There’s plenty to say about the series of Attack on Titan as a whole but one of the most visually stimulating aspects of the show has always been the gravity defying and brutal fight sequences that showcase the characters clever, calculative style and the sheer desperation utilized to power the fights. It’s action with a great deal of fear and horror pulsating beneath the imagery. With the finale for the Final Season Part 2 airing this weekend and the announcement for a Part 3 being announced for sometime in 2023, we wanted to take a look through the last few decades of anime and spotlight other series with tremendous fight sequences, either for the story that fueled them, the animation itself or, when at its best, a combination of both.
To ensure that this list wasn’t endless we deliberately kept it to series only.
Attack on Titan – Eren vs War Hammer
After a prolonged hiatus, Attack on Titan season 4 returned with a total change in scope and stakes. With our celebrated protagonists misguided and others devoid of morality, Eren Yeager’s crusade against the Marleyans ends without remorse and decimation in the resulting combat with the Warhammer Titan. Marking a new height in Attack on Titan’s action direction, MAPPA Studio escalates the season with gusto and colossal dynamism as Eren and the Warhammer maneuver through the glow of the carnage, leaving a visage of the prophetic Titan Eren would eventually become, a lethargic entity with no regard for life or consequence. [Dylan Griffin]
Beastars – Legoshi vs. Lion Boss
Beastars proves to be a difficult sell to those who can’t see past the central romance which is…between a wolf and rabbit. In a world of anthropomorphic beasts where a school houses herbivores and carnivores together to create unity, tensions are high from the very start following the grizzly murder of a herbivore student. While much of season one is about Legoshi’s growing attraction to the ostracized rabbit Haru and his attempts to quell it as he worries his want for her could lead to her demise, the murder mystery and the larger, organized web of crime that lies behind the scenes is just as integral to the overall story. This all culminates in an electric and charged fight scene between Legoshi and Chief-Lion, the head of the crime syndicate running the city. With graceful fluidity, the camera watches with acrobatic precision as Legoshi lets loose and allows the feral, buried side of himself to unleash to protect Haru, giving in to his animal instincts to take charge in a piece of combat as bruising and visceral as they come. [Allyson Johnson]
Black Clover – Asta and Yami vs. Dante
Up until this fight much later in the anime (toward the end actually), I would easily point to Asta’s team-up fight with Finral and Vanessa against Vetto to be the show’s peak, mainly due to its unpredictability and grueling effort on the part of the characters to overwhelm their enemy using smarts and strength in perfect sync. But when Asta and Yami essentially do the same for their fight against the overwhelmingly powerful Dante, there’s that extra element of something we’d been waiting years for in regards to this story. And that’s the mark of significant progression on the part of Asta and Yami’s unconventional and altogether satisfying mentor relationship.
When Yami tosses Asta his sword, essentially passing the baton to the pupil he’s nonverbally regarded as his future successor without so much as a blink, that level of trust ensured that the future of Black Clover (the manga, at least) would hit a true stride as we pushed further into its most chaotic and daunting arc yet. [Jon Negroni]
Bleach – Ichigo Kurosaki vs. Byakuya Kuchiki
The full showdown between Rukia’s prideful brother and Ichigo does not end the Soul Society arc, but it does serve as the arc’s emotional and thematic payoff. After chasing Byakuya’s back figuratively and literally, Ichigo is finally strong enough to challenge him and his place as the enforcer of the Soul Society’s draconian laws.
Given that the fight spends its first half with the two trading more barbs than blows, it is important to remember the ideologies of the two combatants. To Ichigo, his friend is being extremely and unjustly punished while her brother sees her crimes as an affront to their entire way of life and dignity, which the arc spent plenty of time establishing. Every act Ichigo takes, whether it be a swing of Zangetsu or demanding that Byakuya release his full bankai, is a direct challenge not just to Byakuya, but to the entire Soul Society.
