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The 20 Greatest Anime Tournaments Of All Time, Ranked

Updated May 19, 2020 49.3k votes 9.4k voters 214.7k views20 items

List RulesVote up the most intense, heart-pounding tournaments.

Anime with tournaments are tried and true staples of the medium. There's nothing like watching a character you've come to know and love compete, win, and advance to the next level. The coolest anime tournaments not only treat you to high-stakes battles that will leave your heart pounding, they also give you insight into the participants' thoughts and emotions. All the best tournaments in anime are intense.

The greatest anime tournaments feature everything from volleyball games that will leave you shouting at your screen like a real sports fan to life-or-death competitions to become the God of Time and Space. If you like your anime suspenseful, emotionally moving, or just plain badass, tournament arcs are a great way to get your fix. 

  • The Dark Tournament arc from Yu Yu Hakusho uses a standard tournament format, with eliminations after each round. Yusuke Urameshi and his friends join with the goal of claiming the prize: a single wish. This fight is much more intense than your standard shonen battle. Notably, there's the presence of the corrupt Committee, who not only incorrectly call matches for their own benefit, but also force people to enter the tournament against their will.

    There's also a plot line where someone tries to use the tournament to open up a demon gate. There's real tension in these moments, and this arc manages to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. 

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  • Naruto is primarily a series about ninja-based political intrigue, but the Chunin Exams are a non-stop action thrill ride. They do a great job of introducing the characters and their abilities, and at hinting towards the dangers they'll face in the future. The Chunin Exams start with a written test, (where students are encouraged to cheat) then quickly progress to an obstacle course in the woods (that brings them in contact with the disconcerting villain, Orochimaru) and then, for those who haven't been disqualified, there's a final series of fights. 

    Some fights are ridiculous - like the one where Naruto defeats Kiba by farting in his face - but others are exquisitely painful, like the emotionally fraught battle between cousins Hinata and Neji. The two of them attempt to resolve their deep-seated family issues by pummeling one another, in a battle that ultimately puts Hinata in the hospital.

    The exam is eventually interrupted by the city being invaded, which only serves to increase the intensity of the series arc. 

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  • The Grand Magic Games is one of the most important events for the Fairy Tail guild as it determines the strongest guild in Fiore. Each guild is ready to give it their all in order to come out on top. And with both the current number one guild, Sabertooth, and the former Dark Guild, Raven Tail, looking to win, the competition is fierce. 

    There were many memorable, intense fights during this tournament like Jellal vs. Jura and Elfman vs. Bacchus. And the satisfaction of seeing how far the Fairy Tail guild has come makes for an emotional, inspiring arc.

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  • The World Martial Arts Tournament in Dragon Ball is a classic shonen tournament arc. Earth's strongest fighters come together every three years to fight for the title of World Martial Arts Champion. It's a good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat fight where weapons or cheat shots to the groin or eyes aren't allowed. 

    There wasn't a fight during this arc that wasn't fun and entertaining. Goku vs. Jackie Chun and Goku vs. Piccolo were notable fights that are considered the best in the series. 


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