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Signature Series Arc

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We understand Signature Scene as that one scene everyone remembers about a film, either "No, I am your father" or King Kong atop the buildings fighting off against planes. A way for people to remember this scene is thanks to Popcultural Osmosis, Shout-Outs and countless parodies of said scenes.

However, in long-running franchises, you can get something a bit more than this. Addition to singular moments that fans gush over, you get fans recommending an entire Story Arc as representing the pinnacle of the work. Maybe it's when the series starts to grow the beard and the transition was done masterfully. Maybe it's a fantastically written story that was just never topped afterwards. Maybe it isn't the greatest, but it's still the one that gets adapted into other mediums the most. Or maybe elements of that arc just happen to be the most merchandise-friendly, so even non-fans end up seeing it everywhere. The last one is the most probable.

Note that this is not always be a good thing. Despite being a beloved segment of the saga, many of the work's future flaws could stem from this well-regarded storyline as a result of the writers trying to replicate its success, so watch out.

Sub-Trope of Signature Scene, as this is more about an entire arc and not a single scene. After all, a particularly good scene may still be in a trainwreck of a story. When a series' Signature Series Arc is its first arc, you also have a case of First Installment Wins.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom:
    • The Assassination Island arc, which serves the culmination of Class 3-E's development at this point as they reap the rewards of having passed their exams by visiting a resort island normally reserved for the school elites and staging their biggest attempt on Koro-sensei's life yet. It is equally memorable for the Halfway Plot Switch in the middle when the students have to infiltrate part of the resort in order to find out who poisoned the rest of their classmates all while Koro-sensei is unable to help them due to aforementioned assassination attempt, as well as Nagisa's infamous Dragged into Drag moment that has become memetic of his character.
    • The Akari Yukimura arc was so much of a Wham Episode that the chapter it started on (Chapter 128) received a Pixiv tag dedicated to it. Not only does the arc completely turn over everything that the audience knows about Kayano upside down, but its aftermath leads Koro-sensei to finally tell Class 3-E the truth about his origins and motivations, as well as reveal who the Big Bad is and set up the last few arcs of the series. Perhaps just as memorable is the Big Damn Kiss between Nagisa and Kayano that resolves the climax of the arc, which made the shippers rejoice.
  • Astro Boy: The Greatest Robot in the World is the most iconic arc of the manga due to its high stakes, moral philosophical themes, and introducing the fan favorite Anti-Villain Pluto. The arc has been adapted to all three anime adaptations of the manga as well as the Naoki Urasawa series Pluto, an expanded Perspective Flip reimagining the story arc.
  • Attack on Titan: While the Battle for Trost arc hooked fans on the premise, the following arc, the Female Titan and subsequent Clash of Titans arc, is what really solidified things and is most remembered for its shocking developments concerning other titan shifters who are deliberately causing harm to the walls. Character interactions, some truly triumphant and tragic moments, and the finale between two Titan shifters.
  • Ask any fans of Berserk which is the most famous saga in the series, and they will all respond to you with the following: "GRIFFITH!!!" — which of course refers to the Golden Age Arc. This is the saga that showed Guts's Dark and Troubled Past that fully developed him from the generic anti-hero he was to the complex character everybody loves, and it introduced Love Interest Casca and the master of the Moral Event Horizon Griffith. In addition, the finale of the Golden Age Arc, also known as the Eclipse, is still regarded as one of the most horrifying sequences in all of manga. This is the only consistent saga to be adapted in almost all adaptations.
  • Black Clover: The Elf Reincarnation Arc is the most loved arc of the story for being the culmination of the series's first saga, giving many members of its large cast moments to shine in fights against the reincarnated elves, and the many plot twists in the story.
  • Bleach: The Soul Society Arc is the most famous and beloved arc of the series, and is generally seen as the moment where Bleach Grew the Beard. Not only did the arc introduce the Shikai and Bankai forms of Soul Reapers note , but featured genuinely nail-biting tension in the battles between the protagonists and the nigh-invincible Gotei 13. And to top it off, the finale of the arc revealed the Big Bad Aizen, who had one impressive villain debut.
  • Blue Exorcist: The most beloved arc by fans is the Illuminati Arc, for The Reveal that Renzo is a double agent, its dive into Nightmare Fuel territory, a memorably detestable villain in Gedouin, and its Bittersweet Ending.
  • Digimon Adventure: The Tokyo/Eighth Child Arc, which stretches roughly from Episodes 21 to 39, is the most popular arc due to moving the action from the fantasy realm of the Digital World to modern Tokyo, leading to some thrilling moments as Digimon wreak chaos in "our" world, plus the seven Digidestined's frantic search for their eighth member before the Arc Villain Myotismon finds them himself. The arc's popularity may be why Myotismon was brought back in Digimon Adventure 02 as the Greater-Scope Villain responsible for everything bad that ever happened.
