Many shonen have a story arc dedicated to the tournament. It must be said that these arcs are highly appreciated by readers, and publishers sometimes pressure authors to include a tournament in their manga. In this article, we come back to the eight best tournaments in the history of shonen.
1/ The Tenkaichi Budokai (Dragon Ball)
Absolute shonen star, dragonball features many tournament arcs. From the end of the third volume, Son Goku and Krillin participate in the World Martial Arts Championship, which sees the greatest fighters in the world opposing each other. One of the great qualities of tournaments dragonballit’s Akira Toriyama’s ability to give each of them a very different atmosphere and tone. The first two championships work a lot on the comic register. From the third Akira Toriyama begins to use the tournament to create more narrative tensionpitting Son Goku against a tough opponent: Piccolo.
If the Cell Game, which is also a tournament, is most certainly the best arc of dragonballwe recognize, however, that the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai, which takes place at the beginning of the Arc Boo, brings to its climax the author’s ability to play on several keys at the same time. This tournament is both very funny (the presence of Satan, the fight between Son Goten and Trunks), very moving (the return of Son Goku from the Kingdom of the Dead), and very surprising (the disturbed fight between Son Goku and Vegeta) . Finally, for those who underestimate the importance of tournaments in the universe Dragon Ball, remember that the manga ends with a new tournamentand that the latter are also present in several OAVs and in Dragon Ball Super.
2/ The Chunin Exam (Naruto)
Essential moment in the life of all the aspiring Ninja of the world of naruto, the Chunin Exam is a particularly important story arc in the first part of naruto. If the first fights are quite classic in their construction, the tournament quickly becomes very interesting at the narrative level. Indeed, it is during this arc that the first antagonist of the series appears: Orochimaru.
The latter will try to corrupt Sasuke, depositing a real time bomb in the narrative, since the young Ninja will eventually succumb to his hatred, and will join this legendary Ninja who caused the death of the Third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. Very addictive, this tournament allows both to characterize new allied characters of the hero (Neji, Rock Lee, Shikamaru, etc.), while putting highlights the main guidelines of the first part of the manga (the threat of Orochimaru, the possible corruption of Sasuke).
3/ The Shadow Martial Arts Tournament (YÛ Yû Hakusho)
One of the greatest shonen of the 90s, Yu Yu Hakusho by Yoshihiro Togashi (also known for Hunter x Hunter) to him too a particularly captivating tournament: the Shadow Martial Arts Tournament. And the least we can say is that the success is total.
With its terribly inventive and captivating fights, the Shadow Martial Arts Tournament (in English, the Dark Tournament) is often considered the best arc in manga and anime. It must be said that this tournament has its share of memorable scenes, such as the fight between Yusuke and Togoro.
4/ The Hunter exam (Hunter x Hunter)
After having profoundly revolutionized the writing of tournaments in Yu Yu Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi repeats the feat with The Hunter Exam. If some might argue that it is an exam, and not a tournament, yet it is indeed the narrative codes of the tournament that Togashi returns. Arriving very early in the manga, this arc is absolutely enthralling. Not content with presenting some important characters from Hunter x Hunter (it is during this tournament that Gon meets Killua Zoldik and Hisoka Morrow), Togashi particularly seems to have fun offering some pretty cruel trials (one thinks in particular of the test of the Tower).
Above all, as we said, the author twists the writing codes of this highly codified type of arc. First by offering sometimes anti-spectacular tests (one thinks in particular of the test consisting in making sushi, interrupted in by Netero); then by hiding the end of the last ordeal from the reader – it is told to him at the same time as to Gon, the latter having fainted.
5/ The Interschool Association (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Appearing at the top of the podium of the most read manga in 2021, Jujutsu Kaisen is no exception to the rule, and has its own Tournament arc. Like naruto by Masashi Kishimoto, this tournament, which opposes students from exorcist schools in Tokyo and Kyoto, will be disrupted by the arrival of antagonists, including Hanami.
If the tournament itself does not revolutionize the codes of the genre, it deserves its place in our ranking for several reasons. First of all, it allows to highlight the secondary characters, such as Aoi Todo and Toge Inumaki, whose powers we discover. Next, the anime from studio MAPPA has literally sublimated this arc, with terribly ambitious animation and particularly well choreographed fights.
6/ Super Fight (One-Punch Man)
In its desire to twist the codes of the shonen, ONE could not possibly include a tournament arc in its manga One-Punch Man. How to create suspense in a tournament when its protagonist is in essence the most powerful character in the world, capable of destroying the least of his opponents with a single punch? This is what the manga will do wonderfully in the Super Fight arc, a martial arts tournament in which Saitama registers under a false name.
7/ Davy Back Fight (One Piece)
While it was thought that the very concept and structure of One Piece did not allow the inclusion of a tournament arc, Eiichiro Oda did write about it: the Davy Back Fight. Opposing the crew of the Straw Hat to that of Foxy the White Fox, this tournament is a summit of goofy comedy for the manga. Be careful though, this is by no means a simple enchanted parenthesis between two hectic arcs (Skypiea and Water Seven) – with Eiichiro Oda, things are often more complicated than that. In effect, after the Straw Hats’ victory, the crew will meet Admiral Aokiji. A meeting that will precipitate the departure of Nico Robin.
8/ Yuei Sports Championship (My Hero Academia)
Very popular, My Hero Academia has a particularly gripping tournament arc: the Yuei Sports Championship. The concept is simple: the students of the superheroic high school must participate in sporting events, in order to attract the attention of professional superheroes.
Very classic in its construction, the tournament remains captivating, with several highlights : the introduction of Endeavor (Enji Todoroki), the revelation of Shoto’s powers, the arrival of the antagonist Stain. Without forgetting Izuku, who seems to gain in thickness in this narrative arc.
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