When it comes to anime, there’s nothing like a good fight for gluing us to the edge of our seats. Whether it’s two best friends suddenly finding themselves on opposing sides of the battlefield, or an epic face-off between the forces of good and evil, there have been plenty of truly mind-blowing duels. Here at the Eighty-Sixth Floor we love a good punch-up (on screen, of course!), so we’ve put together a list of our fifteen favourite anime fight scenes. Let us know what you think, and what we might have missed!
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
15: Ryu and Ken vs Bison (Street Fighter)
Inspired by the immensely popular video game of the same name, the Street Fighter II Anime was a bit of a riot, really. Far superior to the live action version (only good in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kind of way), the anime managed to perfectly capture the pure bad-assery of the game experience. In their battle with Bison, Ryu and Ken show off the kind of finishing moves players could only dream of, catapulting their bovine target into the nearest plane, and themselves into Street Fighter franchise history.
14: Mugen vs Jin (Samurai Champloo)
While it ran for just 26 episodes, Samurai Champloo was surely one of the best Edo-era-set animes ever made. The uneasy allegiance between Jin and Mugen was a constant source of tension and entertainment alike, striking a careful balance dependent as much upon mutual disdain as mutual respect. Their final, climactic battle may have been the one we were all waiting for, but it was their first meeting that set them on course for that highly-anticipated encounter. If you don’t like bones breaking, look away now.
13: Jubei vs Gemma (Ninja Scroll)
One of the most popular anime movies ever made, Ninja Scroll’s brutal violence and epic storyline connected brilliantly with audiences when it was released in the early 90’s. Jubei’s fight with Gemma (a once-human demon whose newfound immortality makes him almost impossible to kill) is one of the most intense sequences around. As the flames roar around them, they each prove that when it comes to a showdown, they’re worth their weight in gold (perhaps one more literally than the other).
12: Lone Wolf and Cub (Samurai Jack)
Is it an anime? Is it not an anime? We don’t mind either way, because the appearance of Lone Wolf and Cub on ‘Samurai Jack’ is superb regardless. It’s probably the most understated fight scene included on our countdown, but that takes nothing away from the sheer awesomeness of throwing such a great nod to a classic samurai movie into the Cartoon Network mix.
11: Yami Yugi vs Seto Kaiba (Yu-Gi-Oh)
Quite possibly the only anime to rival Pokemon on the international card-collection scene, Yu-Gi-Oh’s battle-centric format gave us plenty of options to choose from. When it came down to it, however, we had to go with the first appearance of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. The sheer majesty of its entrance onto the battlefield made it pretty clear that there could be only one outcome, and even though we of course sympathized with Yugi’s honour and principles and so on, IT’S A FREAKING DRAGON. We wanted it to win. Who wouldn’t?
10: Naruto vs Pain (Naruto Shippuden)
Our first entry from the Naruto universe is his dramatic encounter with Pain. No, not just the sensation (although we’re sure there was plenty of that as well!), but probably the most widely-destructive antagonist the trainee ninja would ever come up against. With Konoha lying in ruins, the battle between the pair is a philosophical one as much a violent one, as both fight in the defence of their definition of ‘peace’.
9: Goku vs Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z)
There’s no denying Goku’s place as one of the most iconic anime characters in existence. The orange robes. That enormous ol’ hair-do. But his ongoing rivalry with Vegeta became one of the biggest (and best) arcs of the series. While the pair’s relationship gets off to a rocky start (crippling someone isn’t the best way to introduce yourself), they eventually developed the kind of warily respectful bond that would bring a tear to the toughest of eyes. Probably because one of them decided to give you a quick gut punch, but still.
8: Clare vs Ricardo (Claymore)
Another show on our list to have been given just one series, Claymore’s fight choreography and dark, brooding atmosphere made for some truly tense show-downs. If there’s one lesson to be taken from the battle between Ricardo (or ‘Silver-Eyed Lion King’) and Clare, it’s never to underestimate your enemy. While Ricardo decided that only ranking officers were worthy of his time, it was lowly foot-soldier Clare who finally put an end to his brutal attacks, unleashing her anger like never before.
