9. Mink defeats Damarumu while completely paralyzed. (Dragon Half). There is no way I'm going to spoil the punchline of this, the funniest scene in a screamingly funny piece of anime. Some fight scenes reach up into your guts and tickle them from the inside out.
8. Kogero's death and Jubei's failure to prevent it (Ninja Scroll). On the other hand, some fight scenes rip your guts out and hand them to you. These two tormented characters were so close, so CLOSE, to breaking down the walls that kept them apart from each other... and every other man and woman in the world... and all the superhuman effort on both their parts gives them nothing more than one brief final moment together. Of course, this fight scene would have little meaning if the entire film hadn't set up the two characters so well. Some viewers complain that Kogero melts a little too much at the end. Fie on them. She wasn't the only one.
7. Lina Inverse's first episode (Slayers). Lina manages to destroy the entire fraggin' TOWN she's supposedly guarding... and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Slayers has a lot of great battles (Lina's assuming the role of Lord of Nightmares is a personal favorite), but few fight scenes have set up a character and series so well, paced themselves so skillfully, and slathered on so much fun.
6. Ghim frees Leylia. (Record of Lodoss War). Ghim was a failure, complete and utter. His brawn, his skill, his wisdom, his weapon... all of it had failed to save HER. Karla, "The Grey Witch," may have possessed her, but it was the innocent Leylia who haunted Ghim's every waking thought. When they finally have their showdown with Karla, the Lodoss Warriors give their usual show-stopping performance and THEY aren't enough either... until Ghim makes the kind of move that a man can only make when his very soul depends upon it.
5. B-Ko kicks the holy living crap out of A-Ko (Project A-Ko I). About half an hour into Project A-Ko, B-Ko had cemented her reputation as the Japanese Wile E. Coyote. Device after device had been thrown at the superhuman A-Ko and all had failed miserably, leaving B-Ko more and more frustrated. And as in the Wile E. Coyote shorts, your sympathies began to shift to the aggressor. Sure, A-Ko is less annoying than the Road Runner, and looks better in a sailor-suit, but B-Ko was trying so hard that for all her pettiness, you felt sorry for her. So it's a shocking and guilty pleasure when her bio-suit, which only amps B-Ko's own human strength, puts A-Ko on the defensive and pretty much keeps her there. All B-Ko really needed was a weapon that was fueled by her own rage. But just like that, once B-Ko starts winning, your sympathies start shifting back to A-Ko... and then the fight gets really interesting to watch, since you're not sure who to root for.
4. Ash rescues Pikachu (Pokémon: The First Movie). Now Tim is the Pokémon booster around here. I *LOATHE* Pokémon like I loathe organized religion. All you little "Pokéfans" can take your "Pokécards" and shove them up your "Pokébutts."
But I will give credit where credit is due, and there is one shining scene in the creative desert that is "Pokémon: The First Movie," a scene that made me forget for one moment how much I hated the series.
Ash and Pikachu, along with other Pokémon and their trainers, are surrounded by floating "Pokéballs" that "collect" the Pokémon, compressing them like so many ZIP files and carting them to parts unknown. Ash, in a rare fit of competence, immediately realizes what's going on. When higher strategies fail, he blocks the Pokéballs with his own body, yelling to Pikachu to escape. The Pokéballs follow. Ash instructs Pikachu to short-circuit the Pokéballs. Pikachu does, but more close in. He does it again, but there are always more, and the Pokéballs recover quickly. Ash just keeps yelling encouragement, panting to catch up with an animal he truly loves. One of them finally nails Pikachu, and heads down a Jeffries tube into some diabolical cloning device...
...and. Ash. Still. Refuses. To. Bloody. Give. Up.
Heedless of his own safety, he fights his way in through mechanical arms, grabs the Pokéball, and yanks it back out. If the show only had less fantasy cockfighting and more of this incredible bond between trainer and animal... the whole Pokécraze might be bearable.
3. Optimus Prime's "predestined" final battle (Transformers: The Movie). It was almost as if he knew. That moment just as the battle began, when he said to no one in particular, "Megatron must be stopped... whatever the cost." Optimus Prime was the ultimate fighting and leading machine, a construct for whom "obsolete" was only a state of mind. And despite some cornball dialogue, neither he nor Megatron had a finer scene than this, showcasing Optimus' compassion as his weakness and his strength, and Megatron's wounded pride ("No [weapons]! I'll crush you with my bare hands!"). Avoid the cheesy "Optimus revivals" they couldn't stay away from afterwards.
2. Captain Tyler's bloodless victory (The Irresponsible Captain Tyler). He was the worst starship captain in military history-- and now, he was field general. Yet Tyler turns out to be exactly the right man in the right place at the right time. As the "Ride of the Valkyries meets American Bandstand" music starts playing, Tyler does the one thing none of the other warriors on this list would ever, ever think to do... and saves not just one armada, but two.
1. Ryoga and Ranma's first battle (Ranma 1/2). Rumiko Takahashi's fight scenes are funny and well-choreographed, but rarely EXCITING. Ranma's first battle with his only real rival is a welcome exception. Ryoga (who, at this point, is nothing more than a mysterious stranger) comes to town with only Ranma's death on his mind. Ranma's early guess proves wrong, and in the end he has to admit he doesn't know WHY Ryoga hates him so much. For the duration of this long fight scene, neither do we. He just... does.
It gets better. Turns out Ryoga is so strong, he regularly hefts a 200-pound umbrella and uses it as a weapon... WHILE AIRBORNE. The only-human Ranma didn't have any idea of this strength before the battle began.
It gets better. Ryoga unconsciously hits Ranma's greatest psychological weakness, which drives Ranma to such fury that even the revenge-crazed Ryoga is momentarily taken aback. Furthermore, Ranma's, um, "estranged" fiancée Akane puts aside her fight with Ranma and helps him as usual... which ends up putting them both in the path of a certain thrown umbrella.
Belive it or not... it... gets... BETTER.
Ranma KICKS the umbrella, BLUNTS its assault, then HEFTS IT UP and LEAPS OFF WITH IT, CARRYING AKANE WITH HIM. As the crowd of spectators so obligingly points out, Ranma isn't NEARLY strong enough to do that under ANYTHING like ordinary circumstances.
This is a defining moment for the entire series. Ranma can now argue and whine and protest all he wants to (and he does, shortly thereafter), but he can't fool us anymore about his feelings for Akane.
Actions speak louder than words, after all.
Dishonorable Mention: Dragonball Z. Look, just shut up. DBZ's fight scenes are interminable and meaningless. They never stop fighting long enough for me to give a damn about any of them. If I want to see one-and-a-half hours of essentially mindless brawling, I'll wait for the Gush-Bore debates.