Anime! It’s a little crazy, it’s a little zany and usually it’s usually full of action! We love action here, so this week I got with Kevin Kutlesa from The Mental Attic, where we decided to have a sit down chat about anime – and more importantly, anime that we would have loved as a teenager. Some of these have been around for ages; whereas some of them came and went. Either way, these are our Top 10 Shonen Anime!
10) Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma
Nothing says Shonen like a good action scene – and what better kind of action is there than that of cooking up a storm? No, not actually fighting with storms, I mean literally a series of action that takes place in a kitchen. Shokugeki no Soma is infamous to the internet; with its downright delicious recipes and the lewd depictions of people thoroughly enjoying the food, honestly it’s no wonder this is a hit!
However, we could only throw this entry in at number 10, because whilst this is a culinary delight, it’s hard to think about Shonen in such a light typically. Indeed, Shonen is aggressive in nature – and when the most aggressive thing you do in your anime is chop up some meat to prepare to cook, you know it’s not your typical Shonen. Nevermind though, we felt it fit the criteria of our list, even though it takes a strange diversion away from the norm. Well worth a look out!
9) Bio-Boosted Armor Guyver
An oldie but goodie, Guyver has seen an OVA in the 80s, two live action movies of variable quality and a rebooted series in the mid-2000s that went way past what the OVA covered.
The Guyver is, as the title entails, an armour, of alien origin. There are aliens among us, disguised as humans and most of them working in the Cronos Corporation, which aside from being a multinational enterprise, also does terrible experiments on humans, transforming them into Zoanoids, mutants with the powers of animals and ancient beasts.
The Guyver is but one of their weapons, created millions of years ago by the aliens’ masters, but it accidentally falls into the hands of Sho Fukamachi. He activates the armour and it fuses with him, granting him the power to defeat the zoanoids and keep his friends safe.
There’s action, political intrigue, romance and very-well written characters. And if you’re interested in watching the latest adaptation, you can do it now on Crunchyroll!
8) D.Gray Man
There are many anime out there about exorcists killing monsters, but D.Gray Man is on this list not only because it’s perhaps one of the first we all ever saw but also because its characters are fantastic. Allen Walker, the protagonist is genuinely likeable and though his ideals often put him in danger, you understand early on why he can’t abandon them.
Allen Walker and his compatriots are those rare anime characters that begin their stories with enough pathos to make them interesting without having to waste endless episodes on pointing things out. A few simple images are enough and you understand these people are scarred and flawed and the way they behave is the only way they can survive. It’s amazing stuff.
Also, it has one of the coolest and most threatening villains in anime, the Earl of the Millenium, the master of the Akuma, monsters created from the tortured spirits of the dead by those wishing to bring them back. The Earl comes to them and tricks them into summoning the souls, which he then traps in the Akuma bodies.
Exorcists, Allen among them, fight these creatures and their master using the power of Innocence, a magical power source that takes many shapes but is lethal to the Akuma and the only way to release the trapped souls. Allen’s own innocence awaked when he turned his adoptive parent into an Akuma and had to fight it off to survive.
You gotta admit that’s a killer background for a main character, especially one bearing such a sweet smile.
7) Assassination Classroom
Have you ever had that one teacher you couldn’t help but think bad things about? Not in a perverted way, you letch! No, I mean insofar as you wanted to kill them? Did you ever think about assassinating this teacher? What it means to take their life? And did you ever think about that crazy reward you would get for assassinating said teacher? Yes… Wait… What did you say about reward?
Assassination Classroom is as prototypical a Shonen as you can get – The humour in it is full of crass moments by Koro-Sensei, the action is fast paced and yet is able to calm itself down expertly. It’s all around an excellent anime, although I did feel the ending was somewhat rushed. I don’t think it’ll be remembered as a “must-watch” on people’s anime lists in many years to come, but it certainly holds a place in our hearts right now!
6) Hunter x Hunter
In this world, one of the most powerful organisations on the planet is the Hunter Association, its members being elites among humanity who work or “hunt” in any area you can imagine, from hunting for ancient treasures, fighting monsters to finding the rarest of cooking ingredients.
