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The world of anime and manga is very large and there is a whole discipline dedicated to studying these two genres and their subgenres. The classification of both anime and manga can be done based on several criteria, one of which is the age group they target; following that criteria, anime and manga can be divided into several categories based on age and sex, depending on their topics, style and classical genre classification. In today’s article, we are going to introduce you to one of such genres, focusing primarily on the anime market, rather than the manga associated with the genre. So, if you ever wanted to know what shōnen means, keep reading our article!
Shōnen anime and manga are marketed towards “young teen males” (boys) between the ages of 12 and 18; they include a variety of different subgenres. Often featured topics of this genre include martial arts, robots, science fiction, fantasy, sports, horror or mythological creatures.
Today’s article is going to be all about the shōnen genre, just as we recently did an article on the similar, yet more mature seinen genre. You’re going to find out what shōnen means, what it represents and how it evolved throughout the years. You’re also going to get our advice on why you should watch shōnen anime and finally a list of 10 shōnen anime you should definitely check out. It’s going to be fun so stick with us until the end.
What is shōnen?
Shōnen (Japanese: 少年) is a term that literally means “boy” or “youth”; in the context of this article, it is used to describe a genre of manga and anime marketed towards young, teenage boys from the ages of 12 to 18. The term is not a genre per se, but rather a signification of the targeted demographic group for which the material is published. The female equivalent is called shōjo. Due to a large target group and the creativeness behind these titles, shōnen manga and anime are among the most popular and lucrative in the world.
The history of the shōnen genre dates back to the 19th century, when magazines such as Shōnen Sekai, Shōjo Sekai, and Shōnen Pakku (a children’s manga magazine) started appearing on the market; among them, Shōnen Sekai was one of the first shōnen manga magazines, and was published from 1895 to 1914.
These, however, were not major publications and could not be fully compared to modern shōnen magazines, despite targeting the same age group. A real explosion came during the 1950s, when, first, seinen and then shōnen magazines started to appear. This was all a result of the post-War change in Japanese cultural tradition, which enabled the development of modern manga, whose chief consumers were teenage boys and adolescents.
The most common topics of the time were sci-tech subjects like robots and space travel, and heroic action-adventure. This is why Osamu Tezuka, the creator of the enormously popular Astro Boy (considered to be one of the first modern anime series), is credited as being one of the pioneers of the modern shōnen genre.
The market solidified itself and grew during the 1950s and 1960s, and the shōnen genre became one of the most popular genres by the times the 1980s started; the most popular Japanese manga magazine, when all genres are concerned, Weekly Shōnen Jump, started coming out in 1968, which was a crucial point in the rise of manga. Up until the 1990s, shōnen works were mostly benign, as censorship was still quite strong in Japan.
That all changed during the 1990s, which led to shōnen becoming more mature and explicit when violence and the sexual topic became more frequently featured, which contributed to the depth of the genre, but also blurred the distinction between it and the more mature seinen genre. Modern shōnen material is much more fluid and in many ways resembles the seinen genre, although the narratives are still more fantasy and kids-orientated than those in seinen manga or anime. There are also mixed shōnen/seinen magazines out there, as well as mixed anime series.
Why should you watch shōnen anime?
If you’re more on the adventurous side with more fantasy, and less slice-of-life elements, shōnen is definitely the genre for you. The sheer number of worlds present within the shōnen genre is absolutely amazing and there is absolutely no chance that you won’t find something for yourself, whatever your preferences might be. The genre also has some more realistic titles which you can enjoy, but on a general level, it is more fantasy-orientated than seinen, for example. Earlier works were more lighthearted due to censorship, but modern shōnen anime are almost equally mature as its seinen counterparts.
The decision is up to you. The shōnen genre contains many classics of Japanese animation, a lot of which have become global brands. It also offers an enormous amount of creativity and imagination, so if you’re more into that than strict realism, shōnen is definitely the genre for you.
10 best shōnen anime series
As we finish our article, we are going to bring you a short list of the best shōnen anime series you can watch. Some of them are classics, others are still running, but all of the titles on this list are definitely worth a watch in our opinion and you can pick any of them to start with:
The 15-year-old student Ichigo Kurosaki has had the ability to see ghosts since childhood. One day he meets the Shinigami Rukia Kuchiki who is hunting a hollow. As she is seriously injured during the fight, she is forced to transfer her powers to Ichigo so that Ichigo can defeat the hollow in her place. Until Rukia recovers, Ichigo has to do the work of a shinigami.
