Seinen (Japanese for "young man" or "young men", and pronounced
"ˈseɪ ˌnen", not "ˈsaɪ ˌnen") is a demographic designation
targeted at male audiences aged 18 to 40. It is the older counterpart of Shōnen
and effectively makes for the majority of anime in the older demographic, since major Josei
manga titles rarely get adapted on screen. Compared to shonen, seinen caters to a much smaller viewing crowd, since younger audiences have much more time to spare on anime, which makes them a more attractive target, and thus is slightly less known.note
Thanks to the older target audience, seinen shows tend to be much more sophisticated and mature than their shonen counterparts. Much more attention is paid to the plot and the interaction between characters than to action and fights, which are the main attraction for most viewers, and the characters are well fleshed out. The latter trait often leads to confusion of seinen with Shōjo (Demographic)
but the key difference is that seinen does not idealize romance, instead opting for more realistic and pragmatic approach to relationships
. Realism is indeed the calling card of seinen shows, commonly earning them the acclaim for their depth and maturity and Multiple Demographic Appeal
A typical seinen protagonist can be of any gender and age
(in stark contrast to shonen, whose protagonists are almost exclusively young and male), but tend to be young adults (like its target audience
). Romance-wise, anything goes, from Romantic Two-Girl Friendship
to obscure examples of Boys Love
. In fact, Schoolgirl Lesbians
are a distinctive trait of seinen
, rarely if ever present in shonen shows. Relationships are portrayed in a less idealistic light than in shojo, with many grays and uncertainties like in Real Life
, and don't tend to indulge the shonen over-simplification of "which heroine
will be hooked up with the hero
". There is a reverse side to this, too: ironically, seinen is most infamous for its sub-category of Improbably Female Cast
and Harem Series
that rely heavily on cutesy Moe Fanservice
(again, juxtaposed to plain sex appeal of female characters in shonen) to attract viewers. These series tend to be on the opposite side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism
from the grim type of seinen, instead being fluffy, heart-warming, and comedic
Recently, there has been a considerable influx of shojo
fans into the seinen
demographic, thanks to the latter's traditional thoroughness in relationships and, more importantly, general retraction from blatant fanservice
. This migration was particularly paved by such Gateway Series
as Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha
, and AIR
due to its presence of female leads. There is also a small influx of shonen
fans as well, thanks to the incorporation of dark seinen themes in many of the shonen works (such as Attack on Titan
, Death Note
, and Deadman Wonderland
Some of the anime stuff shown on [adult swim]
and the revived Toonami
is seinen, EXCLUDING the likes of InuYasha
, Soul Eater
, IGPX Immortal Grand Prix
, Detective Conan
, Samurai 7
, Trinity Blood
, Eureka Seven
, One Piece
, Fullmetal Alchemist
, Death Note
, Deadman Wonderland
and (taking only the anime as reference) Neon Genesis Evangelionnote
which are shonen, but have very Seinen type themes.
Compare the Distaff Counterpart Josei
, which is aimed at females of the same age.
Common tropes seen in seinen works:
- Character Development: A lot of romantic seinen works puts a lot of emphasis on character development. Unlike shonen and shoujo works, character development is portrayed in a more realistic way than shoujo romance.
- Deconstruction: Many seinen works often deconstruct many of the popular tropes from shounen, particularly the action fighter and mecha types. Hence this is why many of the actual dark shonen works (like Death Note, Deadman Wonderland, Attack on Titan, and Neon Genesis Evangelion) are mistaken as seinen.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Or Black and Grey Morality if the author is really cynical. Because of seinen's emphasis on realism, most of the characters aren't exactly purely good nor evil characters. The protagonists are usually either Anti-Hero, Good Is Not Nice, Utopia Justifies the Means or Knight in Sour Armor while the villains are usually Anti-Villain, Well-Intentioned Extremist, or Knight Templar.
- Also, seinen usually more detailed in philosophical themes moreso than shounen works, which normally fall in grey side of morallity. Common philosophical themes include consequentialism (Fate/Zero and Code Geass) or existentialism (Black Bullet).
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Contrast to the idealism usually found in shounen works, seinen puts more emphasis on pragmatism in character relationships and realism. As such, many seinen works tend to be cynical and have pessimistic and/or post-apocalyptic settings. On the other hand, some seinen works often feature Schoolgirl Series Slice of Life and harems with Improbably Female Cast and heavy use of Moe and Fanservice (which these works often fall in the opposite side of the idealism versus cynicism coin).
