5 Reasons an Anime Rival Is Better Than a Lover

Gemma Hepburn
TV Naruto
TV Naruto Dragon Ball Anime

Tired of clingy lovers and lazy partners who don’t get you? Want a relationship based on respect? If you want a committed partner willing to work hard for you, one who gets you but also gives you your space, then you need an anime rival! You know, a special someone dedicating their every waking moment to defeating you — their only true worthy opponent.

An anime rivalry can be just as complex and intimate as any romantic affair, and maybe even more fulfilling. After all, who burns with more passion than your anime rival, and who else can push you to be your very best?

They Just Get You

Todoroki readies an ice attack as Midoriya blocks Todoroki's fire attack.
Clash of fire and ice.

“It’s just a feeling, but I think those two … give off the same vibe.” — All Might on Midoriya and Todoroki, My Hero Academia

A rival gets you. They have to. It’s important for rivals to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In My Hero Academia, Izuku Midoriya’s fills notebook after notebook with information on every hero’s and classmate’s quirks and limitations. Your rival’s dedication to studying you inside and out can lead to an intimate, empathetic understanding of your journey and inner turmoil. A lover may find your dreams admirable or interesting, but a rival shares your dream.

Izuku Midoriya and Shoto Todoroki come from different backgrounds but have much in common. Both are inspired to become heroes by All Might, and both have been defined by another person’s ambitions. When they face off in the U.A. Sports Festival, Todoroki holds back by refusing to use the power of fire inherited from his overbearing (and abusive) father.

Midoriya senses their kinship and instinctively reminds Todoroki to define himself and fight for his own dreams, which inspires Todoroki to use his full power — flames included — against Midoriya. Even as rivals, Midoriya was able to reach Todoroki and help him own his destiny.

Respect, It’s Important

A young samurai draws back a bow and takes aim at an entertainer, can he catch the arrow and save his own life?
A rival's arrow rarely misses.

“I am in love … with your skills, that is.” — Kambei to Kyuzo, Samurai 7

After all, you’re the only one worthy of their all-out effort. Your skill ignites your rival’s passion. All it takes is one look for your rival to drool over your mastery. A lover may roll their eyes and yawn when you talk about your passions, but a rival appreciates your hard work and dedication. They see you as the ultimate challenge — and in some ways, a soulmate — in your shared field, whether it’s cards, tennis, or swordplay, like Shimada Kambei and Kyuzo in Samurai 7.

Both Kambei and Kyuzo are remarkable swordsmen. When they meet, the sparks and steel fly in one of the best-choreographed anime duels ever. Kambei ends the duel by acknowledging he can’t defeat Kyuzo. He then tells Kyuzo that he can’t continue the fight because he promised to defend a village from bandits. As a sign of respect, Kambei sheaths his sword and turns his back to Kyuzo so can finish his mission. The two men part ways, awaiting the day when they will cross swords again.

Respecting Your Space Is Even Better

Nicholas D Wolfwood has black, short hair with shaggy bangs, dark glasses and his cross-shaped weapon, the Punisher over his shoulder and Vash has spikey blonde hair, round orange glasses and his trademark red duster
Best friends and rivals.

“I’ve lived a different life than he has.” — Wolfwood on Vash, Trigun

Space can mean physical distance and a rival will keep a healthy distance to maintain their edge. But space can also mean the freedom to have different ideas or opinions. Of course, in a rivalry or any healthy relationship, you should share the same values — but leave space to disagree on the little things. Unlike some lovers, a rival’s never passive-aggressive, oh no. Rivals decide whose path is best through competition!

In Trigun, Vash the Stampede and Nicholas D. Wolfwood are rivals for the fastest gun, but their duel is postponed when they team up to protect the innocent. Vash is a pacifist and refuses to kill, something Wolfwood does with jaded proficiency. Their shared commitment to protecting the innocent creates respect and gives them space to disagree. That is until they have the chance to prove who’s right with a duel.

It’s All About Commitment

Sasuke attacks with a ball of lightning as Naruto attack with a ball of wind.
Rival conflict resolution.

“You know what they say, don’t you, Naruto. When two Shinobi are powerful enough, they can read each other’s thoughts, simply through an exchange of fists.” — Sasuke to Naruto, Naruto

A rival is not jealous; they don’t want to be your best friend. They won’t run through your phone while you sleep. In fact, you’re free to challenge other opponents. They’re just honing you, helping you to become more worthy of the rivalry. Don’t try that with a lover, though! A lover deserves faithfulness, but a rival only asks for a commitment to the rivalry.

In Naruto, Hidden Leaf Village ninjas, Sasuke Uchiha and Naruto Uzumaki face many opponents, but no battle is more important than their private rivalry. Both want to protect the Hidden Leaf but disagree on how to create peace and security. Unable to see eye to eye, these rivals remain committed to their bond, even sacrificing their bodies in an attempt to understand each other. After all, sometimes shinobi can only connect through their fists.

They Always See the Best in You

Vegata gloats over an incapacitated Goku. Both are in Super Saiyan mode giving them golden spiky hair and crazy power.
A rival never underestimates you.

“While I’m here wasting time, how hard is Kakarot training?” — Vegeta, Dragon Ball Super

A rival doesn’t hold sentimental thoughts of you or put you on a pedestal like a swooning lover. They have appraised you with a critical eye and found you worthy of their commitment and aspirations (hurray!). And unless you’re at your peak, a rival won’t challenge. They only want you at your best.

In the Dragon Ball anime series, Goku (aka Kakarot) has left many rivals in the wake of his meteoric rise from one ridiculous power level to another ridiculous power level. Goku’s strength comes from his indomitable spirit and desire to protect Earth. As a hero and a good rival, Goku wants every battle to be an honorable contest.

In facing off against his former enemies Piccolo and Vegeta, Goku sees past their anger and hate to their pain. Believing they can be better fighters and people, Goku turns his enemies into rivals, ensuring they have a chance at redemption and a rematch.

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Gemma Hepburn
I enjoy having too much time on my hands and being at the wrong place at the right time.
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