Thursday, April 18, 2024

Let’s Appreciate the Tournament Arc in Anime and Manga.

August 1, 2023 by  
Filed under Anime, GM, Manga, News

( One of my favorite story arcs in manga or manhwa is the tournament arc. It’s a simple arc that usually starts with news of the tournament after a big boss storyline. The main character might be healing from getting shlacked during the fight then someone in their inner circle goes “Hey, so-and-so tournament is coming up.”

Why Tournament Arcs Rock

Of course, in the case of Dragon Ball Super, Earth’s Special Forces were basically forced into tournaments by the planet or reality being hijacked. Super introduced some extremely powerful, galaxy and universe-destroying characters to the mix.

With evil pretty much being put on notice after Buu was defeated, tournaments and the villain or misguided opponent between them was the formula. The thing is, even if I know what the formula for a tournament arc is—I love them.

In anime, manga, and manhwa, there can be a lot of story—especially in series that came started in that late 90s-early 00s window. The exposition can be a lot which can be more digestible in comic form. Sometimes, you just want to see a fight! Fists and feet flying. Energy blast, elemental attacks, ridiculous speed, showings of cool strategy, and battles with a lot of heart.

That’s what I wanted to see a lot of the time in series but the fights might be few with a couple of scuffles and a lot of build. This is especially the case in series with no tournament arc. When you do have tournament arcs, that allows the writer to pick up the pace repeatedly or just exhaust the reader with fight after fight.

I first saw this with the first tournament of the Kinnikuman series where there was a side story of finding Kinnikuman’s bravery as a superhero—in this intergalactic, high-powered wrestling tournament. However, the matches just kept coming and new characters—some sent in by fans of the series—continued to be introduced.

Some of these characters would become long-running side and background characters in Kinnikuman franchise over the years. It was interesting to see these background characters highlightedwh as legit competitors in this tournament.

That’s possible in tournament arcs where characters who were gag characters or never got to show what they can do get to shine. When that happens, you get fans talking and interested in those characters and that’s always fun.

Kinnikuman Battle.

Why the Tournament Arc Works

The tournament arc is a concept that works because it’s simple while being flexible. It can be a center piece storyline that also helps in lore by marking the time period. A tournament arc can be that important. Or it can serve as a kind of action-packed filler arc.

Sometimes, a writer just needs to break up the big battle-into-training arc-into-new-big-battle routine up with a quick little tournament. If you’re an anime fan, you know the tournament where a new character is introduced and they’re good enough to be a regular side character or one of battle team—but you never see them again.

The character gets spanked in the filler tournament and they’re gone—effectively a filler character. Of course, in a series with an important tournament arc, some of those characters become long-running cast members—like Tien and Chaotzu from Dragon Ball.

Another testament to the tournament arc’s flexibility is that it means the writer doesn’t necessarily have to make this a layered project. It can be layered with multi-character development and lore unlocks like the Chuunin exam battles in Naruto, rip like Kinnikuman, be a light-hearted affair, or a mix! The tournament arc is the stew of anime storylines—it can be a filling or filler as the writer wants.

Of course, not every anime or manga is set up for the tournament arc and not featuring them shouldn’t and isn’t a deterrent to my enjoyment of a series. However, the unexpected tournament does get me more involved in the series just to see who is introduced and how these fights go down.

What about you? Do you like tournament arcs in anime and manga series? What are some of your favorites? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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