This culminates first in the highly anticipated reveal of Ichigo’s bankai, a power-up intentionally designed as an anticlimax, and then again when his Hollow side attempts to interfere and he must reject it. While future Bleach fights will come to depend on that Hollow power, in this fight Ichigo must reject it. To win the true victory, he must do it by holding to his conviction rather than embracing the same monster he sees in Byakuya. [Travis Hymas]
Boruto – Naruto, Sasuke, and Boruto vs Momoshiki
Naruto’s sequel anime has quite a bit going for it when it doesn’t have to be tethered to its manga counterpart, but the series’ first major brawl is peak excellence in and of itself. The magic of this fight is both in the gorgeous sakuga animation and the focus on leveraging as much of Naruto’s legacy and future as possible, all at once.
Primarily focused on Naruto and Sasuke’s tag team resistance against Momoshiki – another interplanetary invader like the first series’ final boss – the fight scales along the same path of escalation as Naruto itself. Starting as a fast and well choreographed hand-to-hand exchange, the two heroes begin incorporating familiar tricks and team-ups we saw them refining in Naruto. Age only polishes the two’s skills as the fight escalates into exchanges of their signature jutsu and perfectly timed ninja distractions courtesy of Sasuke’s ocular powers. Eventually, the fight escalates to the big kaiju battles of the ending of Naruto, which looks stellar here even if the scale still feels unlike what Naruto was originally.
Things don’t end there, though. As nostalgic as this fight feels, it has also served as a crash course for Boruto himself. His Invisible Rasengan, which at first reflected his emotions about how he felt about his relationship with Naruto, becomes the secret weapon to seal the fight’s conclusion. Using a final attack that gives a brief look back at the extremely long saga that led to this moment, Boruto both finds his way forward and a newfound respect for his father. This fight goes on to still has an impact on the series today, and for good reason. [TH]
Cowboy Bebop – Spike vs. Mad Pierrot/Tongpu
A good anime fight can contain multitudes. Plenty are that way within Cowboy Bebop, even if most don’t qualify in the same way as other entries on this list. This fight between Spike and Pierrot is easily one of the most unique, thanks to the fight keeping Spike entirely on his back foot. The battle is like a child’s nightmare fuel as Spike runs through Space Land dodging bullets, bombs, and mascots alike – both trying to survive and keep awareness of how outmatched he is due to Pierrot’s equipment.
However, multiple times throughout this fight, Cowboy Bebop showcases one of the forces that influence the life of a man as reckless as Spike. A toy cat falls out of a window broken by Spike’s body, which just so happens to be a triggering image for Pierrot. Sent spiraling into the nightmares of his origin, Pierrot is finally left open for an old-fashioned standoff – which ends tragically for him when the glint of Spike’s eyes triggers his cat fears again, completely outside of Spike’s control.
What sells this sequence is that while the audience and other crew members of the Bebop are aware of the events that led to this outcome, Spike himself is not. He doesn’t win through expert skills or being one step ahead, but by having heaping amounts of luck. Given what we eventually learn about who Spike is and how he feels, that is its own nightmare. [TH]
Demon Slayer – Rengoku vs. Akaza
Demon Slayer fights to stand out not just for the gorgeous cinematography and sakuga pumped into them by Ufotable studio, but because every fight is used to tell us more and more about the combatants in those fights. Rengoku was immediately a scene-stealer when he appeared at the beginning of the Mugen Train arc, however, it was his ending that taught us about who he was.
The peak moment of this fight comes from the moment Rengoku realizes that he doesn’t stand a chance at actually winning against the Upper-Rank Akaza. At the moment, he has a choice: accept Akaza’s offer to join the demons or die. However, he settles on a third option: he might not be able to win, but he doesn’t have to lose. That choice isn’t communicated via voiceover but with Rengoku’s change in demeanor and desperation. This fight doesn’t need everything explained, it’s right in front of our faces.
