Friendly Rivalry

Not all rivalries are bitter. Some are actually quite friendly with both parties getting along very well. The rivalry usually manifests in a competitive drive to one up each other with both parties developing their talents. If the rivalry involves people of the opposite sex, there is always the possibility of them becoming more intimate with each other, or at the very least some UST.

Can be related to Friendly Enemy, depending on the circumstances.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Bakuman。 is loaded with them. Every character is competing with one another, but you'd be surprised how well they get along.
  • Tycho Science and Princess Lal'c in Aim for the Top 2! Diebuster. As the top two ranked pilots, they constantly traded friendly jabs at kill counts.
  • Hunter × Hunter has many examples of these although it's usually seen as more than just friendship.
    • The two main characters Gon and Killua have this relationship to the max! Being the only kids in the Hunter Exam they instantly become the best of friendly rivals, and in the 2011 anime they even have a friendly race to the finish line.
      • Although Killua did have his moments of bitterness in the final stage of the Hunter Exam towards Gon that could say otherwise, but in the end he does outright say he just wants to be friends with Gon.
    • Meruem and Komugi also share this relationship when it comes to Gungi
  • There are a number of examples in Naruto.
    • Naruto and Sasuke (pre-time skip) as members of Team 7. Not the friendliest example, but they have their moments.
    • Sakura and Ino become this upon Sakura's discovery that Ino also has a crush on Sasuke. At first they'd actually drifted away from the "friendly" part, but regain it after their match in the Chunin Exams.
    • Guy and Kakashi, as proclaimed (multiple times) by Guy. Kakashi, true to character, is rather apathetic about the whole thing.
    • Though only vaguely alluded to, the reader gets a sense that Jiraiya and Orochimaru had a relationship much like the one shared by Naruto and Sasuke.
  • Eyeshield 21: Sena has friendly rivalries with both Shin and Panther; in the case of the latter the two of them are practically friends, despite being on opposite teams. The same can be said of Ootawara and Kurita, and Sakuraba and Monta; one gets the feeling that if they played at the same school they would be the best of friends. Quarterback Youichi Hiruma isn't particularly civil to anyone, but his rivalries with Ojou quarterback Takami and Seibu quarterback Kid is about as close as he gets. He and Hakushuu quarterback/safety Marco verge on Friendly Enemy.
    • An interesting case is Hiruma and Kid, who for some reason (considering Hiruma's personality) get along splendidly. They both think the other one is the best quarterback in the region. Even in the final arc, Hiruma still trolls Agon by saying Kid is a better quarterback than him.
  • Harlem Beat: Kuwata from Yotsuya Unohara team has no qualms about teaching Naruse or conversing about team management with Kobayashi; both from rival team Johnan.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Negi has this relationship with Kotaro. Likewise, his father Nagi has this relationship with Jack Rakan.
    • Nodoka and Yue are best friends and, in their own words, "rivals in love". They spend more time encouraging each other to get close to Negi then the do perusing him on their own.
  • In the manga incarnation of Higurashi: When They Cry, this is the way Mion thinks of Keiichi. She also has a major crush on him too. Word of God says that it becomes intimate via Hooked Up Afterwards.
  • Ichigo and Ishida of Bleach become this after some time.
  • Tomo and Kagura of Azumanga Daioh, both having learned that Sakaki doesn't particularly rival back — she just wins and gets on with her life — seem to settle into this by the end of the third season.
  • In Fairy Tail, Natsu's rival started out as Gray until their relationship gradually turned into this, while his former Evil Counterpart Gajeel became his new rival and he gained new Evil Counterparts in the short-lived Zancrow and Sting. Though Natsu may end up forming a friendly rivalry with both Gajeel and Sting, too.
    • Happy sometimes sees Lily as this, especially when it comes to Carla.
    • Gray has his own with Lyon, who also started off as his rival and even Evil Counterpart.
  • Though not without jerk rivals, Ash of Pokémon has several rivals he's friends with, most notably Bianca and Stephan. All of Dawn's rivals aside from Ursula are also friendly, and May has Solidad and Drew. (The latter after seeing May progress.)
  • Hitomi and Merle have one in The Vision of Escaflowne. One that Merle doesn't exactly win at.
  • In Kin-iro Mosaic, there is Alice to both Karen and Karasuma in regarding to Shinobu (since Shinbou admires Karasuma and Karen really admires Shinbou). Regardless, she maintains a good relationship between the said two characters and any negative feelings are often Played for Laughs.
  • Variable Geo: Yuka and her best friend, Satomi, have known each other since childhood and have been competing against each other for just as long. The series even concludes with the opening exchange between them, during the final match.
  • In Tiger & Bunny, despite the competitive nature of the hero show and that the heroes themselves acknowledge each other as rivals, they remain friendly with each other, provide support and advice when the need arises and even throw a surprise birthday party for one of their own.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku was this for many characters (eg Krillin, Master Roshi) early on before completely outclassing them, and had a more aggressive rivalry with some characters (Tien, Vegeta).
  • Kale from Happy Happy Clover has been friends with Clover ever since they we're little. However Kale would mostly challenge Clover to various games and actives. He does't take losing very well at all, but he really cares for Clover and his friends.
  • Shinichi Kudo and Heiji Hattori from Detective Conan, once Heiji figures out that Kudo and Conan are the same person. They're close friends who clearly respect each other (their minds are often completely in-sync whenever they do work together on cases), but Kudo's ego and Heiji's competitiveness occasionally ends up with them competing to see who can solve a case first.

