Top 10 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.
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 argue over whose 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 rose 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 it all off, the protagonist returns to the village. The same village which had held hatred towards him came to greet him as he entered the village - but this time not with angry voices of hate and disgust, but with acceptance and understanding, as Naruto, the true hero of the Hidden Leaf Village.

2 Soul Society Arc (Bleach)

This is by far the best arc I have ever watched. It really showed us what Bleach is at its prime and never failed to impress us. The mysterious yet interesting captains gave us so much tension and excitement for further battles. The first time we all heard "BANKAI", the time we saw how captains interact, how Soul Society (a crappy version of heaven) works, the Soul Reapers' motives, etc. The time one major plot twist happened and blew our minds to become one of the most badass antagonists in anime and manga history. This was when the Bleach story rose to be one of the best arcs of all time. This anime introduced me to the anime world, and I do not regret watching it. I loved every second of it, even with shortcomings.

3 Chimera Ant (Hunter X Hunter)

It's not a subjective issue. I only need to vote for one arc. The Chimera Ant arc is the greatest arc in anime history!

The music, the animation, the voice acting, the emotions, the narrative, the exposition, the context, and the allegory of the duality of mankind. This arc was the chef's kiss of peak performance.

Hyori Ittai: best OST in anime history!

You don't get better villains or a 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, he 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.

4 Marineford Arc (One Piece)

This was the greatest story arc from One Piece and is part of the reason the show has remained so popular 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 show's halfway point and makes it hard to believe that there are even stronger foes later in the series.

A brilliant arc that 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 or 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 also prevent this from hindering the plot itself.

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 do 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 are what make this arc phenomenal!

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

6 Chunin Exam Arc (Naruto)

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 the 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.

7 The L Arc (Death Note)

An incredible cat-and-mouse game with a twist. The mouse, or Light Yagami, has the 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 believe in his methods is the cat, or senior detective L. Both geniuses use cunning tactics to evade and catch one another.

Truly an 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 is a top-notch anime. The best thought-out anime of all time. There was never a dull moment.

8 Phantom Troupe Arc (Hunter X Hunter)

This arc kind of reminds me of the 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 motives, 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 become attached to them, but they still maintain that mysterious atmosphere.

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

9 Frieza Arc (Dragon Ball Z)

Frieza might be the most well-known anime villain ever, and Goku transforming into a Super Saiyan for the first time is forever ingrained in pop culture. Additionally, the battle between Goku and Frieza is possibly the best fight in anime.

The Frieza saga is the best, beginning with the Saiyan conflict between Raditz, Nappa, and Vegeta. It progresses to the three-way guerrilla war on 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. Then there's the eventual rise of the Super Saiyan, Goku, who faces Lord Frieza to halt the tyrant's threat. This was Akira Toriyama's masterpiece.

10 Sasuke Retrieval Arc (Naruto)

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 okay), but seeing the characters all come to terms with their own demons before they are about to die (Kiba, Neji, Choji) is what 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 Gaara vs. Kimimaro are also good fights. All of this climaxes 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.

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 storylines in the Dragon Ball 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, but 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.

12 Majin Buu Arc (Dragon Ball Z)
13 Enies Lobby Arc (One Piece)

I haven't reached the Marineford 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 Tartaros (still ongoing) are amazing. Then there is the Chunin Exam Arc, which beats the Pain Arc by far. But Enies Lobby is something else. The Buster Call, Rob Lucci, CP9 was so amazing and the Straw Hats beat them. Just how awesome can One Piece possibly get?

From the epic march towards the lobby to the great escape amidst the gigantic Buster Call. Not to mention the epic fights, especially Luffy vs. Lucci, which is quite possibly the best anime fight of all time. This arc had it all. This arc is certified to leave you overwhelmed.

14 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 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.

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 Kishin Revival Arc (Soul Eater)
17 Yorknew Arc (Hunter X Hunter 2011)

It introduced the Phantom Troupe, had an unrivaled shonen ending song, 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...

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 clich├ęs like the plague. I can watch this arc over and over again without getting tired of it!

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

18 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. If you've already watched or read Inuyasha, you know what I mean by EPIC!

19 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 and Vegeta. Even the fight with Raditz was cool. I loved it!

20 Tartaros Arc (Fairy Tail)

Easily the best arc to ever grace long-running shonen 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. It also had tons of feels and hype moments. Puts the likes of Hunter X Hunter's Chimera Ant arc to shame.

The Tartaros arc really is one of the best arcs in shonen 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.

21 Hueco Mundo Arc (Bleach)

The best arc in Bleach. We got to see great characters like Ulquiorra, Grimmjow, and Stark.

Not to mention the chemistry between Ichigo, Orihime, and Ulquiorra.

This deserves a better position on the list.

22 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 arc is an exceedingly amazing one.

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 newfound 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.

23 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.

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

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

This arc made this officially my favorite show.

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