Although there are countless anime programs to choose from, shonen series frequently generate the most buzz and become the next major mainstream blockbusters. A wide variety is covered by shonen anime. However, stories aimed towards a younger male audience frequently place a strong focus on action.
Young male fans for shonen programs have grown more sophisticated in terms of what they can tolerate. Even the more mature seinen audience, however, finds some shonen series to be particularly extreme and unbearable. Gratuitous violence isn't always a plus, and there are many instances in shonen where less is more.
10/10 Bloody Battles With Demons - Haunting In Real Life
Chainsaw Man is the latest shonen sensation and as the exaggerated action series’ name suggests, it’s quite a violent endeavor. Chainsaw Man’s humble hero, Denji, becomes the unwitting bearer of the Chainsaw Devil, which puts him through a blade-burdened transformation that helps him tear through dangerous Devils.
Beyond the gratuitous gore that’s consistently on display in Chainsaw Man, Denji is also driven forward by incredibly juvenile motivations that some may make exceptions for. Denji’s romantic pursuits also result in one of the most traumatic first kisses to ever be committed to animation.
9/10 Love And Support Reach To Obsessive Levels
(Happy Sugar Life)
One of the most impressive things about anime is how some series use aesthetics to better emphasize their themes. In
Happy Sugar Life, a teenage girl named Satou develops an obsession over a young girl, Shio, who she decides must be protected at all costs.
Satou is willing to literally take people's lives to "protect" Shio, yet in the end she's only putting this child in harm's way. Happy Sugar Life is filtered through Satou's deluded take on reality, which frequently masquerades her horrific murders as fantastical flights of fancy. It's an unsettling look into obsession that feels too dark to be a shonen.
8/10 Mecha Mayhem Is A Conduit For Depressing Existential Dread
(Neon Genesis Evangelion)
One of the most well-known anime series ever is Neon Genesis Evangelion, which has gained popularity among those who don't generally watch anime. Giant robots battle kaiju-like Angels in the mecha anime Evangelion in an effort to stop the destruction of the world.
The uncompromising portrayal of sadness in Evangelion, which was a mirror of Hideaki Anno's own mental state at the time of development, makes it stand out as an eternal masterpiece. Although the series centers on Shinji's misgivings, every character in Evangelion is a flawed, actual person who has experienced pain. Sadly, not all of these people have the fortitude to persist.
7/10 Battles On A Global Scale - Doubts Between People Escalate
(Attack On Titan)
Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has emerged as one of the biggest shonen series of the decade and its anime adaptation is finally set to wrap up a prolific run. Attack on Titan begins in a dark place with its bleak world that pits man against monster.
The series gets progressively more intense as casualties are experienced and the most trusted of individuals become troubling vigilantes. Attack on Titan’s gradual character development, particularly with Eren, is an extended exercise in dread. His transformation and the ensuing consequences, are too much to bear.
6/10 Curses And Time Loops Paint An Impossibly Nihilistic Picture
Higurashi: When They Cry
Higurashi: When They Cry is a deceptive shonen series that adopts a cute, “moe” style for its characters, all of which makes its brutal violence and cosmic horror hit even harder. A mysterious virus and a series of murders in the quiet town of Hinamizawa become the focus in Higurashi: When They Cry.
The series slowly reveals itself to have much grander aspirations as deities invoke time loops and endless slaughter that make a happy ending feel impossible in this confusing purgatory. This bleak reality is further than most shonen series are willing to go.
5/10 A Family Revenge Story Doesn't Avoid the Graphic Violence
It should come as no surprise that a viking anime contains brutal action, devastating betrayals, and a no-nonsense look at a more barbaric version of humanity. Vinland Saga begins with tragedy as Thorfinn witnesses the death of his father, which then becomes the catalyst for his rampage of revenge.
Vinland Saga immerses its audience in mature storytelling, but with WIT Studio responsible for the animation, there's also a level of detail and precision that makes every sword slash hurt. Vinland Saga presents a level of consistent realistic violence that’s rare for a shonen series.
4/10 A Every Life That A Legendary Gunslinger Takes Weighs Heavily On Him.
Trigun is a beloved 1990s shonen action series that’s set to receive a modern reboot in 2023 with Trigun Stampede that will hopefully expose a whole new generation of fans to the heightened antics of Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon.
Vash is an accomplished gunslinger and defender of justice, but his tortured past and staunch values frequently weigh down on his conscience. Vash is prepared to take a life, if he has to, but Trigun depicts the guilt that accompanies these kills. There are plenty of moments where Vash just broods or screams in mental anguish as he struggles to accept the things that he’s done.
3/10 Increasingly Bold Storytelling Results In A Universe Reset
(JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is still going strong after 35 years and it’s one of the most creative shonen series in existence due to its ability to reinvent itself in each new story saga. These character, genre, and storytelling pivots have helped keep JoJo fresh, but they’ve also occasionally pushed the franchise into corners.
JoJo is quite willing to take out its main characters, which occasionally feels callous. The culmination of this recklessness is seen during Stone Ocean’s conclusion where the series essentially resets time itself and begins a new alternate reality.
2/10 Change Time, Destroy The Planet, Revive Out Of Control
In all fairness, Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise is one of the lighter shonen series. A lot of consequences, including death itself, have been reduced to momentary nuisances. However, these safeguards can cause Dragon Ball to operate with an increased recklessness that’s even more dangerous.
There have been some vicious executions of civilians by Imperfect Cell, Majin Vegeta, and Kid Buu. Future Trunks’ timeline is on its last legs. Frieza wipes out entire planets without giving the destruction a second thought. Dragon Ball Super has even allowed the Earth to get destroyed, which feels like a step too far for the shonen series.
1/10 A Powerful Book Becomes The Ultimate Cautionary Tale Of Corruption
Death Note is a shonen classic that works as well as it does because of its simple power fantasy premise. It’s easy to believe that someone wouldn’t abuse the abilities of a Death Note, but this anime continually reinforces the opposite. Death Note isn’t afraid to cross the line when it comes to who it selects for its victims.
However, the anime is at its most disturbing when it spends an increasing amount of time in these serial killers’ heads who develop these misguided God complexes. It’s too easy to picture individuals like Light Yagami in the real world who would absolutely abuse this type of destructive power.