Well-made shonen anime (or shounen anime, as it is sometimes spelled) tend to be massive hits — just look at Attack on Titan or Dragon Ball. It is by far one of the most popular “genres” of anime with countless numbers of manga adaptations and original series being created for fans. Shonen is also a demographic rather than a traditional genre, so it covers a wide spectrum of shows.
In a category with countless anime to watch, it can be difficult to choose which series to get into. Still, there are some shonen anime so excellent they stand above the rest and should be on every fan’s must-watch list until they’ve seen them all. What are the best shonen anime ever?
|Show||Studio||Where to Stream|
|Dragon Ball||Toei Animation||Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, VRV|
|Dragon Ball Z||Toei Animation||Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, VRV|
|Dragon Ball GT||Toei Animation||Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, VRV|
|Dragon Ball Super||Toei Animation||Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, VRV|
Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball introduced countless people to not only shonen but also anime in general. It might be the greatest gateway anime of all time, and one that has retained its popularity for four decades. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z are the franchise’s peak; the former showcased Toriyama’s talent for comedy while the latter set the standard for the action-heavy battle shonen series that would follow in the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Dragon Ball has had more than a few disappointments and low points throughout its history, but the anime’s longevity is beyond question. And, when the show peaks, it reaches heights only the greatest shonen anime have seen.
Attack On Titan
Arguably the most popular shonen anime of the last decade, Attack on Titan‘s penchant for shocking moments, vicious action, and haunting music have made it a must-watch show for nearly the entirety of its lifespan. Improving with each season, Attack on Titan is arguably at its best when its titular monsters are removed from center stage to provide room so that the anime can explore its universe’s origins and human characters. Attack on Titan will be coming to an end soon, and it will be a huge loss for shonen in general.
The anime has changed a lot since its initial incarnation, emphasizing political and social themes alongside its visceral action and shocking twists. The Final Season challenges what fans have come to expect from these characters, and the twists and turns generally feel earned.
A psychological thriller about a serial killer and the detective(s) seeking to bring him to justice, Death Note is a shonen anime that focuses on a battle of minds rather than biceps. Light Yagami finds the Death Note, allowing him to kill anyone by simply writing their name within the book’s pages. As Kira, Light starts to shape a new world in his vision, one that naturally attracts the attention of the authorities.
Death Note is at its best when concentrating on Light and L’s rivalry and strange friendship. Their cat and mouse chase is the stuff of legend, and outside of maybe Monster, few anime have done it better.
Spy X Family
Except for maybe Kaguya-sama, Spy x Family was the most hyped show of Spring 2022, and the anime adaptation largely delivered on its promise. Set in a world defined by the tension between two powerful nations, a spy is tasked with infiltrating a prestigious academy, a process that demands he acquire a family in the span of a week. Therefore, Loid Forger does just that, adopting the charming Anya and marrying Yor.
Each member of this family comes with quite a secret, and despite their existence being essentially cons, these relationships are surprisingly wholesome. Spy x Family is also rather hilarious, with Anya producing some of the funniest facial expressions of the Spring 2022 season.
Nichijou – My Ordinary Life
A prime example of shonen’s underappreciated range, Nichijou is a sketch comedy about a group of high school girls, a talking cat, a child genius, and a robot. The slice of life anime starts ordinary enough, seemingly setting the stage for what will be a relatively relaxing and “normal” series; then, a school principal wrestlers a deer, and things fly completely off the rails.
Nichijou is unpredictable, surreal, heartfelt, and consistently hilarious. The anime blows most other comedy series out of the water, and it holds up well to repeat viewings.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba
While this entry might reek of recency bias, Demon Slayer‘s success can’t just be dismissed as a result of one episode’s worth of great animation. After producing a slow-burner of a first season that exploded in popularity towards the tail-end of its run, Demon Slayer went on to release the highest-grossing anime movie ever, and a sequel season that arguably usurps its predecessor in terms of action and character development.
Kimetsu no Yaiba tells the simple story of a brother who would do anything to protect his family, specifically his sister who has caught a case of the demons. Bolstered by stellar action, intimidating villains, and divisive comedy relief, Demon Slayer is a modern classic.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Hirohiko Araki’s influential manga launched in 1987 and is still going strong today. While a full anime adaptation took a long time to materialize, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure finally got the (worldwide) attention it deserved in 2012. Split into different parts, JoJo powers through a weak beginning to become one of shonen’s greatest (and most memeable) creations.
