection between them begins as their helmets touch. Sayla intervenes and allows them to stop the fighting, with Char then suggesting Amuro join him instead, it being something Lalah would have wanted, though Amuro understandably refuses.
Amuro and Char do not have contact with each other again until the Gryps War, though Char seems to be searching for Amuro's presence, as he mistakes several other Newtypes' as being Amuro, and tells Kamille that Amuro's whereabouts are not listed in the Federation databases, suggesting he has looked for him. When they do meet again, Char and Amuro sense each other's presence before seeing one another, and Char expresses concern for Amuro before he reappears. This sets the tone for the rest of their relationship in Zeta, where they enter an uneasy friendship. Char attempts to give Amuro advice, and Amuro gradually warms up to him, eventually telling Char that Char was the person who finally inspired him to return to piloting and assist in Karaba and A.E.U.G's efforts. Char also expresses fondness for Amuro, telling him he's glad he was the one who was escorting him to Dakar, and in return, Amuro tries to encourage his reluctant speech, telling Char he can play the role of a hero. They still have disagreements, however, especially on the relationship between Kamille and Four - both hope this will not end the same way as their relationship with Lalah did, but Char allows Kamille to enter battle when he knows Four is out there, whilst Amuro tries to prevent it. Additionally, despite Char's faith in him, Amuro remains on Earth and does not travel with Kamille and Char back to space.
Char and Amuro's rivalry returns in Char's Counterattack, with the fighting being much more personal than in the original series, both due to the lingering scars of Lalah's death and the frustration and disappointment both have towards each other. Amuro does not understand why Char sees a nuclear winter for Earth as being necessary, and Char is frustrated at Amuro's continued piloting career with the Federation and his short-sightedness at wanting to maintain the Earth Federation's powers, even if Amuro truly believed that change was possible. Throughout the film, both of them try to get the other to see their point of view, with Char even requesting that Amuro feel his presence, but to no avail. However, this desire for understanding is compounded with Char's desire to settle the score with Amuro and to reach the ultimate end of their rivalry together. Char leaks technology to Amuro to make his mobile suits stronger, announces Amuro's arrival onto the battlefield as if he were waiting for him, and refuses assistance in their final duel, telling Nanai to "not get in between two men." Ultimately, Amuro defeats Char, then sacrifices himself to die alongside him as a means of pushing back Axis. In their final conversation, Char expresses his grief at losing Lalah and blames Amuro for it once more, telling him she would have been a new mother to him, and Amuro's shock is the final thing he experiences before he dies.
7. Kagome and Kikyo
When the priestess Kikyou died in order the protect the sacred Shikon no Tama (Jewel of the Four Souls), it was thought that the bloody history of the jewel was at an end. But when her modern day reincarnation Kagome travels back to the past, a new battle for the jewel soon begins. It was ultimately not the jewel but the heart of the same man, the half-demon Inuyasha, which led these two priestesses to battle against each other with both words and arrows.
From Kikyo’s point of view, Kikyo felt very threathened, envious and hated Kagome a lot, nor only was this new incarnation of her a living proof that her history with Inuyasha has changed forever but she did actually knew Kagome had a much greater and purer soul than her and the capability to surpass her as a priestess, even Kaede her beloved younger sister had a high esteem of Kagome.
Kagome was a a reflection of everything in which Kikyo failed as a person since Kagome choose to overcome her bitterness, jealousy and personal struggles. Choosing love, kindness, forgiveness and humbleness. That’s the reason why Inuyasha choose Kagome over Kikyo in critical situations.
Their relationship is complicated. It can be described as a love-hate relationship. Their relationship has been complicated through the manipulations and intrusions of the main antagonist, Naraku. Naraku's motive is to break up his enemies to prevent them from uniting together.
When Kikyo was first resurrected from her death and returned from the afterlife after being killed by Naraku who impersonated as Inuyasha, she was full of hate. She became aware of Kagome as a human and prevented her from returning to the human world to carry out her revenge against Naraku who killed her (or at least that's what I've heard) Kikyo also became aware of Kagome as her rival for Inuyasha's affection.
As time passes though, she started to accept Kagome as her replacement for her in the world. Her hatred towards others in the world gradually becomes replaced by her compassion she previously possessed before she was killed by Naraku in her previous lifetime. This was partly because Kagome saved Kikyo twice when she was at her weakest and also partly because she started to accept death after she released the monk on Mount Hakurei. She saw herself being reflected in the monk on Mount Hakurei. There was character development for Kikyo.
