Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is an anime classic that’s still going strong after nearly four decades of exaggerated action. The continued exploits of Goku and the rest of Earth’s heroes remain entertaining, but they’re admittedly not for everybody and even the series’ die-hard fans occasionally need a break from gratuitous Super Saiyan transformations and energy beam battles.
Dragon Ball fits into the battle shonen genre, which is full of long-running action-packed content, some of which is likely to leave a greater impression on some audiences than Goku’s conquests. Plenty of anime find ways to capture the same heights and dynamics of Toriyama’s signature series, but without the same baggage as Dragon Ball.
10/10 Yu Yu Hakusho Is Precise Shonen Storytelling With None Of The Fat
Yu Yu Hakusho
Yu Yu Hakusho begins in a humble, innocent nature, only to quickly blossom into one of the most enjoyable action shonen series of its generation. Yusuke Urameshi’s evolution from a listless juvenile delinquent into a heroic spirit detective and esteemed fighter of the spirit realm is both impressive and consistently exciting.
The series’ core quadrant of characters all get opportunities to shine. Even better, at only 112 episodes, Yu Yu Hakusho doesn’t get lost in endless filler or belabor its point in the way that Dragon Ball occasionally does.
9/10 Hunter X Hunter Tells A Strong Action Adventure That Avoids The Standard Setbacks
Hunter X Hunter
One of the most valid criticisms of Dragon Ball and other shonen series of its kind is that their endless battles can fall into a repetitive formula. Hunter x Hunter doesn’t have the same mainstream acclaim as other battle shonen fare, but it punches above its weight and deserves the same accolades.
Gon Freecss’ incredible journey begins in a familiar place, but the anime works hard to avoid repeating itself and each new arc is a breath of fresh air. Hunter x Hunter has 148 episodes, which manages to cover a comparable amount to Dragon Ball Z, but in a fraction of the time.
8/10 Flame Of Recca Is A Modest Action Series That Helps Audiences Test Shonen Waters
Flame Of Recca
Flame of Recca is a traditional shonen series from the 1990s that bears many similarities to Naruto, Dragon Ball, and Yu Yu Hakusho. However, in many ways, it’s the ideal starter shonen series to check out before progressing over to more complex narratives.
Recca Hanabishi, a passionate ninja fanboy, learns that he’s destined for greatness and possesses a powerful elemental ability. Flame of Recca burns bright while it lasts, and at only 42 episodes, it doesn’t demand a serious commitment from its audience.
7/10 Jujutsu Kaisen Blends Horror & Action With Thrilling Results
Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the newest shonen obsessions that’s taken over the anime industry and its upcoming second season is set to be one of the year’s biggest releases. Jujutsu Kaisen faithfully embraces heightened martial arts action like Dragon Ball, but it embraces the horror genre for its intense curse abilities that Yuji Itadori and others turn to in battle.
Produced by MAPPA, Jujutsu Kaisen also looks absolutely gorgeous and its big battles truly put Dragon Ball‘s to shame when it comes to aesthetics. Jujutsu Kaisen is still just getting started, which makes it the perfect time to experience this supernaturally powered demonic mayhem.
6/10 Gintama Gets Stronger & Sillier With Each Passing Episode
Gintama accomplishes the rare feat where despite its laborious length of more than 350 episodes, there’s not a dud in the mix. It’s an anime that actively grows funnier and more suspenseful over time rather than starting to show signs of age. Gintoki, Kagura, and Shinpachi don’t possess magical powers or shoot out beams of energy.
Their strength and virtue boil down to swordsmanship and the sterling ideals of the samurai. Gintama seamlessly ricochets between sincere storytelling and hilarious parodies that mock every anime staple imaginable. Gintama lovingly pokes fun at Dragon Ball on multiple occasions, but there’s still a lot that Toriyama’s series could learn from Gintama‘s pacing.
5/10 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Challenges Shonen Expectations With Its Unique Structure
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has been running for nearly as long as Dragon Ball and yet in many ways, it feels as if JoJo’s has covered infinitely more ground. Araki’s inventive action series applies a generational approach to its storytelling where sagas shift perspective between different members of the Joestar bloodline across many years, continents, and even timelines.
The exaggerated energy Stands that characters engage with in battle, plus villains that borderline on caricatures, provide a hint of Dragon Ball‘s energy. At the same time, it’s still doing something completely unique with a battle shonen.
4/10 Toriko Is A Shonen Serious With A Voracious Appetite For Adventure
At first glance Toriko almost looks like a food-based parody of Dragon Ball, right down to its protagonist’s prominent orange outfit that bears a resemblance to Goku and his signature gi. Toriko heads down a standard shonen adventure as he aims to become the ultimate Gourmet Hunter and craft the most delicious meal.
It also doesn’t hurt that there’s a playful Shonen Jump crossover special where Toriko, Goku, and One Piece‘s Luffy all pig out together on a massive feast. Anyone who can hold their own with Goku during lunch deserves attention from Dragon Ball‘s fandom.
3/10 Ranma 1/2 Is Nostalgic, Retro Bliss That’s Reminiscent Of The Original Dragon Ball
Rumiko Takahashi is a prolific mangaka who’s responsible for popular series like InuYasha, Urusei Yatsura, and Ranma 1/2, the latter of which bears the greatest resemblance to Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. Ranma Saotome is one of several cursed individuals who undergo an embarrassing transformation whenever they’re exposed to cold water.
Ranma 1/2 isn’t bereft of supernatural elements, but the series’ action and combat come down to the fundamentals of martial arts. Ranma 1/2 gives its comedy and romance just as much weight as its action, which is actually more reminiscent of the original Dragon Ball than its successors.
2/10 My Hero Academia Uses Dragon Ball’s Mechanics In A Modern Superhero Context
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia has steadily performed as one of the standout shonen series of the decade that cleverly combines the genre’s storytelling tropes with pop culture’s growing fascination with superheroes. Now in its sixth season with more than 100 episodes and three feature films under its belt, My Hero Academia has never been more confident in its storytelling.
The heroic exploits of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya and the rest of the anime’s wildly diverse lot of super-powered individuals have progressively grown more mature. This very much resembles the shift that Dragon Ball experiences as Goku becomes more adult.
1/10 One Piece Is A Shonen Behemoth That’s Surpassed Its Inspiration
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball continues to turn out new stories, but it’s also inspired countless other modern shonen successors. Eiichiro Oda has candidly spoken about how Dragon Ball helped influence his shonen masterpiece One Piece in both storytelling construction and Luffy’s optimistic demeanor.
One Piece has been continually running for nearly 25 years and its manga is finally approaching the series’ endgame. At this point, there are more than 1000 episodes and 15 feature films in the series, which actually makes it more of a commitment than Dragon Ball, but plenty of people prefer Oda’s work.
NEXT: 10 Best Ongoing Shonen Anime Perfect For New Viewers