TOP 15 Anime Rivals That Will Get You In The Competitive Spirit!

© Nintendo・Creatures・GAME FREAK・TV Tokyo・ShoPro・JR Kikaku © Pokémon

Anime rivalries refer to the competitive or hostile relationship between two characters in anime (Japanese animated TV shows and films). These rivalries often involve intense competition, conflicting personalities, or differing goals, and they can serve as one of the driving forces behind the plot of a series.

Anime rivalries are a common theme in many anime genres, including action, sports, and adventure. They can be between main characters, side characters, or even rival factions or groups. Some well-known anime rivalries include Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto, Bakugo and Deku from My Hero Academia, and Sakuragi and Rukawa from Slam Dunk.

What is anime rival?

An anime rival is typically a recurring character who provides a source of conflict and tension for the protagonist, and their interactions often serve to drive the plot forward. In many cases, anime rivals are portrayed as equally matched in terms of strength, skills, or abilities, and their rivalry is often depicted as a battle of wits or strength.

Who are the best anime rivals?

The most recognizable ones would be Naruto and Sasuke due to their popularity and recognizability.

Naruto and Sasuke’s rivalry is super iconic among anime fans being that its popularity stems from the early beginnings of many veteran anime viewers. Their rivalry even made it into other forms of media such as sports and comedy.

At the beginning of the series, Naruto and Sasuke are portrayed as polar opposites: Naruto is a loud, energetic, and sometimes clueless individual who wants to be acknowledged and respected by those around him, while Sasuke is a cool, aloof, and talented ninja who desires power and revenge. Despite their differences, they become friends and develop a close bond.

As the series progresses, the reasons for their rivalry become more complex and personal, delving into themes of brotherhood, belonging, and the power of friendship. Ultimately, the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke is one of the defining elements of the series, and it is a major driving force behind many of the events that take place in the story.

2. Deku and Bakugo/My Hero Academia

The rivalry between Deku and Bakugo is one of the many themes in the series, and it explores issues such as jealousy, competition, and the power of friendship. It is a dynamic and constantly evolving relationship that drives much of the series’ narrative and character development.

At the beginning of the series, Deku is a young boy with no Quirk (superpower) who dreams of becoming a hero, while Bakugo is a powerful and confident hero-in-training with a Quirk that allows him to create explosions. Despite their differences, they attend the same hero school and are classmates.

Bakugo has always been dismissive of Deku and considers him weak and inferior. However, as the series progresses, Deku begins to develop and harness his own Quirk, and he starts to prove himself as a capable hero-in-training. This leads to a growing rivalry between the two, as Bakugo becomes increasingly frustrated with Deku’s growing confidence and abilities.

3. Sakuragi & Rukawa/Slam Dunk

This rivalry is as OG as it gets. These 2 characters forge a rivalry that not only helps drive the series narrative but also helps each other grow both intrinsically and intrinsically.

Sakuragi is a hotheaded and emotionally driven individual who has never been successful in love or sports. He joins the basketball team in an attempt to impress a girl, but he quickly discovers a love for the sport. Rukawa, on the other hand, is a talented and aloof basketball player who is highly respected by his teammates and opponents alike.

Sakuragi and Rukawa have vastly different playing styles, personalities, and motivations, and this leads to a growing rivalry between the two. Their rivalry is characterized by intense one-on-one battles on the court, as well as mutual respect for each other’s skills and abilities.

4. Ash & Gary/Pokemon

© Nintendo・Creatures・GAME FREAK・TV Tokyo・ShoPro・JR Kikaku © Pokémon

Ash is a young Pokémon trainer who sets out on a journey to become a Pokémon Master, while Gary is a skilled and confident trainer who is already well on his way to achieving that goal. Despite their differences, they have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to their childhood. OG fans will recognize the parallels between this rivalry and that of Red and Blue from the Pokemon Adventures Manga.

Throughout the series, Ash and Gary have several confrontations, both on and off the battlefield, as they compete against each other in their quest to become the best Pokémon trainer. Their rivalry is characterized by their different approaches to Pokémon training, as well as their contrasting personalities and worldviews.

Their rivalry helps each other grow as trainers. Also, their rivalry lasted about 25 years with Ash finally clutching the title of world champion back in late 2022. However, Ash isn’t the pokemon master just yet…

5. Goku & Vegeta/Dragon Ball Z

(C)バードスタジオ/集英社 (C)「2015 ドラゴンボールZ」製作委員会

Goku is a powerful and pure-hearted warrior who is widely recognized as the strongest fighter on Earth, while Vegeta is a proud and arrogant prince of the Saiyan race who is initially introduced as a villain. Despite their vastly different backgrounds and personalities, they soon become fierce rivals as they compete against each other in battles and strive to become the strongest warrior in the universe.

