Greatest Anime Story Arcs of All Time

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! This is a list of the greatest story arcs throughout all of anime or Manga.
The Top Ten
1 Invasion of Pain (Naruto Shippuden)

The emotion, the invasion, the no clear right or wrong, the deaths, the revivals, the Naruto. It was epic. One of the best arcs. The only bad thing is the the fight animations were not that good, but still.

This arc in Naruto has to be some of the best written fiction I've read. The theme of hatred and revenge is executed brilliantly. In this arc what was more important than any of the fights, was the dialogue. Ideals between the protagonist and the antagonist were clashing. During the big fight, they fight over who's ideal is right. But on the way to meet the mastermind the protagonist changes the way he thinks. Meeting up with the mastermind, the protagonist doesn't kill him. Their similar ideals and past clash, but this time in a war of understanding. Two humans coming from a similar situation, one fell into despair, hatred and wanted revenge. While the other raised above it, to prove that there is a chance for world peace without causing more unneeded hatred. This is what the arc really asks us, the viewers. If someone has hurt you, do you ask why or do you act with hate? To top if all off, The protagonists return to the village. The same village which had held hatred towards him. ...more

This was in my honest opinion the greatest part of Naruto's story. It was in this arc that we finally get to see Jiraiya's past life in full and learn where the Akatsuki started and who the leader is. This arc was even the big reveal of one of Naruto's parents. The feels the music the story-line everything about it was pure art and this is where Naruto finally got what he always wanted... to be respected, accepted and loved by the whole village. I am sure someone who has not been following the series would read this and say so what but from the perspective of a true Naruto fan this arc carried so much weight with it because it was the turning point of the entire story.

The build up is insane with Kakashi's fight vs. Pain. Thought Hinata basically killing herself was a bit sappy but still was good. It was more what happened after Pain died and gave life to all of the fallen Konoha people is what I loved. Ebisu's speech about Naruto made this Arc one of the best. This arc allowed Naruto to be acknowledged by the villaged that had shunned him for so long, I found it very emotional, in a good way.

2 Soul Society Arc (Bleach)

This is by far the best arc I have ever watched. It really showed us what bleach is at it's prime and never failed to impress us in this arc. The mysterious, yet interesting captains gave us so much tension and excitement on further battles. The first time we all heard "BANKAI", the time we saw how captains interact, how soul society (crappy version of heaven) works, the soul reapers motives, etc. The time one major PLOT TWIST happened and blew our minds to be one of the most badass antagonist in anime and manga history. This was the time Bleach story rose up to be one of the best arcs of all time. This anime introduced me to the anime world and I did not regret watching it and I loved every second of it even though with shortcomings.

Who can argue that this wasn't Bleach at it's finest? Ichigo and his accomplices running through Soul Society, trying desperately to save Rukia, who didn't deserve her fate. An inside plot in which nothing is what it seems. Thrilling fights that captured your attention. Ikkaku. Renji. Zaraki. And finally Byakuya. Not to mention the introduction of Ichigo's inner hollow and Uryu's fight against the killer of his grandfather. Who would have expected his inner hollow to take over during Byakuya's fight? Who would have expected Aizen and Gin's plot twist? Who would have expected Yamamoto to be so ripped?...that's what I thought. ~Soro

You can hate Bleach all you want, but you cannot deny that this Arc was/is/will always be the best Shonen Arc created (Ok maybe no forever but for now, yeah.)

Marineford: War Arc, nothing new.
Pain Arc: Saving your hometown, nothing new.
Chunin Arc: Tournament Arc, nothing new.
Soul Society Arc: Bunch of nobodies working their way through hardships and all to save a friend whom they barely knew, something new.

The Choice is obvious.

This is one of the very first arcs in Bleach and shows just how amazing the start of this anime was. Ichigo enters the soul society for the first time and has to fight his way through to get to Rukia. Ichigo progressively increases power throughout the arc going up against some pretty ferocious enemies. The ending to this arc set the basis for the Arrancar Saga.