- Schoolgirl Series: Yes, despite many of them featuring cute highschool girls, Slice of Life works featuring this are normally geared towards this demographic rather than a younger demographic of the opposite gender. This is because across from the blatant use of Moe, the lack of prospects of having children (as Japan is known to have the lowest birth rates in the world), and a thrown in loli character, many of them puts a lot of emphasis of platonic Girls Love relationships.
- 20th Century Boys
- Abnormal Kei Joshi
- A Channel
- Acchi Kocchi. Which is unusual, since the series looks like it's Shōnen matieral, but was published in Manga Time Kirara, which is a Seinen magazine.
- Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai
- Afro Samurai
- Ah! My Goddess
- Air Master
- Ai Yori Aoshi
- AKIRA. The film is often credited with being the anime to bring adult-oriented anime to the Western world.
- Alien Nine
- All Rounder Meguru
- Aria the Scarlet Ammo - Manga only
- Arpeggio of Blue Steel
- Asagiri no Miko
- Asatte no Houkou
- Axis Powers Hetalia - That's right, the published manga is listed for this demographic, not for children or BL fans. However, the anime seems to be for younger viewers (not the Funimation Gag Dub, however) and the original webcomic is... a webcomic, so there's no set demographic. The webcomic is where you'll find the most Ho Yay and male fanservice that would seem fangirl-pandering, but it's more Author Appeal.
- B Gata H Kei
- Battle Royale
- The Big O
- Binbou Shimai Monogatari
- Birdy the Mighty: Originally began as a Shōnen series in 1985 until it was cancelled in 1988. It became a Seinen series in its reboot. You can tell when it became a seinen where the tone changes.
- Bitter Virgin
- Black Bullet
- Black Joke
- Black Lagoon
- Blade of the Immortal
- Blaster Knuckle
- Blood Lad
- Boku Girl
- Brocken Blood
- Bubblegum Crisis
- Captain Tsubasa: It began as shonen (it was even published in Shonen Jump!) and remained as such for two decades, but from Road to 2002 and all other sequels on, it qualifies as seinen. (Makes sense, many of the actual readers are adult men who grew with it, alongside some adult women as well.)
- Casshern Sins
- Centaur no Nayami (A Centaur's Worries)
- Chibisan Date
- Chis Sweet Home
- Club 9
- Code Geass - Anime only due to the first season's very late time slot in Japan and a few suggestive scenes; all manga adaptations are either Shounen or Shoujo.
- Cooking Papa
- Crying Freeman
- The Dagger Of Kamui
- Dance in the Vampire Bund
- Dance till Tomorrow
- Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge
- Darker Than Black
- Desert Punk
- Detroit Metal City
- Devilman Lady
- A Distant Neighborhood
- Eden: It's an Endless World!
- Elfen Lied
- Emma: A Victorian Romance
- Ergo Proxy
- The Familiar of Zero: Manga adaptations only.
- Fate/stay night - Oddly, the manga adaptation runs on a shonen magazine but also tones down the content.
- FLCL - Manga only.
- Futari Ecchi
- Futsuu No Joshikousei Ga Locodol Yattemita
- Gakkou Gurashi
- Ghost in the Shell (manga)
- Ghost in the Shell: Arise
- Girls und Panzer - Manga only
- Girl Friends
- Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
- Golden Boy
- Golgo 13
- Glass No Megami
- Gokukoku No Brynhildr
- Gunka No Balzer
- Gunsmith Cats - manga only
- Hataraki Man
- Hidamari Sketch
- Higanbana No Saku Yoru Ni
- Hito Hitori Futari
- House of Five Leaves
- Hyouge Mono
- I Am A Hero
- Ichi the Killer
- Ichigeki Sacchu Hoihoi-San
- Idol Pretender
- Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit
- Ikki Tousen
- Imouto Wa Shishunki
- Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha
- Initial D
- Inside Mari
- Iketeru Futari
- Iris Zero
- Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: The first six parts are shonen (they were even published in Shonen Jump!) but the seventh part (Steel Ball Run) and onwards are seinen due to moving from Shonen Jump to Ultra Jump.
- Kangoku Gakuen
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru
- Anything done by Jun Maeda
- King of Thorn
- Kin-iro Mosaic
- Kinnikuman Nisei
- Knights Of Sidonia
- Koe de Oshigoto!, not particularly mature, but not really for kids either.