Throughout the series, their rivalry is characterized by intense battles and personal confrontations, as they push each other to become stronger and improve their skills. Despite their contentious relationship, they eventually form a close bond and begin to understand each other’s motivations and struggles.

As the series progresses, their relationship evolves, and they develop a mutual respect for each other’s skills and abilities. They eventually become allies and work together to protect the Earth and the universe from various threats.

6. Light & L/Death Note


The Rivalry between these 2 characters is central to the series narrative. Light is a brilliant high school student who discovers a mysterious notebook with the ability to murder anyone whose name is written in it. He begins using the Death Note to rid the world of criminals and create a utopian society, but he is soon pursued by the world-renowned detective L, who is determined to catch the mysterious killer known only as “Kira”.

Their rivalry is portrayed in a heart-racing way. their relationship evolves, and they begin to understand each other’s motivations and struggles. Due to their intense conflict, they develop mutual respect for each other’s intelligence and skills, and their rivalry becomes more complex and multi-layered. This depth of the mangaka’s skills when writing it helped solidify it as a cultural icon when talking about anime rivalries.

As someone who frequents the anime meme culture, this rivalry still sees a lot of popularity among fans, also it has been parodied many times by content creators. One recommendation I have for you is to go watch the “Anime House” series by a YouTube group called RDCworld1, they are huge anime fans and have adapted many rivalries we list pretty well.

7. Sanji & Zoro/One Piece

Sanji is a chef of the Straw Hat Pirates, while Zoro is the first mate and a skilled swordsman. Despite their vastly different personalities and skills, they soon become rivals as they compete against each other in battles and strive to become stronger and more skilled.

The rivalry is characterized by intense battles and personal confrontations, as they push each other to become stronger and improve their skills. You can often see them calling each other pretty offensive nicknames or making fun of each other’s shortcomings. Fun fact: Zoro never called Sanji by his name in the original manga series!

Sanji and Zoro often engage in humorous banter and playful ribbing, which adds lightness and levity to their relationship. This humour makes their interactions more enjoyable and relatable for fans.

8. Shinichi(Conan) and Hattori/Case Closed

Shinichi and Heiji are both exceptional detectives who have a strong desire to solve mysteries and bring criminals to justice. Their friendly rivalry is based on their mutual respect for each other’s detective skills, and they often engage in friendly competitions to see who can solve a case first.

Shinichi and Heiji are also close friends and allies who support each other in their respective investigations. They often work together to solve complex cases, and their interactions are characterized by good-natured teasing and friendly banter.

Overall, Shinichi and Heiji’s rivalry adds an element of fun and excitement to the series, and their friendship provides a strong foundation for their partnership as detectives. It also serves to demonstrate the mutual respect and camaraderie that can exist between rival characters in anime, and it adds depth and complexity to the relationships in the series.

9. Ryuko & Satsuki/Kill La Kill


Ryuko is a transfer student who arrives at Honnouji Academy, a school ruled by Satsuki and her student council. Satsuki is the president of the student council and the leader of the school, and she is known for her strict control over the students and her powerful abilities.

Ryuko and Satsuki’s rivalry intensifies, as they engage in intense battles and confrontations. Ryuko is determined to uncover the truth about her father’s death and the connection to Honnouji Academy, while Satsuki is determined to maintain her control over the school and the students.

The rivalry between Ryuko and Satsuki is a defining element of the series, and it is one of the major driving forces behind the story. It explores themes of power, control, and the struggle for justice, and it is an intense and dynamic relationship that keeps fans engaged throughout the series. These two uncover more about each other throughout the story.

10. Kagome & Kikyou/Inuyasha

Here’s a type of rivalry we love to see, a love rivalry. Kagome is a modern-day schoolgirl who is transported back in time to the Feudal Era of Japan. Kikyo is a priestess who was previously charged with protecting the powerful Shikon Jewel, and she is tasked with killing the half-demon Inuyasha to prevent him from using the Shikon Jewel for evil purposes. Kagome is Kikyo’s reincarnation, and Kikyo was resurrected during the series.

Their rivalry is characterized by their conflicting feelings towards Inuyasha, as they both have romantic feelings for him and are determined to protect him. Kagome is determined to use the Shikon Jewel to purify Inuyasha’s demon blood and make him human, while Kikyo is determined to keep Inuyasha sealed and prevent the jewel from reaching the land of the living.

Kikyo initially tried to kill Kagome, but they became allies after Kagome saved her life. Inuyasha initially chose Kikyo and tried to leave Kagome, but after Kikyo was dead again, Inuyasha ended up staying with Kagome and decided to protect her forever. Such an indecisive guy tho!

11. Natsu & Gray/Fairy Tail

Natsu is a fire mage and a member of the Fairy Tail guild, while Gray is an ice mage and a fellow guild member. Despite their vastly different personalities and skills, they soon become rivals as they compete against each other in battles and strive to become stronger and more skilled.