Rengoku does indeed lose at the end, but true to Demon Slayer’s thematic core that tragedy serves as a new building block. Tanjiro and crew become rededicated to their cause, with this loss driving them to do whatever they can to reduce the losses next time. While it’s an incremental change, they do succeed in preventing the death of the next Hashira they encounter – reinforcing that hope and progress in the face of grief. [TH]
Devilman Crybaby – Akira vs. Ryo
Masaaki Yuassa’s most cynical work burns with the heart of the human soul. The Earth is falling to pieces as humans engage in a war against demons, and every demon here has the vessel of what once was a human. Ryo, revealed to be Satan himself, has stolen everything from our protagonist, Akira. Refusing the former’s request to bequeath humanity and earth to become a true demon, he instead engages in a war with the demons by gathering all the devilmen. The battle that ensues isn’t just about him and Ryo but humanity and the devilmen fighting back and making sacrifices of their own, even relinquishing their bodies to recover his limbs in spectacularly retro style.
The style of conflict begins with ballistic warfare, using two-tone negative space to create haunting imagery of tanks, smoke, and cinder. Only after Satan and the demons use their malicious power and the wrath of nature to strike back at the humans can Akira and the Devilmen arrive to engage in battle. The scope of the battle is embellished as we only witness a few punches exchanged, but their impact upon one another becomes part of the flashing lights in the sky, like a dangerous weapon among all the others.
The true battle is that of their souls as we witness young Akira and Ryo cross-cut between the fight in memory of a relay race. Akira even still tries to coax empathy and camaraderie out of Ryo, but the young vessel of Satan refuses. Akira doesn’t achieve victory until the Earth is finally truly destroyed, and is laying only half a corpse, dead beside the monster he called a friend. [Evan Griffin]
Dororo – Hyakkimaru vs Tahomaru
A criminally underrated anime series, there is no shortage of superb fight sequences to pick from in Dororo. Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (who led the anime version of Rurouni Kenshin) Dororo refuses to pull punches in regards to the bleak and inhumane brutality of wartime. There are plenty of action scenes that Hyakkimaru is involved in as he tries to get possession of his body back – an action that weakens his actual combat skills as he progresses and regains the feeling of pain – but it’s the ones where the story aims for a greater personal and emotional throughline that dig deepest. Hence why the ones between him and his estranged brother Tahomaru works so tremendously.
The choreography is clean in its depiction with little cuts allowing for the animation and the team behind it to truly be highlighted while also leaning on rough edges so that the flow and movement have greater tangibility. But it’s the personal, Shakespearean drama of two brothers fighting for their souls and their pride that gives it greater weight, especially as Dororo watches from the sidelines, horrified at the idea of his friend losing his humanity through violence. [AJ]
Dragon Ball Z – The Z-Fighters vs. Cell
Compared to other fights on this list, the culmination of the Cell Saga has a bit more basic level of stakes. The strongest of Earth against a terrifying monster made up of their powers at his most powerful is pretty straightforward, but this fight remains a classic of the shonen genre.
Gohan leads most of this fight at the behest of his father and most centers around trying to draw out Gohan’s long-teased power. Putting him against Cell, a creature designed to be nothing but a living weapon, is an interesting contrast given Gohan’s fear of his potential. That fear outweighs his understanding of the stakes of the fight, which comes back to bite him when the other Z Fighters are pulled in to fight off Cell’s clones. All of this is pretty goofy and full of yelling men, but it does still manage to squeeze in a real challenge to Gohan’s still-forming ideology.