- Kokoro Connect
- Kono S wo, Mi Yo
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service
- Lady Snowblood (a.k.a Shurayuki-hime)
- Last Exile
- The Legend of Koizumi
- The Legend Of Mother Sarah: A quite unusual number since the protagonist is an Action Mom and many themes approached are related to family and children, despite the bleak setting.
- Lone Wolf and Cub (a.k.a Kozure Okami)
- Liar Game
- Little House with an Orange Roof
- Living Game
- Love Lucky
- Love Roma
- The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer
- Lupin III: Manga.Lupin III began in one of the earliest Seinen magazines, it was adapted into a risque anime, and has crossed over to Shōnen with the "Red Jacket" Lupin, and has revisited the seinen demographic with the Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine series.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha - The Magical Girl show that appeals to men, turning into something out of Super Robot Wars at some point.
- Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto
- Mad Bull 34
- Maison Ikkoku - possibly the only Rumiko Takahashi series to not run in a shonen magazine.
- Anything directed by Mamoru Hosoda
- Manyu Hikencho
- Master Keaton
- Me And The Devil Blues (aka Ore to Akuma no Buruuzu)
- Millennium Actress
- MPD Psycho - oddly enough, emphasis on legendary kind of odd, the series began its serialization in a monthly Shōnen magazine (Shonen Ace) and stayed on it for years, then it rightfuly moved to Comic Charge and later to Young Ace, both genuine Seinen magazines.
- Murder Princess
- My Balls
- My Girl
- Nana to Kaoru
- Natsuiro Kiseki manga.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - original manga only, since 2009 due to moving from Shounen Ace to Young Ace.
- Yomeiro Choice: Only the first collected Volume, as all the chapters contained in it where published Champion RED Ichigo, later the series got popular and it was moved to Champion RED, a well known Shounen magazine for serializing series usually mistaken for Seinen, as most series is filled of what could only be considered as adult content.
- Yumekui Merry
- Yuria 100 Shiki
- Zero Matsumoto Taiyou a.k.a simply Zero
Series sometimes mistaken for seinen note
- Akumetsu, a series which runs on heavy, yet well constructed, critics against a corrupt Japanese government, protagonized by basically a young terrorist dead set on killing as many corrupt politicians as he can find. Yes, all of it ran in a shonen magazine from start to finish.
- Apocalypse Zero, in spite of its infamously graphic violence, was published in Shonen Champion, which (if it weren't already obvious) is the sister magazine to Champion Red. The manga is actually more violent than the OVAs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's also by the author of Shigurui.
- Attack on Titan: This series is lauded for its realistic depiction of war, with the war in question being human against human-eating mindless giants. A majority of the named characters are either Mauve Shirts or nigh-Shell Shocked Veterans. About 90% of the unnamed characters are Red Shirts or nameless titans. Plot points involve sexual slavery, child soldiers, cultists, corrupt police, casting couches, corrupt government officials, and huge conspiracies, all of which are very seinen in their approach. It's also known for showing that War Is Hell in every sense imaginable, and that there's no such thing as a Heroic Sacrifice, brutally deconstructing that very trope. However, the characters are rather idealistic, most of them are either teens or children, and they seem to run on sheer determination most of the time. Plus, it runs in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, so it's a moot point.
- Azumanga Daioh: Much like its spiritual successor Yotsuba&!, both by the same magnaka Kiyohiko Azuma, ad the very similar Lucky Star, the manga ran in a shonen magazine. However, much of the show/manga's fanbase is composed of 18-40 year old males, like both Lucky Star and Yotsuba&!, as well as the entire genre that it helped popularize: the Schoolgirl Series.
- Baccano! - while the original source material was targeted to a somewhat younger demographic like most other Light Novels, the anime is very graphic in its violence and aired on a satellite channel (WOWOW) best known for airing seinen and shows with adult themes and content.
- Barefoot Gen, a semi-autobiographical manga famous for its harrowing depiction of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, originally ran in Shonen Jump.
- BECK has many realistic aspects found in seinen, but it ran in Monthly Shonen Magazine.
- Change123, it runs on the famous Champion RED magazine, so yeah, it features a lot of mature content like nudity, extreme violence, and lots of Fanservice.
- Claymore: Despite its dark tone, violent content, and superficial resemblance to Berserk, it runs in Shonen Jump.
- Deadman Wonderland - It has a dark storyline and some glaring gorn, it runs on many a Trauma Conga Line, yet it runs in a shonen magazine.