These two have always bickered and ribbed at one another from their early days in the guild. While Gray is more cool-headed, whenever Natsu wants to fight he’s the first to get involved. You can also find them calling each other creative nicknames too. Their rivalry intensifies as the story progresses and more is revealed about each character.

Natsu is E.N.D., a demon from the book of Zeref, one of the many demons that killed Gray’s family during his youth. In a way, Hiro Mashima wrote these two’s storylines to intertwine and have some darker tones. However, as all fans know, the power of friendship triumphs all.

12. Asta & Yuno/Black Clover

Both Asta and Yuno’s origins are different, but they both grew up in an orphanage together. While Yuno was blessed with expansive magical power, Asta had no magic in him whatsoever, this changed later on with Asta having the ability to wield the 5-leaf clover tome. Their dynamic character writing helps their rivalry excel to new heights with each arc.

Asta trained extensively in building himself physically since he cannot wield mana, unlike Yuno who can wield mana with such talent that he became the host of the wind guardian spirit. They both have the goal of becoming the wizard king, thus, leading them to always compete to see who is stronger each time they meet.

While they both are very competitive, they are very caring for one another. In one scene where the king berated them for being peasants, they demonstrated their powers to amaze everyone and prove a point that although they come from poverty, they are still just as human as everyone else. I personally recommend reading the manga as it is nearing its finale and is a great read for all types of fans!

13. Yumeko & Kirari/Kakegurui

Protagonist vs Antagonist, these two are less of rivals and more of Hero vs Villain in this series. While Kirari believes in fate (Fatalism), Yumeko is more of your gambling queen. Yumeko is a transfer student who arrives at the Hyakkaou Private Academy, a school where students are ranked based on their gambling abilities. Kirari is a student council member and the leader of the school’s ruling class.

Their relationship is interesting, in the first season Kirari serves as an Antagonist to Yumeko, and even plays a tarot card game (which she rigged in her favour) with the expulsion of Yumeko and Ryota. In the second season, Kirari’s position as the president is on the line and when things don’t go her way, she doesn’t worry and instead looks forward to Yumeko stirring the pot while she’s absent. So kind of like a villain turned accomplice type of schtick.

One thing really cool about the two is their love for gambling. They love putting it all on the line and the sweet ecstasy they feel when trying to outsmart one another brings a whole new meaning to the anime.

14. Yukihira & Erina Nakiri/Food Wars!

At the beginning of the series, Soma is a young chef who aims to surpass his father and become the best chef in the world. Erina is the granddaughter of the headmaster of Totsuki Academy, a prestigious cooking school, and she is widely recognized as the school’s most talented student.

Their rivalry is characterized by their intense competition, as they engage in cooking duels known as “Shokugeki” which determine their culinary skills and future careers. They can also be used to put a student’s enrollment on the line. Soma is determined to prove himself as a top chef, while Erina is determined to maintain her reputation as the school’s top student.

Despite their contentious relationship, they eventually develop a mutual respect for each other’s culinary skills and determination. As the series progresses, their rivalry intensifies, and they engage in intense cooking battles that keep fans engaged throughout the series. Erina does develop feelings for Souma since it was his dad, Joichiro, that helped her in becoming an amazing chef. Side Note: The author did confirm they got married!!!

15. Gol D. Roger and Whitebeard/One Piece


You know I had to do it to em, hahaha. Gol D. Roger was the Pirate King, the most powerful pirate in the world and the owner of the One Piece, a treasure said to be the greatest in the world. Whitebeard was the captain of the Whitebeard Pirates, one of the strongest pirate crews in the world and the only pirate to have ever gone toe-to-toe with the Pirate King.

Their rivalry was characterized by their opposing views on pirate life. Gol D. Roger believed in absolute freedom and the pursuit of one’s own dreams, while Whitebeard believed in the importance of camaraderie and the bonds between pirate crews. They often clashed during their great era and their fights were soo crazy they would level islands, hell, on one occasion both crews battled for 3 days and 3 nights, they then made peace and had drinks together.

In the end, Gol D. Roger died while being executed by the World Government, and Whitebeard died while attempting to save one of his crew members during the Battle of Marineford. Their rivalry and stories helped shape the world of One Piece and their legacies continue to be felt throughout the series.


Competition is great as long as it is healthy. Some competitions have people vying to be powerful, and others simply want to be the main love interest, but rivalries can stem from anything. The great thing about anime rivalries is that they don’t only add to the characters, but to the overall story as well.

We hope you found a rivalry that peaks your interest, maybe a rivalry of your own may relate to the characters we listed. My rivalry is pretty similar to Shinichi and Hattori’s, I like to compete with my best friend in seeing has the worst game, and of course, I always come out on top.

Be sure to keep checking our website for more articles on all things anime, Japan, and otaku culture alike!!

Living in Japan, I work as an Editor/Writer at 1ScreenMagazine. Self proclaimed King of the Funny.

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