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Shonen (Demographic)
aka: Shonen Genre

Manga and anime aimed primarily at pre-teen and teenage boys. They tend to be Fighting Series focused more on action than relationships, with romance generally either perfunctory or Played for Laughs. The series is usually dominated by fighting, although just as often it is sublimated into a form such as a sports competition or even a Tabletop Game. The title character, and most of the cast, is predominantly teenage or young adult male, equally capable of action and Ham. Lots and lots of ham.

Note that while the term "Shōnen" tends to be used to refer to a few standard genres, it literally refers to the target demographic (and in Japan, generally refers strictly to manga, rather than anime). Its older counterpart is Seinen, although both are enjoyed by other audiences as well. The Distaff Counterpart to Shonen is called Shoujo.

The distinction between Shōnen and these other genres is a hotly contested subject. There is no definite marker for a series being or not being Shōnen. Though the magazine it runs in is a good indicator, many Shōnen magazines aim for the huge Seinen Periphery Demographic that also purchases them. Some of this is a natural result of the franchise Growing the Beard together with the audience: many series that are popular with the Seinen demographic (and marketed towards such in omnibus tankoubon volumes) have run in Shōnen magazines when they were serialized. Themes are not a definite indicator either: while most Shōnen works (particularly the action fighter types) tend to fall in the idealist side on the scale of idealism vs. cynicism, there are also plenty of works with Darker and Edgier elements and outright Deconstructions that can easily be mistaken for a Seinen series and evoke a What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? reaction (Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion are some of the notable examples).

Shōnen series were the first to be brought over en masse to the Western world, and as such, makes up much of the popular American perception of anime. This is because it is, perhaps, the genre most similar to heavily actionized, Rated M for Manly Western Animation shows of The Eighties, also largely geared towards teenage males with swaths of Multiple Demographic Appeal. (Pure shojo bounces between the realms of cutesy and melodramatically scandalous for most Media Watchdogs, so it does not get shown in the West as much.)


General Examples

  • Almost anything with Humongous Mecha.
  • Sometimes, adaptations of stories with Multiple Demographic Appeal will create two versions of the story, one Shōnen and one Shōjo (Demographic). For example, The Vision of Escaflowne had a Shōnen-version manga produced of its story, while Magic Knight Rayearth's OAVs have a similar bent as compared to the original series.
  • Nearly all the titles featured in the Weekly Shōnen Jump (or simply Jump) magazine have a kind of legacy with each other, enough that a crossover video game was highly received.
    • The Dragon Ball series is by far the quintessential Shōnen, and due to its age, length and influence provides examples of most of the classic tropes. Not to mention the fact that its popularity has more or less inspired most of the current Shonen Manga of this day and age. The Creators of the Big Three all admit to having their series greatly inspired by Dragon Ball Z.
    • Of all the ongoing Shōnen series, One Piece is the most popular. It has drawn a great deal of inspiration from Dragon Ball, but developed a very unique and compelling flavor of its own.
    • Bleach is part of the Holy Shonen Trinity and, unlike Naruto, One Piece and Dragon Ball, the Bleach anime hasn't had issues with staying on the air in America.
    • Completing the current Jump Triforce is Naruto, which was the most popular manga in America for a long time.
    • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, released in 1987, is one of Shōnen Jump's longest running Shōnen series, having reached over 100 volumes in Japan. Only one part, Stardust Crusaders (part three), has gotten an official English release. With its 7th part, "Steel Ball Run", it has switched magazines to Ultra Jump and thus officially graduated to Seinen.

Other Examples in Shonen Jump

Non-Shōnen Jump Examples


Sekaikei GenreAnime GenresShoujo Demographic
    UsefulNotes/Anime Fan SpeakSeinen
Rolling Pin of DoomImageSource/OtherStandard Royal Court
Shoujo DemographicMangaManga Effects

alternative title(s): Shounen; Shonen; Shonen Genre
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