Fist of the North Star has a fandom that consists overwhelmingly of adults not only in the West but even in its homeland Japan despite the original manga being a Shonen series aimed at. This can be attributed to a combination of its relatively dark and brutal setting (for a Shonen series even being released in the Showa era when censorship was relatively light), its mainstream popularity back in its original release, and its age (as most of its fans who were following it when it was still being published in Shonen Jump would now be in their 30s). It doesn't help having plenty of brutal gory battles (including some of the best in anime/manga) and a complex relationship between the protagonist Kenshiro and the main villain for half the story Raoh (who is already quite complex even outside the standards of anime/manga) easily makes it reach Seinen levels of themes. Its so brutal that even in modern Japan bookstores have hesistancy to place Fist of the North Star volumes in the Shonen section and its quite common to see it placed in Seinen sections or other demographs aimed at adults and all recent releases in the franchise, in particular Fist of the Blue Sky which were written by the manga's original authors Hara and Burunson, are officially classified as Seinen and were published in magazines aimed at adult audiences.
The bishounen cast of Gundam Wing was created specifically to attract female viewers, something mecha series typically lacked at the time. It worked and nowadays it's rare for a mecha series not to have bishounen in the main cast. As for Gundam, with the exception of Turn A Gundam every show since Wing followed the "pretty boys in mecha" formula.
Worth noting is that Gundam Wing was essentially the next logical step up from "pretty boys in armor" shows like Saint Seiya which likewise attracted female fans to Shonen fighting anime with attractive male leads; in fact, much of Wing's staff previously worked together on Ronin Warriors, another such series with a well-known demographic of female fans.
Loran Cehack, the protagonist of Turn A, crossdresses several times throughout, making a convincing enough girl.
Rose of Versailles has a substantial fanbase of men and older people who enjoy it for the drama of the 18th century and the charismatic Lady Oscar, though the original manga was aimed at teenage girls.
Sailor Moon, which was aimed at a young female demographic but had a large male fandom.
It still does, to the point where Hot Topic is selling male-specific Sailor Moon t-shirts.
The franchise also has a very large adult female fanbase. It's big enough that a lot of the merchandise for the 20th anniversary revival is clearly aimed at adult women, with items ranging from expensive makeup sets to Sailor Moon-themed bras and panties. Which makes sense. Given how popular the show was in the early 90's, there's likely a large number of women who fondly remember it from their childhood.
Driving that home, a popular women's magazine in Japan actually held a high profile premier party for Sailor Moon Crystal, with men barred from attending unless they were brought by their wives, girlfriends, or female friends.
The fact that Grell is Transsexual helps for some people, particularly trans people looking for representation. Ditto for Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club (see below), who comes off as genderqueer (she's more comfortable in masculine clothing, and seems to be pretty indifferent in regards to her own gender).
In another strange example, the "main target" of Pretty Cure is said to be females ages 4-12... and males ages 16-35. It's telling that the director of the original series, Futari wa Pretty Cure, has Dragon Ball Z on his resume. There's also blatant Yuri subtext between the two main characters that would go over the heads of younger viewers.
This is especially noticeable in the 2010 HeartCatch Pretty Cure!. Every episode has magical girl kung-fu fighting that rivals some Shounen fighting anime aired at the same time.
There are, some Periphery Demographic outside those demographics. According to Youtube, the viewership of the intros of the series has significant portion of men aged 35-55, way above what it was originally meant to. According to Website/Deviantart, large amount of fanart drawers for the series are adult women.
Happens to many series created by CLAMP, an artistic collective that primarly makes manga aimed towards girls, however...
CLAMP's X1999 is a shoujo series, yet its themes of humanitarianism, environmentalism and dualism, as well as its heavy doses of action, violence, death and other dark themes makes it very often mistaken for shonen or even seinen, and is popular among boys as well as girls.
Card Captor Sakura may be one of Clamp's girliest shows, it's still well regarded by male anime fans who enjoy the lighthearted story with mixes of comedy, romance and action.
Inverted with Seinen series Chobits, aimed toward adult males but the romantic story and the character developement makes it very popular among young females, and Chii, with her fantasy lolita wardrobe, is a girls-favorite cosplay.