  • This is how Spider-Man and The Human Torch's dynamic was for years. They become less competitive with each other as they get older, but there's still an element of ragging on each other/trying to outdo each other there, only now mixed with actual respect - to the extent that Johnny left instructions for Peter to replace him on the team in the event of his death.
  • Superman and Batman went through a lengthy phase of this in roughly the middle third of their friendship. These days, it's down to the occasional joke between them - but the rivalry seems to have been handed down to Superboy and the third Robin.

  • In The Book of Life, Manolo and Joaquin remain close friends despite their feelings for Maria.
  • Eddie Felton and Vincent Lauria have this at the end of The Color of Money.

  • In David Weber's The Honor of the Queen, relations between chancellor Prestvick and Protector Benjamin Mayhew were described as this concerning interpretation of of monarchical power limits.
  • Lissa Dragomir and Ariana Szelsky acted friendly while competing for the throne in Last Sacrifice.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Early in CSI, Nick and Warrick competed over who would solve 100 cases and make CSI 2 first.
  • Zach and Hodgins on Bones were like this. They both wanted to be honorary "King of the lab".
  • Inspector Gideon Pryke in the Jonathan Creek episodes "Black Canary" and "The Case of the Savant's Thumb". While his style is very different from Jonathan's, he's always happy to have someone else intelligent look at the case, and he and Jonathan are usually neck-and-neck in the deductions ... until Jonathan gets the Eureka Moment and Pryke misses it.
  • Moze and Suzie from Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, once they stop being bitter enemies. They're friends, but still fiercely competitive. Best exemplified during the episode where they attempt to join a school club together but turn everything into an intense contest.
    Moze: I don't think we're supposed to turn everything into a death match.
    Suzie: Yeah, I know. We've been kicked out of every club.
    Moze: I'm having fun!
    Suzie: Me too!
  • The contestants of My Kitchen Rules tend to get along quite well with each other, particularly during the Instant Restaurant rounds, which is usually more like a group of friends having dinner together. Most even root for the teams whose turn it is to cook, and hope they do their best, even though they are still competitors.

  • In Tennis, the most famous example would probably be John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. Some other examples are Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
  • In Association Football, the rivalry between Japan and Australia has been made up of constant ribbing and fierce games, with both teams tied for wins as of writing. Japan was a prominent supporter of Australia's move to the EAFF Cup, and players happily perform in each other's leagues.
  • British middle-distance runners Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett had a notable rivalry, breaking each other's world records on a regular basis. While the press often tried to present their rivalry as a bitter one, it was actually very amicable. In retirement, they are now close friends.
  • The Cleveland Cavalier's Lebron James and Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade are best friends off the court. Rather infamously, the two, along with Chris Bosh, decided to make an alliance when they became free agents and all joined together on the Heat for four years.
  • For all the talk of who really is the Greatest Quarterback of all time (with both in contention, to say the least) and the hyped up rivalry talk, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady speak highly respectful of each other and seem to genuinely enjoy playing against one another. Maybe helped by the fact that the two are actually never on the field at the same time.

