Let’s be honest, anime loves a good rivalry. It’s one of the most popular tropes in the medium. They elevate the storyline to a whole new level and get the fandom all riled up. But rivalries are also a great way to flesh out characters and get to know their innermost thoughts, fears, and desires. The best ones are as intense as they are informative. So, here are five of the most intense rivalries in anime.
Ryūko Matoi vs. Satsuki Kiryūin (Kill la Kill)
Murdering someone else’s parent is a sure-fire way to start a hatred-fueled rivalry. Ryūko Matoi and Satsuki Kiryūin‘s rivalry begins when Matoi transfers to Honnōji Academy in search of the twin to her red Scissor Blade and the person who used it to murder her father, Isshin Matoi. When Kiryūin first encounters the weapon, her suspicious reaction causes Matoi to suspect her of the murder. Ryūko declares war on her — and, of course, the clothes come off.
With the help of her sentient uniform, Senketsu, and a red half-scissor blade, she engages in various battles with Kiryūin. They’re so powerful that each strike literally blows spectators miles away. Thanks to these hell-bent female leads and Studio Trigger’s gorgeous graphics, we’re equally impressed (although firmly seated).
However, their rivalry comes to an end when Kiryūin learns that her enemy is actually the sister she’d long believed to be dead. Through growth and acceptance, these two characters who once hated each other with such intense passion form a sisterly bond.
Izuku Midoriya vs. Katsuki Bakugo (My Hero Academia)
While this rivalry may be mostly one-sided, it’s just as intense as the others on this list. When they were young boys, Midoriya and Bakugo were the best of friends. Midoriya looked up to Bakugo due to his bravery and, of course, his Quirk, Explosion.
As the leader of their group of friends, Bakugo was praised for his abilities and skills from an early age. But one day, while strolling in the forest, Bakugo finds himself in trouble after falling from a tree and into a river. Midoriya offers to help Bakugo, which causes the latter to feel embarrassed due to his overinflated self-worth.
Ever since then, Bakugo has hated Midoriya for unintentionally showing that Bakugo isn’t as strong as he appears. On top of that, Midorya’s One For All Quirk means Bakugo has to work even harder to become the greatest hero there is. Funnily, Midoriya never engages in their rivalry — but that doesn’t stop Bakugo from picking on him anyway to prove that he’s superior.
L vs. Light (Death Note)
Intense rivalries don’t always involve exchanging punches. Some focus on intellectual battles instead, as we see in the anime Death Note. Light Yagami is Kira, a vigilante who wields the supernatural notebook Death Note. Using it, he kills criminals to bring justice to a world plagued with heinous crimes. Enter the world’s top detective, L. Hired by Interpol to catch the mass murderer, L successfully deduces Kira’s location. Enraged and humiliated, Light’s rivalry with L takes root, and what follows is an extreme cat-and-mouse game.
Their level of intelligence and deductive reasoning, when paired with their desire to win, is unmatched. Light comes up with plan after plan and L quickly counters them with his own. Their rivalry isn’t just limited to the murders, it even spills over to a tennis game the two have. During the match, they each try to outsmart the other, with L trying to predict how likely it is that Light is Kira and Light trying to play in a way that’ll take the heat off of him.
If they weren’t on opposite sites, Light and L could have been a formidable team comprised of intellectual equals. Unfortunately, Light’s unrelenting nature didn’t allow this to happen.
Shizuo Heiwajima vs. Izaya Orihara (Durarara!!)
Shizuo and Izaya have been fighting each other since the day they first met in high school. Their battles have become so common in Ikebukuro that the local authorities have stopped trying to arrest Shizuo for the destruction he causes.
Surprisingly, despite their mutual love for fighting each other, these two don’t have much in common. Izaya is calm, collected, and emotionally detached. Shizuo, on the other hand, reacts impulsively, which causes him to go on a street sign-throwing rampage.
While the two passionately hate each other, Izaya is a lot better at controlling his anger than Shizuo. But that’s because he doesn’t consider his rival an equal — and even compares Shizuo to an animal. However, Izaya is very fixated on their rivalry. He even provokes Shizuo and frames him for murder.
Like all great rivalries, Izaya’s fixation stems from jealousy. Shizuo easily makes friends despite being aggressive and asocial, which fills Izaya with rage. Meanwhile, poor Izaya is universally shunned even though he has a “likable” personality. Oh well, we suppose all great rivalries have to start somewhere — even if the reason is petty.
Goku vs. Vegeta (Dragon Ball)
Rivalries can last a while but none as long as the one between Goku and Vegeta. The two Saiyans‘ rivalry began back in 1986. Since then, Vegeta’s hatred-filled obsession with Goku has become one of the greatest conflicts in Dragon Ball — and anime — history.
Goku is your typical hero and Vegeta is, initially, a classic villain. As Saiyans, they both love to fight and are hell-bent on getting stronger. But that’s where the similarities end. Vegeta, the prince of the fallen Saiyan race is a jerk, whereas Goku can’t help being a goofball.
While Goku has defeated Vegeta many times, neither he or Vegeta is the strongest Saiyan in the universe. The only way for one of them to reach that title is to join forces, as each one’s strengths and weaknesses complement the other’s. Vegeta inspires Goku to be a better Saiyan, and Goku makes Vegeta a better person. Even though they’re no longer fighting on opposite sides, thanks to their healthy rivalry they continue to grow in power. It appears that this decades-old rivalry may never end.