Shonen series are those that are geared towards a younger male demographic. However, there’s still a ton of material for that this genre to embrace and explore. There’s no end in sight when it comes to the ambitious innovations that continue to push the anime industry forward. Hundreds of new anime enter the market each year, and it can be a daunting prospect to keep up with them all.
Breaking anime down into diverse genres is a helpful way to manage the wealth of content, and shonen series continue to dominate the industry. Shonen series can be full of stereotypes and predictable clichés. But, sometimes, even the most generic shows can grow into something greater.
10 Black Clover Works With Its Protagonist's Shortcomings
Black Clover is a relatively recent shonen series that tackles fantasy adventures and powerful users of magic. Asta, the anime's protagonist, is a stereotypical underdog who lacks magical powers in a world where it's the norm. Nevertheless, Asta doesn't let his shortcomings stop him from becoming a hero.
This isn’t always a pleasant experience, and it takes some time for Asta to come into his own as a character who doesn’t grate on the audience’s nerves. Admittedly, Black Clover is at its roughest during its introductory arc, but it's absolutely worth the commitment, and its shaky foundation only makes Asta's courageous evolution become more satisfying.
9 Dragon Ball GT Forges Its Own Path And Doesn’t Deserve The Hate
Akira Toriyama’s signature shonen series, Dragon Ball, has become one of the most iconic anime franchises of all time. The various Dragon Ball installments work hard to properly raise the stakes, but there’s still a lot of controversy that surrounds Dragon Ball GT. The Dragon Ball Z sequel series was developed by TOEI with only minimal involvement from Toriyama.
The first batch of episodes is the weakest as GT attempts to recapture the lighter energy of the original series. However, Dragon Ball GT soon finds its footing and features some innovative and nostalgic ideas that have more value than some of the later decisions made in Dragon Ball Super.
8 Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba Elevates Clichéd Ideas Through Visual Magic
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba only has two seasons and a feature film under its belt, but it’s already proven itself to be one of the most successful shonen series ever made. Demon Slayer chronicles Tanjiro’s journey as he learns the ways of demon slaying in an effort to help save his transformed sister, Nezuko.
The broader story and character dynamics in Demon Slayer are nothing new, but the anime proves itself to be in a league of its own through the unbelievable animation that ufotable puts together. Stunning visuals and inspired battle choreography are more than enough to make up for a generic plot.
7 Fire Force Handles The Heat And Proves Its Premise Has Legs
There is no shortage of shonen anime where the heroes apply their incredible powers to protect the public. Fire Force narrows this idea down to specifically focus on fire-based energy in a world where spontaneous combustion is a common concern.
It's literally fire versus fire in Fire Force since each member of its elite cast of characters have diverse fire elemental abilities that are used to take down the mysterious Infernal threat. Superpowered firefighters isn't necessarily a premise that gets everyone excited, but slick and explosive animation helps make Fire Force much better than it deserves to be.
6 My Hero Academia's Superhero Stereotypes Have Something To Say
My Hero Academia and the superpowered antics of Izuku Midoriya have resulted in one of the decade’s biggest shonen hits. The anime combines coming-of-age storytelling with school-based drama as well as battle-shonen theatrics.
My Hero Academia benefits from coming along at the perfect time when superhero storytelling has never been more popular, but it doesn’t latch onto this subject matter in a disingenuous manner. The anime, which is set to go into its sixth season, continues to confidently subvert shonen and superhero tropes in ways that make them feel fresh.
5 Hunter X Hunter Goes Above And Beyond In Its Efforts To Never Repeat Itself
Hunter x Hunter doesn't always receive the same accolades as Dragon Ball, One Piece, or Naruto, but it's arguably a more consistent shonen series than any of them. Gon Freecss and the adventures of the series' intrepid nen users don't overstay their welcome even after nearly 150 episodes.
The series continually mixes up the series' formula rather than retread what's previously worked for them. The characters, battles, and even the anime's title initially give an impression of a generic series, but Hunter x Hunter is anything but, and its reputation only continues to improve through the years.
4 Yu Yu Hakusho Trades Its Episodic Exploits For Dedicated Tournament Battles
Yu Yu Hakusho is another shonen triumph to come out of the 1990s that sadly gets overlooked because its initial episodes aren’t the best representation of what the series brings to the table. Yu Yu Hakusho matures into a thrilling battle series that puts an emphasis on tournament fights with bold demons.
However, the anime kicks off with episodic spirit detective adventures as juvenile delinquent Yusuke Urameshi acclimates to his new ethereal status. The trappings of Yu Yu Hakusho make it look like any other shonen series where young punks communicate with their fists, but it evolves beyond these easy stereotypes.
3 Food Wars! Turns Meal Preparation Into A Fiery Feud
Food Wars! has built up nearly 100 episodes over the course of five seasons of over-the-top cuisine combat. Food Wars! isn't the only cooking-based shonen series out there, but it's become the standout of the sub-genre. There's a surprising amount of entertainment to be had in presenting culinary skills through the lens of heightened shonen battles.
It's hard to picture the perfect meal having comparable stakes to a fight for the fate of the universe, but Food Wars! makes it work. The longevity of the shonen series is also a testament to just how much there is to explore with this unconventional premise.
2 Gintama Surpasses Its Humble Origins With Genuine Ingenuity
Gintama is a thoroughly unique anime series that somehow never features a dip in quality across more than 350 episodes. Gintama recently ended its prolific run on a high note, and it’s unclear if there will ever be a shonen/comedy hybrid that’s as fearless with its deconstruction of the medium.
Every episode of Gintama is a true burst of originality, but its lackluster premise where a rag-tag group of individuals carries out odd jobs for an alien-invaded Japan doesn’t inspire much initial confidence. Gintama’s subversive comedy needs to be seen to be believed.
1 One-Punch Man Subverts The Standard Power Scaling Narrative
There’s a fine line between inspired parodies and lazy lampoons. Superhero stereotypes have reached such an all-time high that satires of the genre are practically unavoidable. One-Punch Man focuses on a bored hero who laments the fact that he’s so overpowered that a single punch will eliminate any enemy.
This subversive idea could easily get boring, but One-Punch Man works hard to tell a story that’s exciting, humorous, and emotional. The recent announcement that a third season is on the way for One-Punch Man is guaranteed to bring the shonen series back into the spotlight.
NEXT: 10 Shonen Anime That Disappointed Fans