The Shounen genre is undoubtedly anime’s forefront genre. Some of the most popular titles were Shounen titles and the genre’s influence on anime as a whole is vast. From the blonde-haired, hyper-powered brawls of Son Goku in Dragon Ball Z, to the emotional intensity of a last-ditch effort to drop a 3-pointer in Kuroko no Basuke, Shounen manga is exciting, electric and addictive. Why are these titles so popular? What exactly do we love so much about the Shounen Genre to rate it this highly? Characters. Shounen protagonists are some of the purest, most entertaining, most inspiring and memorable characters in fiction. A lot of these protagonists dedicate their lives to protecting the world around them – some of them do it out of a sense of duty, others just so happen to keep falling into situations which lead to them saving the day! Regardless of how they end up doing it, these characters are heroes, and heroes are cool! So, we put together a list of our favourite Shounen manga heroes, all from manga which have not been adapted to anime – save for one. What are we still waiting for? Let’s get to it!
10. Amamiya Yuuhi – Hoshi no Samidare (Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer)
- Mangaka: Mizukami Satoshi
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Psychological, Seinen
- Volumes: 10
- Volumes: June 2005 – August 2010
When the Lizard Knight, Sir Noi Crezant, was sent to find the great warrior Amamiya Yuuki and enlist him in his search for the Princess Samidare, he simply could not have been prepared enough for the ensuing journey. Noi Crezant also has had his plate full trying to protect Earth from the “Biscuit Hammer” which is set to break the Earth into two. Despite the looming threat, his so-called “champion”, Amamiya, wants nothing to do with saving the world and Princess Samidare just isn’t the person Noi Crezant believed she was.
By definition, Amamiya Yuuhi is the individual sought out to fulfil a particular destiny and save the world from mortal peril, but unfortunately, he refuses. However, potential is everything and with the harnessing of his ability, Yuuhi could quickly become the hero Sir Noi Crezant was tasked with finding and recruiting. Despite his massive role in the survival of the planet Earth, the reclusive Yuuhi has much to learn before he can save anyone.
9. Ueki Kousuke – Ueki no Housoku (Law of Ueki)
- Mangaka: Fukuchi Tsubasa
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Magic, Shounen, Super Power
- Volumes: 16
- Volumes: July 2001 – October 2004
This is the story about the Battle of the Supernatural Powers, a massive tournament used to determine who will become the next King of the Celestial World. 100 candidates are required to select a junior high school student who will be their fighter in the tournament. Each fighter is granted a unique power to change something into something else and the winning Celestial King Candidate earns their seat on the throne while their fighter receives a “Blank Talent” – a talent that they can choose for themselves.
Ueki Kousuke is the protagonist of Law of Ueki and he received his power from his homeroom teacher, Kobayashi. His power is to turn trash into trees and while this does not sound too exciting at first; however, his ability to manipulate his power to change object A to object B is at a greater level than his fellow fighters. Ueki’s kindness sees him always trying to help other people and he believes that he can trump any situation with a little effort.
8. Yamada Yamato – Takamagahara
- Mangaka: Kawai Juuzou
- Genres: Action, Comedy, School, Shounen, Super Power, Supernatural
- Volumes: 2
- Volumes: July 2012 – November 2012
In this universe, every single human being possesses latent superpowers. Upon their awakening, some people use their powers to commit atrocities, while others put their own lives in harm’s way in order to curtail people’s evil deeds. A cruel boy named Hiruko has used his superpowers to subjugate his school and everybody lives in fear of him – at least that was the case until the appearance of the mysterious transfer student with his arm wrapped up in a giant cast…
Yamato Yamada is a simple teenage boy who dreams of one day becoming a mangaka with his own serialisation in the Weekly Shounen Jump. However; his five brothers all wish to become strong fighters, thus he has developed some incredible strength of his own. It is with this strength that Yamada Yamato entered the gates of Takamagahara and challenged Hiruko’s iron fisted rule.