  • Dragon Ball: The Red Ribbon arc is usually touted as the most memorable of the original series, being the introduction of the first large scale villains Goku goes up against in the series combined with the adventure aspect of both sides trying to get the Dragon Balls for themselves. Likewise, this is the first time someone outside the tournament actually gives Goku trouble to boot.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • While the series is pretty well-known for all the events that transpired in the life of Son Goku and his friends, the Namek Saga is the one saga the series is most familiar with. Not only was it the saga that introduced Breakout Villain Freeza, but is also the one which introduced the world to the Trope Codifier for Golden Super Mode: the Super Saiyan. The saga has been adapted in almost all the video games, it has been reanimated at least twice in Dragon Ball Z Kai and a special of Dragon Ball Super, and is the one with the most countless parodies (including the infamous "Namek time" for the series' Arc Fatigue).
    • The Saiyan arc is likewise pretty well remembered as well. Not only was it the first introduction of the series to many outside Japan note , it also expanded on aspects seen in the Piccolo Jr. arc with much faster fights combined with energy attacks and emphasis on the back and forth hand to hand that would come to define the series. Likewise expanding things to a more cosmic scale with the introduction of alien races like the Saiyans (up to this point, the series was mostly mystic based), the utter seriousness with characters getting bumped off (onscreen this time) and the very iconic clash of Goku and Vegeta.
  • Gintama's version of this trope is the Benizakura arc, the series' first major serious arc in a mostly comedic series beforehand and the major introduction of Gintoki's archenemy Takasugi. This arc was so popular that it was the first thing done for the franchise's live-action debut.
  • Hunter × Hunter:
    • The Chimera Ant arc, which many consider the high point of the series in terms of action and storytelling, and even something of a modern classic when it comes to Shonen story arcs. It's known for its length, the complexity of its main villain, the twists and turns of its plot, the way it handles complex themes and adds a lot of moral ambiguity to both sides of the conflict, and its large cast of characters, most of whom receive extensive development over time. The Chimera Ant King Meruem in particular is considered one of the best villains in the series.
    • The Yorknew City arc, which introduces the popular Phantom Troupe and gives Kurapika his signature Nen chain abilities. Much like the Chimera Ant arc, it's seen as a standout of the series.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • For the series as a whole, the most famous Part is still Stardust Crusaders. Its reception is more middling in the West compared to Japan, but it's still the most well-known in both places. There are numerous reasons for this, such as its incredible amount of meme-worthy moments, its Memetic Badass protagonist and Big Bad, several famous catchphrases, the fact that it was the first JoJo arc to move outside the manga medium (with two OVAs and a video game), and it being the only Part released to the West for a long time. However, the most likely reason for its widespread fame is that it is the first Part of the series to include Stands, which later became the most iconic part of JoJo.
    • In Stardust Crusaders itself, the most iconic arc is the final battle with DIO, due to being the source of most of the part's biggest memes and Signature Scenes.
    • In Part 8, JoJolion, "Every Day is a Summer Vacation", also known by its Fan Nickname of "Beetle Tendency", is the most iconic arc due to its out-there premise of Stand users manipulating stag beetle fights instead of fighting directly.
  • Made in Abyss has the Idofront/Fifth Layer Arc, which isn't surprising considering this is the arc that features Bondrewd as its main antagonist and introduces the fan favorite Prushka, not to mention marking the Point of No Return for the heroes and therefore giving it a much more climactic edge.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • The Sports Festival Arc, which was considered the point where the series grew its beard by fleshing out Shoto and Ochako's characters and its well-done fights.
    • The Hero Killer Arc, for introducing fan favorite villain Stain and being the first major battle Izuku fought and won.
    • The Hideout Raid Arc, which is fondly remembered for the battle between All-Might and All For One, as well as being a major turning point in the story where All-Might retires.
  • The Chunin Exams arc of Naruto. It's an early arc that introduces several characters who would go on to become staples of the series (such as Rock Lee and Hinata), and sees a lot of character development for Sasuke and Sakura, before transitioning the ongoing plot of Naruto into the wider conflict between Konoha and Orochimaru, and then turning the focus onto Akatsuki.
  • One Piece:
    • The events between the Straw Hat Pirates arriving to Sabaody and the Time Skip, generally known as the Paramount War. This included massive expansion of the setting and lore, shocking answers to several long-running questions about many of the characters followed by all new ones, introductions of numerous new characters whose existence has only been vaguely hinted at before, outright deaths of two major characters in a series that used to have a reputation of nobody ever dying outside of flashbacks, a massive reconfiguration of the status quo, revelations of the portions of Luffy's past that have never been seen before, and the single biggest Darkest Hour in the entire series, as Luffy reaches just this side of the Despair Event Horizon over the disappearance of his entire crew due to his own actions, his utter and complete failure in his mission to attack Impel Down and Marineford, and the death of his brother Ace. This was the biggest sequence of Wham Episodes in the series and its events have affected the world the series takes place in to this day, with the sheer high stakes having still not been topped despite taking place back in 2010.