GaoGaiGar was the final entry of the Braves series by Sunrise, and as such, aimed at children. The show didn't do very well with the main demographic, but was a smash hit with the older otaku who had grown up with the likes of Getter Robo. The same happened in the U.S., where the fanbase is almost entirely adult mecha-lovers. Oddly enough, the sequel OVA series, GaoGaiGar FINAL tried to bank on the older demographic with more fanservice and violence, and wasn't quite as well-received.
Cutey Honey was a dyed-in-the-wool seinen superhero sci-fi series. The more tame TV series actually attracted younger female viewers, who by this time had equated her with their more familar Magical Girl, who themselves might have been inspired by her. Go Nagai admitted this side fandom surprised him, given the amount of racy humor is in the original work.
Because of this, there was a spinoff series called Cutey Honey Flash, made by the same staff as Sailor Moon, aimed directly at a female audience.
Cutey Honey has sort of became an icon of feminine beauty in Japan, appearing in advertisements for things like weight loss drinks.
Dragon Ball Z is an old Shonen anime involving Ki Attacks, aliens, evil space overlords, and the occasional dinosaur. It has gained a massive American fanbase of women and girls from the ages of 14-25. This probably has something to do with the huge bulging muscles.
Digimon originally started out as a boys' alternative to Tamagotchi, but over the years has gained a massive teenage and adult fanbase of both genders, thanks to the anime's strong and clever writing. Tamers is a common fan favorite among this audience due to its darker and edgier storyline.
Bandai and Toei seemed to take notice of this after the franchise's popularity with kids started to fade and their recent incarnations, including the games and Digimon Adventure tri. have been marketed towards older teens and adult fans who grew up with the original series.
One Piece is really, really popular with girls and women. It might have something to do with the ludicrously masculine male characters. According to this chart◊, there are more 50+ year old than people aged under 18 reading it.
May also have to do with One Piece being remarkably progressive, gender-wise, for a Shonen series. While there is still some disturbing characterization (Brook, we're looking at you!), the show compares very favorably to shows that attract far more accusations of sexism.
One of the biggest foundations of Axis Powers Hetalia is the Ho Yay among the Moe Anthropomorphisms of several countries, which the more history-based fans often find... weird. Hetalia is an odd case in that it started off as a webcomic, with no real demographic in mind. It's a Seinen manga by default, as it was picked up for serialization in the Seinen monthly magazine, Comic Birz.
The anime for K-On!, a moe series aimed at otaku, became so popular with young girls that it also airs on the Japanese Disney Channel, right alongside Hamtaro and Alice Academy.
Trigun (Shonen) and Trigun Maximum (Seinen) is very popular with fujoshi over in Japan. Most doujinshi, and fan art on Pixiv and artists' personal sites, are either yaoi or a "cute guys doing cute and funny things" type deal.
Rurouni Kenshin owes much of its success to female fans, despite being an often-violent action series published in an anthology aimed squarely at boys. The show's title character, a soft-spoken, gentle bishonen with a hidden, more violent dark side, most likely helped. The well-written romance between him and the female lead most likely helped too, especially since it was one of the few shonen manga relationships that had real development and a definite resolution, while most shonen couples get bogged down in an eternal game of "will they or won't they?". When the Kenshin movie premiered in Japan, something like 2/3rds of ticket-buyers were female — which was roughly the exact opposite of the gender split for a Shonen Jump film at the time.
A fair number of guys like Fruits Basket. While they don't really care about the bishonen bunch, the story is well-structured enough for them to care, and its humor is pretty much universal. It doesn't hurt that the female characters are well developed, and cute to boot.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is an interesting case, taking the usual Periphery Demographic for Magical Girl series (16-35 year old men) and creating the series to appeal to them specifically. Even so, there are quite a few younger girls who enjoy it. So the "normal" demographic for Magical Girl shows is the Periphery Demographic for this one? *head explodes*
Ranma ˝ is a shonen series meaning it is supposed to be popular for teenage boys. In Japan, according to and surprising creator Rumiko Takahashi, it was more popular amongst girls than guys and Animerica in the year 2000 said that it increased the number of female readers in the American manga market.
In fact, most of Takahashi's works count. She is a shonen author, and most of her series are a mix of action and comedy with a male protagonist surrounded by impossibly attractive girls in fanservice-ish outfits, but as she is a woman, the female characters are more than eye-candy and are well rounded characters with actual ambitions and personalities and often take a central role in the story, they are also physically strong and quite skilled in battle. The series of Takahashi also feature a lot of romance and gags that are enjoyed by males and females alike, and because of that, her series are extremely popular amongst women and that sure had helped her to become one of the best selling manga authors of all time.