From there, it’s just iconic moment after iconic moment. Gohan’s Super Saiyan level up, Goku’s sacrifice, Cell’s undermining of such, and the final combo Kamehameha with the rest of the team splitting Cell’s attention would all be unforgettable on their own but keep escalating the situation’s stakes higher and higher. Had Dragon Ball Z ended here, it would have been at its absolute peak. [TH]
Fullmetal Alchemist ‘03 – Ed Elric vs Greed
Ed Elric has been chasing Greed and his crew through the woods after his brother Alphonse has been kidnapped. The young state alchemist with a predisposition for anger lets loose as he catches up to the indestructible homunculus in this atmospheric mansion. Both are too equally stubborn to give up as they fight in the moonlit foyer. Ed is forced to use his wits to figure out how to win the fight, doing so by quickly changing the density of the carbon which organically makes Greed’s indestructible shield. The resulting combat is quick but has the flow that any fan wishes for Studio Bones’ animation to look like every day of the week. The final blow of Ed’s automail arm blade through Greed’s chest is a post seared into fans’ memories forever. However, the resulting conversation as Greed dies is what creates the staying impact.
Greed, unwilling to allow his brethren homunculi to achieve their plans, tells Ed the secrets to destroying them and reveals he let Alphonse run off. Ed’s naive nature boils over, unable to process that the deadly creature he just killed wasn’t all that bad and screams, agonizing over the life, or lives, he’s just taken. Greed’s corpse seizes in a fetal position before reducing to the liquid state of the Philosopher’s Stone’s essence. [EG]
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – The Armstrong’s vs. Sloth
Just as people will always debate over whether or not Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) is better than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or vice versa, so will people always debate what the best fight scene in the series truly is. I’m a big proponent of Mustang versus Envy myself, but by the time he’s in his slug state, it feels less like a fair fight than that of Mustang calculatingly obliterating the latter in vengeance. We were quick to think of Everyone vs. Father as well as it’s the perfect symphony of all of the moving parts coming together in a finale that’s as epic as it is devastating, the big action taking place in the daylight for all to see. In the end, though, it was the sequences between Armstrong’s vs. Sloth that truly left their mark (especially in a recent rewatch.) Like many shōnen battles it lasts longer than a single episode runtime and by the time that the estranged siblings are working together and the ending theme kicks in, the character work done to earn this moment sings. The fight is vicious and exhaustive as we watch the two of them along with the help of Elric’s teacher throw everything in their arsenal at a monster who seemingly can’t be stopped. They win, but it’s a terribly (and thrilling) close call. [AJ]
Gurren Lagann – Team Dai-Gurren vs The Anti-Spirals
This is the tale of a man who blows a hole in the fate of a universe that is ruled by the endless cycle of violence…
This is a series that’s all about breaking through the ceiling above you by destroying it with the biggest drill you possibly can. It accumulates in scale in tension into the dimensions of the impossible. What once started as a small rebellion has expanded into Simon’s legion as he charters team Dai-Guren between the knowable universe to rescue his love, Nia, and the fate of all living kinds from the Anti-Spiral. From age-old sacrifices to fresh wounds, Team Dai Gurren is more motivated than ever to achieve their goals, and they do so in their final battle by transcending space-time, knowable scale, and even animation styles.
After a wistful reunion with his surrogate brother, Kamina, Simon needs to put away all self-doubt and push through to achieve his goal with all of his being, to create Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. You know you have something special when Gainax gives us a conclusive battle with mechas so big that galaxies are but obstacles to jump upon and throw as weapons, and yet the audience is with the characters sincerely bought into their story. It is the biggest, loudest action series with an even bigger heart. [EG]
Hunter x Hunter – Hisoka vs. Kastro
In Hunter X Hunter, Hisoka is a troubling adversary to protagonist Gon. In true anime villain form, he has a habit of sparing his opponents until they become powerful enough to challenge him.
The fight between Hisoka and Kastro is one of the best in the anime. Not because it’s particularly groundbreaking, but because it reminds viewers that Hisoka is not to be trifled with. He doesn’t allow his opponents to become stronger than him, he lets them live so that next time they’ll be worthy of seeing the violent jester’s true power.
