In the end, the winners of these anime competitions should have been different characters.
Since the 1990s, tournament arcs have been a mainstay of shonen anime, with these one-on-one encounters not only having the fate of the world as their reward but also being a wonderful way of highlighting the rising talents of awesome characters in an action-packed manner.
While shonen anime protagonists are frequently expected to win in these Tournament Arcs, not all shonen anime tournament winners appear to be deserving of the title. In fact, certain tale circumstances appear to justify the adversary winning instead. This is especially true considering the story implications of the resolution of these affairs.
Chunin Exams – Naruto
Original Winner: None
New Winner: Shikamaru Nara
In the world of Naruto, the main character, Naruto Uzumaki, and his friends compete in the much-anticipated Chunin Selection Exams to move up from genin, or a beginner ninja, to the coveted role of chunin. The exams were like a tournament in the show, and they ended with Naruto and the other finalists fighting to the death for a chance to move up. During the exams, Orochimaru and the Hidden Sand Village were already planning to attack the Hidden Leaf, which messed up what was supposed to be the lead-up to the finals.
Shikamaru Nara, who gave up in the semis, was the only one to become a chunin after Sasuke betrayed the village and at the beginning of Naruto Shippuden. But Naruto found out about this when he took a side trip to check on everyone while he was away. Shikamaru was the only one in his class to get a promotion, and this specialized job is very important, so the show could have made a more “official” announcement of his success.
Ura Butou Satsujin – Flame Of Recca
Original Winner: None (Anime), Recca Hanabishi (Manga)
New Winner:Kurei Mori
Recca Hanabishi’s world is devastated when he finds he’s a little lad brought from the past who can manipulate flames and summon ancestral dragons for war. When Recca’s love interest Yanagi becomes Kogan Mori’s target in his quest for immortality, he and his comrades join the Ura Butou Satsujin to stop him. In a twist, Kurei Mori, Kogan Mori’s adopted son, is Recca’s half-brother from the past.
In the tournament’s last round, Recca and Kurei battle to decide Yanagi’s fate. Both versions of the series had Kurei outmatching Recca as a flame master, yet Recca would win. Both versions have Kogan use the tournament to eliminate the insubordinate Kurei, who exacts revenge on his adoptive father. A easy alternate twist would have Kurei declared the winner, with Kogan revealing his hand when Recca couldn’t solve the “issue” for him. This could make Kogan Mori’s machinations more impactful, while Kurei’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Dark Tournament – Yu Yu Hakusho
Original Winner: Yusuke Urameshi
New Winner: Younger Toguro
Yusuke found his distinctive Spirit Gun technique while investigating the Dark Tournament, where the world’s fate hung in the balance. Yu Yu Hakusho introduced Younger Toguro, one of anime’s most fearsome antagonists. Yusuke only managed to murder Toguro thanks to his overexertion. Toguro dies and praises Yusuke for letting him unleash his “whole might,” but the story may have ended similarly if the reverse had happened.
Toguro could have tanked Yusuke’s Spirit Gun and killed him, but his overexertion would have killed him too. Yusuke’s first traces of atavism and Mazoku marks occur after this tragic experience. In a later episode, Yusuke channels his ancestor Raizen to vanquish Sensui. Instead of this “abrupt” revelation during the Sensui Arc, signs of his ancestral powers could’ve appeared during the Dark Tournament.
Battle City Tournament – Yu-Gi-Oh!
Original Winner: The Nameless Pharaoh
New Winner: Marik Ishtar
It’s not Yu-Gi-Oh! if the fate of the world isn’t somehow tied to a card game competition involving iconic Yu-Gi-Oh! characters, and the Battle City Tournament was precisely that. While this was a hoax orchestrated by Seto Kaiba to assist Ishizu Ishtar in locating the missing God Cards, it eventually led to a no-holds-barred death fight between the Nameless Pharaoh and Yami Marik, Ishizu’s brother Marik’s demonic personality after years of abuse. This unique finals duel featured the souls of his original self and Yugi Muto hanging in the balance in order to demonstrate his evil personality.