3 Marineford Arc (One Piece)

Best anime and manga arc of all time, even if it has lesser votes, this arc is easily better than any other arc in the world of anime and manga, plus the whole one piece anime and manga is the BEST, it deserves credit and we should give it credit❤, no.1 anime and manga

Best for me so far. Best scene was when Whitebeard warned the World Government that the world will turn upside-down once someone gets THAT thing and thus shouted "One Piece does exist". It literally gave me goosebumps even when I keep replaying that part. Still waiting for Wano arc to end not to mention what Oda said that Marineford arc will look cute compared to what will happen in Wano.

This arc is like a turning point for the world of One Piece, not just to the main characters but literally to everyone living in One piece. I love how this arc is important and necessary, and acts as a stepping stone for the series, taking it into a whole new level.

It acted as a reminder on how the mugiwara crews felt inadequate to enter the New World with their current power, it acted as a trigger to many to abandon the rigid way of the World Government (Garp, Aokiji, etc. ) and the chaos it brought with that war affected the world order (BB as one of the Yonkos, Big Mom took over Fishman Island, Akainu as Admiral Fleet and etc.).

One war with a domino effects that is not at all, in my opinion, are forced.

This maybe the only anime arc that made every viewer care about a larger world rather than just the protagonists. While Enies Lobby and now Dressrosa are beautiful arcs in their own right, there has never been an arc so gut wrenching as this one.

It began with Thriller Bark where Straw Hats were overpowered by the appearance of two Warlords.

Then came the Sabaody phase where we saw them splitting whence everyone was crying (onscreen and viewers)

Here onwards we saw an entire arc that could be considered as a Luffy side adventure in the Land of the Amazons and the 'fateful' meeting with Boa Hancock

Then we delved in the hells of Impel Down to meet new allies and old enemies turned allies

Special mention: Crocodile, Buggy the Clown, Jinbei, Emporio Ivankov

Finally we fought alongside the Marine Forces, the Warlords and the Whitebeard Pirate Alliance.

We lived the battle, the tension, the tears, the deadline for Ace's execution, and we ...more

4 Chimera Ant (Hunter X Hunter)

Best arc ever in my opinion, honestly the previous ideas and opinions are the same as mine, best story line, great character development and awesome morels. It is a must watch for anyone who enjoys shounen anime

The fact his is behind Soul Society Arc (Bleach),Invasion of Pain (Naruto Shippuden),Marineford Arc (One Piece) makes me wanna throw up. The writing in all 3 of those doesn't even come close to CA arc. I enjoy those 3 animes..but they are just for fun and even childish, with so many ass pulls and plot holes, how can people consider it great (story) writing. People are dumb for sure.

this is for real the best arc there is! I don't understand the hate! the arc has everything you need! Epic moments, epic entrances, epic fights, sad moments, scary moments, rage scenes. I think the way this arc was built is simply brilliant, because it is also built for the dark continent.

Truly a beautiful arc, one which has so many shifts in emotions that only when it is over you realize you have witnessed greatness.

5 The Promised Day and Final Battle Arc (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

Wow, just everything about this arc in the storyline makes me want to burst out in tears of sadness and happiness. Why does all the higher arcs have to be the big 3, you know one piece, bleach, and Naruto, when clearly this arc is a masterpiece? I don't know, but the character development, the massive emotional effect, and the amazing villains and plot is what makes this arc phenomenal!

While I was not much a fan of most of this series's overall tone and humor (personally I prefer the 2003 version) this arc did not disappoint.

I personally think this arc is inferior compared with the rest of the best anime Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. The ending seems forced in some way and kind of a wrap up. The previous part of the story is in another level compared with the most popular anime while this arc is like most mainstream anime

The fact that this isn't at number one really bothers me. This show is fantastic as a whole and it has so much depth it really deserves that number one spot. If you haven't seen FMA Brotherhood you need to remedy that immediately because oh man are you missing out.

6 Chunin Exam Arc (Naruto)

Watching Shippuden now it makes me wish there was a Jonin exam because this is what got me into the show, Sasuke Retrival was what cemented my liking to the show but all the different characters and the tournament, competition aspect what truly great. Lee vs. Gaara, Naruto vs. Kiba, Hyuuga battle were the best. Shikamaru and Shino vs. The sound ninja were worth while too. WHY NO JONIN EXAM?!?!?!?