8. Zoro & Sanji from One Piece
|Photo: Toei Animation|
There can be a very thin line between being bitter rivals or best friends and Zoro and Sanji are one of the top anime examples of that distinction. These two men respect one another, but they do not like each other. They are also very much two sides of the same coin; Zoro comes in swinging and takes hits whereas Sanji utilizes stealth and dodges his enemies. Their mutual respect for each other drives each of these rivals to become stronger and they are rivals in the truest sense of the word. Not enemies, not friends, just…rivals.
Zoro is always shown to compete with Sanji, getting into fights with each other over petty matters, often at inopportune moments. They had some early disagreements with each other during the Arlong Park Arc on how to deal with Nami's alleged betrayal, but their back-and-forth relationship officially began on Little Garden when the two competed in a hunting expedition. Their rivalry extends to Sanji's cooking, as Zoro rarely acknowledges its quality, usually just calling it "okay".
Zoro also has a habit of insulting Sanji when he is flirting with Nami or Robin. Both have common insulting nicknames they call each other. Zoro never calls Sanji by his name, usually calling Sanji "dartboard brow", "ero-cook", or "dumbass cook" while Sanji often calls Zoro "marimo" (moss head), "shitty marimo", or "shitty swordsman". This has gotten to the point where Zoro has never actually referred to Sanji by his name. After their return to Sabaody Archipelago after training for two years, Zoro mocked Sanji arriving later to him by referring to him as "Number 7" and himself as "Number 1". Additionally, after the nose bleeding problem Sanji went through, particularly during their adventures in Fish-Man Island, Zoro invented a new insulting nickname for Sanji "Mr. Nosebleed" which he first used when the battle against the New Fish-Man Pirates began.
Whenever new bounties were distributed, Zoro would always be smugly proud that his bounty remained higher than Sanji's. However, after Sanji's bounty became higher than his after the events at Totto Land, Zoro became irritated and threatened to fight Sanji over it.
Despite their comical fights and rivalry, they have a brotherly trust and care between them they would never admit to. In fact, the two warriors understand each other better than other crewmates. Zoro trust in Sanji's strength and character can be seen multiple times. He smiled when Sanji returned to fight Jabra. When Usopp and Franky were worried about the Sunny crew after arriving at Zou, Zoro stated that they would be okay since Sanji was with them. Despite saying he did not care what happened to Sanji, Luffy caught Zoro listening intently to Pekoms from outside the door showing he still cares for Sanji's safety. When Luffy pointed this out, Zoro got annoyed. When the pair are forced to fight together against a common foe, they are nearly an unstoppable team, such as their fight against Hamburg, Pickles and Big Pan.
9. Ichigo & Grimmjow from Bleach
|Photo: Youssouf Errougua|
There are many characters within Bleach that could be considered rivals for Ichigo, but Grimmjow stands out above the rest. While Grimmjow is a bloodthirsty individual with a strong lust for battle, he also has a strong code of honor, going as far as to heal Ichigo in order to have a fair fight against him. Ichigo’s battle against Grimmjow also put (at the time) Ichigo’s abilities to the test, a fight that ultimately leaves the two with respect for each other.
Since they first fought, Ichigo and Grimmjow became intense rivals. The Sixth Espada holds a personal grudge against the Substitute Shinigami for giving him a scar from their first battle and has made it his mission to kill him for revenge.
10. Kenshin & Saitou from Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan
Saitou and Kenshin once fought on opposite sides in a war, thus beginning a longtime rivalry between the two. After the war, the two eventually had one final battle that settled their differences and are now even willing to become allies in order to combat common enemies. While a team-up is not the first thing each man would resort to, both Kenshin and Saitou respect each other’s battle prowess.
Saitō and Kenshin were enemies at the time of the Bakumatsu, since Kenshin fought for the Ishin Shishi and Saitō was one of the Shinsengumi, who were a special police force for the Shogunate. In their meeting at Kamiya Dōjō they fought again, reviving the time when they were enemies fighting on opposite sides. Kenshin and Saitō became allies to defeat Shishio and Enishi, but they never became friends the way Kenshin and Sano did. Saitō likes to fight for himself, so he will join Kenshin only when it's necessary, but both respect and admire each other's power and abilities. Kenshin once even refers to Saitō (and the others with him on Enishi's island), as his 'trustworthy companion'.
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