    • Before that was the Alabasta arc, which was the longest and had the highest stakes up to that point, with an entire kingdom on the line, a cruel and memorable cast of villains in Sir Crocodile and Baroque Works, and scenes that are now considered iconic moments for the franchise, like the Straw Hat crew's secret salute to Vivi.
    • Between them were the subsequent Water Seven and Enies Lobby arcs, together forming another fine candidate for "best arc in One Piece."
      • Water Seven was the point when the series turned seriously Darker and Edgier, coming right off the heels of Luffy's battle with Aokiji, the first unqualified defeat for the Straw Hat Pirates since Zoro's duel with Mihawk back in East Blue. The arc itself has the greatest internal crisis of the crew until Sabaody, when an argument over the fate of the Going Merry leads to Usopp leaving the Straw Hats while at the same time Robin seems to have betrayed them for an opaque Government Conspiracy. Before Paramount War, Water Seven was seen as the series' Darkest Hour for a very good reason.
      • The plot threads of Water Seven then culminated in Enies Lobby, a Rescue Arc bringing in major upgrades to most of the main characters' abilities. It gave us more iconic moments such as Luffy ordering for the World Government's flag to be shot, boasting that he's perfectly willing to take on the entire world to defend a single member of his crew. It also brought in some long-awaited Character Development for the until then utterly mysterious Robin, with a flashback to her childhood that also revealed some horrific truths about the history of the world. In this, Enies Lobby caused the fandom's perception of the World Government and the Marines to shift from adversaries to enemies.
    • And long before any of the above arcs, there was the Arlong Park arc, virtually the culmination of the East Blue Saga and the finale of the Debut Queue of our, at the time, five main characters with this one focusing on Nami. Many a fan have stated this as their favorite arc of the series and it's not hard to see why: It's the first time our fledgling crew is fighting together, there's an extremely Love to Hate villain in Arlong, it's also the first time Oda ratchets up the tragedy in a backstory with an extended flashback and a death of a family member caused by said villain, there are some absolutely heart-tugging moments with Nami's situation and Cocoyashi Village's desperation to be free from the Fishman Pirates, followed by one heck of a climax with memorable moments such as: Luffy giving Nami his hat, Luffy, Zoro, Usopp, and Sanji's badass walk to Arlong Park followed by Luffy punching Arlong on first sight, all the battles that follow (with Usopp even getting some major character development) culminating with Luffy vs. Arlong, the destruction of the building in the final clash and the iconic scene of Luffy rising from the rubble and proclaiming Nami his friend. The anime even added to it by including a scene of Nami talking with her deceased adopted mother and her both hilarious and heartwarming sendoff. To say this arc resonated and made a fan out of many viewers is an understatement.
  • For Pokémon, no matter how many sequel series get made, the original Kanto arc always remains the one that is most remembered. Combined with First Installment Wins, this also has to do with the franchise's well-known use of the original 151 Pokémon.
  • The Promised Neverland is usually described as a Genius Thriller of super-intelligent kids trying to escape from an evil orphanage with only their wits as weapons. But that part is only the first four-and-a-half volumes; after that the story moves to the outside world and the heroes' goals become much larger in scale, with more fantasy elements. Despite that, the first arc is generally considered the most memorable for its tension, numerous twists, and beloved antagonists (Isabella and Krone).
  • Reborn! (2004): The Varia arc is the most remembered of the series and where author's shift to action improves greatly with some unique villans and battles ending in very memorable climax.
  • Sailor Moon's is the Dark Kingdom Arc — involving Usagi discovering she's Sailor Moon and finding the other Sailor Guardians one-by-one as Queen Beryl is gathering energy to restore Queen Metalia, and then the big reveal that Usagi is actually the reincarnation of the Moon Princess. The live-action and Crystal reboot both adapted this first (not without justification, since it was the manga's first storyline). Queen Beryl is the most remembered Big Bad of the series, and pop culture sometimes imagines Usagi as eternally being like her pre-Character Development self across the entire franchise. The Death Busters/Infinity Arc is the next most iconic for introducing the fan favorite Sailor Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn. It is also among the most darkest and emotional arcs for the series.
  • Saint Seiya: Out of all the sagas in the series, the one everyone remembers is the Twelve Houses saga, which fully introduced the Breakout Characters of the Golden Saints, and has been reanimated into multiple mediums, including a CGI film and a foreign remake.
  • For Sword Art Online, the Aincrad arc is easily the most iconic arc and the one the series is most heavily associated with, which is a case of overlapping with First Installment Wins.
  • To Your Eternity: The manga is better known for its opening arc, which follows the nameless immortal taking the form of a dog and befriending a boy who is the only one left in an empty village in an arctic zone, serving as the Series Establishing Moment for a series that is pretty heart-wrenching.
