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)

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.

This arc is named after its name, it really made us feel pain, and from beginning to end it is written an excellent book and the events are very interesting

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.

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.

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.

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

3 Chimera Ant (Hunter X Hunter)

The beautiful story of a God and a girl that just wanted to play gungi. And when the climax is hit, and Meruem remembers you realize that a relationship such as the one he had is so bizarre but so amazing. Depicting humans as the ones who are evil generally doesn't work well, but for the Chimera Ant it just fits so well. Definitely the best arc in Hunter x Hunter and is the reason why the show is considered the legendary anime that it is.

You don't get better villains or better plot in this arc. This arc not only has some of the most intense fights, but it also makes a statement about what it means to be human. The antagonist of this arc, the Ant King, is one of the most well crafted villains I have ever seen. His character development is incredible, and honestly is straight up badass. There is no filler at all, and each decision--and I mean EACH--that a character makes results in some advancement in the plot, some sort of self-learning. This arc is also extremely dark due to its message about nuclear warfare and its use of blood and gore. One of the best arcs I've seen.

The best written arc in fiction! The world building, the villain, the character developments and the depth of the story and Character is just lit. Many people complain about it being so long but CA needed to be long because the arc had to build up many things before having a character development or the story development itself

This is most rewatchable arc in all of anime in my opinion. Unparalleled writing of this arc reveals countless details you definitely missed on a first watch, the story when put in a perspective of future events feels even deeper. Unpredictable, with fantastic music, art style and animation it creates unforgettable atmosphere and leaves you with a long lasting impression.

4 Marineford Arc (One Piece)

One piece marineford arc is better than pain arc of Naruto and soul society arc of bleach. The thing I like about one piece is that after a character dies, one piece shows it realistic. Now, in animes like hXh2011, Naruto shippuden, etc...when someone dies, the main character shows his rage moment and anger and gets immediate super power, but in one piece, when a character dies(sacrifice), luffy was shown depressed and trying to take lesson and move ahead. That's why one piece is better than other animes and mangas! Plus, One Piece marineford arc has shown the best power scaling! Blackbeard and akainu villains! Lord Buggy D Clown Sama's comedy! Emotional backstory of ASL(acesaboluffy). I won't spoil more but before rating and voting, do check out all arcs because one piece is way better than naruto and bleach.

A brilliant arc which brings hundreds of chapters of buildup to a close and helps to introduce the new direction that one piece is moving towards. The many characters that are introduced/reintroduced are numerous and this can be a detriment to many series, however one piece successfully manages to not only flesh out the characters goals and motives but to also stop this from hindering the plot itself.

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

This was the greatest story arc from One Piece and is part of the reason the show has remained so big to this day. An all out battle between some of the strongest people in the series we get to see Luffy Shine like he never has before. This arc marked the shows halfway point and makes it hard to believe that there are some even stronger foes later in the series.

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!

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.

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 final arc of FMAB gave me shivers and made me cry... More than once. The sense of everything coming together, everyone fighting for their lives and their friends and the WORLD, was just so epic.

6 Chunin Exam Arc (Naruto)

A great introduction into the actual supporting cast of the series, something the Land of Waves arc failed to introduce. Expanded on the world and its structure.

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

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

Battles aren't just physical, and Death Note shows this with confidence!

8 Phantom Troupe Arc (Hunter x Hunter)

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.

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...

The yorknew arc is without a doubt the pinnacle of anime. It is just the best.

9 Frieza Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

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.

Okay we all know this arc one of the longest battles in anime history it feels like this battle is one of the most referenced in anime. A battle between the Sayians greatest enemy Frieza and our hero Goku. While this battle was long it was totally worth it to see the increase in everyone's power and who could forget the ending to the battle that made us impatient to see more.

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.

This and the pain, tailed beest, ten tails arcs are the best of all animes.

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.

I still get chills down my spine when I watch Vegeta's Final Flash and Gohan go SSJ2 for the first time.

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

12 Majin Buu Arc (Dragon Ball Z)
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.

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

Best plot twist

Super epic arc!

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!

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 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 Enies Lobby Arc (One Piece)

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?

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

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.

The builiding up was absolutely great, the climax was insane when Luffy and Lucci fought, and the ending was hella badass, from the escape to the aftermath, when we meet Garp and learn about Dragon.
I also kinda include the CP-9 arc in this one, since they're so closely tied up together.

19 Grand Magic Games (Fairy Tail)

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.

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

This is a cool arc where we get to see a lot of Fairy Tails strongest characters throughout the series collide in battles ranging from running on chariots, playing hide and seek, to tag team battles.

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!

21 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

22 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.

If you said this is the worst, then you have some serious issue, this probably the best arc so far in the whole series

23 Aogiri Tree Arc/11th Ward Battle Arc (Tokyo Ghoul)
24 Tartaros Arc (Fairy Tail)

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.

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

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

Tenrou sucks! Tartaros arc for the win!

25 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.

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