An amazing arc, and what got me INTO Naruto. If it wasn't for this arc I can honestly say that Naruto wouldn't be all that high on my list. The epitome of the arc came with Lee vs Gaara, which was insane. I've shown the fight to people who don't even watch Naruto/anime and they were pumped.

Another amazing Naruto Arc in this arc we get to see several important characters introduced into the series such as a main antagonist Orochimaru and the Konoha 12. This arc is full of fights, deception and really lets us in on the ways of the Naruto universe.

Introduction to great characters, some bad characters and also techniques, more and strategies are well thought up in this arc. Really loved Shikamaru's strategy and Neji's Byukugan.

7 The L Arc (Death Note)

A incredible cat and mouse game with a twist. The mouse or light yagami has a power to kill anyone with certain information (name way of death face.etc). He is on a rampage to kill every criminal out there. One who doesn't beleve in his methods is the cat or senior detective L. Both geniuses use cunning tacktics to evade and catch one another.
Truly incredible story

The most complexe, most thrilling arc ever, not only in anime. Hell, everything was so realistic or at least possible to happen in real world (exept for the main item, the death note and their original owners lol)

Dang it! I should've voted for this one instead of FMAB! Alchemy gets enough love, but death note's characters are way too underrated...

25 episodes of pure perfection. The psychological battle between Light and L was so epic. Every episode had me on the edge of my seat. This a a top notch anime. The best thought out anime off all time. There was never a dull moment

8 Frieza Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

Most epic DBZ arc. This arc has everything:

- Space travel
- Villains with special abilities (Guldo, Ginyu, Zarbon, etc.)
- Secondary characters with value (Piccolo, Krillin, Dodoria, etc.),
- Evil Vegeta going on a killing spree
- The first SSJ transformation
- The Spirit Bomb
- Kaoi-Ken
- The best villain (Frieza)
- Actual use of not one but TWO sets of Dragonballs
- The reveal of Future Trunks

Frieza saga to be best, beginning with the Saiyan conflict between Raditz, Nappa and Vegeta... to the three-way guerrilla war making a battlefield of Namek, where Zarbon, Dodoria, and Cui take on Vegeta, who later joins forces with the protagonists to take down the Mercenary Squadron of the Ginyu Force... and the eventual rise of the Super Saiyan, Goku... who faces Lord Frieza to halt the tyrant's threat. This was Akira Toriyama's masterpiece.

The Frieza saga portrays Toriyama's vision as he had originally grafted it, without altering anything based on fan preference. It was the initial concept to which the series unfolded; The struggle of good versus evil portrays the wicked with emotion; Frieza has feelings of his own, and the audience has the chance to comprehend him.

Frieza is the most ruthless, cunning, vile, wicked, corrupt, and evil villain in the history of all anime and animation in general. He is tender yet suspenseful; he is effeminate yet deadly... He deceives through a comical mannerism and a sarcastic wit; yet is extremely dangerous and bloodthirsty.

9 Phantom Troupe Arc (Hunter x Hunter)

This is right up there with the Chimera Ant Arc as on of the greatest arcs in anime history. Such brilliant writing and action sequences...

This arc kinda remind me of Pain invasion arc from Naruto. I love how it focuses more on the villains rather than the protagonists and fleshes them out as real humans with their own things not just obstacles for the main characters to overcome.

Incredibly well done like all the other hxh arcs. You get just the right amount of development with the phantom troupe so that you can attached to them, but they still maintain that mysterious atmosphere.

The best Hunter x Hunter arc, second would be Chimera Ant arc.

10 Sasuke Retrieval Arc (Naruto)

*(SPOILERS)*

Everything in this arc was absolutely phenomenal. The leaf village's shinobi conviction to retrieve Sasuke from Orochimaru's clutches. They were all willing to lay their lives on the line for a shinobi who wanted nothing to do with them, which was so painful to watch near the end. Intense battles were everywhere in this arc and it constantly felt as if they were all in mortal danger when facing off against their respective opponents. It was so inspiring to see how willing they were to put their lives on the line for a fellow comrade, despite many of them having no meaningful connection to him. And it was refreshing to see one of the protagonists decide to take a darker route in his quest for vengeance. Truly magnificent story telling and I wish I could erase my memory and watch it all over again!

