**Spoilers for Naruto (not Shippuden)**
Pokemon is our first example.
Ash Ketchum vs Gary Oak
Here we see two opposites. Ash oversleeps on the first day when he can get his first pokemon and then proceeds to get Pikachu (the only pokemon left) while still in his pajamas. Gary is an expert in pokemon, having studied extensively with his grandfather (the pokemon Professor Oak). He is popular with the ladies, as evidenced by his convertible full of them. He manages to get 10 badges when there are only 8 available. He succeeds at everything in a way that is seemingly effortless, while Ash fumbles his way through his journey. Ash learns from his mistakes, and keeps trying hard to catch up to Gary. Ash wants to beat Gary desperately, and this motivates him to work hard with his pokemon to become stronger. They face off, and even when Ash loses, it just increases his motivation to do better next time. If I remember correctly, Gary eventually changes pace and stops being a pokemon trainer, instead becoming a professor like his grandfather. Ash continues on with his journey, now with a new goal in hand, more defined than "beat Gary Oak". Even though Ash hasn't really aged much over the airing of the show, he has grown up, past his rivalry and into some exciting new journey.
Next up: The Rivalry Triangle/Polygon Mess that is Naruto
There are a lot of rivalries in this series (and we'll be ignoring Shippuden for this posting). Each character has time to develop rivalries and camaraderie with multiple other characters. The neat thing is that we see these interactions changing over the course of the series as they have new experiences and grow older.
Let's look at the rivalry between Ino and Sakura first. In the beginning, Sakura looked up to Ino, since Ino was popular and pretty, and Sakura was shy and unconfident. Their friendship started when Ino broke Sakura out of her shell, as Ino helps Sakura develop self confidence. Their friendship ended when the admitted to each other that they had feelings for Sasuke. In that moment, they declared themselves rivals competing for Sasuke's attention. Sakura still believed that Ino was someone she had to catch up to, despite her own high grades in the ninja academy. As time passed, Ino notices that Sakura is surpassing her, but Sakura doesn't notice it, since she is still stuck seeing herself as the unconfident girl she once was. The iconic scene during the Chuunin exams was the culmination of them trying to prove themselves as rivals. They became confident in themselves and no longer needed judge their worth by comparing by themselves to the other. This allows them to resume their friendship.
These two examples show us that rivalries can help people grow into their full potential. They can be a source of frustration, but they can also give a goal to strive for, and something to compete against to drive personal growth.
Do you have a favorite rivalry in anime? Post in the comments :)
Hope Burns Bright