The 10 best anime duos, ranked

Image via Crunchyroll

Anime duos have existed for a long time, but the past two decades have been remarkable for delivering brilliant pairings between characters. Whether it’s a loving relationship like that of world-famous Pikachu and Ash, or the rivalry between Son Goku and Vegeta, several anime are a lot more interesting because of the dynamics between these duos.

Here are the 10 best anime duos, ranked from the least to the best!

10. Johan Liebert and Dr. Kenzo Tenma (Monster)

Kicking off with an unusual and unconventional duo, whose link was more mental than physical, Monster’s magnificent depiction of the pairing of Johan Liebert and Kenzo Tenma is nothing short of spectacular. When he was just a little boy, Johan was saved by the brilliant neurosurgeon, and while he owes him his life, it doesn’t stop him from letting his psychopathic manipulation and killing run wild. The pair barely have any physical encounters during the series, but their link is on display throughout. The psychological anime often ranks high among watchers, and the mystery and emotional weight of the series is no doubt carried by the two characters, who are wildly obsessed with one another. 

9. Yumeko and Mary Saotome (Kakegurui)

A modern day depiction of girl power and sisterhood, with all the wild and bizarre characters that make up the gambling anime Kakegurui don’t hold a torch to the fiery duo of Yumeko Jabami and Mary Saotome. Both girls have a thirst for winning, and while Yumeko’s a lot more obsessed with it, the best moments of the show are when they take down a member of the student council together. They hardly ever see eye to eye, with Mary being the more logical and rational of the two, but their friendship is really endearing, and behind all of Mary’s tough skin, she really does have a soft spot for the compulsive gambler.

8. Hiei and Kurama (YuYu Hakusho)

Move over Yusuke and Kuwabara, the best duo of the beloved 90s shounen anime is easily the dastardly Hiei, and the charming Kurama. Both low-ranking demons when introduced, their conversations range from petty arguments, to subtle comments about their camaraderie and respect for one another. Working their way to becoming two of the strongest demons around, they are always ready to protect one another, despite being two completely different fighters morally. While Yusuke and Kuwabara have an endearing brotherhood beginning in school, Hiei and Kurama are more mature in their dealings, and have even been the subject of several fan ships.

7. Edward and Alphonse (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)

Brothers no matter what, Edward and Alphonse’s spirited relationship is the defining quality that gives this mega successful anime its heart and soul. There’s no bad blood between the pair, and no rivalry of any sorts. They’re well aware of the fact that they’re stronger together, and that keeps them going, even in the midst of all the sorrow and danger they’re flung into as a result of their love of family. 

6. Light and L (Death Note)

In one of the most unique cat and mouse depictions in anime, Light and L build a strange bond, strengthened by the latter’s determination to find a deadly criminal genius, which is actually Light. In a better world, the two characters would have made really good friends, as their interactions were some of the most interesting parts of the story overall. The mental ping-pong game between L and Light’s alter-ego Kira, especially made for some expertly written television, and while things may not have gone as either of the two planned, they remain one of anime’s most captivating duos.

5. Gon and Killua (Hunter X Hunter)

A brotherly relationship which has its unhealthy moments, Gon and Killua are textbook friends-turned-brothers. Killua has his moments of toxic affection , while Gon can be a little too overprotective of his friend, but the pair understand that in a world of many uncertainties, loyalty between the two is what will keep them going for a long time. Always ready to rescue the other, these young boys still have some growing up to do, but it’s pretty awesome that they’re on the journey of life together. 

4. Zoro and Sanji (One Piece)

These two pirates can be so in sync sometimes, that they finish each other’s sentences. When they’re not having fun being silly young men, or poking fun at each other, they’re fighting side by side and protecting one another. Their genuine affection for each other is pretty endearing, and no matter how one tries to prove how tough he is, their brotherhood still manages to shine through.

3. Sasuke and Naruto (Naruto)

From friends, to enemies, to friends, to enemies, and then friends again, the relationship between Naruto and Sasuke is undoubtedly one of anime’s most popular. With several elements common with frenemies, the two characters have been at each other’s throats on numerous occasions, and their rivalry might start out healthy, but it slowly degrades into a toxic one with time. Naruto often came under scrutiny from fans for failing to regard Sasuke as an antagonist, and for his literal obsession with him to the point of ignoring several of his horrid misdeeds. Between their mixed dynamic though, their fights are some of the most iconic in shonen anime, and are almost as important as their brotherhood.

2. Pikachu and Ash (Pokémon)

Perhaps the most important human/non-human relationship in all of anime, Pikachu and Ash are easily two of the most popular animated characters of all time. The Pokémon and young fighter have been on screens all over the world ever since the late nineties, and after almost 30, Ash finally became the Pokémon world champion in November 2022. While he’s often criticized for showing a little too much love to Pikachu and neglecting other Pokémon, we’ve got to remember that he’s still a kid, and that’s his best friend. 

1. Goku and Vegeta (Dragon Ball Z —)

The kings of shounen anime, Goku and Vegeta are for many, the symbol of anime itself. From foes to healthy rivals, to friends, to foes, and to everything else in between, the love-hate relationship between Goku and Vegeta is the basis for many other relationships in shounen anime. All Goku wants is to be the strongest in the universe, and all Vegeta wants is to be stronger than Goku, and in their journey to achieving this, they have built a mutual respect for one another.