- Death Note: Due to being a largely cynical crime story with a Villain Protagonist and What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?, it just has Multiple Demographic Appeal. It ran in Shonen Jump.
- Sorta brought up in Bakuman。, a manga written by the same author. Most of the main mangaka characters in Bakuman seem to support the idea of running seinen-like stories in shonen magazines.
- Fist of the North Star due to its violent content. Also ran in Shonen Jump. Fist of the Blue Sky, Jibo no Hoshi, and Hōkō no Kumo, among others are genuine seinen.
- Franken Fran: Another horror manga that ran in a shonen magazine, despite having a lot of elements that appear seinen.
- Fullmetal Alchemist contains a more complex plot and is less focused on fight scenes than typical shonen, and as such is occasionally mistaken for a seinen series; however, it ran in a shonen magazine and, at its core, still embodies most of the typical shonen elements.
- Great Teacher Onizuka (and perhaps anything else shonen by Tohru Fujisawa) due to its mature and realistic themes.
- Gunslinger Girl is a violent series with a dark, realistic tone, themes of child abuse and terrorism, and bearing a superficial resemblance to Black Lagoon... that runs in a shonen magazine.
- InuYasha: Even though it shares many similarities to Berserk, it ran on Shonen Sunday.
- Lucky Star: Like Azumanga Daioh, they both ran in shonen magazines. The anime ran rather late at night, though.
- Mai-Hime and Mai-Otome both ran in Shonen Champion.
- Mermaid Saga: Despite having tons of Gorn, Family-Unfriendly Violence, and Nightmare Fuel, it ran in Shonen Sunday.
- Mirai Nikki: Violent, horrific and containing adult themes and situations. It ran on Shonen Ace. It's spinoff, Mirai Nikki: Paradox, is Seinen.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion, due to its increasingly adult tone and graphic content, is typically associated with the seinen demographic, but originally it ran during a 6pm timeslot and was by the creators' own admission intended for youth audiences. If that seems hard to swallow, don't worry - Japanese parents, sponsors, and media watchdogs felt the same way; the series is probably the single largest reason for the Otaku O'Clock trope. It pulled very strong ratings during both its initial airing, and a late-night rerun on a satellite channel.
- Read Or Die: Rehabilitation: Despite Read or Die and Read or Dream being Seinen, Read or Die: Rehabilitation (which runs on a shonen magazine) is even more risque than the latter two, complete with the main character who's literally the opposite to the original main character in virtually every way.
- Red Eyes is shock full of Family-Unfriendly Violence, the setting is all about war with many, many cases of Info Dump and All There in the Manual which is huge set off for younger readers or the general public who just don't like to read too much into the story to understand what's going on; the art is very realistic, no cases of Generic Cuteness and Fanservice to be seen here. All in all this series just screams it was made for mature readers, and yet it runs in a Shounen magazine.
- Rosario + Vampire Season 2 at least after a few chapters. Despite gratuitous fanservice and increasingly dark plot elements, it ran in a shonen magazine.
- Rurouni Kenshin is darker and more violent than most Shonen Jump series, but still unmistakably shonen.
- Shigurui, violent, horrific and containing exclusively adult themes and situations. It ran on Champion Red, a shonen magazine (In Name Only), the magazine that also runs Franken Fran. No, seriously.
- Trinity Blood, or at least the manga version, despite seeming having the themes of most Seinen manga, complete with graphic violence, Fanservice and adult themes, actually ran in Monthly Asuka, a magazine aimed at teenage girls.
- Welcome to the NHK, a wretched take on concepts of being a hikikomori, anime otaku, and having most of the characters experience intense feelings of depression and loneliness. The original novel and manga adaptation ran in a Shōnen magazine, while it's hard to indicate where the anime adaptation should be placed, it derived from two Shōnen works so it can't be seen as any different.
- Both iterations of When They Cry. Their manga adaptations have consistently run in Square Enix's shounen "Gangan" magazines.
- X/1999, which a series made by CLAMP set Just Before the End, with many characters fighting in incredibly brutal, gruesome fashion. It actually ran in Shojo magazine, Monthly Asuka.
- Yomeiro Choice, only the first few chapters were genuine Seinen as it was published in a fitting magazine, but the majority of the series (basically 5/6 of it) ran in a Shounen magazine till the very end, and yet the contents shown in the first chapters didn't change at all, actually it got more risque as it went along, stuff like extreme nudity, sexual innuendos, strong content abound.
- Yotsuba&!: Like Azumanga Daioh, it runs in a shounen mangazine.