     Video Games 
  • Pokémon:
    • Unlike previous rivals, some of the rivals in future generations (Wally in Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, Barry in Diamond and Pearl and Cheren and Bianca in Black and White) are very friendly towards the protagonist.
    • In Pokémon X and Y, your main rival (either Calem or Serena, who are also the options for the player character) is a friend whom you occasionally train against, sometimes you even fight tag-team battles alongside them.
  • In Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, Danette is Revya's childhood friend/rival. In her ending (male), it is heavily implied that they will become intimate.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Ryu and Ken are one of gaming's earliest and longstanding examples. They've been training together since childhood and have remained competitive with each other throughout the series. Ken's story in Street Fighter Alpha 2 concluded with them having a friendly match, when he saw Ryu was still shaken by his duel with Sagat (in SFI) and the ramifications of his victory. Ken is also one of Ryu's Rival Battles in SSFIV. In games that have special intros, you'll often see Ryu and Ken either tapping fists or doing something else that shows they're not in it to kill each other (like Ken playfully putting Ryu in a headlock before he gets tossed to his own side of the screen).
    • In the earlier parts of the series, Sagat was an enemy of Ryu and hellbent on getting revenge for being scarred by his Shoryuken, which served as a permanent reminder of his defeat at Ryu's hands. This was retconned years later, to make it so Sagat had actually been the winner of the match. Ryu still scarred him but it was an upsurge of Satsui no Hadou ki that inspired it and it happened after he had lost. However, he still comes around during Alpha 3 after running into Dan so Sagat now sees Ryu as his inspiration to delve deeper into his own spirituality as a warrior and relishes the opportunity to face him again.
    • Sakura and Karin's relationship began as a one-sided rivalry on the latter's part, as she previously suffered a defeat at Sakura's hands. After settling the score in Alpha 3, Karin realizes her victory was a fluke and remembers Ken's words (from earlier in her A3 story) that the outcome of a match isn't as important as the match itself. Karin then changes her tune about Sakura, with Namco × Capcom pairing them up and later games like SFIV implying the two now enjoy a much healthier rivalry like Ryu and Ken do.
    • The Street Fighter III series has two more examples. The first, Yun and Yang, are twin brothers who protect their hometown of Hong Kong together but also consider the other to be their greatest rival (though Yang's unrequited and unvoiced pining for his brother's girlfriend Houmei may also factor into this). The second pair, Ibuki and Makoto, have a special intro in 3rd Strike, but also appear together in several pieces of official art, where it's suggested they're schoolmates and possibly close acquaintances. Ibuki regards Makoto more neutrally in SSFIV, where she instead partakes in a friendly spar with Sakura for her Rival Battle.
  • Art of Fighting: Ryo and Robert's rivalry is lampshaded in the original game's intro and also by it's Japanese title: "Ryuko no Ken" (lit. "Fist of Dragon Tiger"). Which has carried over to the King of Fighters series, where they often have special pre-fight intros and victory quotes for when they face each other.
  • Advanced V.G. features several among its main cast:
    • Yuka and her best friend, Satomi, were both taught by Yuka's grandfather and grew up together as sparring partners at his dojo. So they've been competing with each other since childhood, though their rivalry is downplayed, as they have little interaction in either game's story mode.
    • It's played straight between Yuka and Tamao, who looks up to Yuka as her role model and affectionately refers to her as, "sempai."
    • Jun also competes with Yuka, but her main rivalry is with Erina Goldsmith, with whom she's become close friends. They've competed directly in almost every game and often appear in each other's endings.
  • A friendly rivalry between the protagonist and Jamie in Harvest Moon: Magical Melody is possible. Since Jamie is always the opposite sex, the option of marrying him/her is always an option. Doing so lands you a rare Non Standard Game Over good ending.
  • Though it started off on a bitter note, Sol and Ky's rivalry eventually becomes more brotherly. By the time of Overture, they're practically a combination of this, and Vitriolic Best Buds. Slayer also has a friendly rivalry with President Gabriel.
  • This is apparently the relationship that Tails and Yoshi have in the Mario & Sonic series.
    • As well as with the main duo Mario and Sonic themselves.
    • And Peach and Amy; Daisy and Blaze; most of the rivalries in the games... However, it's averted with Luigi and Shadow, who spend most of the time on-screen glaring at each other.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In contrast to his much more bitter relationship with the likes of Shadow or Jet, Knuckles eventually ends up having this relationship with Sonic over time. Their usual spats lack any real malice and treated more like playful teasing.
    • Sonic tries to invoke this on Shadow in the hero path story of Shadow the Hedgehog, but Shadow is rather annoyed about it. However, he reciprocates in the Pure Hero - Dark ending, where he decides that he is the most powerful hedgehog in the world.
  • Jack and the Blacker Baron in Anarchy Reigns are in constant competition with each other, and neither can resist chances to land verbal (and sometimes physical) jabs at the other's expense... but when actually pushed, the two will immediately band together to crush anything that threatens either.
  • Flavia and Basilio from Fire Emblem Awakening rule the East and West halves of the militant nation of Regna Ferox. Flavia tends to call Basilio an "oaf" due to his grumpy attitude, and the two hold regular Combat by Champion competitions (usually won by Basilio) to determine the full ruler of Ferox, but they are quite friendly with each other, both on and off the battlefield.
  • Sora and Riku start off like this in Kingdom Hearts. The two would actually keep score of how many wins they had in their competition. But then Riku's jealousy of Sora and his own ambition for strength serves at the catalyst of him falling to the Dark Side. After his Heel–Face Turn, the rivalry in general started to die down and the two were more Bash Brothers.
  • Masato and Kengo in Little Busters!. Though they're both part of the group of True Companions that are the eponymous Little Busters and often show that they care about each other, both are very competitive, to the point where Kyousuke is able to convince Masato to take his side in the baseball game in Rin's route by appealing to his need to prove himself over Kengo. Sasami and Rin also stumble into one of these, though both the rivalry and the friendship are mostly on Sasami's side.
  • In Setzer's backstory in Final Fantasy VI, him and Darill were good friends who loved competition with one another. Sadly, she died in a crash long before the story began, setting up Setzer's drinking and gambling issues.
  • Reimu and Marisa's relationships with other characters in Touhou often end up becoming this. It is not unusual for both Reimu and Marisa to mercilessly beat down their enemies in battle, only to hang out and engage in witty banter with them later. When they're not investigating incidents, Reimu and Marisa get along fairly well with others, but both will jump at the chance to settle scores and see how much their former enemies' skills have improved.