  • For the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, it's the Duelist Kingdom arc, which officially transitioned the manga to a card battle series, directly tied the card game to Yami Yugi's past and expanded the series' lore, began its heavily serialized multi-chapter arcs, and introduced several characters, such as Pegasus, Mai, Weevil, Rex, and Bandit Keith, who would make reappearances in multiple series as well as video games, which subsequently adapt many elements from the arc. The fact that the better-known anime skipped directly to Duelist Kingdom for the beginning also helps contribute to this since it was many people's introduction to the franchise, allowing it to also mix some First Installment Wins for fans of the show.
  • Unico: The Cat on the Broomstick, note  Black Clouds and White Feathers, A Hometown Visit, note  The Tale of the Fangs of Athens, note  and Unico and Solitude note  are considered to be one of the most iconic storylines in the manga, due to having a more emotional storyline between the protagonist's ability to spread happiness, his closer relationship with his friends, and upping the manga's stakes. The 1981 Sanrio film The Fantastic Adventures of Unico even combined the "Unico and Solitude" and "The Cat on the Broomstick" arcs into the movie, with Unico's mother and siblings from the "Hometown Visit" chapter making a brief appearance in the film's prologue. The upcoming Unico: Awakening manga, a Continuity Reboot of Osamu Tezuka's Unico, even used the "The Cat on the Broomstick" arc as the manga's basis, with influence from the 1981 film and its sequel.

    Asian Animation 
  • The most popular Story Arc in Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf might be Great War in the Bizarre World. It's one of the show's first attempts at a long story and one of the most memorable. The characters from this arc are still popular to this day, and it seems to have influenced later seasons in that they almost always have the same number of episodes as Great War (60) and have similar Previously on… recaps at the beginnings of the episodes.

    Comic Books 
  • Animal Man is forever defined by the Grant Morrison run, particularly its final arc in which Animal Man's family is murdered and he goes on a quest to revive them that leads to him meeting Morrison themself.
  • Aquaman has Throne of Atlantis, which retold the story of how Arthur became King of Atlantis and his rivalry against his brother Orm for the New 52. It has gone on to inspire the origins of both the DC Animated Movie Universe and DC Extended Universe versions of the character.
  • Astro City: "The Tarnished Angel" is frequently cited as the definitive storyline of Astro City, one which highlights everything that makes the series great with its complex and sympathetic characters, subversive but reconstructive take on superhero comic tropes, and experimenting with different genres (in this case, Film Noir).
  • The Avengers:
    • For the Roy Thomas era, it's the Crimson Cowl/Ultron two-parter and The Kree/Skrull War. The former for introducing the major recurring villain of the Avengers, and the second being one of the first cosmic stories in Marvel that placed the Avengers at the center of it.
    • Then there's the story arc in Avengers #211-230 that shows the downfall of Hank Pym as he slaps his wife, humiliates himself, gets divorced, expelled from the Avengers, framed for a crime and imprisoned, and then framed again as an accomplice before overturning and defeating the Masters of Evil by himself, and taking responsibility for his actions. This story which was strongly serialized redefined the Avengers group dynamic, and made them flawed and conflicted heroes, and it is also for better and worse, the defining story of Hank Pym and Ant-Man.
    • In Roger Stern's lengthy run, it's definitely Under Siege, where the Masters of Evil go big like never before, infiltrate and take over Avengers mansion, and imprison and/or decommission many Avengers, making Earth's Mightiest Heroes the underdogs as they take back their headquarters.
    • In the second millennium, important story arcs include New Avengers, Secret Invasion and in The Avengers (Jonathan Hickman)Infinity and Time Runs Out.
  • Batman: The Dark Knight has been defined and redefined multiple times in multiple styles by different artists and writers across the ages:
    • "Strange Apparitions" by Steve Englehart was one of the first lengthy serialized arcs in a Batman title (very rare at DC at the time since they preferred one-and-done stories). It also deepened Bruce Wayne as a character, created a new dynamic with his Rogues Gallery and reinvigorated Gotham as an active background rather than static setting.
    • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. The former is an AU story that famously, according to the writer, "gave Batman his balls back", while the latter (which is in-continuity) is cited as Batman's definitive origin. Both comics produced some of Batman's most iconic images of the character, setting, supporting cast, rogues, and gadgets and were often reproduced in adaptations.
    • Knightfall, Batman: No Man's Land and Batman: Hush were likewise era-defining story arcs, introducing a number of notable villains, character moments, plot threads, and story ideas cited by later authors and in adaptations.
  • Daredevil remains indelibly defined by Frank Miller's legendary run which produced many great stories such as The Elektra Saga and especially Born Again which is for many the Daredevil story and one of the greatest stories ever put out by Marvel.
