When you think of rivalry in anime, who comes to mind first? Goku and Vegeta? Naruto and Sasuke? Maybe Deku and Bakugo? These are probably the most popular rivalries, but something about them never seemed quite right. Personally, Goku and Vegeta’s rivalry didn’t become interesting to me until Dragon Ball Super when they starting acting like actual friends. They have the exact same power structure so it was never exciting seeing Goku achieve a new Super Sayain form and then Vegeta simply catching up by acquiring the same thing. Naruto and Sasuke were somewhat more unique, however not by much. Most of Naruto’s growth was just getting control of the Kyuubi and Sasuke’s growth was getting better eyes. Sure it wasn’t as simple as screaming and going blonde, but it still didn’t feel especially unique. In that respect, Deku and Bakugo are definitely the most interesting, but until the story is complete I can’t judge it properly.
My favorite rivalry comes from a manga that was given an anime adaptation back in the late 2000s, however the series was cut short and didn’t get the chance to finish it’s original story: Soul Eater. While Soul Eater was a sub-par anime, it was a top notch manga, and is actually my favorite manga I’ve ever read. A relatable main protagonist, great friendships, a complex philosophical discussion that’s deeply important to the heart of the world, Soul Eater is probably the hill I’d die on when it comes to anime that deserved better. I’m definitely going to write more about it in the future, but for now I’d like to focus on two of it’s leading men, Black Star and Death The Kid.
These two are what Naruto and Sasuke should have been. Black Star is a wild, loud mouth, cocky kid whose the last survivor of his clan and seeks to surpass God. Death The Kid is the nigh unstoppable child of Death, a literal god. From the very beginning these two clash on an ideological level, and it’s very obvious why. Black Star is one of the most powerful characters in the series, definitely stronger than anyone else in his age group, except for Death The Kid. While Black Star has trained and worked to achieve this ridiculous strength, Death The Kid was simply born with it and learned how to use it properly. In fact, Death The Kid is the first one of our heroes to do what’s considered an ultimate move.
I love their rivalry because it’s treated as a side plot, only coming into play during their own personal interactions. It has no bearing on anyone’s allegiance to good or evil, and the only time it takes center stage it’s used to explore ideas that change the very nature of the series. The two grow and become stronger because they want to as individuals, rather than the usual “I have to get a power-up because he got one” nonsense. Their rivalry is simply a friendly clash, but one that both of them are passionate about. In many ways, Black Star wants to make sure Death The Kid is still stronger than him, since Kid is supposed to inherit the world, and Kid knows no one will fight harder than Black Star to surpass his limits. Also, they have a final battle that is far more interesting than the valley of the end fight from Naruto (the first one, not the final one in Shippuden obviously)
This manga not getting a full anime run will always upset me, especially considering how perfectly it embodied that era of anime. Hopped up on emo juice and full of crazy existential debates, Soul Eater was peak 2000s and vastly superior to some of it’s more popular competitors *cough* fuck Bleach *cough*