7: Rock Lee vs Garra (Naruto)
A personal favourite character of ours from the Naruto universe, Rock Lee’s unique fighting style faced the ultimate challenge when he went toe-to-sand-between-toes with Garra. Seeing his full potential once those leg weights dropped off was a revelation, as he transformed into a whirlwind of relentless taijutsu attacks. The ending of the encounter is a real smack in the face, but thanks to Lee’s indomitable spirit, his story had plenty more chapters to come.
6: Gon vs Hanzo (Hunter x Hunter)
Gon has been dreaming of becoming a Hunter for as long as he can remember. Hoping to follow in his long-lost father’s footsteps and become a Master Hunter, all that stands in the way is his final exam, a match against the ruthless Hanzo. As much a battle of wills as of strength, it’s an interesting approach to a duel, and a sharp contrast to the all-out power moves that typically get thrown into the ring as far as anime showdowns are concerned.
5: Zuko vs Azula (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
It may not include the show’s eponymous protagonist, but the showdown between brother and sister firebenders Zuko and Azula is truly mesmerizing. The relationship between the pair is antagonistic to say the least, but when Zuko finally defeats Azula (regaining his rightful place as the Lord of the Fire Nation), her ensuing madness is difficult to watch. The consequences of the battle are almost as important as the battle itself, but of course Azula wouldn’t stay down forever. The satisfaction of finally getting to see her lose, however, is nigh on perfect.
4: Eren vs Female Titan (Attack on Titan – DEFINITELY SPOILERS!)
Up until this point, we’ve seen Eren struggle to control his titan-transforming abilities as he tries to prove his usefulness to the Survey Corps. When he watches the members of Elite Squad Levi being casually obliterated by the female titan, however, he finally loses it. Transforming into his titan form, he unleashes a truly animalistic fury, launching into a visceral attack that soon leaves him physically and emotionally wrecked. It’s incredibly satisfying to see Eren squaring up to the terror of the female titan, but in this case, she lives to fight another day.
3: Ichigo vs Byakuya (Bleach)
Fighting not just for his own life, but for Rukia Kuchki’s as well, Ichigo’s mastery of Bankai and his sheer willpower mean that he is able to match the skill and ferocity of Byakuya’s well-honed attacks. Whipping up the kind of twister even Dorothy would be proud of, their powers clash in mighty fashion, as Byakuya is forced into submission not only by Ichigo’s zanpakuto, but by the knowledge that, in mindlessly following the rules, he will ultimately be left with nothing.
2: Naruto vs Sasuke (Naruto)
The rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke is without doubt one of the most famous in anime. Their opposing philosophies and radically different fighting styles mean that, while superficially they have far more in common than they acknowledge, they often end up on opposite sides of the battlefield. When they first fully go head-to-head on the hospital roof, it’s a worrying premonition of things to come, where Sasuke’s relentless quest for vengeance leads him to trample over anyone who gets in his way.
1: Goku vs Frieza (Dragon Ball Z)
Probably one of the most epic throwdowns of all time, when Goku and Frieza finally clashed on Dragon Ball Z, it was a two-hour long smash fest like no other. Goku’s rebirth in an even more powerful form means he’s a close match for the Lord Varys-sounding Galactic Emperor, but unfortunately some of his friends aren’t quite so lucky. As the planet Namek starts to crumble around them, Goku’s transformation into his Super Saiyan form (i.e. blonde) helps him win the battle, but at huge cost. No matter how many times we watch this one, it remains probably one of the best fight sequences ever.
So that’s our list of the top 15 anime fight scenes. There are plenty more we could have included, so let us know what you think, and what you’d like to see in our next list!
If you’re in the mood for a fight now, why not check out our new album, Super Battle Attack? Featuring 25 of our favourite tracks from the best fighting animus around, it’s the perfect listen for any dedicated anime fan! Available now via iTunes.