Each part centers around a different descendant of the Joestar family as they find themselves dragged into action-heavy adventures set across the world. Great heroes, unforgettable villains, and stylish poses, JoJo has it all.
Your Lie In April
Despite popular opinion stating shonen to consist of only the battle variety, the “genre” extends far beyond the confines of just Dragon Ball and Naruto. Your Lie in April highlights a different side to shonen, one driven by emotion, heart, and humor.
Your Lie in April centers around a prodigy who is struggling to rediscover his spark for music following the death of his mother. He forms a friendship with Kaori, and things get powerful from there. Prepare the tissues as Your Lie in April is the ultimate anime tearjerker.
The Disastrous Life Of Saiki K.
Kusuo Saiki is an all-powerful psychic who can do nearly anything, a fact he wants to very much keep under wraps. Unfortunately, Kusuo’s efforts to keep a low profile are undermined by his magnetic ability to attract lovably weird people, and his school has quite a few of them.
A sketch comedy show, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is a laugh riot that seldom has a dull moment. Kusuo’s stoic demeanor serves as the perfect foil to the rest of the cast’s quirky characters, and the anime balances the humor with its share of sweet moments.
Hunter X Hunter (2011)
The second adaptation of Yoshihiro Togashi’s manga, 2011’s Hunter x Hunter lures people in with a familiar battle shonen premise and protagonist before going down a much darker and more complex path. Wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Gon sets out to become a Hunter, and he makes a few lifelong friends at the exam.
After that initial arc, Hunter x Hunter splits up its main characters while challenging them with tasks that require great sacrifices to accomplish. Featuring perhaps the best power system in shonen anime, Hunter x Hunter is a masterpiece.
Great Teacher Onizuka
Who wouldn’t want someone who previously ran a biker gang as their teacher in school? Especially after they suplex the Vice-Principal! Great Teach Onizuka features plenty of comedic moments as Eikichi works magic in the way only he can with the worst students around at Holy Forest Academy.
It has a bit of a retro anime style as it’s hitting over 20 years old at this point, but it’s still highly regarded by critics and fans.
Bakuman gets a bit meta at times, with the main story following Moritaka’s journey to becoming a mangaka with his friends. It’s an amazing and realistic look into what life would be like for a full-time manga artist, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see them work hard and find ways to succeed each step of the way.
Bakuman is not as heavy on action scenes as most shonen anime, which makes it unique compared to most fan favorites.
Tomorrow’s Joe, more commonly known as Ashita no Joe, is by far one of the greatest boxing stories to ever be animated. Despite coming out all the way back in the ’70s, new fans are still checking it out to this day showing that it has incredible staying power.
This anime was so influential that it received a spiritual successor known as Fighting Spirit which is also highly regarded. This in turn inspired the creation of Megalo Box whose main character is named Joe as an homage to the series that defined boxing in anime.
Sorcery Fight has a solid mix of comedy, action, and excellent storytelling that has driven many fans of anime to watch it over the years. Not to mention the animation is a feast for the eyes that will leave many with their jaws on the floor. In contrast to most anime, the main protagonist Yuuji isn’t simply choosing to become stronger but is forced to when he encounters a cursed item.
This new angle keeps things incredibly fresh for those that have seen many mainstream shonen titles in the past. Jujutsu Kaisen 0 Movie is also a fantastic addition to the series, delivering similar thrills to Demon Slayer‘s cinematic sequel.
One Piece has over 1000 episodes under its belt, putting it on a pedestal few other anime can reach. The adventures of Luffy and his crew are epic to the point of legendary at this point and trying to watch the entirety of the show has become an ultimate challenge for anime fans.
Even with this length, there are still countless people starting the series fresh and following it through until the end. It just goes to show just how incredible this long-running tale is.
Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files
Before penning Hunter x Hunter, Yoshihiro Togashi worked on Yu Yu Hakusho, a manga that earned itself one of the best action anime of the ’90s and all time. A delinquent with a heart of gold, Yusuke Urameshi dies saving a child and is given a second chance; however, as payment, he must work as a spirit detective.
