The most interesting stories involve battles with seemingly insurmountable odds. The most direct means to demonstrate this difficult obstacle is by showing the hero hitting rock bottom following a certain loss against the villain. In conquering the fear and trauma associated with that prior loss, the hero shows growth not only physically, but emotionally and psychologically as well.
In setting up a proper conflict, the protagonist must be faced with conquering an obstacle that seems impossible to overcome. If the hero immediately wins, this conflict has no bearing on the story and the viewer has nothing to learn. But if the hero is shown to be up against an evil that they have been defeated by before, the conflict is amplified that much more.
10/10 Deku’s Greatest Superpower Is His Strength In The Face Of Failure
My Hero Academia
In My Hero Academia, Deku’s entire life has been about overcoming incredible odds and never giving up in the face of failure. However, this failure seemed to achieve new lows in Deku’s initial battle with Overhaul. Overhaul not only defeated Deku but did so easily.
It may have taken some teamwork with Eri, but in the end, Deku was finally able to overcome the villain. Eri’s Quirk allowed her to heal Deku’s body while still using 100% of One For All, making Deku seemingly unbeatable at that moment.
9/10 Trunk’s True Power Was Awakened After He Lost Everything
Dragon Ball Super
Trunk’s entire world was utterly destroyed by Zamasu in the future timeline of Dragon Ball Super. There is no greater loss than to lose all your closest friends and family to the villain, yet that is exactly the kind of loss Trunks suffered.
Even after traveling back to the past and getting Goku and Vegeta’s help, they too were utterly defeated by Goku Black. However, through all the pain and hardship he went through, Trunks ultimately snapped in the last battle after Goku Black and Zamasu fused. Trunks was able to unlock his ascended Super Saiyan Rage form and destroy Zamasu and Goku Black once and for all.
8/10 Ash Never Gave Up No Matter What
It’s been a well-cited issue for Pokémon fans that Ash has endured several years of being a trainer only to fail in his quest to become the Pokémon League champion again and again. However, as the famous saying goes, you can’t fail if you don’t quit.
That’s why it was particularly satisfying for Pokémon fans around the world to witness Ash finally become a regional Pokémon champion in the Orange League. Though it was ten long years in the making, Ash played the long game and never gave up, serving as a lesson to his fans that they can achieve their dreams no matter how long it might take.
7/10 Asta Gets Captured By The Eye Of The Midnight Sun
When Black Clover‘s Asta first encounters the Eye of the Midnight Sun, he is overpowered and captured. Luckily for Asta, the Wizard King Julius Novachrono appears at the last minute to rescue him.
Things get worse later on in the series after Julius himself is defeated and the Eye of the Midnight Sun led by the elf Patry ends up summoning a devil. Ultimately, through the powers of both Asta and his best friend Yuno, they are able to overcome the devil that manipulated Patry and the elves.
6/10 Gon, Killua, & Kite Get Utterly Overpowered By Neferpitou
Hunter X Hunter
In order to save Gon and Killua from the overwhelming power of Neferpitou, Kite stays behind to hold her off. In the ensuing conflict, Kite is captured. This turn of events causes Gon to go on a hopeless quest to save his beloved mentor and the closest thing to a father he has.
However, when he finally does find Kite, it’s one of the saddest moments in Hunter X Hunter. Upon discovering the tragic state of his mentor, Gon is sent into an unimaginable fit of rage. Ultimately, Gon easily defeats Neferpitou in battle, but the cost is incredibly high.
5/10 Scar Could Only Truly Be Defeated By Kindness
In their first interaction with Scar, Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Edward and Alphonse Elrich are clearly outclassed in every way. Scar easily disposes of both of the brothers, to the extent that Ed accepts defeat under the condition that Scar let his brother live. Though they are saved at the last moment, the psychological impact of that encounter ways heavily on Ed’s mind.
That’s why, when Ed finally does encounter Scar again later in the anime, he is well-prepared. Though Ed and the others find a way to outsmart and subdue Scar, it’s actually Winry who wins the emotional war for the brothers. Her kind-hearted, forgiving attitude is what ultimately makes Scar see the light and recognize the mistake in his actions.
4/10 Fushi Stays True To Himself Despite Hayase’s Manipulation
To Your Eternity
Fushi’s first experience of human loss in To Your Eternity comes in the form of March, who is mortally injured by Hayase. After Hayase somehow survives her encounter with Fushi’s giant bear form, she follows Fushi to Jananda to cause even more pain for him.
Hayase inevitably recognizes Fushi’s reluctance to kill and does everything in her power to try to persuade him to get his hands dirty, including holding his friend Tonori over a pit of fire. Despite all the grief caused by Hayase, Fushi continued refusing to commit murder. Instead, Fushi spares Hayase in the end, thus proving that he is above her wicked sense of morality.
3/10 Yugi Runs Out Of Time Against Pegasus
Yugi’s first duel with Pegasus in Yu-Gi-Oh! was particularly high stakes, as his grandfather’s freedom was on the line. Of course, Pegasus didn’t play fair either. Pegasus ends up winning due to Yugi running out of time in the duel, and thus also losing his Grandfather’s soul to Pegasus.
In order to free his grandfather from Pegasus’ grasp, Yugi makes it all the way to the end of the Duelist Kingdom and earns his right to a rematch. In their final match, Yugi uses a somewhat questionable tactic to secure his victory, successfully freeing his grandfather and earning his revenge.
2/10 Naruto & Sasuke Are The Only Ones Who Understand Each Other
Naruto / Naruto Shippuden
Naruto and Sasuke weren’t always bitter enemies and rivals. There was a time when Naruto and Sasuke were the best of friends who bonded over their mutual experience of growing up without their parents. That’s what made it hurt even more when Naruto suffered a devastating loss to Sasuke in battle at the end of the original Naruto series.
Naruto had simply set out to bring his friend back by showing him that he would be there for him no matter what, yet Sasuke preferred to fight to the death. At the end of Shippuden, after several lessons learned, Sasuke challenges Naruto to one last fight. Though it ends in a tie, it really is the ultimate victory for Naruto, as he has his friend back.
1/10 Spike & Vicious Have A Complicated History
Spike and Vicious go way back. Aside from seemingly killing Spike’s illicit lover, he nearly kills Spike in their first encounter in the church, sending him out the upper-story window with mortal wounds.
In Cowboy Bebop‘s finale, Spike decides to take revenge on Vicious once and for all. He infiltrates the Red Dragon Syndicate’s headquarters and finally does away with Vicious once and for all. Though Spike’s own fate seems bleak, he undoubtedly got his payback for the horrible ways Vicious treated him throughout the series.
NEXT: 10 Anime Heroes Who Never Resort To Violence