However, in an unexpected turn of events, the real Marik Ishtar manages to overcome his evil nature and surrender the match he could’ve won, finally killing his evil half. In a world where the Nameless Pharaoh is the King of Games, he’s unlikely to lose a direct combat. Marik Ishtar, on the other hand, managed to put himself in a winning position fairly and squarely, without the use of any MacGuffin cards, unlike Yugi.
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All Japan Rookie King Tournament – Hajime No Ippo
Original Winner: Ippo Makunochi
New Winner: Sendo Takeshi
Hajime no Ippo, maybe one of the most popular sports anime of all time, follows amateur boxer Ippo Makunouchi as he gradually works his way into the world of professional boxing. While his ability to learn rapidly complements his ostensibly slow career, Ippo now has even more to prove after being crowned East Japan Rookie King. This time, he must prepare to compete for the coveted title of All Japan Rookie King against Takeshi Sendo, the West Japan Rookie King, and officially reach the big leagues.
Similar to other sports anime, Sendo’s confident and brash personality immediately distinguishes him from the humble Ippo, making him the ideal rival of the time. Sendo, eager to defeat powerful opponents, was first dismayed when Ippo refused to fight him. However, when Ippo decided to go on with the battle, he was in for the struggle of his life. While Ippo winning and retaining the title is a foregone conclusion owing to his personality as the protagonist, it may have aided the series to postpone handing Ippo yet another victory, especially to prevent establishing an early “plot armor” tendency. If Ippo loses today and Sendo wins, he may be forced to choose a different path, eventually encountering a strong Sendo in the future for a rematch.
World Coronation Series – Pokemon
Original Winner: Ash Ketchum
New Winner: Leon
Every new Pokemon game will get an anime adaptation soon. Pokemon Journey: The Series, which adapted Pokemon Sun & Moon, did this. Ash Ketchum competes in the World Coronation Series to become Pokemon Champion. Ash had to prove his worth through different adventures before meeting World Champion Leon.
It made sense for them to compete in the World Coronation Series finals. This climax match handed Ash a Championship to end his losing skid, but it may have “harmed” his reputation. Ash losing a tournament and moving on to the next region sends a message of improvement and looking beyond winning. What’s next for Ash after winning World Champion?
Universe Survival Saga – Dragon Ball Super
Original Winner: Android 17
New Winner: Jiren
Goku and his allies can now meet elites from different Universes and the most powerful entity, Zeno. The Universe Survival Saga is a winner-takes-all struggle that can ruin the losers’ Universes. Jiren, the strongest Pride Trooper, making it harder for Goku to prevail. Goku couldn’t beat Jiren in Ultra Instinct.
Jiren was so strong that Goku, Frieza, and Android 17 all had to work together to knock him out of the ring and force his Universe to give up, since none of them were strong enough to beat him outright. Android 17 is the only one left in the ring, so he gets the most important wish. And with it, Android 17 wants to bring back all the other Universes. Even though this was a good ending, maybe things would have been better if Jiren had won instead. Jiren may be persuaded by the same lesson that working together can beat any problem, so he can fight Goku again, that he should wish for the other universes to come back. This will make Jiren’s reputation as Goku’s rival in the Multiverse even stronger, and it may hint at more fights between the two.
23rd World Martial Arts Tournament – Dragon Ball
Original Winner: Goku
New Winner: Piccolo
It’s no surprise that the World Martial Arts Tournament was a highly anticipated event in the Dragon Ball universe, where martial arts is a celebrated art form. Goku met some of his closest friends in Tournaments, mainly as opponents and fellow contestants. After losing the 21st and 22nd World Martial Arts Tournaments, he won the 23rd and saved the world from Piccolo Jr.
Goku defeated Piccolo Jr. with a headbutt after employing flying for the first time. Piccolo Jr. surrenders after Goku heals him with a Senzu Bean. The story may have aided Goku’s development by having him lose. An weary Goku saving the world could convince Piccolo Jr. to spare him so they can fight on better terms.
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