  • The DCU:
    • DC is particularly famous for Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Trope Namer for Crisis Crossover and Red Skies Crossover. Never before had comics seen so many characters assembled (some even from other companies after they'd been acquired by DC), seen stakes so large, or had consequences so dire. By the end of the story, TRILLIONS of people are dead, including several fan-favorite heroes, and the entire history of the DC Universe had been forever altered. It's telling that this event is one that has had sequels or revisits several times, in stories like Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, The Kingdom, Infinite Crisis, Final Crisis, Flashpoint, DC Rebirth and many, many others.
    • The other defining series arc for DC in The '80s is from one of their lesser titles, Swamp Thing. This was Alan Moore's first ongoing gig for a major comics company and his extended run on the character was not only the definitive run for Swamp Thing but was also a watershed for DC since its Genre-Busting of supernatural, horror, crime, superhero, and environmental politics as well as its high literary appeal led to the development of Vertigo Comics. In Moore's Swamp Thing, significant story arcs include "The Anatomy Lesson" and "American Gothic" (which introduced John Constantine, who became a significant Breakout Character in his own right).
    • 52, a year long miniseries that focused on the lesser known DC superheroes, a story arc that spanned all fifty two weeks a year (i.e. a new issue every week) is also cited as a landmark story for recent DC Comics.
  • For Doctor Strange, it is The Eternity Saga which really defined the weird ethereal cosmic-mystic side of Stephen Strange.
  • Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee had many notable stories, but the most famous arc is undoubtedly The Coming of Galactus.
  • The Flash:
    • Wally West has several signature arcs, largely stemming from the beloved runs by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns.
      • From Waid, we have The Return of Barry Allen, where Wally was cemented as THE Flash for an entire generation and becomes a hero in his own right. Then there's Terminal Velocity, where the Flash's Signature Speed Force is fully introduced, Wally learns The Power of Friendship, and it serves as the beginning of the Flash Family with the introduction of Bart Allen as Impulse.
      • From Johns, there's Blitz, where a new version of the Reverse-Flash known as Zoom debuts; he quickly becomes Wally's Arch-Enemy and nearly murders his wife Linda. Following that is Rogue War, where Flash's Rogues gallery goes to war with each other, and the Flash must find a way to stop them.
    • For Barry Allen, Flashpoint was the first major story arc after he came Back from the Dead and depicted a radically changed take on the DC Universe on the verge of Armageddon with unique takes on characters such as Thomas Wayne being Batman and the Amazons and Atlanteans being at war. It served as the means to reboot the DC Universe into the New 52 as well as inspiring the animated movie that launched the DC Animated Movie Universe and is set to be revisited in the wake of Infinite Frontier, of which its iteration of Batman has been one of the main characters.
  • Green Lantern has Sinestro Corps War, which not only reestablished longtime villain Sinestro as a credible threat, but also marked the introduction of the multiple Lantern Corps which have remained a staple of the DC Universe ever since and led into the Blackest Night crossover event.
  • The Incredible Hercules: Herc has had plenty of adventures in the Marvel Universe's history, but the one everyone loves and remembers is Greg Pak's seminal run on the title, also known as the Chaos War Saga, in which Herc and his best bud Amadeus Cho go on an epic quest across the world to save the universe from the Shinto God of Evil.
  • The Incredible Hulk:
  • Invincible:
    • The revelation of Omni-Man's true origins, his murder of the original Guardians of the Globe, and his subsequent dramatic battle with Invincible, which really set the high-stakes, fast-paced, no-punches-pulled tone of the series.
    • The Invincible War (a single issue Crisis Crossover) and Conquest's attack immediately after.
    • The war with the Viltrumite Empire, culminating in Invincible and his allies waging a desperate and epic siege against the Viltrumite homeworld that ends in them securing victory by blowing said Planet up.
    • Robot revealing himself to be the true Big Bad by betraying Invincible, murdering or imprisoning countless superheroes and villains, and functionally taking over the world in the single biggest Wham Episode in a series full of them.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes:
    • The Death of Lightning Lad, wherein one of main characters die, prompting his friends to look for ways to bring him back to life, is maybe the most important storyline of the Jerry Siegel era, introducing many important Legionnaires like Lightning Lass.
    • The Great Darkness Saga is considered the Legion's best storyline, as well as the story responsible for Darkseid becoming DC Universe's Big Bad.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Civil War (2006) remains Marvel's biggest-selling event. It completely altered the status quo of the Marvel universe while also defining the characters and stories of several key players for more than a decade.
    • The Infinity Gauntlet. While hardly the only major story involving Thanos or the rest of the Cosmic Marvel lineup, it is by far the most memorable largely because it allowed every character to shine, including every hero, the Big Bad Ensemble, and several cosmic deties. But it is an especially Establishing Character Moment for Thanos, who gets cemented as a Magnificent Bastard with complex motivations and interesting character flaws. This arc has been adapted to video games (perhaps most notably Marvel Super Heroes) and a big part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • Secret Wars (1984). The first major event comics and best-seller. It provided many iconic story and character beats and likewise introduced elements such as the Symbiote costume of Spider-Man that led in turn to Venom—a character who has since become a major successful spin-off character. It also led in turn Secret Wars (2015), a spiritual sequel that was likewise a landmark storyline for Marvel in The New '10s.
