The constant innovation and creativity on display in anime has helped turn the medium into one of the most popular forms of entertainment. There’s an overwhelming library of anime content to explore, many of which indulge in eclectic genres where anything seems possible and there’s a show out there for everyone, no matter how niche.
The storytelling in shonen anime is aimed at younger male audiences, typically with an emphasis on action, and is often out of control. Many of the biggest anime of the generation are all long-running shonen titles, but some of these perennial classics aren’t for everyone and have polarizing receptions.
10/10 Romance Often Reigns Supreme In Inuyasha
Rumiko Takahashi has a rich reputation for creating engrossing shonen series that effectively toe the line with the shojo genre and typically contain a heavy emphasis on romance. Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and Inuyasha are among Takahashi’s most celebrated works. Inuyasha features plenty of action against intimidating demons.
That being said, the stakes never properly sink in, and it’s the simple human dynamics between Inuyasha and Kagome that stand out the most. Inuyasha is an undeniable success, but it’s not aggressive enough and too sentimental for many shonen fans.
9/10 Food Wars! Gives Cuisine A Massive Martial Arts Makeover
One of the best qualities of anime is that there’s endless creativity between series and this means that even the shonen genre explores many different types of stories. Food Wars! operates with the same passion and intensity as any martial arts battle shonen, yet it follows Soma and other budding chefs who prove themselves in the kitchen rather than the battlefield.
The juxtaposition between these extreme sensibilities is exactly what makes Food Wars! such a delight. That being said, there are still some who are completely uninterested in a “cooking show” and prefer a more traditional shonen series.
8/10 Haikyuu!! & Its Fast-Paced Sports Drama Isn’t Enough For Everyone
The shonen genre can get preoccupied with battles to death and exaggerated encounters between good and evil. Sometimes the most engaging stories and the greatest stakes are found in grounded competitive sports. Anime indulge in every sport and recreational pastime imaginable and Haikyuu!! is considered to be the most popular volleyball drama and shonen series.
Shoyo Hinata engages in an inspirational journey to become a revered volleyball player and there are nearly 100 episodes of Haikyuu!! that celebrate his determination and progress. Haikyuu!! is one of the best shonen sports series that are out there, but it’s a subgenre that just falls flat for some.
7/10 One Piece’s Exhaustive Episode Count Is Polarizing To Newcomers
Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece has been going strong for 25 years, and it’s produced more than 1000 episodes and 15 feature films. However, the lengthy accomplishments of Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat Pirates on their many adventures are also one of the series’ greatest deterrents.
There are now so many One Piece episodes that it’s increasingly difficult for newcomers to jump in and give the show a chance. For many fans, there’s an awareness of One Piece, but it’s too daunting of a monolith to ever actually watch.
6/10 Jujutsu Kaisen’s Horror Impulses Can Be Too Intense
Jujutsu Kaisen is still a relatively new shonen obsession, but its prequel film Jujutsu Kaisen 0 broke box office records in Japan and speaks towards the intense fandom that the series has already found. Jujutsu Kaisen finds strength in how it combines action-centric shonen ideals with the horror genre and truly terrifying creature designs.
The whole Cursed system at the center of Jujutsu Kaisenis a fascinating world for an anime to develop. However, it’s not for the faint of heart. Audiences are drawn to Jujutsu Kaisen because of its edge and frightening sensibilities, but not every shonen fan can handle horror.
5/10 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Loses Consistency Through Its Constant Reinventions
Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has kept audiences entertained for more than three decades and a major factor in the shonen series’ success is its fearlessness in mixing up its formula. The broader strokes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure remain the same, but each new story saga follows a new member of the legendary Joestar bloodline through different periods of history.
Some fans miss the earliest days of the series with Jonathan and Joseph Joestar, but many actually prefer the stylistic and genre shifts that occur later on in the series’ run. Then again, all of these intrusive changes have also kept some people away from JoJo’s.
4/10 Gintama’s Lengthy Run & Chaotic Comedy Don’t Always Connect
Gintama is a delight for the senses that turns a redemptive shonen series into an uproarious self-aware parody where nothing is off limits. Gintoki and the rest of his put-upon Odd Jobs Crew are happy to just make enough money to pay off their rent.
However, an adventure of apocalyptic proportions slowly plays out that’s as emotionally cathartic as it is hilarious. It’s hard to imagine Gintama‘s playful and carefree sense of humor not working for someone, but comedy is subjective and the anime’s tone and pacing aren’t to everyone’s tastes.
3/10 Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba’s Stunning Visuals Will Leave Others Cold
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is another new series that’s completely captured the interests of shonen fans. There’s nothing especially remarkable about Demon Slayer, which follows Tanjiro as he sets out to refine his demon slaying skills in a bid to save his transformed sister, Nezuko.
Entertaining character development and a slew of uniquely exciting villains are both assets for Demon Slayer, but it’s the immaculate animation and battle choreography that creates the most fervor in the fandom. Stunning visuals aren’t enough to win everyone over and those that require more will ultimately be left unimpressed through the concessions made in Demon Slayer.
2/10 Death Note’s Dark Themes Are Too Much For Some To Bear
A lot of anime transform into compelling power fantasies, but Death Note is one of the darker meditations on the corruptive nature of power. Light Yagami blossoms into a true villain after he acquires the titular Death Note and learns of its fatal powers. The simplicity of Death Note‘s premise makes it an easy watch, plus its engaging cat-and-mouse dynamic between Light and detective L is consistently gripping.
Death Note hits the ground running, but there are seriously diminishing returns in its second season that have kept away some audiences. Additionally, its nihilistic tone and Light’s callous actions are too disturbing for some to regularly watch.
1/10 Dragon Ball’s Reassuring Tropes & Formulaic Plotting Wear Thin For Some
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is viewed as the signature modern shonen series and even those who have never seen an episode are likely aware of its exaggerated displays of aggression and explosive transformations. Dragon Ball has inspired countless other shonen series through its repetitive formula and combat strategies and the series’ triumphs are easier to recognize in a broader sense than on an episode-by-episode basis.
Dragon Ball‘s legacy is still intact, but there are more than 500 episodes and two-dozen movies across the growing franchise. It’s a lot to endure for someone who isn’t quickly on board.
NEXT: 10 Best Shonen Jump Anime (According to MyAnimeList)