The List
7 Heart-Pounding Tournaments

by Lynzee Loveridge,


When trying to discover the best of the best, anime pits contenders against one another to see who will reign supreme. Many a shōnen anime has a tournament competition of some sort. Most are physical showdowns where protagonists reveal new powered up abilities to finally take down their rival. In other cases, the matches turn deadly, either for the participants or the world at large. This week's List looks at some of the most dynamic tournament battles in recent memory.

7. World Martial Arts Tournament (Dragon Ball) Three different World Martial Arts Tournaments take place during Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT. The world's strongest all gather for a chance to be named the best of the best, but the competition has a startling habit of being hijacked by enemies. The 23rd tournament would mark the event's highest stakes: the fate of Earth itself. Piccolo Jr. makes short work of his contestants until the only remaining fighters are himself and Goku. It's then that we learn Piccolo Jr. is intent on taking the arena, the spectators, and Earth down with Goku. The fight has several fake-outs where the audience is led to believe Goku is victorious, only for his opponent to reveal a more powerful technique or advantage.

6. Rose Duelists' Tournament (Revolutionary Girl Utena) A series of fencing matches located in an impossible arena in the woods offers the vague reward of granting the power to "revolutionize the world." What exactly this means varies from participant to participant but overall it represents the ability to overcome some anxiety or perceived shortcoming, no matter how ill-conceived it might be. The psychological ties to each battle create an ever-evolving arena. A duel might involve a speeding car, a platform covered in school desks, or bear witness to an impossible miracle. Anything can and does happen in a duel for the Rose Bride.

5. Ura Butō Satsujin (Flame of Recca) The latter season of Flame of Recca follows Team Hokage as they compete in the "most dangerous" martial arts tournament, in the hopes of winning the freedom of Yanagi, the team healer. Their opponents have more and more impressive powers, although some border on ridiculous. The Hokage team faces off against paper-wielding assassins, a tree-man, and a copycat ninja. The tournament all comes down to Recca facing the masked Kurei Mori with his acquired dragon flame powers. Kurei, also a flame wielder, has antagonized Recca since early in the series, so the face-off makes for a heated contest.

4. Grand Magic Game Arc (Fairy Tail) The best magic guilds in the business face off against one another with Fairy Tail hoping to restore its good name. The competition quickly becomes something larger with a brain-bending time travel plot involving an alternate timeline Lucy and a dark mage named Zeref. The arc features some of the best battles Fairy Tail has to offer, with Lucy facing off against Flare and Kagura battling Yukino. Where else can you see a woman's hair turn into a wolf?

3. The Indigo League (Pokémon) Before the creators made Ash's continual losses at the tournaments a running joke, the would-be Pokémon master headed to his first ever tournament. The stakes actually felt high when Ash was finally facing off against top tier foes after 75 episodes. He enters the tournament with Pikachu, Krabby, Squirtle, Charizard, Pidgeotto, Muk, and Bulbasaur. Week after week, he continues to win matches and actually seems to have a shot in the finals. It's not until he faces Richie, a guy who looks far too much like Ash, that the ongoing disobedience problem from Ash's Charizard returns to bite him in the ass and cost him a spot in the quarter-finals. It was unheard of in kids' cartoons at the time that the main character would lose a tournament, much less not even make it to the finals.

2. Tōtsuki Autumn Election (Food Wars! The Second Plate) The ultimate cooking academy's best and brightest compete in a no-holds barred cuisine match. The results will place the academy's first-years in their respective rank among one another, and you can bet Sōma has his eyes set on the top spot. He and his peers utilize their own specialties to win the judge's favor, even if the results are ugly (Nao Sadatsuka), improved knock-offs (Subaru Mimasaka), or couture (Alice Nakiri). The tournament features some of the most interesting recipes in the show, although unfortunately the second season's wrap-up of the contest doesn't have the same dynamic oomph as earlier preliminaries.

1. The Hunter Exam (Hunter x Hunter) A Hunter License is practically a necessity to survive in this world, which is why millions turn out to take the Hunter Exam and earn one despite the risk of injury and death. The high number of entries creates an impossible demand, so weaklings are quickly weeded out. Gon and many of his comrades participate, trekking through a swamp, hunting giant boar, and being tested by mass murderers. The remainder are taken to an island in a Battle Royale point match followed by one-on-one duels. This arc gives more insight into Killua's character, a boy born into one of the deadliest assassin families, a fact that ends up working against him in the end.





The new poll: What anime opening sequence do you think is the coolest? Consider both visuals and music.

The old poll: What anime villain do you find the most lovable?

  1. Team Rocket (Pokémon series)
  2. Izaya Orihara (Durarara!!)
  3. Itachi Uchiha (Naruto)
  4. Accelerator (A Certain Magical Index / A Certain Scientific Railgun)
  5. Dio (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure)
  6. Deishū Kaiki (Monogatari Series)
  7. Toru Oikawa (Haikyū!!)
  8. Hisoka (Hunter x Hunter)
  9. Ladd Russo (Baccano!)
  10. Greed (Fullmetal Alchemist)
  11. Gilgamesh (Fate Series)
  12. Buggy (One Piece)
  13. Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)
  14. Fate Testarossa (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha)
  15. Annie Leonhart (Attack on Titan)
  16. Kyubey (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
  17. General Esdeath (Akame ga KILL!)
  18. Shōgo Makishima (Psycho-Pass)
  19. Junko Enoshima (Danganronpa)
  20. Sōsuke Aizen (BLEACH)

When she isn't compiling lists of tropes, topics, and characters, Lynzee works as Managing Interest Editor for Anime News Network and posts pictures of her sons on Twitter @ANN_Lynzee.

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