Favorite arc of the series BAR NONE. The character development in Choji, Neji, Kiba, and Shikamaru is what makes it for me. The individual battles are mostly great in themselves (Kiba's was ok) but seeing the characters all come to terms with their own demons before they are about to die (Kiba Neji Choji) is what is makes me love it so much. Then my favorite episode of the entire series of Naruto when the sand come in and save Shikamaru Kiba and Lee is INSANE. Lee vs. Kimimaro and Garra vs. Kimimaro are also good fights. All of this climax's into Naruto vs. Sasuke and the dramatic fight meets all expectations and then some. The best arc of Naruto and got me attached to the show.

This arc shows us the ending the first half of the Naruto manga. In this arc we get to see whats expected of Naruto in the next half of the series. We also get the Battle we've all been waiting for between Sasuke and Naruto. Not to mention we get to see some of our favorite characters throughout the series fight agianst some of Orochimaru's toughest followers and did I mention Sakura is only in it briefly.

Lol, but this arc goes on for like the whole anime...

The Contenders
11 Cell Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

This was the first anime arc I've ever seen. I remember watching this on Cartoon Network when I was 7 years old. I think this is the most badass arc and has one of the most unique story lines in the Dragonball universe. Trunks coming back in time to warn the Z fighters about the threat of the androids was such a huge moment of my childhood. Granted certain arcs on this list may have better plot development, I have to put this as my favorite because this arc is what started it all for me.

Although a mixture of Terminator and Terminator 2 movie, It's one of the great arcs.

How the hell is this number 19? This should be in the top 5. If not number 1

Android 16's head being smashed was epic.

12 Majin Buu Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

Majin buy is both the funniest and most difficult to defeat and therefore his arc should have a lot more episodes then that of vegeta

13 Female Titan (Attack on Titan)

This is an arc I have a love-hate relationship with. I love all the fight scenes, particularly when Levi and Mikasa team up to take on the female titan, as well as who the reveal of who the female titan is, but that cliffhanger! Still, I can't wait to see how things will progress from there in season 2.

The female titan vs. Eren battles were pretty badass

Annie Leonhart a titan shifter... Did not see that coming.

Annie leonheart (female Titian) best anime arc ever

14 Kishin Revival Arc (Soul Eater)

The battles were so epic

Boku no Pico greatness!

15 The Homunculus Arc (Fullmetal Alchemist)

This arc gives the homunculi more depth and establishes goals that they have reasons to want accomplished. FMA Sloth will always have more depth than FMAB Sloth!

Awesome and underrated arc

Not as good as Chapter Black

16 Yorknew Ark (Hunter X Hunter 2011)

By far the best arc in the greatest shonen manga/anime series of all time. It's crime-thriller meets battle shonen. It's extremely exciting, well written, well paced, and avoids cliches like the plague. I can watch this arc over and over again without getting tired of it!

It introduced the Phantom Troupe, had an unrivaled shonen ED, and had some of the most badass fights in the entire show. It's the reason why I even had the motivation to watch through the regrettable Chimera Ant arc...

Not only the best arc in hunter x hunter, but of the best arcs in anime of all time. It was also created to be so, Togashi is a genius and this is his dissection of the shounen genre.

When you start to realize the way Togashi handle his main characters that feel different from anything that you had seen.

17 The Band of Seven Arc (Inuyasha)

This arc was the peak of the entire series

This is my favorite arc in all of Inuyasha because of all the cool, kick-ass characters like bankotsu and jakotsu, and the way it all leads up to, well you'll see and if you'd already watched or read Inuyasha, you know what I mean by EPIC!

18 Grand Magic Games (Fairy Tail)

I'm truly obsessed with Fairy Tail, but this has to be one of the best arcs. Laxus was totally badass, Elfman got a great moment in the spotlight, and who can forget the epic battles of: Natsu and Gajeel vs. Sting and Rogue, Erza vs. Kagura, Erza vs. Minerva, Gray vs. Rufus, Wendy vs. Sherria, and even Lucy vs. Flare, which is when Lucy really starts tapping into her potential. Coupled with Erza during Pandemonium, Cana's Fairy Glitter, and the final twist, this is an exceedingly amazing arc

When I first saw this story arc, I was like "Damn, since when did Fairy Tail get so God dang strong? Especially Lucy since she barely fights at her max." After watching this arc I have basically gained a new found respect for everyone in Fairy Tail. If they weren't awesome before, they sure are now. Although I wish we got to see Lucy fight more because she has a lot of untapped potential.

