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The 10 Best Anime Rivalries of All Time

The 10 Best Anime Rivalries of All Time Son Goku and Vegeta
Credit: Toei Animation

A rivalry is a popular trope not only in anime but in pop culture in general. Rivalries are easily identified in anime genres such as shounen and sports, as well as fantasy and romance. From Son Goku and Vegeta in Dragon Ball to Yugi and Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh!, here are the 10 best anime rivalries of all time!

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  1. Naruto's Naruto and Sasuke

    One of the most well-known anime rivalries is that of Naruto and Sasuke from the Naruto series.

    Fans are still amazed by their connection to each other, now that they have finally understood each other.

    From the moment their mothers conceived them, Naruto and Sasuke have had a long history of friendship, betrayal, and despair.

    While Sasuke was raised in a loving and warm family (until the Uchiha massacre), Naruto was left to fend for himself.

    Despite this, Naruto keeps a positive attitude and aspires to be the Hokage of the Leaf Village.

    While Sasuke is unconcerned about Naruto's dreams, he becomes insecure when he sees Naruto getting stronger every day, despite the fact that he trains so hard by himself and with Kakashi.

    His jealousy and insecurity grew as he observed Naruto's attitude and dreams, as well as his rapid development.

    Sasuke felt he was trailing behind Naruto, especially after his first confrontation with Itachi, when in fact he had been leading him previously.

    After many events occurred along the way, Naruto and Sasuke resolved all of their issues in their final battle in the Valley of the End.

  2. Dragon Ball's Son Goku and Vegeta

    Son Goku and Vegeta's iconic rivalry in Dragon Ball never gets old. They began as enemies and evolved into rivals who unconsciously look out for each other (Vegeta is a tsundere, so he doesn't really admit it).

    While they have many differences, Son Goku and Vegeta share one trait: they are both Saiyans who seek a challenge.

    When a villain appears, Son Goku and Vegeta train separately and sometimes together to put each other's strengths to the test.

    Most of the time, Goku and Vegeta work together to defeat a villain in the series.

    When one of them is weakened, the other fights on, until the enemy is defeated.

    In fact, the two of them used Potara's earrings to fuse their bodies and become Vegito and Gogeta.

    But, at the end of the day, Vegeta regards Goku as his ultimate rival, whom he must surpass no matter what.

  3. Slam Dunk's Rukawa and Sakuragi

    In the popular sports anime Slam Dunk, Rukawa and Sakuragi go head-to-head to see who is the better basketball player.

    But, for Sakuragi, Rukawa is one of the most annoying people on the planet, preventing him from ever capturing Haruko's attention.

    Sakuragi and Rukawa are as different as night and day. They both have unique personalities, hobbies, and interests.

    They do, however, share some characteristics, such as their poor academic performance and their devotion to basketball.

    Sakuragi initially doubts Rukawa's basketball abilities, including getting annoyed with the high school girls who are always cheering him on, apart from Haruko.

    However, once Sakuragi improves and impresses everyone with his basketball abilities, Rukawa recognizes him as a threat.

    Nonetheless, Sakuragi and Rukawa are members of the same team that led Shohoku High School to the Nationals, along with the other players.

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  4. Haikyuu!!'s Hinata and Kageyama

    Hinata and Kageyama, another sports anime rivalry, first met in the middle of a volleyball tournament in Haikyuu!!.

    While this is Hinata's first tournament, Kageyama has already established himself among the other competitors.

    After Kageyama's team defeated Hinata's, the latter vowed to defeat the former with his own volleyball team someday.

    However, Hinata and Kageyama's rematch was canceled after they discovered they were gonna be teammates on the same volleyball team at the same high school.

    Kageyama and Hinata have since teamed up to become Karasuno's unpredictable duo.

    Even after they had established themselves as formidable opponents, Hinata and Kageyama's rivalry did not end there.

    Most of the time, they compete to see who can get to the clubhouse first.

    They also compete with one another whenever they have the opportunity to test their mobility, speed, stamina, and reach.

    They train like horses, as do other anime rivalries, in the hopes that one will outperform the other.

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  5. Code Geass' Lelouch and Suzaku

    Unlike other anime rivalries, Lelouch and Suzaku were childhood friends at first.

    When Lelouch discovered that Suzaku had abandoned Japan to serve the Britannian Empire, things turned sour.

    Even after learning of Lelouch's hatred for the Empire, Suzaku chose to join the army in the hopes of changing the system from within.

    Unfortunately, Lelouch does not understand Suzaku because he has suffered so much, including his own mother and sister, to dismiss his illogical beliefs.

