With Shonen Jump anime Bleach returning for its final arc in fall 2022 along with big My Hero Academia and Haikyuu!! continuations in the works, the hit manga magazine and the anime it represents have had another successful year.
Among Shonen Jump‘s best characters are the rivals that challenge their protagonists. Often, the rivals even end up more beloved than their counterparts. Rivals can be villainous or antagonistic in nature but are never the main antagonist. Instead, they’re almost always a peer of the protagonist who both pushes them and learns alongside them. Many of the best rivals in anime belong to Shonen Jump, but some shine more than others.
10/10 Takumi Aldini
The main rival of Food Wars! is Takumi Aldini, an Italian chef who seems to come up short time and time again against the protagonist, Yukihira Soma. While the two often battle it out, they’re also close friends with a mutual love of food.
Aldini and Soma have a wholesome rivalry compared to most in the Shonen Jump pantheon. However, it isn’t a very close rivalry. While most rivals constantly push one another throughout the series, Takumi and Yukihira’s rivalry was a bit one-sided. Especially considering that Yukihira held the 1st seat by the final season and Takumi only held the 7th. Still, he’s a great character who deserves recognition for his passion.
Uryu Ishida was Ichigo’s rival in the very first arc of Bleach, the Substitute Shinigami Arc. Ishida is a Quincy, the bow-wielding natural rival of all Soul Reapers. Because of the history between Shinigami and Quincy, Uryu initially hated Ichigo.
One-sided rivalries are one of the worst anime tropes, and very few fans want to see a character constantly be completely outclassed by the protagonist. Ishida may have been able to hold his own against Ichigo up until the middle of the Soul Society Invasion arc. However, it wasn’t until the upcoming Thousand Year Blood War arc that Uryu finally became one of the stronger characters in Bleach again.
Renji Abarai is the lieutenant of the sixth division and is Rukia Kuchiki’s main love interest. Renji was Ichigo’s main rival in the Soul Society Invasion arc, and eventually became one of his closest allies when he helped save Rukia.
Renji and Ichigo have much in common, but Renji has the same issue as Ichigo’s other rival in Uryu. Both Renji and Uryu were very important in the beginning and end, but neither had much importance in the middle of the story. Instead, they lost over and over while Ichigo overcame countless challenges. However, that doesn’t take away from Renji’s devotion to Rukia and his solid character.
Yuno is one of the main characters in Black Clover. One of the strongest young magic knights, Yuno has wind powers unlike anyone else in the Clover Kingdom. On the other hand, his brother Asta was born with no magic ability to speak of.
Yuno and Asta’s dichotomy of overwhelming magic and anti-magic is a fun take on a magical rivalry. Yuno’s power constantly surpasses Asta, making fans wonder how the stocky young protagonist can ever become the wizard king over his brother. Not only is Yuno talented in his own right, he also became the master of the ultimate wind spirit, Sylph, making him one of the strongest characters in Black Clover.
Seto Kaiba is the main rival of both Yugi and Atem, though he’s considered to primarily be Atem’s rival. The Kaiba Corp president and the lost Pharaoh are considered by many to be one of the most iconic rivalries in anime.
While Kaiba and the Pharaoh’s battles usually end in Atem’s victories, Kaiba was able to trump Atem once. He’s also given Atem many of the most challenging duels that the pharaoh ever had to play, including their legendary Slifer vs. Obelisk duel in the Battle City Semifinals and their duel in the series premiere. Their rivalry was even the main subject of the most recent Yu-Gi-Oh! movie: The Dark Side of Dimensions.
Alongside Todoroki, Bakugo is one of the few My Hero Academia characters that outshines the protagonist, Midoriya. The explosive Bakugo was Midoriya’s rival since childhood, even if Midoriya hadn’t unlocked his quirk yet.
Once Midoriya was given One For All and became a fully-fledged hero student, he and Baguko both developed a much more intense rivalry. The two fought over and over, with Bakugo coming out on top frequently. Bakugo’s desire to remain stronger than Midoriya became connected to his admiration for All Might, as he eventually became the first person to know the true nature of One For All.
Vegeta is Goku’s main rival in Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super. Throughout much of Z, Vegeta struggles with his morality and is a villain for the better half of the series. However, by the time Super rolls around he’s settled into his role as a loving husband and father.
Vegeta’s journey as a character is one of the best in Dragon Ball, and his rivalry with Goku fuels much of the series. While Vegeta is almost always in second place, he has been known to surpass Goku occasionally. Sadly, Vegeta can’t seem to get the beautiful close out moment of an arc that many fans want him to, and he usually ends up falling to the main villain of the arc only for Goku to save the day.
L is the antagonist and main hero of the first half of Death Note and is the primary force opposing the protagonist and main villain, Light. L and Light spend a great deal of time together, pretending to be friends while L tries to see if Light is actually serial killer Kira.
Many Death Note fans consider the best of Death Note to be scenes with both L and Light in them, and their constant battle certainly is a highlight of the story. In particular, their tennis match stands out as one of the best moments in the series. Often a game of chess is used when the author wants a friendly activity as an allegory for a battle of wits, so a tennis match was a fun twist on the trope.
Sasuke Uchiha is the main rival and deuteragonist of the Naruto franchise. His brother, Itachi Uchiha, was both arguably Naruto‘s best side character and his main reason for wanting to grow stronger. At the end of the original series, Sasuke betrayed Naruto and nearly killed him to get revenge against Itachi.
Sasuke’s desire to surpass Itachi and get revenge began to align with his desire to stay ahead of Naruto. The two had an increasingly growing rivalry that lasted from the story’s beginning, to Sasuke’s heel turn, all the way to the end of the franchise in Shippuden. Sasuke was one of the most iconic characters in the history of Shonen Jump, and was arguably just as much of a main character as Naruto.
Tobio Kageyama is one of the two main characters in Haikyuu!! alongside his rival Shoyo. After crushing Hinata in his final middle school volleyball game, Kageyama soon realized the two had entered the same high school. This forced them to grow at the same time, as they became best friends as well as rivals.
Hinata and Kageyama explore a very real aspect of rivalry in sports. Not all rivals are between different teams, sometimes even the teammates working together are rivals. However, one interesting aspect of their rivalry is that Kageyama is actually Hinata’s setter. This means the two rivals have to always be in perfect sync, and they can’t allow their heated rivalry to overtake their synergy as teammates.