The Top 3 Anime Fights (That Don't Feature Main Protagonists)
Sometimes the undercard matches are better than the headline fights.
Usually the most epic fights in anime are the ones between the main hero and the baddest villain.
Showdowns in the vein of Goku vs. Frieza are the culmination of entire story arcs. These are the fights where the villains pull out their most terrifying powers, and the heroes draw on everything they've experienced so far in order to transcend their abilities and, more often than not, develop a new final form.
But while the headline fights might be the bread and butter of anime hype, sometimes the undercard matches are incredible in their own right. Long-running anime series are particularly great at fleshing out side-characters who would most likely get shoved to the side in a lot of other kinds of stories, and sometimes their battles hit even harder than those of the main heroes.
Here are some of the best anime fights that don't feature the main protagonists.
*Major spoilers for Hunter x Hunter and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5 follow.
Rock Lee vs. Gaara (Naruto)
We don't know a ton about Rock Lee or Gaara before going into their fight. The battle takes place early on in the series as part of the Chunin Exam, wherein young ninjas from different ninja villages come together in an attempt to graduate from their junior rank. During the third stage of the exam, students must fight one another in a sparring match, and sure enough, Rock Lee and Gaara get matched up.
Rock Lee, with his bushy eyebrows and goofy green bodysuit, seem like a borderline joke character. Gaara, on the other hand, is introduced as a stone-cold killer. In the only prior scene where Gaara fights, he's ambushed by a group of rival ninjas and promptly slaughter them all without lifting a finger. In short, putting Rock Lee against Gaara at such an early point in the series felt immediately unfair. Undoubtedly, Rock Lee would be used as a likable, good-natured punching bag in order to make Gaara seem all the more scarier.
Then the fight starts, and Rock Lee goes all in on Gaara. Throughout the fight, we discover that Rock Lee can't actually use ninjutsu or genjutsu (illusionary techniques), but he has worked harder than anybody else to master taijutsu (body techniques). Essentially, Rock Lee is the best at hand-to-hand combat.
Still, Gaara's sand powers are too great, and Lee's skill and training ultimately fail to best Gaara's monstrous abilities. But due to Rock Lee's insane skills, a fight that might have otherwise played out as a one-sided beatdown instead played out as one of the craziest, coolest bouts in the series.
Netero vs. Meruem (Hunter x Hunter)
Hunter x Hunter's Chimaera Ant arc is essentially a deconstruction of the typical shonen "strongest creature alive" storyline (exemplified by Dragon Ball Z's Cell Saga). In this fight, Meruem, an insectoid monster bred to subjugate the world, has achieved unprecedented levels of power. At the same time, though, he has begun to question his own morality and has come to the conclusion that when he does ultimately conquer the world, he will be a benevolent ruler who aims to find the value in every living thing.
Netero is the leader of the Hunter organization, and arguably the strongest Hunter alive. In a typical shonen series, Netero would fall in battle to Meruem so that the protagonist could step up to defeat the ultimate foe. But Hunter x Hunter is far from a typical shonen.
The battle plays out almost anti-climactically. Meruem refuses to fight, not wanting to hurt Netero. Meanwhile, Netero pulls out every move he can. Eventually, Meruem steps up and it immediately becomes clear that he is far too powerful for Netero to ever even come close to beating. So, after his ultimate move falls short, Netero—presumably the "good guy"—detonates a weapon of mass destruction, killing himself and dealing substantial damage to Meruem.
The most incredible part of the Meruem/Netero fight is the way that it subverts expectations of character roles, putting Meruem, the uber-powered monster, into the role of a pacifist, and Netero, the "hero" who spent his whole life training in combat, into the role of the deceitful bad guy.
Doppio vs. Risotto (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure)
Perhaps one of the most bizarre fights even in a series full of bizarre fights, the Risotto/Doppio match-up in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Golden Wind is absolutely bonkers.
Risotto is the lapsed leader of a group of mafia hitmen seeking revenge on his boss over the murder of one of his men. Doppio is a weak, cowardly, mentally unhinged young man who also happens to be the alternate personality (or, more specifically, alternate soul-half) of said mafia boss.
Risotto's powers are amongst the most grotesque in all of JoJo's. His Stand, Metallica, allows him to manipulate iron through magnetism at short range. His ability to manipulate iron means that he can do things like, oh, create razor blade from the blood inside someone's face–which he does.
Doppio spends the majority of their fight getting absolutely brutalized by Risotto. Like, razor blades coming out of his face. But Doppio has a trick up his sleeve, and that trick is being delusional enough to believe that a frog is a telephone. Upon catching a frog, Doppio has a "phone call" with his other half, the brutal mob boss Diavolo, who allows Doppio to use his Stand, King Crimson, to manipulate time. Yeah, this battle is absolutely off-the-wall.
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