     Web Original 
  • Acrylic and Fetus from Next Breed Of Thief have this. Acrylic, in a somewhat rare bit of humor, refers to Fetus as his "frenemy".
  • The Sharkasm Crew features one between Cephalo the Pod and Alpha Delpha. It has recently been downplayed as more players of the same skill level as Cephalo and Delpha arrive on the St. Marys scene.

     Western Animation 
  • Applejack and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are great friends, but that doesn't stop them from competing against one another.
    • Rainbow Dash apparently forms these kinds of friendships a lot, as evidenced by her interactions with Gilda and Lightning Dust.
    • The relationship between Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich started out like this, with the latter emphasized on Pinkie's part. That changes when during their Goof-Off, birthday mare Rainbow Dash gets crushed by Pinkie's pinata (thankfully unharmed), making Pinkie realize that her rivalry with Cheese Sandwich is overshadowing her attempt to make Rainbow's party fun and forfeits. Also, Cheese Sandwich was a shy colt who was actually inspired by Pinkie to throw parties. As a token of their friendship, Cheese gives Pinkie one of his rubber chickens that he calls Boneless note .
    • This is the purpose of the Equestria Games, which pit athletes from different parts of the kingdom against each other. Rainbow Dash and Spitfire lampshade this with an enthusiastic hoof-bump at the finish line after the relay race.
  • Pick any episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Especially those that feature Green Arrow.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine and Bertie the Bus are rivals whenever they race, but are also good friends.

     Real Life 
  • In the current tennis world, the most famous and friendliest rivalry is between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A very friendly rivalry
  • Many neighbor countries have some bitterness to each other, but are still major commercial partners - UK and France\Ireland, Brazil and Argentina, Japan and China\South Korea...
  • One could say that this is the relationship between Nintendo and Sony nowadays.
    • Said same with Microsoft and Sony, as indicated with this tweet.
  • The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were the two biggest boy bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s with a vicious Fandom Rivalry, but the two groups themselves are close friends and get along quite well. JC Chasez even produced a song for Backstreet Boys' album Unbreakable and Nick Carter has joked that the two groups should do a concert together.
  • Historical records indicate that William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson weren't above snarking at each other's work, but each still respected the other.
  • Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse had generational differences (Matisse was a dozen years older) and were rivals by virtue of trying to sell to the same collectors. Each one also considered the other about the only artist who could understand them.
  • Ever since Resident Evil 5, voice actors DC Douglas (Albert Wesker) and Roger Craig Smith (Chris Redfield) have had a friendly rivalry with one another.
  • Gymnasts Simone Biles of the USA and Larisa Iordache of Romania consistently go head-to-head in major all-around competitions, with the 2014 World title coming down to half a point between them (Iordache took silver to Biles' gold). This doesn't stop them from maintaining a strong year-round friendship, including constantly tweeting each other affectionately and congratulating each other after a great set in competition.
  • Canada and Denmark are locked in a decades-long border dispute over Hans Island. Militarily, the conflict involves one side occasionally sending an expeditionary force to raise their flag, installing a sign that says "Welcome to [Country]", and leave a bottle of liquor (the Danes leave a bottle of brandy, the Canucks leave a bottle of whiskey) and the other side coming later to replace the flag and sign and enjoying the booze left behind before leaving their own bottle. Civilians on both sides also occasionally get caught up in search engine optimization wars to see which side can get their claim on the island to reach the top of Google's search results.

Alternative Title(s): Friendly Rival