The story follows Gon, a young orphan who discovers that his father is not only alive but an elite hunter. Deciding to find him, he takes the annual Hunter’s Exam, a harrowing test that puts him against people from all over the world, some loyal and friendly that join him as companions and others vicious and uncaring. But through determination and his boundless innocence and naiveté, Gon makes it through…and that’s when things get complicated.
Hunter X Hunter doesn’t just have the fights and high intensity stories you’d expect from a shonen series, but also one of the most intricate explanations for a supernatural power source and ability. The first time “Nen” is brought up, it comes along with a thorough explanation that grounds every power that comes afterwards, creating a set of rules the always manage to remain consistent, which is amazing to say the least.
5) My Hero Academia
Shonen is all about action, drama and the development. It’s all about having a character come from an unlikely background and then surpassing their doubters and all difficulties that they may or may not have had. My Hero Academia is exactly this, when young Deku (Izuku Midoriya) decides he wants to be a hero badly, even though he has no superpowers whatsoever. After all, if he learns enough about other heroes, surely he can come up with some way to be one?
By eating the hair of his hero, All Might, Deku has to do a lot to learn how to control his new found powers… And this is a very shonen thing. Lots of training, lots of people looking up to their heroes, lots of action with clearly defined goodies and baddies. It’s the most popular anime of today – So the question is: Will this series be considered one of the greats going forward? Here’s hoping..!
4) One Piece
Often referred to as part of the trinity of shonen, One Piece is one of those anime that sets itself apart from the others by being visually unique. Furthermore, the manga behind One Piece has won numerous awards for being the most popular manga – In fact, if we do a bit of Wikipedia searching, we find out it’s won a whopping ten awards for ten consecutive years and has broken a Guinness World Record.
However, One Piece doesn’t quite get to the top of our list. It’s got an awesome story, with an incredible art style and it’s immensely popular. However, anime isn’t necessarily always accessible to the mainstream. One Piece did something that has been done before; which we’ll get into another time. The anime was popular, but the manga was far more popular than it. As such, we couldn’t give this a Top 3 spot in our Top 10 Shonen Anime list… But it almost got there!
3) Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
If there’s one series you can use as an example for the phrase “Over the Top,” it’s Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Its characters are larger than life and so are the villains and even random, one-off characters become memorable in their sheer lunacy.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure chronicles the adventures of the eponymous Jojos, generations of powerful fighters with names and surnames that can coincidentally form the nickname Jojo. From Jonathan Joestar to Kujo Jotaro and any other name in between, the Jojos have adventures across the world, some fighting mysterious villains with nebulous plots and a few others fighting vampires and their master, the original villain of the story, Dio Brando.
It’s not unusual to find characters in Jojo with names inspired by bands or musicians. In fact, most of the characters in the first two or three arcs follow this trend, with the Mural Men, super vampires, named after AC/DC, The Cars, Wham and Carlos Santana.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has a perfect name, because it is bizarre. It’s weird, over the top and no one, and I mean no one, has an internal monologue. Every thought is shouted at the top of the lungs, followed or preceded by some outrageous catchphrase.
But you know what? It is absolutely genius!
2) Rurouni Kenshin
Most shonen are about superpowered people fighting world or civilisation ending threats, but few are tales of redemption, which is at the core of Rurouni Kenshin aka Wandering Kenshin.
Himura Kenshin, our protagonist, was once the deadliest killer during the warring era at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate and many consider him instrumental in the cessation of hostilities and the formation of the Meiji government. But he disappeared. Now he wanders throughout japan, a vagabond with nothing but his sword, a Sakabatou, a reverse-edge sword, one that when wielded as you would any sword won’t cut its enemies. The sword is part of Kenshin’s promise to never kill or hurt someone again.
Yet despite his desire to live a life of peace, circumstances draw him into ever increasing conflicts, some of which threaten to send Japan back to an age of endless war. Knowing the horrors of war better than anyone, Kenshin puts his life on the line and risks breaking his vows to prevent that from happening.
Rurouni Kenshin has a beautiful story, and explores the nature of war and peace and how those whose lives were marked during times of war cope with a peaceful world. Some find contentment, others chafe under the new restrictions and others lose their humanity. It’s intriguing and interesting stuff.