Despite Kastro giving it his all and delivering some truly brutal shots, Hisoka makes quick work of his opponent in Heaven’s Arena. As bad as you have to feel for Kastro, seeing Hisoka pull a playing card out of his severed arm shortly before sending tons of them flying at his enemy will not be a sight to behold. [Adonis Gonzalez]
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Jotaro Kujo vs DIO
JoJo’s is a story about the Joestar bloodline, but it is also the story of the vile Dio Brando – and that story reached a real turning point here. The Stardust Crusaders part of the series dangled the fated fight against DIO as the cherry on top of a pretty excellent sundae, but that cherry had to be satisfying – especially as this fight was originally planned as the finale for the entire series.
Thankfully, it does, particularly in this animated form. David Production mastered translating the strangeness of DIO’s time-bending Stand in a believable and fun way. DIO’s voice actors – particularly in the Japanese version – are relishing the final lines of the character in every braggadocious word. There’s a reason simply the uttering of “The World” is a meme in itself.
Yes, the fight does show a bit of the age of the source material. The reveal that Star Platinum just so happens to have the same power works but isn’t as set up as it could be, for example. Despite that, the animation’s great direction and acting get over those weaknesses just like the original manga did – it feels thrilling to finally see DIO get what’s coming to him. [TH]
Jujutsu Kaisen – Todo and Itadori vs Hanami
Sweet, dumb, and brave, we learn quickly into the series that Yuji Itadori is self-sacrificial to a fault. All of this makes him all the more lovable of course and he meets his match in the second cour with Todo, his senior at a competing school who he fights against in Season 1’s tournament arc. However, they soon are working together when the school grounds are invaded and it’s their synergy in the battle against Hanami and the kinetic style in which it’s animated to represent that shared grace that makes it a standout scene in an action packed series. Blending humor, character growth and horrifying design details with Hanami, the sequence which accelerates throughout a couple of episodes exemplifies the tremendous talent MAPPA possesses, with a fight scene as bruising as it is balletic. [AJ]
Land of the Lustrous – Diamond’s Battle
Produced by Orange, Land of the Lustrous is an anime in need of an audience resurgence. Deftly animated, with stunning visuals where the expansive landscapes purposefully clash with 3D character designs, the series dives deep into existential wanderings and philosophical questions about our place in the universe and whether what these characters are fighting to protect is either worth it or theirs to possess in the first place. There is no shortage of spellbinding moments in the series, such as the first invasion of the Lunarians (warriors from the moon) to a silent walk on the seafloor, but it’s Diamond’s battle that sticks out. With the weakest body of the Lustrous (embodiment of gemstones), she’s had to rely – much to her quiet chagrin – heavily on her partner’s strength in battle. At this moment though she’s defiant and brave and the way the camera zooms and crashes with her, weightless in the air and crumbled on the ground, allows the moment to truly take flight. [AJ]
Mob Psycho 100 II – Mob vs Toichiro
Studio Bones is on this list a lot and for good reason. No one makes a fight quite like Studio Bones. Every fight in Mob Psycho has something really special about it that Bones put into it. The brawl between Mob and the Claw leader Toichiro ratchets this up to a galactic scale, however.
As Mob shuffles through his changing emotions trying to understand his opponent as he has for everyone else, the way he’s presented warps accordingly. His face becomes haunted when he reaches a point of not caring and becomes unsettling as he experiences joy at the destruction he’s causing as a result of fighting. Toichiro’s animation breaks down in its way as a mirror. He becomes the twisted and off-model, with his eyes and blood vessels bulging in his rage. This perfectly pays off when his 100% form becomes a literal psychic demon, nearly unrecognizable besides the shredded tie he was wearing before.
