The shounen genre in both anime and manga is famous the world over, even if someone might not recognize it initially. Popular anime adaptations like Naruto, One Piece, and My Hero Academia have touched the homes and hearts of people from all walks of life. However, since people might have some knowledge of specific anime from the genre, they dismiss the entire genre as all being of a similar take. That “standard” for shounen is an action-packed, somewhat childish plot, usually with a loud protagonist who voices his emotions easily and often! Being that shounen are usually directed at a young male audience, the protagonists from such shows also tend to be younger and male, though there are a few exceptions, like Emma from The Promised Neverland.
In reality, the shounen genre is quite diverse, stretching across a wide variety of settings and subjects. It even includes a few popular anime that you may not have suspected! Since shounen covers a wide range of anime, it also touches on many different other genres. Because we love the genre so much, we at Honey’s Anime want to talk today about some of the most common genre combinations and then show you a few anime that are, surprisingly, a part of this genre. We hope that maybe, in the end, you’ll give some new anime or manga in the genre a chance!
Most Common Pairings:
The most common shounen combination is action. The “standard” protagonist has some sort of gift to make them unique and help them along their path, but gifts are most poignant when they have an active setting to thrive in. Action is also the most common pairing for a shounen because of the targeted audience for the genre. When producers of shows want to reach younger male audiences, they try not to throw too much at them all at once in terms of thoughtful themes. Often, in series like Shingeki no Kyojin, the bigger ideas are mixed in later on, after the audience is already hooked by the events going on. And though Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is based on supernatural action, its characters are a bit older and it has a unique feel to the entire series, especially in the style of art. In all the various seasons and versions of Jojo, it is clear that this is a shounen series thanks to the action, but yet it stands out from most thanks to these other elements.
Many shounen series are set in fantasy, sci-fi, or supernatural environments, giving the characters an opportunity to have more unusual powers. Often, this blends well into the action side of things as well, as strange events can be more enticing for a younger audience than, say, an average day at school. Series like Fullmetal Alchemist use their unusual setting and supernatural abilities to wow viewers, allowing the relatability of the anime to fall on the shoulders of their characters. Of course, if a show has weak characters or the setting has been done far too often, people will lose interest, but if a series is able to bring in something unique or draw out a unique aspect of humanity in their world, viewers will flock to a shounen! We have included these three genres together because, paired with shounen themes, they are all focused on incorporating unique settings or abilities to an anime.
The shounen genre does pair well with sports or school settings, as long as the characters are able to have some sort of action or goal-based competition on which to thrive. Good examples are Boku no Hero Academia or Shokugeki no Souma, which focus on competitions and unusual gifts among their characters. Sports anime are the more common between the two for shounen series, since their competitive nature is naturally brought out through contest. Haikyuu!! and Kuroko no Basket are good examples in this regard. We have included both the sports and school genres together because they tend to follow the same vein when paired with shounen, in that they often use an unusually good gift or the focus of a competition to interest the viewer.
Of course, many harem anime join with shounen as well, though the ecchi factor is usually toned down some for the targeted younger audience. Harem anime can be popular with shounen thanks to the targeted audience of younger men. Most often, shounen/harem pairings are focused on one male protagonist with a plethora of women in tow. Rosario to Vampire is an example of this genre pairing, as it includes the ecchi and harem elements as well as the shounen feel to it!
Some Less Common Examples
As far as the least common pairings, shounen anime based in horror or mystery settings are few and far between, though there are a few notable titles, like The Promised Neverland. The Promised Neverland and Deadman Wonderland stand out simply because shounen don’t typically cross over with the horror genre, and these two examples both do it so well. In shounen anime with these elements, it is often difficult to try to hold an audience’s interest without getting too deep into complex topics, which shounen tend to shy away from early on because of their usual targeted audience.
Shounen anime and manga often do go along with many of the typical tropes seen in their series, but there are a few more erratic shounen that break away from this. Historical anime also tend to be more serious, meaning that series like Dororo and Samuari Champloo are rare for the shounen genre. As with horror/mystery anime, historical anime often reach into complex topics of the world too quickly and are difficult to maintain with the shounen feel of anime like Naruto, set in a fake world with a history that can be molded to the author’s whim. Though Samurai Champloo is a twisted version of history and Dororo has an element of demonic/supernatural influence, the two series are able to stay relatively true to their time period while maintaining shounen elements as well.
Shounen anime and manga include some of the most popular series, but also have some of the most surprising options. Though the genre is often seen as stereotypical and childish, if you give some of them a chance, they may surprise you with the quality of the story and its characters!
Let us know your favorite shounen in the comments section below!