Every artist needs to start from somewhere, which is the main reason one-shot manga projects exist. Besides offering a means to get your work out to an audience, great stand-alone stories occasionally lead to magazines financing further chapters. Quite a few popular manga started as one-off projects, before the powers that be decided to take a chance on the mangaka.
Shounen is known for long, drawn-out storylines and over-the-top characters, so it might not seem like an ideal genre for the short-story format. Despite the limited page count for the upcoming manga, some have gone on to inspire highly acclaimed anime adaptations or served as a launching pad so the artist could move on to bigger and better things.
Time to get down to business! Here is our top 10 shounen one-shot manga!
- Mangaka: Date, Tsunehiro
- Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Romance, School, Shounen
- Published: Dec 28, 2015
At most, a mangaka has 60 pages to tell their one-shot story. This constraint is not necessarily a bad thing since it forces the artist to focus on the core of their idea. Tsunehiro Date’s Gachipin. plays it safe in terms of story, as the gorgeous art style is the primary selling point. Hazama Shunichi is a high school student with a camera at his disposal, who dreams of working as a photographer. In a chance encounter, Hazama meets and loses his ideal model, so he sets out on a mission to reconnect with her.
Admittedly, the plot is rather mundane, but Tsunehiro manages to instill a sense of wonder and magic into each frame. The characters are likable as well, especially the confident and smooth protagonist, with a great attention to detail in their design. This one is worth seeking out for the fantastic drawings, although there are some genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout.
- Mangaka: Hosokawa, Shingi
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Historical, Shounen
- Published: Jun 7, 2012
It can be argued that the best stories leave the reader yearning for more. That is definitely the case with Amanusya, an action fantasy manga distributed on Gangan Online, as it sets up a fascinating premise and introduces three interesting main characters. Unfortunately, as quite a few years have gone by without any word on a follow-up, the manga community is unlikely to get an Amanusya series.
The Amanusya is a great and mysterious power sought after by many adventurers. Shingi Hosokawa’s one-shot focuses on three travelers who arrive in a town seeking to find this artifact, before realizing there is something fishy going on. The protagonists are entertaining and well-drawn, making it quite easy to get invested in their story. Amanusya does feel like a proof-of-concept rather than a proper stand-alone manga, but it was fun while it lasted.
8. Fairy Tail x Rave
- Mangaka: Mashima, Hiro
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen, Super Power
- Published: Apr 17, 2011
Hiro Mashima is an accomplished shounen writer, with Fairy Tail lasting for over 500 chapters. Before hitting it big with Natsu and company, the mangaka spent six years working on Rave, a popular adventure manga which also spawned a short-lived anime series. Fairy Tail x Rave brings together the best of both worlds, leading to a few great set pieces and a fair amount of laughs.
Natsu, Lucy, and Happy are on a mission to track down a dangerous mage. This leads them to the same town where Rave’s Elie and Haru are staying. After both groups end up separated, Elie runs into Lucy, who starts to wonder whether the former is the mage they are seeking. Following a fair amount of misunderstandings, the heroes of the two popular manga face off in an epic battle.
Fairy Tail and Rave are cut from the same cloth, so this crossover is perfectly suited to please fans of both series. It never takes itself seriously, preferring to double down on action and humor.
7. Unlucky Boy Undead Girl
- Mangaka: Tobita, Sou
- Genre: Action, Drama, Romance, Shounen, Supernatural
- Published: Jan 9, 2015
Who doesn't love zombies? Due to the massive popularity of the undead, finding a genuinely unique story is far from an easy feat. Unlucky Boy Undead Girl is quirky and adorable, if not particularly groundbreaking, and centers on a weird relationship between a living boy and a zombie girl. It works well enough as a one-shot manga, although there is potential for something more, with a genuinely touching ending.
Sou Tobita’s art style prioritizes the central characters, with the backgrounds often being on the simplistic side. This is not meant as a criticism since this stylistic decision suits the romantic undertones prevalent throughout the one-shot. The main couple plays off each other extremely well, and we cannot help but want them to end up together. The action sequences are far from the main focus, although there are a few adrenaline-pumping moments spread throughout the story.
6. GE: Good Ending
- Mangaka: Sasuga, Kei
- Genre: Romance, School, Shounen, Sports
- Published: Mar 2009
Puppy love is a pretty common trope in Japanese comics, with a lot of school-based manga following a main character as they chase their ideal partner. Seiji Utsumi is one of these protagonists, who spends his days admiring Shou Iketani from a distance. After a friend catches the high schooler in the act, Utsumi is forced to join Iketani’s tennis team to try and make a move.
Utsumi is a surprisingly endearing and relatable lead character. Kei Sasuga puts him through the ringer, as he develops from a spineless stalker into a genuinely likable individual. The idolized Iketani is also a three-dimensional character and does not exist simply to serve as a trophy for Utsumi.
GE: Good Ending was an instant hit in Japan, leading to a full series being commissioned and distributed. If someone is planning to read the full manga, it is better to avoid this one-shot, as there are quite a few spoilers.