Visuals aren’t the only reason this fight is excellent, though. Mob’s teenage inconsistency with his emotions is pushed to their limits as he’s faced with someone who very much reflects him but also feels beyond his understanding. Toichiro is symbolically a version of Mob taken to his darkest extreme, fully believing himself to be not just the protagonist of his own story but everyone else’s too. That philosophy is the opposite of what Mob believes but also can buy into. The fight kicks off with him enjoying the violence as much as Toichiro but culminates in him centering himself with the chant of his Body Improvement Club bros in a beautiful final strike. [TH]
My Hero Academia – All Might vs. All For One
As is the case with any shōnen series on this list, there will always be plenty to choose from and plenty more that will cause debate as to which fight scene or action sequence is the best. My Hero Academia has at least one iconic fight sequence per season, such as Todoroki vs. Deku in season two or Deku vs. Overhaul in season four. Then, there are ones that strike on a personal, character level such as the emotional fight between Bakugo and Deku or the piercing and violent one between Muscular and Deku that delivers fully on his bone-breaking potential, both in season three. But, if there has to be a best, it’s hard to argue with the heartbreakingly triumphant one between All Might and All For One in a climactic moment in season three. With the very last embers of his power, All Might delivers all of it in a moment of ferocious impact to once again defeat All For One. This doesn’t come without a price, however, as he now has lost all of the power he used to have.
Visually diverse in how it transitions between All Might’s design and comic book panel style hard lines and grainy backgrounds to emphasize the power he holds, the dream sequences of his body protecting the remaining flames, to the more standard look of the onlooking audience, it’s a tour-de-force or artistic ability. The bombastic music cues kick in and, as the show can do in its greatest highs, produce yet another chill-inducing sequence where a character’s bravado, perseverance, and genuine need to do good practically vibrate through the screen, infusing an already enjoyable series with an earnest and welcoming heart. [AJ]
Naruto/Naruto Shippuden – Naruto vs Sasuke
Naruto finally catches up to Sasuke in the original series’ final arc at the Valley of the End. This confrontation, while on the nose, is the full summation of Naruto’s story before the end of its first part and time jump into Shippuden. Sasuke is on the brink of leaving everything behind to embrace his dark fate. But the altruistic Naruto charges forth, their peers along with him, to rescue him from the presumed clutches of Orochimaru. This two-part battle in which these two friends use all learned ninjutsu available to them with breathlessly fluid animation accumulates into the following clash which changes everything moving forward. The second phase of the fight not only encapsulates the emotional core of Naruto and Sasuke’s rivalry, but also their accumulated power as Naruto embraces the terror of the Nine-Tailed Fox within him, and Sasuke’s cursed mark encroaching further through his body. Despite this conflict being an inevitability, viewers come away in awe of the desperate grasp for victory from both these characters and willfully follow their motivations of them respectively. Sasuke proves successful in his abandonment of the Leaf Village, but not by murdering Naruto as requested, instead of forging his path. [EG]
Neon Genesis Evangelion – The Eva Goes Berserk
One of the many beauties of the entirety of the Evangelion series is that there are so many wonderful fight scenes of so many different styles and genres that it’s difficult to pick just one. There’s genuinely a style of a fight for everyone from the comedic – when Shinji and Asuka work in tandem for the first time after rehearsing a dance all episode – to the traumatizing – Asuka’s death at The End of Evangelion. For this piece though, we wanted to highlight the first moment when Shinji’s Eva goes berserk, growing its autonomy and rendering Shinji (even more) helpless. The animation is stunningly grainy as it allows the direction to shake and wobble, knocked off-kilter just like our protagonist. Perhaps, more than any other reason, this fight sequence stands out because it’s a turning point in the series. While there was always an air of tragedy to Shinji’s story, it’s here that the audience is given stark confirmation that he is unmistakably out of his depth and at a loss of control. The animation of Eva itself demonstrates this perfectly. [AJ]
One Piece – Luffy vs Usopp
If we were doing this list later in 2022, I would almost certainly have to go with Luffy’s (still ongoing) showdown against Kaidou, the world’s most powerful creature. It’s been a battle of the ages (mainly because it’s been taking ages to complete) but in the meantime, it’s worth reflecting on the long-running manga’s most important fight. Not the flashiest, not the longest or most “epic” in the typical Shonen sense. Luffy versus Usopp is a true turning point in an anime known for turning points in its massive, unparalleled world.
