From showcasing beloved characters in an exciting new light to witnessing spectacular one-on-ones, tournament arcs are a staple of most shonen anime. Although they may appear to be a simplistic competition format on paper, in reality, they produce some of the most memorable moments in anime and are thus not easy to perfect. However, My Hero Academia's Sports Festival arc takes this simple format and successfully creates several compelling storylines that utilize the best of familiar characters while introducing new ones in unforgettable ways.
Showcasing the students' creativity and innovation in the obstacle course and cavalry battle explored the characters and their Quirks in ways that viewers had never seen before. Still, it's the battle tournament that truly takes the cake as the most exhilarating component. Offering fans plenty of intense encounters, here are the top three one-on-one battles during the U.A. Sports Festival.
3) Shoto Todoroki vs. Katsuki Bakugo
The final match in the Sports Festival sees Todoroki and Bakugo clash in what was supposed to be an epic finale. While being the two strongest students of Class 1-A at the time, Todoroki fails to use his flames and eventually loses the will to fight, essentially forfeiting the match as he takes a powerful Howitzer Impact from Bakugo with no defenses raised. The outcome may be disappointing because Todoroki didn't give it his all, but that's the point.
So far, viewers saw Todoroki dish out one devastating attack after another, but he's now in such emotional turmoil over his past that he can't focus on the battle in front of him. Meanwhile, Bakugo is fighting desperately to win -- and technically, he does, but Todoroki never fought him head-on and so refuses to accept it. Back in Season 1, Bakugo knew that he couldn't take on Todoroki in a fight, so this battle was meant to be where he proved himself and claimed victory. However, his victory is merely circumstantial and doesn't clearly define who's stronger. What makes this fight so memorable aren't the flashy moves, but the emotions behind it.
2) Katsuki Bakugo vs. Ochaco Uraraka
The final matchup of the first round features Bakugo, Uraraka and a boatload of presumptions from the festival's spectators. Bakugo has long since established himself as a confrontational and mighty opponent, so those who don't know him well see him as an aggressor. On the other hand, Uraraka's optimistic and bubbly personality has some writing her off as a defenseless girl. However, both of these are inherently incorrect.
Against a formidable opponent, Uraraka resolves to defeat Bakugo with her own strength and comes up with brilliant strategies to draw the most out of her Quirk and really give Bakugo a run for his money. Bakugo doesn't hold back and gives an all-out fight. These actions are misinterpreted as Bakugo taking advantage of Uraraka -- a consequence of his terrible attitude and treatment of others. However, it's merely because Bakugo recognizes Uraraka's capabilities, as he wouldn't have defeated her without using his full power. This fight manages to trump preconceived notions while reminding the audience of strengths that are often hidden behind the fronts that characters put up.
1) Izuku Midoriya vs. Shoto Todoroki
By far the most thrilling battle comes in the form of a breathtaking showdown that holds a lot of emotional weight. Even so, this battle is merely the climax of a short-lived rivalry. Introduced with great hostility, Todoroki declares war on Deku seemingly out of nowhere. However, as Endeavor and All Might's successors respectively, Todoroki is blinded by his conviction to completely reject his father. Deku is confused at first, but when Todoroki confides in him about his family situation, Deku feels he has no choice but to accept Todoroki's declaration.
This is where Deku's heroism truly shines. He recognizes how much Todoroki is suffering and resolves to help him, even if it means throwing his chances of winning out the window. Through sheer willpower and his own strength, Deku breaks his bones over and over, pointing out the inconsistencies in Todoroki's conviction, slowly breaking down his walls until he finally uses his flames. Through his actions, Deku is able to remind Todoroki of his own dreams and that he is completely separate from his father. Deku could have taken advantage of Todoroki's weakened mental state to clear the second round, but instead, he exhibited true heroism, allowing Todoroki to make a crucial first step in the direction of healing.