7. Arale – Dr. Slump
- Mangaka: Toriyama Akira
- Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 18
- Volumes: January 1980 – August 1984
When inventor Norimaki Senbei builds a robot named Arale, he comes to realise that his invention is more than he ever imagined it could be. However, his fellow villagers in Penguin Village would not be too happy to hear that Arale is not a real girl, thus Senbei tries his best to keep his invention from gathering too much of the wrong kind of attention. With a pair of glasses and an outfit he casually threw together for her, no one in Penguin Village will suspect a thing…
Norimaki Arale is an energetic, naïve little girl who possesses incredible strength. She is also a robot created by Norimaki Senbei. Given her lack of common sense, Norimaki has his work cut out for him trying to prove that she is in fact a normal little girl to the other citizens of Penguin Village. Her naivety makes her optimistic and caring; her compassion for her friends compels her to act on occasion. Due to her immense strength, Arale has survived and conquered various situations which would be beyond dangerous for any normal human beings, such as her intervention in a bank robbery on one occasion.
6. Yoshina Ageha – Psyren
- Mangaka: Iwashiro Toshiaki
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Game, Romance, Sci-Fi, Shounen, Super Power, Supernatural, Psychological
- Volumes: 16
- Volumes: December 2007 – November 2010
Yoshina Ageha is a high schooler who makes extra cash on the side by rendering his services to people who may need them. On his way back from one such job, he finds a calling card with the word “Psyren” imprinted in a phone booth and decides to keep it. Later he realises that his classmate, Amamiya Sakurako, has the exact same calling card. When Ageha asks her about it, she breaks out into a panic, asking him to save her – soon after, Sakurako goes missing. Believing the calling card to be related to her disappearance, Ageha calls and is asked a series of questions, the final being “Would you like to go to Psyren?” That question sets into motion an intense game of life or death in a world where monsters roam free. Now caught in a volatile world, Ageha and Sakurako fight to return to the place from whence they came.
Yoshina Ageha is your quintessential hot-headed Shounen protagonist, and what normally goes hand-in-hand with such a trait is an incredible desire to help other people. Such is what Ageha possesses – the innate desire to save people from their predicaments. After seeing the distressed Sakurako beg for help, he could not help but not attempt to do what he could in order to calm her down – going as far as to figure out what caused her disappearance a few days later.
5. Asta – Black Clover
- Mangaka: Tabata Yuuki
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen
- Volumes: TBC
- Volumes: February 2015 –
Abandoned together on the same day at the same church, Asta and Yuno are two orphans who grew up together. When they were younger, they promised to participate in a healthy rivalry to see who would become the next Emperor Magus – the strongest wizard in the world. Unfortunately for Asta, the dream might be pure delusion as it turns out that he has no magic power to speak of, while Yuno was a genius-level mage, even receiving the legendary 4-leaf clover grimoire at 15. When this became common knowledge to the village, Yuno became a target for bandits who wished to sell his grimoire. When Asta intervenes, he is greatly injured and his power revealed: the 5-leaf clover grimoire – the Black Clover.
A traditional Shounen protagonist by every sense of the word, the loud and determined Asta was a no-brainer for this list. Ever since he was younger, Asta always had great protective instinct; always hopping into the fray to defend Yuno from bullies, or more recently, bandits. His “act first, think later” approach to his life has landed him in much trouble; however, it is admirable seeing how easily Yuno moves in order to lend others a hand.
4. Kurogane Gama – Gamaran
- Mangaka: Nakamaru Yousuke
- Genres: Action, Historical, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Volumes: 22
- Volumes: May 2009 – June 2013
During the Edo period, the state of Unabara becomes a cesspool of power-hungry individuals who enjoy nothing more than the heat of battle. The state’s ruler, Washitzu Naosata, is currently looking at his group of 31 sons for a successor. His means of selection? A quest for each of them to find an individual they believe is the strongest martial artist in the nation. Each warrior will then be pit against the others in battle royale to determine the strongest in Japan, as well as Unabara’s next ruler. Washitzu Naoshi, one of the 31 sons of the ruler heads out to the mountains in pursuit of Kurogane Jinsuke, the legendary swordsman capable of slaying 1000 men. Unfortunately, Naoshi does not find Jinsuke – rather, he meets the very strong and very capable Kurogane Gama, the son of the legendary Jinsuke. Eager to prove his strength, Gama joins Naoshi and sets out on a quest to become the strongest.