The bout itself takes place during the Water 7 arc, about halfway through the first half of the series, in which the obviously more powerful Luffy is pressured into a confrontation with Usopp, the crew’s physically weakest member, over the fate of their ailing ship, the Going Merry, a representation of Usopp’s fear of being replaced or thrown away when the crew deems him too weak to continue on with their journey. It’s an emotionally gripping and deeply personal fight, down to the dramatically heightened animation. And to this day, it’s pretty much the perfect encapsulation of how One Piece does battles in a radically different way from other stories, anime or otherwise. [Jon Negroni]
Ranking of Kings – Bojji vs. Bosse
Having already sung the praises of Ranking of Kings, the best new anime in years, there’s little left to be explored in such an exemplary anime. With the final battle spanning over several episodes, it’s the sequence where brave and sweet Bojji stands up against the reincarnated King Bosse (possessing the body of his son Daida) that, since the finale, remains the most mesmerizing. Building on the fantastical elements of the show, in this sequence, Bosse regains the stature of his giant form (at least in the eyes of Bojji) to bring crushing blows and overwhelming power to what easily could’ve been a blink and you miss it duel. However, that goes against the narrative of the series, all of which comes spilling out in this one spellbinding moment of artistry and innovation as we watch as once again the show and its protagonist demonstrate that stature means little in the face of power, as Bojji scales castle walls and near touches the sky all in to win. The moment will go down as one of the highlights of the series and for good reason, as it both encapsulated what the story was about while showing off some of the finest and smoothest fight choreography in anime. [AJ]
Rurouni Kenshin – Kenshin vs Shishio
The relationship of Himura Kenshin and Shishio Mokoto closely abides by the “two sides of the same coin” archetype. However, what makes the dynamic of these two dinosaurs from an outmoded warrior culture so celebrated is the way they’re cut from the very same cloth. One exists simply because the other laid down their sword, and this would lay the foundation for encroaching chaos and a vendetta against the Restorationist politics they fought for to overthrow the Shogunate. Shishio’s brutality was a liability, and would desecrate the new government. Therefore, Shishio was left to burn alive.
Kenshin would have suffered the same fate had he not walked away when he did, and sworn a vow to never kill again. Ultimately, Kenshin would be unable to defeat Shishio had he not pondered his vulnerabilities, his self-loathing, to acknowledge that so long as he identified his life as atoning for who he was, he’d be confined – unable to see that his life does not only belong to himself, but everybody, to those he has helped, and those who cherish him now. This final battle of the series between these two sword masters of the old world is a complete summation of the polarity between them, and remains gripping through to the end. [Dylan Griffin]
Yu Yu Hakusho – Yusuke Urameshi vs. Younger Toguro
The final bout of the Dark Tournament is yet another arc conclusion fight on the surface. However, the catharsis this fight gives to both Yusuke and the demon haunting him in subtle but potent ways. Toguro is the blueprint for the antagonist who wants to fight the protagonist so they can go all out with power, but he’s also got his baggage in this fight that adds a lot more nuance to his behavior. In between the various fights, YuYu Hakusho has shown the history of the Toguros and how they ended up how they are while not excusing them.
Toguro is understandable but is not forgiven, not in the way a lot of stories do. The violence he inflicts on Yusuke both in the physical and emotional sense is real and leaves real change on the boy. There’s a lot of pain in Yusuke’s body language as he reaches the new level of power Toguro pushes him to, and it puts a lot more weight on the outcome of the fight. It becomes clear Toguro intends to lose the fight, but that makes the quandary of the fight into whether or not he’s going to turn Yusuke into a monster like him on the way out.
Yusuke’s humanity wins out, because of course it does, but that outcome feels truly earned for both fighters. Toguro’s defeat reveals his true intentions to be something more complicated than having a good fight, yet Yusuke doesn’t thank him or even really seems to respect him. That’s a complicated line to walk, and many shonen series simply can’t do it. Making fighting Toguro a fight worth having is in that successful tightrope walk. [TH]