Arguably the most popular genre of anime, shounen anime are action-based and aimed at a young male audience. Despite the specifically targeted viewership, shounen anime can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life! Yet, because of the targeted audience, the main protagonist is often a young male himself, to relate to viewers. Some shounen characters are more enjoyable than others, though it is not always clear why… Here’s where we come in! We’re here today to briefly look at some reasons why this might be, and talk about what makes one shounen lead character better than another!
Because most shounen anime are directed at the same audience, the main characters tend to follow similar themes. These characters usually come from nothing, and often have lost their parental guardians to some sort of tragedy. Though they may struggle with some sort of hindrance or unusual obstacle, all shounen protagonists have big dreams they are striving to reach. And, of course, many of them are rather loud characters, making their wishes and dreams known to everyone in their vicinity – not always the most entertaining trait to have in a main character…
Shounen protagonists are popular for many reasons. Of course, since they are the main characters, we often get to see their growth in a more detailed way than many of the supporting cast. This can make them seem more relatable to us, as we get to see many of our own personality traits or impending struggles up close despite the fact that they may be in an unusual setting.
We also get to see these characters push forward to achieve their goals against insurmountable odds. Despite their many hardships in life, these characters keep trying, standing up for themselves and those people they care about. This is certainly a big source of inspiration for us as an audience – we may not have a demon fox sealed within us like Naruto or need to fight off Titans like Eren, but we can take this same inspired determination into our own lives!
One of the reasons that many shounen protagonists are well known is because their personalities are hard to miss in the world of anime! They are often loud and obnoxious compared to many other characters in their setting, often shouting their dreams aloud or using their focus as a dogged ignorance for comedic effect. Even as shounen protagonists are loved for their relatable nature, their obnoxious personalities can take some viewers out of the moment and setting.
Shounen characters can also be quite predictable. Since the protagonists are meant to overcome great odds to achieve their obstacles, they usually win their fights, taking some of the suspense out of the battles. A perfect example of these flaws can be seen in Asta, the main character of Black Clover. Asta spends most of his first few episodes shouting every single line, and winning his fights whenever he runs in with his giant sword. Of course, we’ve been enjoying Black Clover just as much as anyone – but those first few episodes are almost painful to get through!
Additional Elements – Setting and Story
Though the main characters are the focus of any anime, we must also give a nod to the other elements helping to hold them up, including the setting and the storyline. Varying from ninja to demons and from warriors to pirates, shounen can cover a wide range of settings, giving them just as wide a range of stories to tell. Each setting’s details are what sets the shounen apart, giving life to the characters within. Even shounen set in a school can have vast differences from one to another, as seen in the differences between shows like Boku no Hero Academia, Shokugeki no Souma, and Ansatsu Kyoushitsu, just to name a few. It is interesting to note which combinations of genre seem to do better than others – but ultimately, the characters are what really hold an anime up.
Changing It Up – In A Good Way
There are several shounen characters that try to change up a few elements to keep things interesting for the viewers. Shounen comedies like Aho Girl like to deter from the serious nature of dreams, often being more lighthearted overall. Meanwhile, there are more serious shounen crossovers like Death Note. Its main character, Light Yagami, is technically the villain in his own world, hoping to create a new world that he would rule over as a god. Even shounen leads with one small change in trait can make a big difference. Nanatsu no Taizai features the protagonist of Meliodas, who is unusually resolute and serious for a shounen, focusing more on protecting others around him than any big dreams of his own.
This is only a brief look at the various characteristics that make up a shounen protagonist! Of course, what is considered an asset or a detriment is up to each individual person, but there are certain positives and negatives that most shounen leads seem to embrace. We hope that you will be able to look at your favorite shounen characters in a new light!
Who is your favorite shounen lead? Do they follow any of the characteristics we mentioned? We would love to talk more about shounen with you in the comments section!