nime contains some of the absolute best story arcs in all of visual media. One reason for that is anime’s tendency to focus on the relationships between individual characters in a story. The concept of friendship being a power that can help you overcome any trial or tribulation is pretty common in anime. So for this list, we wanted to highlight 3 of the most interesting, heartwarming, and iconic friend groups in anime.
The very knowledge of the friendships between characters in some of these shows is a spoiler in itself but we will also be talking about elements of characters’ friendships as well, and this will require discussing events from the story. If you haven't seen a show listed on this list feel free to skip it until you’ve seen it and then come back and read what we have to say about it. With that said, let’s get started.
#3: Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto/Naruto Shippuden
Maybe include the title of the anime series the friendship is in here so readers can quickly glance and see it stand out?
Naruto and Sasuke’s friendship is one of the most interesting and entertaining relationships in all of anime. Both characters have known of each other’s existence ever since they were kids but it wasn’t until they were both placed in the same class at ninja academy that they really started interacting with each other. One might even argue that their first kiss that day at the academy was what created their bond in the first place.
What makes the friendship between these two characters so compelling to watch is a combination of both characters' pasts, personalities, outlooks on life, and their friendship. Naruto was an orphan ever since he was a baby, so he acts out in the village because he is lonely and wants people to acknowledge his existence.
Sasuke is also an orphan but not in the same way as Naruto. Sasuke's parents and entire clan were all murdered by his brother who left the village shortly after killing everyone. It is this familiarity with loneliness and loss that allows Naruto and Sasuke to understand each other better than any of their other classmates.
These two also bring out the best in one another. Both have a burning desire to become stronger so they can accomplish a goal. Naruto wants to become the leader of his village, the Hokage, and Sasuke wants to become strong enough to avenge his clan. These desires push the characters to work hard but their natural rivalry with one another also pushes them to become even stronger. In many instances throughout the show, Naruto or Sasuke will observe the other accomplishing a great feat or reaching a new level of power and that will be the catalyst for them to seek out a new level of power as well.
However, their relationship isn’t without its issues. Both characters are human and as a result, they both experience moments of anger and jealousy. Near the end of part one of the story, Naruto and Sasuke have a fight on the roof of a hospital. They both use their strongest attacks against each other but are stopped from hurting each other by their teacher Kakashi. Sasuke, feeling inadequate with his power and jealous of Naruto’s, leaves the village to receive training from an evil ninja.
Of course, Naruto and his other classmates chase after Sasuke in an effort to prevent him from making a bad decision. Naruto tries to reason with Sasuke and convince him to come back to the village. When Sasuke asks why Naruto would go this far and through all this trouble for him, Naruto says it’s because they are friends. Sasuke exclaims that he will just have to sever the bond of friendship between them.
What follows is one of the greatest fights in anime history, between two extremely tragic characters. The reason these two’s relationship is only number three is because of how toxic and off and on it can be throughout the series, but despite all they have both been through, their bond has never truly been broken, in fact, it’s only gotten stronger.
#2: Gon and Killua from Hunter X Hunter
The two kids from the Hunter X Hunter series take the number two spot. Gon and Killua hit it off pretty much immediately upon meeting each other at the Hunter exam. Despite Gon reaching the Hunter exam with two other friends, Killua is the one he bonds with and grows the most attached to. This is likely due to both of them being around the same age and sharing similar interests in fun and adventure.
Hunter X Hunter is a pretty dark and dangerous world the further you get into it, and Gon and Killua face those dangers together. They both travel, eat, train, and even sleep together throughout the course of the show. The two learn a lot from each other, not just about fighting and the use of NEN, but they also learn and grow from one another as people.
Killua starts out as a pretty cold kid who doesn’t really see the value in people who aren’t interesting or fun to him. He grew up in a family of assassins and suffered a pretty rough and sheltered life up until now. Gon shows him the kindness of others, the fun that can be found in the little things in life, and the pleasures of good company. Killua grows a lot because of Gon and Gon grows a lot from Killua.
Killua serves a role similar to an adviser or guide to Gon. Educating Gon on certain elements of life both directly and indirectly. One could argue that Gon’s numbness to killing is a result of his time spent with Killua. After all, a kid his age should be a bit more shaken or disturbed when they take someone’s or something's life for the first time, but Gon doesn’t really bat an eye.
Unfortunately, like with many friendships in the real world, Gon and Killua have their friendship tested by flared-up emotions, lack of communication, and misunderstandings. Well, it’s more like Gon says and does some things that hurt Killua as his friend. These words and actions are due to Gon’s change in mental state after losing someone very close to him. It’s clear that Killua still wants to be Gon’s friend but he needs some time to let the wounds heal. We really like this relationship because of how real it feels, even down to the two characters spending time apart after a falling out.
#1: Ash and Pikachu from Pokémon
For those of you familiar with the Pokémon anime this one should come as no surprise. Ash and Pikachu are two of the most iconic characters in all of anime and one of the most iconic duos in all of pop culture worldwide. It's going to be very hard to find a kid who was born in the 90s or early 2000s who doesn’t know who these two are and the kind of relationship they share. Maybe this is because Pokémon is the most valuable media franchise in the world, or maybe it’s just because Ash and Pikachu have that great a bond.
The Pokémon anime is currently sitting at 1,200 plus episodes and with the release of the 9th generation games just around the corner, the franchise likely has no plans on ending Ash and Pikachu’s journey anytime soon.
You’d think that two characters that have spent that many episodes traveling together must have always been friends, but that isn’t true. In the beginning, Ash and Pikachu didn’t get along at all. More specifically, Pikachu didn’t care much for Ash, which is what caused Ash to have an attitude toward Pikachu. It took Ash protecting Pikachu from being attacked by a flock of Spearow and watching Ash desperately try to get Pikachu to a Pokémon Center for Pikachu to finally warm up to Ash and see him as a friend.
Ever since then the two’s relationship has only gotten stronger and stronger. So much so that during the first Pokémon Movie where Ash is turned to stone by Mew and Mewtwo’s battle, Pikachu cries over the loss of his friend, and that emotion is so strong that it moves all of the other Pokémon there to tears as well, even the clone Pokémon.
Another aspect of these two’s friendship that makes them so enjoyable to watch is how in sync they are with each other. Ash loves to explore and challenge himself and Pikachu is the same way. Ash is really friendly and enjoys meeting new people, Pikachu is the same way. Ash has a strong sense of justice and tries to help people and Pokémon whenever he can, you guessed it, Pikachu is the same way. At this point in their story, the two feel almost like brothers.
Despite the many regions Ash has gone to and the Pokémon he has made friends with along the way, there is only one Pokémon he takes with him to every new region he travels to, and that is Pikachu. They have a bond that has spanned across generations of viewers, and that’s pretty hard to beat.
And there’s the list. Let us know what your picks are for the best anime friends in the comments below. Hungry for more anime content? Check out our list for the best fighting anime, or if you're looking for some advice on surviving a rough patch in a friendship we’ve got you covered there too.