Following a stretch of episodic stories, Yu Yu Hakusho dives into perhaps the greatest tournament arc in anime. The Dark Tournament is epic, packed with impeccable fights and memorable character moments, and features a top-tier villain. This arc is followed by the more psychologically driven Chapter Black Saga, a storyline that pushed the envelope for battle shonen in the early ’90s.
This wild combination of hip-hop culture with Edo-period Japanese history makes it stands out among the crowd as something truly special. Of course, this comes as no surprise with ShinichirÅ Watanabe, the mind behind brilliant anime like Cowboy Bebop and Carole and Tuesday.
Following the eccentric adventures of Fuu, Mugen, and Jin would be fun enough but add in the incredibly animated sword battles and fight scenes and Samurai Champloo is on a whole different level.
To Your Eternity
To Your Eternity is incredibly new, only being released in the Spring 2021 season. Despite this, it is already ranked higher than many other long-time shonen staples by users on MyAnimeList. The story follows It, a mysterious being that has the ability to take the shape of anything around it with a strong energy of some kind.
Considering the story was written by Yoshitoki Ooima, the mind behind A Silent Voice, viewers had better brace themselves for some heart-wrenching emotions.
Widely regarded as the most successful sports anime of all time, Haikyu!! has left fans on the edge of their seats since it was released. Shouyou trying to succeed in volleyball despite being short sets up for what looks like a basic story on the surface.
It’s the amazing teammates surrounding him and the comradery they build that turns it into the remarkable anime it is.
This Edo-period anime with sci-fi aesthetics will leave fans wanting more — luckily it spans over 350 episodes. Add the various video games it has inspired over the years and Gintama offers a lot for fans to sink their teeth into.
The anime is so incredibly weird it can be difficult to describe, but its parody of anime tropes connected by an overarching serious story is utterly fantastic.
Compared to the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, FMA: Brotherhood more accurately follows the story of the original manga crafted by the incredible Hiromu Arakawa. “The law of equivalent exchange” is a phrase all anime fans know as the series is just that iconic.
The Elric Brother’s search for the Philosopher’s Stone is a fantastic journey filled with political intrigue to rival its impressive fight scenes. The show also has many moments that will make even the most hardened anime fans cry so be sure to come prepared with tissues.
Best Shonen Anime Of The Summer 2022 Season
Summer 2022 is almost over, and the season brought with it a host of awesome anime. Surprisingly, this season is rather light on shonen goodness, with most of the biggest shows – The Devil is a Part-Timer! Season 2, Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun, Classroom of the Elite 2, and Overlord 4 – belonging to other categories.
While there might not be anything quite on the level of a Spy x Family or Attack on Titan, Summer 2022 still has shonen fans covered.
Call Of The Night
|Japanese Title||Yofukashi no Uta|
|Where to Stream||HIDIVE|
Undoubtedly the most hyped new shonen anime of Summer, Call of the Night is all about freedom. Although he is a good student, Kou Yamori finds that he struggles to relate to other teenagers, particularly when it comes to matters of love. While suffering from insomnia, he ventures out in the night, a decision that changes the guy’s life forever when he meets Nazuna Nanakusa, a vampire.
Enamored by her approach to life, Kou sets out on a path to become a creature of the night, but he will need to first fall in love with Nazuna to actualize this dream. Call of the Night is whimsical, stylish, and funny. Kou and Nazuna have instant chemistry, and they are hardly the only great characters to exist within this world.
When Will Ayumu Make His Move?
|Japanese Title||Soredemo Ayumu wa Yosetekuru|
|Where to Stream||HIDIVE|
While there are not too many shonen anime, Summer 2022’s selection underlines the demographic’s understated diversity. Except for continuing properties like One Piece and, perhaps, Orient Part 2, traditional battle shonen series are essentially absent from the season’s lineup, being mainly replaced by sports anime, romance, and comedy shows.
When Will Ayumu Make His Move? falls within the latter two genres. A slice of life about a boy, Ayumu, who joins his school’s unofficial shogi club to seemingly pursue its president, Urushi, this anime is adorable and charming. Even if they are not a couple as yet, Ayumu’s blatant interest in Urushi is refreshing.