  • The Mighty Thor:
  • The Demon Bear Saga is the story everyone thinks of when they think of New Mutants.
  • Shazam! is defined by The Monster Society of Evil, the first serialized story arc in superhero comics which introduced the iconic villain Mister Mind.
  • Spider-Man, being a long-runner, has many iconic Story Arc across its publication history:
  • Supergirl:
    • The Unknown Supergirl was the first lengthy story arc in the Superman family of books (spanning nine issues), and changed irreversibly Supergirl's status quo in favor of giving Kara Zor-El her own setting and supporting cast, as well as her first nemesis. Metropolis holding a parade in honor of Supergirl is one of the most iconic moments in the character's decades-long history.
    • The Supergirl from Krypton (2004) was the storyline which reintroduced Kara Zor-El in the modern DC Universe after remained exiled from continuity for eighteen years. The story arc was popular enough to be adapted into an animated movie: Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
  • Superman:
    • Kryptonite Nevermore was the storyline where Superman transitioned from the whacky Silver Age to the darker Bronze Age. The Neal Adams' cover where Superman breaks his chains has been reproduced and copied time and again.
    • Who Took the Super out of Superman?: One of its era's best remembered stories, it delved into the duality between Superman and Clark Kent.
    • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?: Written by Alan Moore, it was the Grand Finale for the Pre-Crisis Superman, and one of his most iconic story arcs.
    • The Death of Superman: His best-selling and most famous storyline, featuring the first battle between Superman and the savage monster Doomsday.
    • All-Star Superman: A love letter to the Silver Age Superman, it has remained one of his most important and iconic stories since publication, to the point it was adapted into an animated movie.
    • Superman: Brainiac (also adapted as Superman Unbound) was the storyline which effectively defined Post-Crisis Brainiac, including his appearance, origin,note  power level,note  MO,note  and the overall aesthetic of his technology (taking inspiraton from HR Geiger). Every appearance of the villain Coluan in other media since 2008 has been influenced or based in this story, most notably Injustice 2, DC Universe Online, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and Krypton.
  • Teen Titans: When people think of the Titans' best storylines, they usually name either "The Judas Contract" or "The Terror of Trigon".
  • The first two volumes of The Ultimates written by Mark Millar were a Tough Act to Follow for every writer who worked on the series afterward, including Mark Millar.
  • X-Men:
    • Giant Size X-Men by Len Wein is cited as the real beginning of the X-Men as we come to know it. This introduced an entire new team of mutants as the X-Men with brighter more individualistic costumes (over the bland two-color uniforms that preceded it) and greater diversity than before. The likes of Wolverine, Nightcrawler and others were introduced in a flash and despite coming in so late immediately became the Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
    • Chris Claremont, who followed on from Wein's run, also wrote many of the central and defining moments of the franchise, working with both John Byrne and Dave Cockrum. This includes The Phoenix Saga and The Dark Phoenix Saga as well as Days of Future Past and The Brood Saga.
    • Age of Apocalypse was likewise a defining X-Men story from The '90s and one of Marvel's most famous and iconic events.
    • House of M is another defining story famous for its shocking ending which altered the status quo in a way that Marvel and X-Men have yet to recover from in the comics. (For the record, the story was released in 2005.)

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action Television 
  • 24: The Nerve Gas Attacks from Day 5. The Storyline would have repercussions felt for the rest of the series. It forced Jack out of hiding and would end with him being abducted by the Chinese, involved the deaths of major players, David Palmer and Michelle Dessler, and near death of Tony Almeda, who would later pull a Heel–Face Turn due to the death of his wife, becoming a recurring villain, and some of the members of the conspiracy being revealed to be Jack's own family, his father Phillip and brother Graem, and even the President himself, Charles Logan, was involved and would become one of Jack's biggest nemesis. Overall Day 5 is universally acclaimed as one of the best storylines in television history, let alone the best of the series.
  • Angel's is the Season 4 arc involving Cordelia being possessed by Jasmine, sleeping with Angel's teenage son and getting pregnant while the sun is blacked out. It's even more remembered due to the sheer controversy surrounding the treatment of Cordelia's actress Charisma Carpenter; her real-life pregnancy reportedly enraged Joss Whedon, exacerbating his already abusive tendencies towards her and leading her to be written out unceremoniously at the end of the season.