5. Souten no Koumori (A Bat in Blue Sky)
- Mangaka: Arakawa, Hiromu
- Genre: Action, Historical, Martial Arts, Shounen
- Published: 2006
With just over 60 pages, Souten no Koumori is a relatively long one-shot manga. It follows the shinobi warrior Henpukumaru, who awakens in a strange mansion belonging to a dangerous lord and his young son Chiyozuru, who is destined to take over his father’s duties. The plot is rather predictable, but that does not mean it’s boring or stale. The relationship between Henpukumaru and Chiyozuru is well-developed, especially for a short story were the primary focus is action.
Arakawa crams in quite a lot of twists and turns here, creating a frantic pace which constantly pits the main characters in a struggle for survival. The final third is devoted completely to a full-on battle, which is vividly drawn and introduces a fun villain. Fans of long-running series like Naruto or Bleach should consider giving this one a try, as it offers the same style of ninja-based entertainment.
4. Aoharu x Kikanjuu (Aoharu x Machine Gun)
- Mangaka: NAOE
- Genre: Action, Comedy, Shounen, Slice of Life
- Published: July 28, 2011
Spawning an ongoing manga series and an anime, Aoharu x Kikanjuu started off as a stand-alone story about two close friends and their passion for survival games. Originally, Yukki and Matsuoka dreamed of becoming soccer stars, but eventually, their lives went down different paths. As they hit adulthood, Matsuoka started working as a host, while Yukki struggled to make a living as a hentai mangaka.
A chance encounter reunites them, so Matsuoka and Yukki set out to change their lives for the better. This one-shot is a recommended reading for those planning to try the manga, as it does a fantastic job of setting up the characters and the world they live in. NAOE’s art style is not yet as consistently great as the subsequent series, with a year passing between chapters, but this one-shot blends action and comedy to a satisfying degree.
3. One Piece Strong World
- Mangaka: Oda, Eiichiro
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Shounen, Super Power
- Published: Nov 21, 2009 to Dec 12, 2009
Honestly, it does feel kind of strange to include a One Piece chapter in an article about one-shot mangas. While the main series is slowly approaching the 900 mark, Strong World is set 20 years in the past and serves as a prequel to the movie of the same name. The primary focus is developing the relationship between Shiki the Golden Lion, and Roger the Pirate King. Although this might seem like a throwaway entry for the franchise; Oda masterfully blends action, comedy, and drama to create an epic stand-alone story.
This special does a decent job of setting up Shiki’s character for the movie, as he is a villain who greatly influenced the world of One Piece. Saying that, the real reason fans should read this one is for an opportunity to see how their favorite characters spent their time prior to the start of the manga. People like Ace, Mihawk, and Garp make appearances, with a few even being involved in battles.
Greatly adding to One Piece’s lore, this is a must-read for any fan.
- Mangaka: Komi, Naoshi
- Genre: Drama, Romance, School, Shounen
- Published: Oct 20, 2016
We recommend preparing a whole box of tissues, as this one is a doozy. Tokidoki follows two high school students who are on a quest to enjoy their lives to the best of their abilities. This is easier said than done, as Hatsu Takagi suffers from a rare heart condition which greatly reduces the number of times her heart can beat. Wearing a monitor, she knows exactly how long she has left, so Hatsu spends her days alone to try and not get excited.
After Hato Iijima accidentally walks in on Hatsu, he agrees to help her experience life’s pleasures to the fullest. Despite lasting less than 55 pages, Naoshi Komi created a manga which is genuinely emotionally exhausting. The art is constantly beautiful and a perfect fit for the subject matter. Admittedly, the story could be described as manipulative or illogical, but it is practically impossible not to feel something for Hatsu and Hato.
1. Koe no Katachi
- Mangaka: Ooima, Yoshitoki
- Genre: Drama, School, Shounen
- Published: Jan 8, 2011
Koe no Katachi is a name most anime viewers should be able to recognize. Adapted from the highly-rated seven-volume manga, last year's film version garnered near-universal praise. Prior to Kyoto Animation’s anime and the 64 chapter serialization, Yoshitoki Ooima penned a one-shot version of Koe no Katachi in 2011. Like every other subsequent adaptation, the original is a great literary achievement.
The story does not break new ground, with the primary focus being on the lasting effects of bullying. When it comes to the art style, Ooima is no slouch, but Koe no Katachi is hardly going to turn any heads. The author really shines due to how the situation and characters are handled. The bullies exhibit stereotypical behavior, without being reduced to cliches themselves. They are grounded in our reality, adding a sense of weight to these panels. The harsher scenes could easily be off-putting, but Ooima presents everyone involved as human beings, rather than monsters.
Honestly, what more can be said about Koe no Katachi? Whether it is the movie, manga, or one-shot; this story is one for the ages.
One-shot manga tend to fly under the radar, as they are usually penned by unknown authors. With a few exceptions, most seem to be designed to impress an editorial staff rather than to find an audience. While some can be rather hard to track down, the entries listed in this article are worth the effort needed to locate them. Due to their short length, they can be read in under ten minutes, which is – in our opinion – time well spent.
What is your favorite shounen one-shot manga? Or which do you believe deserves a full-length adaptation? Please let us know in the comment section below.