The grand magic games is the best arc of all time. Its about friendship and love. There bonds they share that time is so strong I loved it when Erza fought pandinioum. She was like a flying flower that is never going to give up. In the grand magic games fairy tail becomes stronger than they already are. They break the laws of magic.

Best arc of fairy tail! And gotta be in the top 5 along with the big 3. What makes this arc so special is the fact that we get to see the most amazing battles between rival guilds and see every guild competing for the top and giving their all to become the mightiest guild of fiore

19 Enies Lobby Arc (One Piece)

This arc changed the Strawhat crew for the better, they gained a lot of trust for Luffy, especially Usopp, Robin, and Franky. Plus the introduction of "gears" with the rest of the crew getting upgrades. It was also very emotional and made Luffys dream more serious and life threatening than before. Overall it was fantastic! =3

I haven't reached the Marineord Arc yet, but this easily beats every other arc there is, I've watched Naruto and Fairy Tail. The Pain Arc was nothing too 'Sugoi'. Just overrated. Grand Magic Games, Tenrou Island and Tartoraus (still ongoing) are ah-ma-zing. Then there is the Chunnin Exam Arc which beats Pain Arc by far. But Enies Lobby is something else. The Buster Call, Rob Lucchi. CP9 was so amazing and the Straw Hats beat them. Just how awesome can One Piece possibly get?

For me this is quite simply the best story arc everrr... From the mezmerizing build up in water 7 to the epic showdown in the lobby right till the annihilation of one of the top 3 world government facilities, this story will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Not to mention the merry go farewell which can make even the dudes cry :'(

From the epic march towards the lobby till the great escape whilst the gigantic buster call. Not to mention the epic fights, specially Luffy vs Lucy which is quite possibly the best anime fight of all time. This arc had it all. This arc is certified to leave you overwhelmed.

20 Saiyan Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

Okay I'm just saying that this arc was amazing this was an all out battle between Goku and his rival Vegeta. The start of this arc is pretty much training for everyone but the fighting was awesome.

This should be higher on the list. Goku vs Vegeta is one of the best fights in all dbz history, and it was in the saiyan arc. I'm telling you, it is awesome.

It was so interesting and so epic, especially the fight between Goku & Vegeta. Even the fight with Raditz was cool. I loved it!

I thought all the villain saiyans were cool.

21 Future Arc (Katekyo Hitman Reborn)

Best arc ever in my opinion. The intricacies of time travel and character development were well presented in this arc.

This was the Worst Arc of Hitman Reborn the story got really stale.

Absolutely the greatest arc I've ever seen in anime. KHR is very underrated.

Amazing, best arc in anime history

22 Hueco Mundo Arc (Bleach)

Best arc in bleach. We got to see great characters like ulquiorra, grimmjow, stark.
Not to mention the chemistry between ichigo and orihime and ulquiorra.

This deserves a better position on the list.

I loved this arc!

Best arc ever

23 Aogiri Tree Arc/11th Ward Battle Arc (Tokyo Ghoul)
24 Forest Training Camp Arc (My Hero Academia)

This arc had some of the best fights of the series, really turned the show from great to a contender for best show of all time.

This arc made this officially my favorite show.

Deku vs muscular, enough said.

25 Tartaros Arc (Fairy Tail)

Tartaros arc really is one of the best arcs in shounen history, the way each plot point winds up in the end is spectacular, it has amazing rewatch potential too as you notice something new with each watch. The deliora /silver reveal was just perfect

Easily the best arc to ever grace long running shounen history. All of these developed characters get their own time to shine. And because they've all previously had arcs focusing on them, you now know who they are, care about them, and want to see them succeed. Also had tons of feels and hype moments. Puts the likes of HunterxHunter's crappy Chimera Ant arc to shame.

Really showed how great the fairy tail members where, even lucy and that twist in the end (E.N. D) oh gosh!

Well paced, and shows off how much each character's back stories play into the overall story

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