Sometimes, the main protagonist of an anime loses a fight unexpectedly. It can be shocking, sad, or a mix of some other emotions when a viewer sees it happen for the first time. After all, the main protagonist is usually one of the strongest in their series and is often protected by plot armor.
While plenty of animes follow that line of thinking, there are also several that subverts that expectation. It doesn't matter what the stakes are. If the protagonist loses that match and it's unexpected, then it's good enough to be on this list.
Note: This article reflects the writer's personal views.
7 times an anime protagonist shockingly lost a fight
1) Yusuke vs. Yomi (YuYu Hakusho)
It's rare for anime protagonists to lose the final fight of their series, regardless of the stakes at hand. In YuYu Hakusho's final arc, there is a tournament where the winner gets to rule over Demon World. Although it isn't the finale, Yusuke vs. Yomi is the final match shown in the show.
This bout is a hard-hitting fight where Yusuke has to learn what he's fighting for here since his life isn't at stake here, unlike other battles in the series. He finally finds his motivation, which pumps him up for the final stage of his bout with Yomi.
Both fighters appear to have knocked each other out, but Yomi barely pulls through because his son calls out his name. In a way, it's much more refreshing that this shocking result happened since most Shōnen anime are somewhat predictable regarding the final battle's outcome.
Surprisingly, Yomi would lose the next match off-screen.
2) Deku vs. Bakugo (My Hero Academia)
Although Izuku Midoriya was far from his prime in this fight, it's still surprising to see him lose to Katsuki Bakugo in the end. If this bout took place in the modern-day My Hero Academia, there would be no reasonable way for Bakugo to defeat the main protagonist. However, it doesn't matter what would happen now. All that matters is what happened then.
There has always been tension between Deku and Bakugo, with the latter usually looking more dominant at the beginning of the series. By this point in the anime, Deku has gotten much stronger and has good control over One For All. Regardless of how broken One For All is as a Quirk, Bakugo ultimately wins even when inspirational music is playing.
3) Ash vs. Alain (Pokemon)
Technically speaking, this entry is about Ash's Greninja vs. Alain's Mega Charizard X. This fight was the final bout between the two trainers back in Pokémon the Series: XYZ, and many fans of the series thought that Ash was finally going to win. Ash has never had a better overall team or performance against steep competition than at this time.
Unfortunately for many fans, Ash's Greninja loses to a resisted attack, and Alain wins in the end. While both trainers would eventually appear in the Masters Tournament in Pokemon Journeys, Alain would lose to Leon.
Thus, Ash never got a chance at a rematch to redeem himself from their fight in the XYZ anime.
4) Goku vs. Beerus (Dragon Ball Super)
The most surprising aspect of this bout isn't necessarily that Goku lost, but more that he lost embarrassingly to Beerus. Fans could already tell that Beerus was a powerful foe, but there was still some hope that Goku could muster up a better performance against him even in Super Saiyan 3.
Unfortunately, Super Saiyan 3 doesn't cut it anymore in the anime, and Beerus simply flicks on Dragon Ball's main protagonist to defeat him. This battle only happened in the fifth episode of Dragon Ball Super, and it quickly set a precedent for how absurd the power scaling would be in future fights.
Goku would become a far stronger protagonist as the series progressed, but it wouldn't change how surprising this first fight between him and Beerus was.
5) Ichigo vs. Aizen (Bleach)
Aizen's betrayal was shocking in and of itself. Few Bleach fans could have predicted that would happen, but even fewer would imagine that Ichigo's first clash with him would've ended in a curb stomp. He came to help Renji fight against Aizen to protect Rukia, and a brief staredown commences.
After the two sides exchange words, Ichigo's theme starts to play, and it appears as though it's about to be an epic fight, possibly in the main protagonist's favor. As Bleach fans should already know, Aizen stops Ichigo's attack, thus abruptly ending his theme song as well.
The fight barely existed in the anime, and it was already over.
6) Yugi vs. Rafael (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
Yami Yugi losing fair and square isn't common in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. The only people who defeated this protagonist in the past had to resort to cheating, such as when Seto Kaiba threatened to commit suicide if Yugi won. Hence, most anime fans would expect Yami Yugi to defeat Rafael in their first bout.
Instead, Yugi gets completely outplayed by him. The main protagonist foolishly played the Seal of Orichalcos because he was too competitive to lose otherwise. That's a significant problem since he would have to forego his soul if he lost.
Rafael beat him in their first encounter, and Yugi Muto took the pharaoh's place regarding the sacrifice. It was an emotional moment in the anime, especially since the main protagonist had never made such a blunder like this before.
7) Luffy vs. Crocodile (One Piece)
The stakes for Luffy vs. Crocodile were much higher than the bout between Luffy vs. Smoker, even though both are great examples of where the main protagonist loses. In this case, the first fight had a chilling image where Luffy was impaled by Crocodile's weapon, which was a far more brutal finish than one would expect to see for Luffy losing.
The second battle didn't go much better, as bloated Luffy dried up like an old prune. Two brutal losses back-to-back was surprising, although Luffy thankfully avenged them by defeating Crocodile once and for all later on in the arc.
Poll : Who do you think would win by the end of My Hero Academia, if they were to fight again?