Rurouni Kenshin has also been adapted into what are perhaps the best live action films ever.
1) Dragon Ball Z
How could we not put Dragon Ball Z in this list? In fact, if you were to say Shonen to anyone, they’ll nearly always say “so like Dragon Ball Z?” They may just say Dragon Ball, but most people loved Dragon Ball Z the most. Yes, this was truly the king of all Shonen anime, whether you’d like to admit it or not. It was by far the most popular and is still one of the longest lasting anime out there.
Come 2015 and we received Dragon Ball Super, which is taking the conventions of Dragon Ball Z and running wild with it. The fact that they are still able to continue in this vast, expansive universe is amazing. The characters aren’t exactly deep and meaningful, but that’s okay, as Dragon Ball makes up for it with ridiculous fight scenes which, somehow, keeps you hugely entertained. It doesn’t matter if their power levels keep on rising, ultimately, we watch it because it’s somewhat intense – and we love that about it.
Through the comedy, through the ridiculous characters – It’s hard to imagine the Shonen anime genre without Dragon Ball Z. Kevin and I both immediately said Dragon Ball Z when this topic came up. Sure, Dragon Ball maybe better and we may all try to forget Dragon Ball GT – But ultimately, Dragon Ball Z is one of those anime that you can’t help but be fixated on – and that’s why it gets our number one spot.
Anime is awesome; it’s fast paced and it’s all in all a thrill to watch. However, with the next entries, well, we might not always see eye to eye with our vs
Thundercats (2011 series)
Ok, it’s not technically an anime, but it’s anime-adjacent. It’s a joint American & Japanese series, and the style is very reminiscent to traditional shonen anime and that is definitely its demographic. This reboot saw the Thundercats not as exiles from the planet Thundera, but as members of the royalty and military of the Kingdom of Thundera, situated on the familiar planet of Third Earth. When Mumm-Ra attacks and destroys the kingdom, killing Lion-O’s father in the process, it’s up to the young prince to find allies and master the Sword of Omens to defeat the evil sorcerer.
This series was slightly controversial on release, as it changed many things, including the relationships between characters, even going so far as to adding a romantic triangle which many didn’t appreciate. It also gave Mumm-Ra, the Sword of Omens and the Thundercats a common origin that can only be described as Sci-Fantasy. Also, and just to prove that the Rule of Cool was thriving in this show, Mumm-Ra’s sarcophagus turned into a car. It was glorious!
Naruto vs Bleach
One’s a ninja, the other is in a soul society. But which of these two Shonen fan favourites deserves an extra special mention?
Love it or hate it, Naruto is a hugely influential anime. Personally, I adore Naruto for what it’s done for anime. However, I couldn’t forgive it for how long it’s gone on for. It started in 2002 then ended in 2007, which is long enough. However, it then had another series from 2007 until 2017. Finally, we’re getting Boruto, to continue the Naruto stories. Whether or not you love this bright orange jumpsuit wearing ninja, it’s one that we couldn’t ignore. BELIEVE IT!
A much more refined anime now, to stand next to Naruto, however in a similar vein, this series has been around for absolutely ages. Starting in 2004, it went on all the way until 2012, which is crazy for one anime. With 366 episodes to its name, it went on for quite a bit, with lots of fillers between the storied episodes. It’s a lot more complex a narrative than Naruto, which limited the appeal, but anyone who got into Bleach was hugely fond of this series. If you’ve somehow avoided it this far, I’d recommend you check out Bleach as soon as you finish reading this article.
That’s it for another week, you can put away your swords and your incredibly stylish haircuts now. It’s time to let the Samurai’s rest, the martial artists can go home and finally, we can see all of those specifically collectable pieces with unforetold power together in one place! Ah but, man, I’m feeling so angsty right now, that I’d like for you all to do me a massive favour and select with of next week’s Top 10’s you’d like to see written about.
Like, whatever dude, you’d best Believe it! It’s over with now. Our enemies have fleed from us and we’ve saved the day again! Until the next episode, that is, when we’ll do it all over again. But whatever! Did you like this list, or what? Did you think we got the order right, or did we mess it up? Did Dragon Ball Z deserve top spot? Did we forget a really cool anime? As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.