Shounen Anime Subgenre
A loanword from Japanese that loosely translates to "youth" or "young boy", shounen has come to mean anime series that focus on action, adventure, and a fair bit of comedy. More broadly though, it's a term that encompasses all kinds of anime that target young boys and is often adapted from manga running in shounen magazines.
As with other demographic-targets-turned-subgenre, shounen isn't necessarily limited to certain stories or themes. In fact, shounen is one of the more ambiguous subgenres because it's so broad in its range and so widely enjoyed; it often attracts older audiences and female viewers. Regardless, more often than not, you'll know you're watching a shounen anime if it has a young male protagonist, focuses on something pretty widely appealing, and has a bit of comedy thrown in with its action/adventure shenanigans.
Gotta be the best. That no-one ever was, in fact. There's almost no escaping that shounen anime protagonists have an insatiable need to be a master of their main interest; to surpass every obstacle and, against all odds, be the absolute best at one thing, even if that thing is incredibly simple.
The power of friendship. If a shounen protagonist is destined to be the ultimate at something, then naturally he amasses a group of fiercely loyal friends who almost match him in talent. Sometimes it's in the form of rivals, sometimes it's in the form of helpful friends, but in the end, the protagonist can pull through anything with the support of those around him.
The rule of cool. Shounen doesn't always have to be about fighting, exploring or being super active, but it must always be cool. The setting, the world's technology, haistyles seven feet tall, impossible clothes, flashy finishing moves and everything in between needs to look and be just plain cool.
Undying hope. Just as shoujo anime tends to focus on idealistic first-time romance, shounen anime holds hope for a bright future. It may show the dark and gritty side of life, and get into heavy topics, but you can bet that somehow things will pull through for an overall better future.
Action. Most of the time, shounen is synonymous with action-heavy series. And, well, it's kind of true. From fighting people, to fighting aliens, to fighting animals, to fighting animals with other animals, to fighting robots, to… well, fighting everything with anything, you can expect shounen anime to have at least a few fight scenes.
Adventure. Second in importance to action is exploring the vast, open world. Shounen can't seem to hold itself back from taking its characters on great journeys, which usually serve as a way to show many different places and characters as well as showing just how far the protagonist has come.
Comedy. If there's any genre that seems to always works its way into a shounen series, it's comedy. Not always at the forefront, but always present, giving fun moments to otherwise action-heavy series.
Sports. A big part of being a kid is playing sports. The bonds forged on the field, the skills of the players and the clashes between teams strike at the core feeling of what shounen is. Sports anime takes it further, giving you tense moments, action and high-stakes clash of wills in an otherwise ordinary setting.
Mecha. Big robots with big guns fighting big space battles are the epitome of awesome. Shounen has its fair share of mecha series, from the long-standing Gundam franchise to various newer titles; guys and big robots just seem to go hand-in-hand.
Here's our top 10 'best Shounen recommendations'
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Two brothers turn to the art of alchemy to resurrect their dead mother but end up nearly dying to the principle of Equivalent Exchange. In order to regain what they've lost in the ordeal, they set out to find the Philosopher's Stone. A series with heavy themes that gets it just right every time.
2. Hunter x Hunter – Gon, son to a famous hunter, leaves home to train and follow his father's footsteps. But even with his small band of quirky friends, the fights he is in for aren't always ones he can beat. A long series that does a few new things with the subgenre.
3. Gintama – Fuedal Japan is ruled over by aliens who have banned ownership of swords in an effort to quell any potential attacks against them. But this doesn't stop talented swordsman Gintoki from earning his keep. A hilarious comedy show that needs to be seen to be believed.
4. Attack on Titan – Humanity has been barricaded enormous walls that serve to protect them from man-eating giants roaming the land. When these walls are breeched for the first time in 100 years, young Eren and his friends decide to enlist in the special army that takes care of the titans. An action-heavy show full of amazing animation and tense atmosphere.
5. One Piece – Not long before the death of the world's greatest pirate, the word of a legendary treasure spreads through the land; a treasure that promises great wealth, great fame, and the coveted title of Pirate King. It's enough to spur young Luffy to take up pirating and assemble a motley crew to grab One Piece. A sprawling adventure series that maintains quality over time.
6. Death Note – Light Yagami, a cynical teen genius, stumbles across a book that can kill anyone whose name is written in its pages. With it, he decides to change the world, one death at a time. But someone is close on his trail of destruction. A gripping psychological mystery that deals with supernatural themes.
7. Great Teacher Onizuka – A former delinquent takes over teaching for a high school class. But his rough tendencies aren't totally gone, especially when he needs to lay down the law. A comedic series carried by its strong protagonist.
8. Bleach – Ichigo has been able to see spirits for a long time, but it's not until his family is attacked by a vengeful ghost that he is introduced to the world of soul reapers (Shinigami). After receiving the power to be a Shinigami himself, Ichigo trains to defeat the spirits in his town. A popular shounen series that kicks into gear a little after it starts.
9. Naruto –Naruto never really had a chance growing up, not when a great fox demon was sealed inside him from birth. But he keeps firm to his dream of being the village's strongest ninja. One of the more popular shounen series that has a strong start to a long story.
10. Dragon Ball – Young Goku's quest to become stronger and Bulma's efforts to collect the wish-granting Dragonballs causes the two to cross paths. From there, they set out on a long journey. An older shounen series that set the stage for many, many more shows to come.