Vermeil In Gold
|Japanese Title||Kinsou no Vermeil: Gakeppuchi Majutsushi wa Saikyou no Yakusai to Mahou Sekai wo Tsukisusumu|
|Where to Stream||HIDIVE|
Based on a manga published in Shounen Gangan, Vermeil in Gold is about a wannabe mage, Alto, who makes a contract with a mighty demon, Vermeil. Forming a master and familiar relationship, the demon uses her vast magical power to strengthen Alto, although the former needs to get physical with the latter to maintain her resources. She is also not shy about it.
Vermeil in Gold loves a bit of fan service, and it does tie these moments in the story relatively well. The anime also has more going on than just the occasional cheeky scene, as the characters are quite endearing in their own way. Although not the best Summer 2022 shonen anime, this series is a decent pick for those who want something slightly edgier.
Summer Time Rendering
|Japanese Title||Summer Time Render|
|Where to Stream||Disney+ (N/A Outside of Japan)|
Summer Time Rendering takes place on an island that is absolutely drenched in mystery. Starting with a death and getting even more unsettling from there, OLM’s anime crafts a setting that feels constantly off, and the characters are generally well-written and fascinating.
This series is a Disney+ exclusive that is currently only airing in Japan, although it should eventually make its way to international audiences. Originally starting during the Spring 2022 season, Summer Time Rendering will be going on for another cour, and it is likely to continue being an underappreciated gem.
Exciting Fall 2022 Shonen Anime
Apparently, the anime industry decided to dedicate Fall to shonen. The season is stuffed with highly-anticipated sequels and new shows based on Shonen Jump or a similar magazine. My Hero Academia season 6, Spy x Family season 2, and To Your Eternity season 2 will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Which will prove to be the best Fall 2022 shonen anime? These upcoming series are top contenders.
|Japanese Title||Chainsaw Man|
|Where to Stream||Crunchyroll|
|Start Date||October 12, 2022|
Considering the sheer volume of sequels set for Fall 2022, the fact Chainsaw Man is by far and away the most hyped anime of the season speaks to the popularity of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s manga. As its title suggests, Chainsaw Man is about a man who can transform parts of himself into chainsaws. The story includes the Yakuza and devil hunters, along with a lot of gore.
Yes, this is a battle shonen anime for adults, and this goes beyond just grotesque villains. The source material touches upon mature themes, even if it takes a while to really get there. If the adaptation is done well, Chainsaw Man could dominate the shonen anime scene for a few years.
Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War
|Japanese Title||Bleach: Sennen Kessen-hen|
|Where to Stream||N/A (Rumor is Disney+)|
|Start Date||October 10, 2022|
After more than a decade, Bleach is returning to screens in order to complete the manga, adapting the final arc. Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War finds the Quincy and Soul Society going to battle over their clashing ideologies on how they should deal with Hollows. As this arc lasts more than 200 chapters in the manga, things obviously get very complicated, and nearly every character is given an opportunity to shine.
Bleach, the anime, fizzled out towards the end of its run, however, enough time has passed to renew public interest in a story that was considered to be one of the big three shonen manga. The adaptation will span four cours, and if the trailer is anything to go by, Pierrot is pulling out all the stops for the animation.
|Japanese Title||Blue Lock|
|Where to Stream||Crunchyroll|
|Start Date||October 9, 2022|
History has proven that sports and shonen are made for each other, and Blue Lock should reinforce that belief. The soccer anime envisions an alternate reality where Japan, desperate to win the World Cup, decides to hire a peculiar coach who promotes “unique” ideas. In this case, he decides to create a prison dedicated to training the country’s best high school strikers in order to create the ultimate selfish player. While the winner will lead Japan’s national team, everyone else will have to kiss their dream of playing for their country goodbye.
Based on a beloved ongoing manga, Blue Lock has all the potential in the world to be one of the year’s strongest anime. 8bit does not have much experience with sports shows, but the studio has a decent track record.
Every Shonen Anime Coming Out In Fall 2022:
- Detective Conan: Hannin no Hanzawa-san
- Four People and Their Respective Lies
- Guild of Depravity
- My Hero Academia Season 6
- Spy x Family Part 2
- To Your Eternity Season 2
- Urusei Yatsura
- Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 3
- Yowamushi Pedal: Limit Break