Many shonen have dedicated a story arc to the tournament. It must be said that these arcs are highly appreciated by readers and sometimes publishers pressure authors to include a tournament in their manga. In this article, we return to the top eight tournaments in shonen history.
1/ The Tenkaichi Budokai (Dragon Ball)
Dragon Ball is an absolute Shonen star and features many tournament arcs. From the end of the third volume, Son Goku and Krillin compete in the World Martial Arts Championship, which pits the world’s greatest fighters against each other. One of the great qualities of Dragon Ball tournaments is Akira Toriyama’s ability to give each of them a very different atmosphere and tone. The first two championships do a lot of work on the comic register. From the third, Akira Toriyama begins to use the tournament to create more narrative tension, pitting Son Goku against a tough opponent: Piccolo.
If the Cell Game, which is also a tournament, is certainly Dragon Ball’s best arc, however, we recognize that the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai, which takes place at the beginning of the Arc Boo, brings the author’s skills to their climax on several keys play at the same time. This tournament is very funny (the presence of Satan, the fight between Goten and Trunks), very moving (the return of Goku from the kingdom of the dead) and very surprising (the disturbed fight between Goku and Vegeta). . Finally, for those who underestimate the importance of tournaments in the Dragon Ball universe, remember that the manga ends with a new tournament and that these are also present in several OAVs and in Dragon Ball Super.
2/ The Chunin Trial (Naruto)
The Chunin Exam is a pivotal moment in the life of any aspiring ninja in the world of Naruto, and a particularly important story arc in the first part of Naruto. If the first fights are still quite classic, the tournament quickly becomes very interesting on a narrative level. In fact, during this arc, the series’ first antagonist appears: Orochimaru.
The latter will try to corrupt Sasuke by planting a real-time bomb in the story, since the young ninja will eventually succumb to his hatred and join this legendary ninja who caused the death of the third Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi. Highly addictive, this tournament allows both the characterization of new allied characters of the hero (Neji, Rock Lee, Shikamaru, etc.) and the highlighting of the main guidelines of the first part of the manga (the threat of Orochimaru, Sasuke’s possible corruption).
3/ The Martial Arts Tournament of Shadows (YÛ Yû Hakusho)
One of the greatest shonen of the ’90s, Yū Yū Hakusho by Yoshihiro Togashi (aka Hunter x Hunter) also has a particularly captivating tournament: the Shadow Martial Arts Tournament. And the least we can say is that the success is total.
With its terribly imaginative and addictive combats, 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 fundamentally revolutionizing tournament writing in Yû Yû Hakusho, Yoshihiro Togashi repeats this feat with The Hunter Exam. While some argue that this is a trial and not a tournament, Togashi actually returns the narrative codes of the tournament. This arc arrives very early in the manga and is absolutely thrilling. Togashi is not content with introducing certain important characters of Hunter x Hunter (during this tournament Gon met Killua Zoldik and Hisoka Morrow), Togashi seems to particularly enjoy proposing quite gruesome tests (we think in particular the test of the tower) . .
Above all, as I said, the author twists the writing codes of this highly codified type of slur. Firstly, by sometimes offering anti-spectacular tests (remember in particular the test that consists of making sushi, interrupted by Netero); then by hiding the end of the final ordeal from the reader – it is told to him at the same time as Gon, who has fainted.
5/ The Interschool Association (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Topping the podium of most-read manga in 2021, Jujutsu Kaisen is no exception to the rule and has his own arc of the tournament. Like Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto, this tournament, pitted against students from exorcist schools in Tokyo and Kyoto, is disrupted by the arrival of antagonists, including Hanami.
If the tournament itself doesn’t revolutionize the codes of the genre, it deserves its place in our ranking for several reasons. First of all, it allows to highlight the supporting characters such as Aoi Todo and Toge Inumaki, whose powers we discover. Then the MAPPA studio anime literally sublimated this arc with terribly ambitious animations and particularly well-choreographed fights.
6/ Super Fight (One Punch Man)
In its quest to twist Shonen codes, ONE couldn’t possibly include a tournament arc in its One-Punch Man manga. How can you create excitement in a tournament when your protagonist is essentially the most powerful character in the world, capable of destroying even the slightest of his opponents with a single blow? That’s what the manga will do wonderfully in the Super Fight arc, a martial arts tournament where Saitama registers under an assumed name.
7/ Davy Back Fight (One Piece)
While it was thought that the very concept and structure of One Piece would not allow for the inclusion of a tournament arc, Eiichiro Oda wrote about it: the Davy Back Fight. This tournament, which pits the Straw Hat’s crew against that of Foxy the White Fox, is the pinnacle of goofy comedy for the manga. But beware, this is by no means a simple enchanted bracket between two hectic arcs (Skypiea and Water Seven) – things are often more complicated with Eiichiro Oda. Indeed, after the Straw Hats victory, the crew will meet Admiral Aokiji. A meeting that will hasten the departure of Nico Robin.
8/ Yuei Sports Championship (My Hero Academia)
My Hero Academia is hugely popular and has a particularly compelling arc of the tournament: Yuei’s Sports Championship. The concept is simple: Superhero High School students need to compete in sporting events to attract the attention of professional superheroes.
The tournament is very classic in its construction, but captivates with several milestones: 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 thickness in this narrative arc.
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