10 most impressive fights in shonen anime

The Shonen Jump magazine plays host to the source material of many iconic battle shonen (Image via Shueisha)
The Shonen Jump magazine plays host to the source material of many iconic battle shonen (Image via Shueisha)

In the anime world, one of the most popular demographics is shonen anime, with the phrase literally translating to “young boy.” This refers to the target audience of the series who classify themselves as shonens, with the most popular genre for them being battle shonen.

Some of the most famous shonen anime of all time are battle shonen, including Dragon Ball Z, One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto. Likewise, these series have produced some truly iconic fights, some of which are still praised 20 years later.

Here are the ten most impressive fights in shonen anime, ranked in no particular order.

The Big Three dominate shonen anime's most impressive fights

1) Super Saiyan Goku vs. Frieza


While this list of the most impressive shonen anime fights is generally unranked, Dragon Ball Z’s Super Saiyan Goku versus Frieza stands above the rest. The Super Saiyan transformation started a trend in the medium, inspiring a literal generation of artists in their storytelling.

Influence aside, the quality of the fight itself holds up years later as well. The storyline and emotions are engaging, fight scenes well choreographed, and feature amazing animation considering the time period.

2) Luffy vs. Rob Lucci


One of One Piece’s most iconic fights, Luffy versus Rob Lucci is a fantastic blend of battle shonen and jaw-dropping action with beautifully written, high-stakes tension. The Straw Hat pirates are opposing the World Government directly to rescue their friend, with protagonist Luffy putting his life on the line here.

The fight itself is beautifully choreographed and animated, and perfectly exemplifies the “never give up” attitude of many battle shonen protagonists. For many One Piece fans, this is the best fight in the series, and is certainly among the best in shonen anime.

3) Naruto vs. Sasuke 1


Likewise, the first round of Naruto versus Sasuke, as seen at the end of Naruto, is one of shonen anime’s most iconic fights. Many Japanese and international fans remember watching the conflict at home as children, amazed by the spectacle before them.

The high-running emotions and stakes of the fight intensify and add to its quality in spectacular fashion. Naruto’s pain is palpable throughout the fight, as is Sasuke’s clear desire to abandon that which he feels holds him back. For shonen anime fans in general, this is one of the best fights the medium has to offer.

4) Yuji and Todo vs. Hanami


The lone new-gen entry on this list, Yuji and Todo versus Hanami set the internet ablaze when it debuted in the Jujutsu Kaisen anime. The choreography and animation from MAPPA Studios is spectacular, making for a truly iconic fight. Although recent, this entry is no doubt one of battle shonen anime’s most iconic and impressive.

5) Luffy vs. Katakuri


The second and final One Piece entry on this list, Luffy’s victory over Katakuri marked a new era for the protagonist. His strength had now reached previously unimaginable levels, surpassing someone fans theorized to be insurmountably stronger than him.

The fight itself is also incredible. The animation takes an insane step up in quality here, as does the choreography and soundtrack pairings. The overall circumstances of the fight make it one of battle shonen anime’s greatest.

6) Ichigo vs. Aizen


One of the Bleach's final, canon battles (until recently), Ichigo versus Aizen is the culmination of the former’s journey. Entering his final form as a Soul Reaper, Ichigo sacrifices his powers to stop his opponent's reign of terror over the Soul Society, Human and Hueco Mundo worlds.

The fight is one of the Big Three’s most iconic, being the culmination of Bleach’s major plotline since early on in the series. Ichigo’s final transformation is also incredibly iconic and impressive, boasting both fantastic design and awe-inspiring power.

Without a doubt, one of Bleach’s most significant fights is also one of battle shonen anime’s most impressive.

7) Rock Lee vs. Gaara


The Rock Lee versus Gaara fight is one of the most well-known anime fights in general, even more so in the battle shonen anime medium. The iconic scene of Lee dropping his leg weights is known even by non-anime fans, emphasizing just how impressive it is.

Those who are fans of Naruto would also add to the fight being incredibly impactful to the story at large. It proves Lee can be a capable ninja without chakra use, a stylistic plot point which the latter authors would base the entire series on. Without a doubt, Rock Lee versus Gaara is everything from iconic to impressive to influential.

8) Ichigo vs. Byakuya


Serving as the final fight to Bleach’s Soul Society Invasion arc, Ichigo versus Byakuya is impressive for a variety of reasons. The animation of the latter's bankai is one of the series’ most impressive and alluring designs.

Meanwhile, Ichigo’s achievement of unlocking and mastering his bankai in roughly a month was unprecedented within the series’ canon.

The stakes here are what truly make the fight impressive, with quite literally a life on the line. The fight’s outcome also steers into the introduction of one of Bleach’s most iconic and central villains, Sosuke Aizen. Bleach’s first major fight is certainly one of battle shonen anime’s most iconic.

9) Teen Gohan vs. Perfect Cell


Much like Super Saiyan Goku versus Frieza, Teen Gohan versus Perfect Cell redefines what a transformation power-up can be. Likewise, the ruthlessness Gohan displays upon transforming into Super Saiyan 2 redefines the maturity level with which battle shonen anime presented themselves.

In the eyes of some fans of the medium, this fight is just as, if not more iconic than Super Saiyan Goku versus Frieza. While this is certainly a point of contention and debate in terms of validity, it nevertheless emphasizes just how impressive this fight is.

10) Roy Mustang vs. Lust


Finally, Fullmetal Alchemist’s Roy Mustang versus Lust is one of the most emotionally charged battles on this list. Alphonse Elric’s speech leading into the fight sets up the emotional stakes perfectly, as does Riza Hawkeye’s willingness to give up prior to Mustang’s arrival.

The fight itself is one-sided and quick, but incredibly rewarding for fans of the series and the medium in general. The animation is spectacular, and the official soundtrack pairing used here raises the battle to new heights.