Perhaps not a hero in the traditional sense; however, given the widespread number of uses of the word, it isn’t much of a surprise that Kurogane Gama appears so high on this list. From the perspective of Washitzu Naoshi, perhaps Gama is a hero in the traditional sense; given his incredible strength and confidence in his own ability. Heroes; however, are not only defined in a traditional sense and in some cases, we use the word synonymously with “protagonist” – either way, Gama is a badass swordsman who’s legendary blood already puts him way ahead of his sword-slinging peers.
3. Hazama Shou – Akumetsu
- Mangaka: Tabata Yoshiaki
- Genres: Action, Drama, Shounen, Police, Psychological, Thriller
- Volumes: 18
- Volumes: October 2002 – April 2006
After her father’s company went bankrupt, third-year high school student Nagasawa Shina believed that she had to ease the financial strain on her father. As a result, she secretly begins to delve into prostitution; however, at her first job, the appearance of a strange masked man throws the entire event into disarray and to top it off, she knows who it is. Hazama Shou, one of Nagasawa’s school mates decides to take up the mantle of a vigilante and dish out justice the way he sees fit.
In showing up at Nagasawa Shina’s first job in the manner in which he did, Akumetsu saved her from the unpleasantness of the job she had to force herself to do. Donning his mask, the gun-toting Hazama Shou is a classic hero, perhaps even a Japanese version of a certain bat-themed hero character, without the moral compass to inspire him to spare his targets. If you are evil according to Akametsu, you shall be erased.
2. Magoi Tokuko – Area 51
- Mangaka: Hisa Masato
- Genres: Action, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Seinen
- Volumes: 15
- Volumes: January 2011 – July 2017
The legendary American mystery, Area 51 – home to a secret society which houses a plethora of supernatural creatures, aliens, deities and even individuals from legend. This patchwork of a community is also made up of a small community of humans; people who cannot live in the outside world with everyone else and this includes Magoi Tokuko, a.k.a “McCoy”. Alongside her kappa partner, McCoy works on several cases and jobs assigned to her by the various beings who come to her for help.
Magoi Tokuko sits fairly high up on this list for her incredibly helpful actions which benefit the vast majority of the inhabitants of Area 51. Due to the fact that she has worked on several different cases, McCoy is a hardened woman, capable of incredible feats during combat due to the broken blade of her Kusanagi no Ken, a legendary sword which is vital to her jobs. Helping the various inhabitants of the Area makes McCoy one of our favourite Shounen manga heroes.
1. Mephisto Bart Kucabara – Defense Devil
- Mangaka: Yoon In Wan (Story), Yang Kyung Il (Art)
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Demons, Mystery, Drama, Ecchi, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 10
- Volumes: April 2009 – June 2011
Defense lawyers have their work cut out for them in the courtroom, especially when handling some intense cases. Be that as it may, their workload and struggles do not compare to those of devil lawyer Mephisto Bart Kucabara, a demon exiled from the demon world. In order to return, he must collect Dark Matter, which he can obtain from sinners cast down to Hell. Should Mephisto manage to prove the soul’s innocence, the Dark Matter is his – but will he ever get anywhere if he keeps using the Dark Matter he earns to protect the very souls he absolves?
The reason why Mephisto tops our heroes list is due to the manner in which he selflessly performs what he believes to be his duty: to protect the human souls unlucky enough to have been sentenced to Hell. Despite his burning desire to return to the demon world from whence he came, Mephisto finds himself using the Dark Matter he obtains in order to bolster himself in combat against the Shinigami that come to take souls from purgatory into the true Inferno…
The Shounen genre is arguably anime and manga’s most celebrated genre, with worldwide reach and acclaim given to various titles which bear the tag. Given the sheer size of the genre itself, there are literally thousands of characters and stories that can be explored. Do you think there are some Shounen heroes we missed? Drop a comment below and tell us all about them – we always love hearing more about the characters who haven’t quite yet been given the breath of life by one of Japan’s many animation studios!