    While Suzaku became an honorary citizen and piloted the Lancelot Knightmare, Lelouch became Zero, the leader of the Black Knights and his greatest foe.

    From here on, it became a battle of politics, beliefs, and power, as Lelouch and Suzaku were more than determined to prove the other wrong about changing the world.

    READ MORE: Code Geass Ending Explained

  6. My Hero Academia's Deku and Bakugo

    What happens when the weakest link reaches the same level as the strongest person in the room? They become adversaries.

    This is what happened in My Hero Academia between Deku and Bakugo.

    Deku looked up to Bakugo not only for his quirk but also for his strong personality.

    Bakugo's pride and ego were consumed as a result, affecting his friendship with Deku.

    Bakugo thought he was superior to Deku because he lacked a quirk, but not until Deku offered to help him out.

    He was offended by Deku's actions, and Bakugo bullied Deku ever since.

    Things escalated when Bakugo learned that Deku was applying for U.A. too.

    What’s more, Deku offered his hand once more to Bakugo during the incident with the Sludge Villain.

    Now that Deku has inherited One For All, he gets a chance to show what kind of hero he is to Bakugo, the other person in the world whom he truly admires apart from All Might.

    From that point on, Deku and Bakugo have always had heated debates and fights in the U.A. to see who is the strongest.

    READ MORE: My Hero Academia’s Timeline Explained: All Main Events

  7. Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Yugi and Kaiba

    The iconic battles between Yugi Moto and Seto Kaiba are among the greatest rivalries in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise.

    In their first duel, Yugi summoned the Exodia, the Forbidden One, to counter Kaiba's three Blue-Eyes White Dragons.

    The duel has become so iconic that anime fans have attempted to recreate Yugi's unbeatable combo in their own games.

    Furthermore, Kaiba frequently finds himself on the losing end whenever Yugi brings something new to the table.

    Kaiba's efforts almost always seem to be in vain because of Yugi's unpredictable strategies that make use of the strangest combos to defeat Kaiba's Blue-Eyes Dragons.

    Kaiba and Yugi's histories are also intertwined. They discover that they are both former Egyptian pharaohs, with Kaiba serving as Atem's guardian, making them fated rivals.

    Unfortunately for Kaiba, he has only defeated Yugi once in their long history of intense rivalry.

  8. Ranma ½'s Ranma and Ryoga

    Ranma ½ is a comedy and slice-of-life anime that focuses on Ranma's rivalry with other characters, particularly Ryoga.

    While there are many people chasing Ranma, Ryoga stands out as one of the best due to his personality and screen time.

    It all started when Ranma kept getting the last piece of curry bread in their school cafeteria before Ryoga.

    As a result, Ryoga challenged Ranma to a fight in the empty lot behind his house.

    However, Ranma left after three days of waiting, with Ryoga arriving on the fourth day simply because he has no sense of direction.

    This incident enraged Ryoga even more, and he decided to join Ranma in China, where he fell in the Heitowennchuan spring and turned into a black pig.

    Ryoga has vowed to avenge himself and defeat Ranma for everything he has done to him since then.

    He also competes with Ranma for Akane's heart.

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  9. One Piece's Zoro and Sanji

    Zoro and Sanji's rivalry in One Piece is akin to brothers arguing with one another.

    They constantly make fun of each other whenever they can. They don't necessarily dislike each other, but they do want to outdo each other, especially since Zoro's bounty is greater than Sanji's.

    The ideals of Zoro and Sanji frequently clash. Everything has become an argument between the two of them, from Zoro's objections to Sanji's decisions regarding women and Zoro's comments about Sanji's masculinity.

    Despite this, Zoro and Sanji adore each other.

    It's just that the two of them have opposite personalities that clash whenever one of them sets an argument off by making inappropriate or shady remarks about the other.

    In any case, their rivalry is entertaining to watch whenever they fight in the background while Nami and the others discuss their next plans at sea.

  10. Pokémon's Ash Ketchum and Gary Oak

    This list would be incomplete without Ash Ketchum and Gary Oak from Pokémon.

    Gary Oak is the most iconic roadblock on Ash's path, not only in the anime but also in the early Pokémon games.

    What's more interesting is that Gary knows how to put Ash in his place, as he's always been one step ahead of him whenever they cross paths.

    Once Ash learned that Gary had captured 45 Pokémon while he only had seven, he was furious.

    Gary, on the other hand, has boundless confidence in himself.

    It's the one thing he never runs out of, which is why he's always been egoistic and narcissistic in his refusal to fight Ash in the early episodes of Pokémon.

    By the end of the original Pokémon series, Ash had lost to Gary, despite the latter's decision to forego his Pokémon trainer career in order to become a researcher.

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