The 4 Best Shonen Anime Series of All Time

Feb 29, 2024
There’s something about shonen anime that just resonates with viewers. Perhaps it is because the medium offers the widest range of narrative styles; whether it's action, drama, sci-fi/fantasy/supernatural, sports/school, horror/mystery, historical, or comedy, there’s a shonen anime just waiting for you. The most well known may be action and coming-of-age stories, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This style of anime targeting a younger audience makes space for a variety of themes; so its popularity turned out several massive crowd pleasers.
The 4 Best Shonen Anime Series of All Time

Despite the countless number of good shows available, there are some extremely well-made shonen anime that stand out from the pack. The best-of-the best hit all the highlights: likable characters, engaging action scenes, rich and compelling themes rooted in adventure, friendship, learning right from wrong, and overcoming obstacles. They offer a variety of animation styles with relatable character design and engaging color schemes at their core.

It’s not enough to simply follow the formula; the best shonen offers something extra that keeps you coming back again and again. So, which ones stand out the most? With all of this in mind, and understanding this is a constantly, and hotly debated list, here are my top 15 picks for shonen anime.

1. Naruto

Naruto is a thematically rich story known for its martial-arts inspired action and commentary about friendship, forgiveness and redemption. This highly beloved anime may not have the most edgy animation but the relatable character design and use of an eclectic ensemble add to the enjoyment and adventure. Following young ninja Naruto Uzumaki as he works to become the leader (Hokage) of Leaf Village is a well-written journey about power and the value of hard work. The storytelling and character development keep it accessible to new fans and popular among diehards cementing its standing as one of the best.

2. One Piece

One Piece is a long-running shonen about Monkey D. Luffy sailing with his globetrotting crew of Straw Hat Pirates on their hunt for the treasure. Based on Eiichiro Oda’s manga, this adaptation is full of high action and laughs. With an eclectic group of male and female characters, One Piece uses camaraderie and adventure to keep the storytelling engaging season after season. Considered one of the “big three” alongside Naruto and Bleach, One Piece houses some of the greatest anime characters of all time, including Roronoa Zoro. Now a Netflix live-action series already renewed for a second season, there's still more to come from the Straw Hat Pirates. Also see: how to watch One Piece in order.

3. Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen is meticulously paced, smartly animated, and an exciting blend of comedy and action. It’s witty storytelling and creatively designed villains aided by edgy and gripping darkness turn it into a top-tier battle animation. High schooler Yuji Itadori’s dabbling in the occult leads him to encounter a cursed item. After being plunged into the world of curses and witnessing the dangers to humanity, and discovering his newfound abilities, he steps onto the path of becoming a Jujutsu sorcerer. There’s a self-awareness and character development that results in an anime unafraid to off its characters, tackle genre tropes, and be grim and violent. Jujutsu Kaisen proves when done right, it only takes the first season to become one of the most memorable and exciting action anime around.

4. Bleach

There was a high school student named Ichigo Kurosaki that always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn't change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a soul reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display spiritual energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family; but much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged soul reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia, it's Ichigo's job to protect the innocent from hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.



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