Rivalries, like friendships, involve a bond between characters that inexplicably draws them together while pushing them apart.
Anime series love to include rivalries because it’s an easy—but effective—way to incorporate drama, tension, backstory, and character growth across many episodes. Rivalries are also great at showing us a character by their interactions with their rival.
Sometimes a rivalry is nothing more than a competition between friends, but it can be something more—like a violent connection built on hatred, jealousy, or insecurity.
Here are some of the best anime series with the greatest anime rivalries between characters.
12. Karma and Nagisa (Assassination Classroom)
Both having great abilities as assassins-in-training, Karma and Nagisa formed a rivalry based on who could become the best assassin in Assassination Classroom.
The unusual thing about their rivalry is that they don’t openly fight each other, except during the Save Team versus Kill Team episodes in the series’ second season. Other than that, they’re friendly.
Their goal is to unite the class that’s divided between saving Koro Sensei or killing him, where there are two factions: Nagisa on the Blue Team (Save) and Karma on the Red Team (Kill).
11. Sanji and Zoro (One Piece)
Their rivalry came out of nowhere and born of childish tantrums, but the two were dead serious about it. Their ideologies and mentalities differ as far as how they want to handle matters, but deep down they treasure their bond like any other.
The Luffy versus Ussop scene is much more brutal and intense than any of this duo’s comical fights and trashtalking, and they always end up helping each other in the end.
10. Guy and Kakashi (Naruto)
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The friendly rivalry between Might Guy and Hatake Kakashi might just be the most famous and iconic anime rivalry of all time.
These two are among the best Jonin-level ninjas in all of Konoha Village, and they’re always competing when it doesn’t matter—or, rather, Guy competes with Kakashi. The rivalry is born from Guy’s attempts to work hard and reach Kakashi’s genius talents.
And even though Guy calls Kakashi his greatest rival, their teamwork is one of a kind when it comes to real battles and missions.
9. Akutagawa and Atsushi (Bungo Stray Dogs)
Akutagawa is one of the Port Mafia gifted individuals and harbors deep resentment towards Atsushi, a gifted individual working in the Armed Detective Agency.
It appears that his tension arises from Dazai, who doesn’t recognize his abilities and skills. He points his feelings of hatred at Atsushi, who was brought to the Agency by Dazai himself.
Over time, Atsushi manages to learn from and gain support from his rival Akutagawa in many ways, and they somehow understand each other’s deep feelings during battles.
8. Rukawa and Sakuragi (Slam Dunk)
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We always knew for sure who would win the battle between these two towers of the Shohoku team, but Sakuragi isn’t the type to just sit there and accept his flaws and wallow in defeat. He strives to prove that he is also one of the team’s best players.
7. Mei Li and Sakura (Cardcaptor Sakura)
Unlike the other anime rivalries on this list, the one between Sakura and Mei Li of Cardcaptor Sakura exists because they’re both competing for the affection of Shaoran Li, who was the rival of Sakura in being the master of the cards.
Sakura doesn’t take it seriously because she hides her feelings for Shaoran during the early episodes, but this rivalry grows and blossoms into something greater by the series’ end.
6. Ban and Meliodas (Seven Deadly Sins)
The immortal duo of Seven Deadly Sins has a rivalry like no other in mainstream anime. Their competition is nothing more than a form of entertainment for them—even if it means breaking tables while arm wrestling, or even causing lethal damage to one another.
And because neither of them can die, their attacks are often ramped up to overkill levels just so they can have that much more fun.
5. Goku and Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)
Vegeta’s pride as the prince of the Saiyans is the reason why he pointed his hatred towards Goku, who was stronger than him and even defeated him when they were young in age.
Both Saiyans have totally different personalities, with Goku being an easy-go-lucky dude while Vegeta is a serious badass type. But as the series progresses, their bitter rivalry turns into a healthy rivalry as they build their respective families.
Later on, their sons—Goten and Trunks—inherited their rivalry and formed their own way of healthy competition.
4. Midoriya and Bakugo (My Hero Academia)
Izuku Midoriya and Katsuki Bakugo, who are the main characters in My Hero Academia, have been friends ever since their childhood days. Midoriya admired Bakugo for manifesting his Quirk back then, and they both idolized All Might and wanted to be like him.
Their competition at becoming the best superhero took many unusual and unexpected turns throughout their journeys, and they’ve even had fights with intense outcomes, like Izuku breaking his arm a few times. But their rivalry never encroaches into hostile territory.
3. Conan and Heiji (Case Closed)
Conan and Heiji were both top-notch high school detectives from different states: Conan from Tokyo and Heiji from Osaka. They compete on who can solve a case first, and they race to deduce everything they can when a case lands before them.
Though their deduction competition is so intense where both have different angles and observations, they end up helping each other and solving the case together as they arrive at the same conclusion.
2. Hashirama and Madara (Naruto Shippuden)
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The two founders of Konoha Village started as friends during their childhood days. It was only during the war that they became rivals—a war that they ended with a mutual pursuit of peace. That’s when they started building the village, with Hashirama leading as the first Hokage.
Madara’s greed for power and manipulative machinations lead him down a dark path, which results in the two of them fighting again until they die. That rivalry continued when the two of them were reanimated during the Fourth Great Ninja War.
Without a doubt, no contest, the rivalry between Hashirama and Madara is the most important rivalry in all of Naruto.
1. Yuno and Asta (Black Clover)
Yuno and Asta both dreamed of being the Wizard King of the Clover Kingdom, and with that, their competition started. Both respect each other’s abilities, meaning their rivalry is not one that’s born from hatred or jealousy. It’s one founded on civility and admiration.
With their shared goals in mind, they train and hone their skills with their respective squads and peers, but never forgetting their promise to each other. That deep kind of rivalry is one of the best kinds of rivalries, making this one the greatest anime rivalry ever.