Rukia registers at Ichigo’s school and moves into his closet. Over time, the two become friends. Since Rukia Kuchiki has exceeded her stay in the human world, Rukia is forcibly returned to the Soul Society by her stepbrother, the commander of the 6th Division of the 13 Protection Units of the Soul Society Byakuya Kuchiki and the vice-commander of the 6th Division Renji Abarai, where everyone departed souls, including the Shinigami. Due to the transfer of her Shinigami powers to a person, which is a grave offense, she is sentenced to the annihilation of her soul.
As Ichigo desperately wants to save Rukia, he is trained by Kisuke Urahara, who runs a business with products for spiritual beings and is an extremely experienced former commander of the 12th Division. Together with his friends and schoolmates Yasutora “Chad” Sado and Orihime Inoue, who also have special powers, and the Quincy Uryū Ishida, he makes his way to the Soul Society, where an attempt to save Rukia leads to confrontations with powerful Shinigami comes.
Bit by bit a plot planned by one or three commanders Seireiteis is uncovered, which could have serious consequences, not only for the Soul Society, but also for this world, with Karakura, the hometown of the Main characters, explicitly targeted by the conspiracy.
2. One Piece
In a fictional world, the Straw Hat Gang, a group of pirates led by Monkey D. Luffy, is looking for the legendary treasure One Piece of the pirate king Gol D. Roger alias Gold Roger. In addition, the background stories of individual characters are examined in more detail in flashbacks. The series is divided into large arcs, at the end of which there is usually a fight against a powerful opponent. However, Luffy and his crew do not kill their opponents: Eiichirō Oda justifies this with the fact that the defeated opponents suffer the end of their dreams and beliefs anyway through their defeat.
Some former opponents return later in the story with often positive motives, sometimes there is a temporary collaboration due to common interests. Additional subplots result from so-called cover stories, which are based on the front pages of individual chapters and show further experiences of opponents who have already been defeated or friends and colleagues left behind, or also introduce new characters. The respective storyline can also lead back to the main story at a later point in time. One example is the buggy cover story, so called by fans: After the pirate buggy was defeated by Luffy, he experiences a little odyssey away from the main events and later returns to take revenge on Luffy.
Naruto Uzumaki is a twelve-year-old ninja from the Leaf Village with the dream of becoming hokage, the most important ninja in the village. Naruto has spent his childhood in marginalization and, during a fight with Mizuki, a traitor ninja, he comes to find out why: inside him is sealed the Nine-Tailed Fox, one of the nine hunters, gigantic supernatural demons. After defeating Mizuki, Naruto is promoted to the ninja academy and is integrated into group seven composed, in addition to him, by Sasuke Uchiha, Sakura Haruno and the master Kakashi Hatake. After several adventures, Sasuke decides to leave the village to train with Orochimaru and gain the power to kill his brother Itachi in order to avenge his clan, which he apparently exterminated without a clear motive.
With the unsuccessful attempt to redeem Sasuke and his consequent escape from the country, Naruto decides to leave the Leaf Village and undertake a long training with the master Jiraiya. After about two and a half years, Naruto returns to the Leaf Village and resumes his role as a member of team 7. The Dawn Organization, dedicated to the capture and imprisonment of all nine hunters inherent in as many supporting forces to lead to ending an enigmatic purpose, he is looking for Naruto, who will have to clash with some of his members.
With the death of his brother Itachi, Sasuke discovers the truth behind the extermination of the Uchiha clan; consumed again by hatred and revenge, the traitorous young ninja joins Alba to obtain the strength from her to destroy her native village. Naruto’s adventures then proceed in an attempt to defend himself and his village from the Dawn Organization as he tries to get his friend Sasuke back on track.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist
The universe of Fullmetal Alchemist, set in the early 1900s, diverges from ours mainly due to the presence of alchemy: this is a science that uses the energy generated by the movements of the earth’s crust and channels it through an alchemical circle to perform a process called transmutation, or the modification of the properties of an object. The transmutation is divided into three main phases: the understanding of the structure of matter, the decomposition and the recomposition.
Furthermore, alchemy is governed by a law that is the cornerstone of this science: the principle of equivalent exchange, which requires that, during a transmutation, the mass of the basic object and the transmuted one must be identical, as well as the properties of the two objects.