  • Babylon 5 is generally remembered for or even as The Shadow War, its longest arc by far. The Shadow War arc stretched all the way from mid-season one "Signs and Portents" to early Season 4 "Into the Fire". With the Earth Alliance and Minbari Civil Wars sharing the remainder of Season 4, and various smaller arcs (many of which pertained to the aftermath of The Shadow War.) making up the remainder of the series.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has its "Evil Angel" story arc that comprised Season 2 and saw heroic vampire and love interest Angel end up losing his soul and become the main villain. It proved to be the show's Growing the Beard moment for turning the show's formula on its head, as well as introducing major characters, not the least of which included Spike, and planted seeds that would set up Angel's spin-off down the line.
  • Charmed (1998) has the Cole storyline in the first half of Season 3 — a half-human demon sent to infiltrate the sisters and then falling in love with Phoebe for real. It helps that it's the show's most popular season, and it became a Star-Making Role for Julian McMahon.
  • Coronation Street is a true Long Runner (having been on the air since The '60s) and its most iconic storyline involved Richard Hillman marrying Gail Platt, becoming a serial killer, murdering Maxine Peacock and trying to drown the entire Platt family by driving their car into the canal.
  • Downton Abbey is remembered best for its Season 2 story arc involving Tom Branson the chauffeur falling in love with and eventually marrying Lady Sybil, the youngest Crawley daughter. Even the actors remember it most.
  • Farscape's second season is this, as it brought Scorpius to the front and center, introduced the Scarrans, and most importantly laid the foundations for the War Arc between the two.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Anything and everything leading up to the Red Wedding. To be specific, the War of the Five Kings that's kicked off in the finale of Season 1 and culminated in the penultimate episode of Season 3. The start of it is considered the show's Growing the Beard, with the wedding becoming one of the biggest WHAM Episodes in television history.
    • Season 6, particularly near its end, has become sort of iconic due to marking the first major step the show took after it Overtook the Novels. In particular, "Battle of the Bastards" is iconic not just for the eponymous battle, but also its aftermath marking the Starks *finally* retaking their home of Winterfell and Ramsay Bolton getting a long overdue and very satisfying Karmic Death. The following episode and Season Finale, "The Winds of Winter" is also just as iconic due to having Cersei, Jon, and Daenerys consolidating their positions but also finally revealing the truth about Jon's parentage and confirming the long-standing "Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon" theory that had been floating around the community for a long time.
  • H₂O: Just Add Water gets the arc in the second half of Season 2 involving Charlotte discovering she's descended from the original mermaid trio from the 50s, becoming a mermaid and Lewis's girlfriend, and undergoing a proper Face–Heel Turn. Charlotte is easily the most memorable antagonist the show ever had, and there continue to be discussions about her character's motivations years later.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: For Season 1, the reveal that Halbrand is Sauron is the most iconic storyline because this is also the character's first Live Adaptation in his fair form before becoming just a giant big eye on fire.
  • Merlin (2008) has the development towards Morgana's Face–Heel Turn in Season 2; starting with her realising that she has magic, her half-sister Morgause turning up and Merlin eventually poisoning her to save the rest of Camelot. The last part is especially controversial, and has been the subject of much discussion regarding the treatment of Morgana's character.
  • Once Upon a Time's most remembered arc is actually its first Season 3 one in Neverland, in which Peter Pan is the villain. It brought about Heel Face Turns for Hook and Regina that led to them becoming part of the main cast, also sowing the seeds to pair up Emma and Hook as the show's Official Couple.
  • Power Rangers:
  • Supernatural is most well known for its "stop the apocalypse arc", which started in Season 4 and really came to a head in Season 5 — the introduction of biblical themes (after previously focusing on smaller-scale creatures such as cryptids) and fan-favourite characters like Castiel, Gabriel and Lucifer permanently changed the show, and are widely considered to be the best written seasons. It made such an impact that new viewers are often very surprised to find out that angels are treated as non-existent and dismissed as silly for the first three seasons.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Ask any Danganronpa fan what the best chapter of the series is, and a good amount will respond that it’s the fifth chapter of the second game. The chapter not only has the infamous scene where Nagito blows up the hotel, but has one of the most mind blowing murder schemes in the franchise, with Nagito’s body discovery that makes it abundantly clear how painful his death was, as well as going from thinking he was simply murdered, to the reveal that he essentially committed suicide, only for it to be further revealed that he had in fact been murdered but the killer had been tricked into delivering the final blow due to Nagito putting his Ultimate Luck into full swing, leaving it almost impossible to determine who the killer actually is. There’s also the reveal of Chiaki being both the traitor working for the Future Foundation, and also the one who had been tricked into killing Nagito, with Hajime being left to prove it to both the other students who are in denial, as well as himself, with Chiaki allowing herself to be executed so her friends can live. All of this results in the trial being seen as a top contender for the biggest gut punch of the whole series.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: Meakashi-Hen and Tsumihoroboshi-Hen. The former arc is infamous for Shion going on a revenge fueled killing spree as well as well some of the most emotional moments. Most notably three of Shion's fingernails being ripped off, Rika killing herself with a knife to avoid being tortured by her, Shion's brutal torture and murder of Satoko, and Shion killing herself after she realized what she did and imagining being part of the club and remembering Satoshi's promise to take care of Satoko. The latter arc is remembered for heavily emphasizing the theme of friendship, Rena slowly succumbing to Hinamizawa Syndrome, and the awesome and Tear Jerker rooftop fight between Rena and Keiichi as the latter tries and succeeds on bringing Rena back to her senses which is THE Signature Scene of the series.
