Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan is, despite all the controversies, considered to be a modern manga and anime masterpiece. The intriguing story, full of secrets and revelations, captivated fans around the world, and it makes sense that the series has become so popular. Now, due to that, a lot of people often discuss the series, and in this article, we will discuss whether Attack on Titan is a shonen or seinen manga and anime, as that can be very confusing if you’ve seen the show.
Attack on Titan is officially classified as a shonen series, and since the anime is more or less identical to the manga, this can be applied to both works. It does feature a lot of seinen elements, especially in terms of its visuals and the topics depicted, but there are not necessarily the only criteria we use. Attack on Titan‘s protagonists are younger people, and while the anime does blend shonen and seinen elements quite well, the focus on the younger characters, as well as the fact that the story features a storyline that is traditionally considered a shonen storyline, it is definitely more shonen and seinen in that aspect.
The rest of this article will be divided into two major sections. The first one will elaborate on the difference between shonen and seinen works so that you know exactly how to differentiate them; it is mostly straightforward, but sometimes, the difference might not be as clear. The second one will apply these facts to Attack on Titan, as we will explain why Attack on Titan is a shonen work despite all the seinen elements in the series. As for spoilers, this article won’t contain too many, but some might be scattered around the article here and there.
Sometimes, the difference between a shonen and a seinen work is not always clear, which is why it is important to fully understand it
Well, now that you’re here with that specific question, we think it is opportune of us to explain the difference between a shonen and a seinen work. Namely, these two genres are among the most popular ones in manga and anime, so we think it is quite good to know the difference before you understand completely why work is classified as one or the other. Hence this section.
The term shonen, which can be translated literally as “boy” or “youth,” designates a subgenre of manga and animation aimed at young adolescent boys between the ages of 12 and 18. Instead of a specific genre, the word refers to the targeted age group of a published work. Shojo is the equivalent for females. Because of their enormous target audience and the creativity that went into creating them, shonen manga and anime are some of the most well-known and popular in the world.
The most popular topics at first were heroic action-adventure and sci-tech subjects like robotics and space exploration. For this reason, Osamu Tezuka, the man behind the enormously popular Astro Boy series, is regarded as one of the pioneers of the modern shonen genre.
All of that changed in the 1990s when violence and sexual content began to appear more frequently in shonen, causing it to become more mature and explicit. This made the genre more complicated while blurring its boundaries with the seinen genre, which is a more mature subgenre aimed at older audiences. Modern shonen content is significantly more fluid and crosses the boundary with the seinen genre in many ways, even if the narratives are still more fantasy- and kid-focused than those in seinen manga or anime.
As for the other topic, the Japanese word seinen, which means “youth” literally, is also used to refer to a specific (sub)genre of manga and animation that is aimed towards young adult men between the ages of 18 and 45. Even though “youth” is used to describe youthful people, the term seinen is actually used to describe older males. The female equivalent of seinen is josei.
The subjects covered in seinen works range from those that are more akin to shonen works to those that deal with the daily challenges and issues of adults. This is why a wide range of people enjoy seinen works. Claymore and Tokyo Ghoul are examples of seiren works that are quite close to shonen works, whereas Monster or serial experiments lain deal with far more mature subjects. It is not always simple to distinguish between seinen and shonen since, as was the case with shonen works as well, the line between the two is blurring over time. Let’s now examine how Attack on Titan stands when these issues are at hand.
Attack on Titan is classified as a shonen work, but the distinction is very complex in this case
Attack on Titan is the magnum opus of mangaka Hajime Isayama, and it has, since its publication, become one of the most popular and most important manga titles of the modern era. It has often been grouped alongside Demon Slayer, Jujutsu Kaisen, and My Hero Academia as one of the most popular works in the post-“Big Three” period.
The story is set in a fictional world where people living in special walled cities are attacked by monstrous Titans, whom they need to fight in order to survive. But, as the story unfolds, the realities of their world begin to crumble slowly, and more secrets about the true nature of their world and existences are revealed. And while the ending of the series was certainly controversial, Attack on Titan remains as one of the most popular works today.
It has officially been classified as a shonen work, and while we can arguably agree with that, Attack on Titan is one of the more borderline examples you can come across when the world of animanga is concerned. Namely, the topic of the series is certainly more mature than you’d expect from a traditional shonen work involving complex politics and questions of existence, as well as the nature and origins of humanity.
The characters are also quite mature, and the story features a lot of adults who are part of several warring factions. This political undertone is something that definitely pushes Attack on Titan over to the seinen side.
If you add to that the fact that the style is much more mature than your typical shonen works, as well as the dark topics and the explicit visuals, you might actually have a strong argument when claiming that Attack on Titan is a seinen work.
But it is not. Although this one could’ve gone either way, really, Attack on Titan is, primarily a shonen work. The topic is a blend of fantasy and a very liberal take on the superhero genre, while the characters are younger than you’d expect from a seinen work. It doesn’t feature a lot of tropes, but since the general outline does feature predominantly shonen elements (narrative and characters), we can understand why it was classified as a shonen work, although it is a very borderline case.