Those who manage to use alchemy take the name of alchemists. The nation in which the events take place is Amestris, a country governed by a military regime whose head is called the “supreme commander”; Amestris’s militaristic vocation is also revealed in the fact that the nation is periodically at war with several neighboring states and has been the scene of a bloody civil war.
The country is essentially divided into five regions, each corresponding to a cardinal point plus the center, which houses the capital Central City. In addition to soldiers, who are divided into ranks from recruit to general, entry into the army is also open to alchemists who, after passing a test, obtain the title of state alchemist, a degree equivalent to that of major and unlimited funds for their research, but with the obligation to go to war and to follow three main rules: do not transmute gold, do not carry out human transmutations and swear allegiance to the army.
5. Dragon Ball
The manga Dragon Ball describes the adventures of the protagonist Son-Goku and his friends, who repeatedly go in search of the seven Dragon Balls and have numerous adventures to endure. The story begins with Son-Goku’s childhood from the age of twelve and his time as a teenager (volumes 1 to 16) and ends with his life as an adult (volumes 17 to 42).
The individual storylines can be subdivided into sagas and become more complex as the story progresses. Another main motive is the constant battle between good and evil. In order to ensure peace and save the earth, Son-Goku and his friends are continually confronted with demons, dangerous warriors, power-hungry aliens, and both enemies and friends from the future who invade the history of the present. Martial arts tournaments are also an integral part of the story.
Son-Goku and his friends take part in the 21st, 22nd and 23rd and finally the 25th tournament and the 28th fighting tournament (where Son-Goku only played the first fight against Oob in the last tournament) on the papaya island. The place of action is not exclusively the earth, but briefly other planets or the hereafter. In the course of the story it turns out that both the earthly god and Piccolo are Namekians and come from the planet Namek and Son-Goku is a Saiyan from the planet Vegeta.
6. Captain Tsubasa
At the beginning of the series, 11-year-old Tsubasa Ohzora moves with his family to Nankatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, where he joins his school team, FC Nankatsu, and with them can initially win the national primary school championship. Besides Tsubasa, Ryo Ishizaki, Genzo Wakabayashi and Taro Misaki are the most important players in Nankatsu. After winning the championship, Wakabayashi moves to Germany and plays for FC Grünwald, Taro Misaki moves to France.
Roberto Hongo, a former Brazilian soccer player who coached FC Nankatsu and Tsubasa, is moving to Brazil. At the national championship for middle school students, FC Nankatsu and the Toho School, the team of Tsubasa arch-rivals Kojiro Hyuga, face each other three times in the final. In the first two years, Nankatsu’s team managed to win the title, in the third year the game ended in a 4-4 draw, in which Tsubasa and Kojiro scored all the goals.
The title goes to both teams. After the end of the national championship, in addition to Tsubasa and Hyuga and some players Nankatsus and Tohos, Hikaru Matsuyama (whose team, FC Furano, was eliminated in the semi-finals) and Hiroshi Jito (from the quarter-finals) will be appointed to the U-16 team to help compete in the junior soccer world championship in France. Since Tsubasa injured himself during the national championship, he can only play in the last preparatory game. At the finals in France, the Japanese reach the final and defeat Germany 3-2. Then Tsubasa moves to Brazil to FC Brancos and Kojiro to Italy to FC Piemont.
Three years later, the Japanese team first played in the U-19 soccer Asian championship and won the title by beating South Korea 2-0. At the subsequent U-20 World Cup, the Japanese win the final against Brazil 3-2 thanks to a hat trick by Tsubasa. After the end of the World Cup, Tsubasa marries his youth girlfriend Sanae Nakazawa and moves to Spain.
7. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
The plot unfolds around the story of the Joestar lineage, a powerful family of British origin destined to combat evil supernatural forces using acquired powers; the work encompasses several generations of said lineage, which are adapted in each part with a descendant as the protagonist, beginning with Jonathan in the year 1880. Parts 1 to 6 have a continuous and linear history, while 7 and 8 occur in an alternate universe.
The name “JoJo”, present in the title of the work, consists of a play on words composed of the names of the protagonists of each part, which can be abbreviated as “Jojo” and used as a nickname; however, in the later parts of the play more complex puns are made: for example, Josuke is a pun in Japanese in which the syllable “suke” (助) can also be read as “jo”, and the diminutive of Giorno Giovana (Gio. Gio.) has a pronunciation quite similar to «Jojo».
