Although the shonen genre currently dominates the anime landscape, the anime community has never been stronger and there’s more diverse content to celebrate than ever before. Anime is certainly guilty of indulging in certain stereotypes, but a lot of the time these dependable elements become what audiences love the most about the medium’s eclectic genres.
Shonen anime and manga represent some of the most popular anime of all time. There are successful shonen series with hundreds of episodes and legacies that span decades, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll connect with all audiences. In fact, some of the most popular shonen anime have contentious reputations within certain corners of the anime community.
10/10 Dragon Ball’s Endless Action Is Hard To Take Seriously
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball has been a signature shonen series for more than three decades. The heightened adventures of Goku and the rest of Earth’s heroes have spanned multiple series and generations in order to continually deliver bigger spectacles.
Dragon Ball has excellent action and compelling storytelling, but it’s also guilty of a fairly repetitive formula that relies upon unexpected transformations and gratuitous sequences where warriors channel their energy. It’s understandable that these tropes wear thin for some audiences and leave them only able to see Dragon Ball as a parody of shonen series instead of what lies beneath.
9/10 Dr. Stone Struggles To Balance Its Combative & Intelligent Extremes
Dr. Stone is a recent shonen series to win audiences’ hearts. The series looks at a select group of survivors who have awoken after thousands of years of petrification. Initially, Dr. Stone feels almost reminiscent of Breaking Bad as genius Senku Ishigami turns science into his superpower.
It’s thrilling to see Senku’s community slowly propel itself through different ages of industrialism thanks to its improving tools and technology. Science remains crucial to Dr. Stone, but season two pivots more towards action, and it feels a lot more like every other shonen series. This tonal change has caused some polarizing opinions within the fandom.
8/10 Bleach Gets Consumed By Filler
Bleach‘s recent return to adapt its climactic Thousand-Year Blood War arc to provide closure for its loyal anime fans is genuinely exciting. Bleach is one of Shonen Jump‘s most successful titles and Ichigo Kurosaki is still regarded as one of the shonen’s best heroes.
Unfortunately, Bleach‘s success became the anime’s undoing. Bleach is one of the biggest victims of egregious filler to pad the anime’s story so that the manga can build momentum. Bleach’s filler throws its narrative so far off course that it’s impossible to get it back on track. The anime has more than 350 episodes, but still no proper conclusion.
7/10 Black Clover’s Best Material Takes Too Long To Come Forward
Shonen series love to highlight an underdog and seasoned viewers are used to the idea that their protagonist may begin their journey with no powers at all beyond blind optimism. Black Clover blossoms into one of the decade’s most satisfying fantasy shonen series, but both the anime and its noisy lead, Asta, remain in arrested development for longer than some audiences can bear.
Asta’s impressive development over the anime’s 170 episodes is part of what makes the show such a delight. Other fans don’t have the patience to listen to a juvenile hero whine for dozens of episodes when plenty of other shonen series begin with competent leads.
6/10 Toriko’s Food-Based Spin On Shonen Is An Awkward Fit
Toriko is a boisterous shonen hero who’s even shared a meal with Goku and Luffy, and yet Toriko has failed to reach the same heights as its shonen peers. Toriko indulges in battle shonen tropes, but it also operates as a subtle satire of shonen storytelling since Toriko’s goal revolves around assembling ingredients for the perfect meal rather than the protection of the universe.
This is a fun framework for a shonen series, but the narrative drags its feet and its metaphorical meal grows cold. Those who don’t connect with its food-based antics won’t discover the secret sauce in Toriko‘s recipe.
5/10 Demon Slayer Is More Style Than Substance
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba only has two seasons finished, but its first cinematic installment broke box office records and helped turn the aesthetically pleasing shonen series into a classic. Demon Slayer doesn’t break the mold and its humble hero, Tanjiro, strives to save his infected sister from her demonic fate.
Demon Slayer evolves familiar shonen traits through its heightened battles and Ufotable’s glorious visuals. Those who watch anime for the animation will adore Demon Slayer, but the mainstream crowd might not recognize what all the hype is over, especially this early in the series’ run.
4/10 Gintama’s Humor & Random Impulses Are An Acquired Taste
Gintama has recently wrapped up a prolific run of more than 350 episodes and three feature films, yet in some ways, it feels like Gintama has only gotten started. The series follows Gintoki, Shinpachi, and Kagura in a version of Edo, Japan that’s been taken over by aliens and outlawed samurai.
Gintama reaches dramatic heights, but it’s also uproariously funny where no series or genre is off limits. Although Gintama somehow gets funnier with each episode, its absurdist gag humor isn’t for everyone. Audiences either love Gintama‘s energy or feel alienated by it.
3/10 Fairy Tail’s Errant Lead & Caricature Cast Hold It Back
Although Natsu Dragneel and his Fairy Tail guild are unquestionably heroic figures, it takes too long for their personalities to shine in a shonen series that runs for more than 300 episodes. Natsu is a perpetual work-in-progress, but the rest of the series’ eclectic fighters and magic users first emerge as stereotypes, and it takes them a while to shed the belittling label.
There’s enough promise when Fairy Tail begins to tell that great things lie ahead. However, some audiences want a quicker return on their investment and can’t stand sitting through hundreds of seemingly pointless episodes.
2/10 My Hero Academia Skews Too Young For Certain Audiences
My Hero Academia is currently celebrating its sixth season, and it’s telling its most mature stories yet after seasons of growth and discovery. My Hero Academia lovingly embraces both shonen and superhero stereotypes with its exaggerated world where nearly everyone has a superpower.
Deku’s budding missions as a hero-in-training are fun, but they’re definitely quite kid-friendly during its first three seasons. Those who haven’t aged up with the characters may not connect with its introductory seasons, which means they won’t stick around for the impressive, adult storytelling that follows.
1/10 One Piece’s Overwhelming Legacy Is Intimidating
Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece has been continually running for nearly 25 years, and it’s finally ready to enter its long-awaited endgame. This lengthy run means that the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates have filled more than 1000 episodes and 15 feature films.
There is a good deal of anime-only filler to wade through, but One Piece finds an effective balance where the filler can still be worthwhile. The greater problem that plagues One Piece is the enormity of its legacy where episodes fail to resonate with curious newcomers, but there’s also not enough time to binge through the whole series.
NEXT: 10 Darkest Shonen Anime, Ranked