  • Umineko: When They Cry: The very end of "Banquet of the Golden Witch" and its follow-up with "Alliance of the Golden Witch" and "End of the Golden Witch." The first is notable for the introduction of Ange Ushiromiya into the plot, the following for Ange's heartbreaking past and journey with the Seven Sisters of Purgatory, the additional backstory for Maria and introduction of Sakutaro, the all-out Red Truth VS Blue Truth battle between Beatrice and Battler at the end, and The Reveal that Bernkastel and Lambdadelta have been in cahoots as the true villains of the story, and the final for its particularly twisted Rokkenjima gameboard mystery thanks to Lambda taking over as Game Master, the debut of Erika Furudo and the Inquistion of Heresy, the lengthy trial sequence that results in Beatrice's titular end, and the extended aftermath where Battler learns the whole truth of everything and transforms into the Golden Sorcerer, taking ownership of the game from Erika after a thrilling battle.

  • Girl Genius: The Mechanicsburg Arc, wherein the heroine struggles to reclaim her heritage and then fights to drive a horde of mad scientists and an empire out of it, introduces the most iconic location in the series and is the best remembered storyline.
  • Homestuck: Act 5 is the most famous part of the comic and it lead to a massive Newbie Boom of it and its parent series MS Paint Adventures. The two most standout "arcs" within Act 5 are the introduction of the trolls throughout Act 5 Act 1, part of the comic's sudden rise in popularity; and the "Murderstuck" arc late in Act 5 Act 2, where half of them are killed off.
  • Mob Psycho 100:
    • The Keiji Mogami Arc is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the series thanks to its much Darker and Edgier tone, massive amounts of Character Development for Mob, and a fantastic climactic battle against Keiji Mogami, who is probably the most popular villain in the series by a long shot. Not even the arc dealing with the Big Bad managed to be this popular.
    • Before that, the Teruki Hanazawa Arc is often cited as the changing point from the series from being "One-Punch Man 2.0" to its own unique identity.
  • Sonichu: Issue #10 is the most notorious of the series by a landslide, for its initial status as a capstone for the comic, its sheer amount of Protagonist-Centered Morality and Walls of Text even by the comic's standards, and several infamous scenes such as the fall of and the trial of the Asperpedia Four.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The Animals of Farthing Wood is especially remembered for the Season 1 journey from Farthing Wood to White Deer Park, with the opening even still depicting it when the characters settled in White Deer Park at the end of the season. It contains the most memorable character deaths, such as the hedgehogs on the road, the pheasants getting shot by farmers and the infamous scene of a butcher bird impaling baby mice on thorns.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • For the DCAU as a whole, it is either the Justice Lords two-parter of the original Justice League, or its more or less direct sequel, the Cadmus arc in Unlimited. The former pits prime universe's heroes against their eponymous unfettered AU counterparts and forces them to draw the line that separates heroism from extremism. The latter builds upon that by having The Government realize that the League going the Justice Lord route is the single biggest threat to humanity and pitting Good Versus Good in a Myth Arc spanning two seasons and culminating in one of the most epic finales of the whole DCAU.
    • For a character-specific example, Batman: The Animated Series has "Heart of Ice" (and its extension with "Deep Freeze" and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero), which has gone on to influence every portrayal of Mr. Freeze ever since by recasting him as a Tragic Villain driven by a desire to cure his wife.
  • Gargoyles has the City of Stone four-parter. These episodes revealed the tragic backstories of Demona and Macbeth and why they hate each other so much. This was also the point in the show where the writing and storytelling greatly improved, in addition to the introduction of the The Weird Sisters and ending on one of the saddest moments in the series.
    "The Access Code is alone."
  • Looney Tunes has the Hunting Trilogy — Rabbit Fire, Rabbit Seasoning, and Duck! Rabbit! Duck! — which codified the relationship between its two biggest stars and finalized Daffy's Chuck Jones incarnation.
  • Season Four of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, to the point where the movie basically adapted the finale almost plot point for plot point (with a few world-building additions, as well as nixxing Discord).
  • More for a character than a show, but Teen Titans has its take on The Judas Contract, which gave the previously irredeemable and sociopathic Terra a degree of Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Sympathy that has gone on to influence every portrayal of the character going forward, in addition to giving her a heartbreaking romance with Beast Boy.