All Joestar are identified by having a five-pointed star-shaped birthmark. The genres it covers span action, adventure, supernatural, suspense, comedy, tragedy, mystery, and horror. It is perhaps best known popularly for its Stand phenomenon; the story arc Stardust Crusaders and its characters Dio Brando and Jotaro Kujo; the expressive portrayal of her glamorous proud personalities; and its hundreds of nominal references to western popular music.
8. Detective Conan
The most famous youth detective in Japan, the high school student, he is Shinichi Kudo, he is in an amusement park with his childhood friend Ran Mouri, with whom he is secretly in love but he does not know that she is too of the. There, after solving a new death case, he separates from his friend and witnesses a suspicious exchange of money between one of the men dressed in black who was present in the previous case and a mysterious man. While spying on them, Shinichi is attacked from behind by the partner of the man in black, and they administer a poison APTX 4869 in order to kill him.
However, the poison had an unexpected effect: Shinichi’s body became that of a 7-year-old boy. Now, calling himself Conan Edogawa and hiding his true identity in order to protect his family and himself from the Men in Black, the young detective moves to the house of Ran and his father: the detective Kogoro Mouri, who is not very prestigious. . None of them know that Conan is, in fact, Shinichi and he will use his secret to solve Mouri’s own cases in his name and without anyone knowing. Not even Kogoro himself.
The only ones who know his true identity are, among others, Professor Hiroshi Agasa, who will provide all kinds of inventions and advice for his research; Heiji Hattori, a teenage detective like Shinichi, but unlike him, Hattori lives in the Kansai area of Osaka; Yusaku and Yukiko Kudo, parents of Shinichi Kudo; Shiho Miyano / Ai Haibara / Sherry in the organization, the inventor of the APTX 4869 poison, who ingests it in order to commit suicide, but to her surprise rejuvenates; and Vermouth a member of the Organization. Little by little, new Men in Black, the FBI and the CIA will be involved in this fascinating story against the background of the relationship between Ran and Shinichi and the resolution of infinite mysteries.
Digimon are born from particular eggs, called “Digi-Eggs”. Through “Digivolution”, Digimon are able to become more powerful and change in appearance. The effect of Digivolution, however, is not permanent in the Digimon companions of the main characters in the anime, in fact Digimon who performed the Digivolution most of the time will revert to their previous form after a battle or if they are too tired or battered to to continue. Some Digimon can consider themselves wild and are therefore fierce. Most of them, however, are distinguished by their intelligence and mastery of the human language.
Digimon are all capable of autonomous digivolving, but the use of Digivice by their potential human partners makes it much easier and more achievable in a shorter time. In some cases, as in the first season, the DigiDestined (also known as the “Chosen Children”) must find some special objects such as Crests and Digimentals to allow their Digimon to reach new stages of Digivolution such as the “evolved” and “mega”.
The first anime of the Digimon introduces the life cycle of the Digimon: they age in a process similar to that of living organisms, but they never die of natural causes because they are made of reconfigurable data. Any Digimon that takes a fatal blow will dissolve into infinitesimal bits of data.
The data will then automatically recompose and form a Digi-Egg, which will hatch when properly hatched, and the aforementioned Digimon will begin its life cycle again. Digimon reincarnated in this way will sometimes retain some or all of their past life memories, such as Wormmon in Digimon Adventure 02. However, if a Digimon’s data is completely destroyed, it will die, like Frigimon and other Digimon in Digimon. Savers.
The Pokémon animated series follows the adventures of a young boy named Ash (Satoshi in Japan and Ash in English-speaking countries) and his trusty Pokémon Pikachu. Ash travels the Pokémon world in order to obtain the supreme rank of “Pokémon Master”; to achieve this, it captures and trains Pokémon, in order to obtain eight badges. The duo are often accompanied by a pair of another young boy and a young girl [in seasons 17 and 18, there is the young boy named Lem (Illumis arena champion), Serena, the young girl and another girl, Clem, Lem’s little sister.
In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Ash will no longer have a “travel” companion at all since he must pass the various tests on each island and therefore has no “companions” strictly speaking but rather a classmate. During the episodes, the group is confronted with a mafia organization called Team Rocket. This organization attempts to steal and capture Pokémon from other trainers or Legendary Pokémon.
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!