Slayers is shonen, but it has a very dedicated female following, largely due to the Ship Teasing and female protagonist.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is also a shonen series, but a fairly large minority of its readers are Yaoi Fangirls. The WAY too many bishounen characters in that series help, and yet it's adding more. Well, you can't make a show about a teenage boy who spends most of the first season running around in his underwear without atracting at least some female fans. Rebocon is a concert dedicated for this series; if you watch the video you will only hear girls screaming.
If you just look at the title of Maid-Sama! (The Student Council President Is A Maid!), it sounds like a moe series aimed at the male otaku crowd. In fact, it's a shoujo series about the female student council president of a formerly all-boys school who has to work at a maid cafe to help her family put food on the table and attracts the attention of the school's resident bishounen. This doesn't stop guys from watching it, though. The series' equal focus on romance and wacky humor, not to mention the attractive female lead and likeable male lead, attract plenty of male fans.
The trope also carries over to the story's protagonist Misaki, as a character of the discipline-class Tsundere archetype who went through heaploads of Character Development thanks to her interactions with the rest of the cast, moreso with Usui.
Princess Tutu is about as girly as a shojo can get, but has nonetheless developed an adult male following that heralds it as an metafictional epic whose awesomeness can only be compared to ninjas engaged in a rock battle — Hence it's Fan Nickname: Guitar Ninjas.
Victorian Romance Emma is, rather surprisingly, a seinen series, but it enjoys attention from all the other demographics. A great deal of the interest in the show is in the fact that it's a show about a maid, but it's not a Meido show.
Maria-sama ga Miteru was initially aimed at teenage girls, what's with its melodramatic story and dreamy atmosphere. But since it's Yuri, it has strong male fanbase. The author herself have satirized this phenomenon many times in the story. This even crosses into Multiple Demographic Appeal, as evident with the OVA release. The ending was performed by KOTOKO, who is known for performing opening and ending of Eroge aimed at men.
Hamtaro is a Kodomomuke series but it still has a significant teenage and adult female fanbase.
Panty and Stocking are seen as good feminist icons by some, because they're both badass without falling into the "we can't portray any females with flaws, lest it be a bad representation of women" cliche, they're badass, they never have to be saved by men, and Panty's obsession with sex is only portrayed as bad because it gets in the way of her work (and because she has terrible taste in men), not because sex itself is inherently bad. Panty and Stocking are also sisters who worry about each other, and enjoy hanging out with each other.
Nobuyuki Fukumoto, who writes series geared at adult men with a rather unusual artstyle, has a surprisingly big female fanbase. This may be due to the infamous lack of female characters in his work, which provides fodder for Yaoi Fangirls. And, of course, KaijiisMoe.
Viz recently mentioned that Tiger & Bunny is intended for 14-25-year old males. This brought on many laughs from the rather large, veryfemale fandom that's formed around it. It's also very popular with Bara GenreGuys.
Speaking of the madness of female fans, Inazuma Eleven falls victim for this trope hard. How hard? Consider this: in Pixiv (kinda like DeviantArt, but Japanese), a separate tag was made just to separate the more risque, fujoshi-orientedInazuma Eleven pictures from the ones that the target audience can look at. Statistically speaking, the risque pictures comprise more than 20% of all Inazuma Eleven illustrations submitted to Pixiv.
Still on Pixiv, Nintama Rantarou, of all anime, also has its own separate tag for exactly the same reason. You'd never guess that from the content of the anime, which is day to day adventure of a band of goofy ninja kids. Maybe it's the women who watched it in their childhood.
Pani Poni Dash! was quite popular for children, despite aiming for the more cultural audience to get the pop culture reference. It does help how crazy and all over the place the anime is, though, which would guarantee tons of laughs.
Kanamemo has its share of female fans appreciating the yuri context for the sake of cuteness.
Ouran High School Host Club, despite being a bishonen-ridden reverse-harem series, is well-written and hilarious enough to attract a sizeable male audience as well. Another appealing aspect is that the female protagonist is a cute but sensible girl who's refreshingly more realistic than most shoujo heroines and how much focus and development is given on the host club members.
Except that in Australia, Puella Magi Madoka Magica has indeed developed a fanbase of young girls, thanks to children's channel ABC3 airing it in full, almost entirely uncut,note The violence was entirely left intact, only the scene where Sayaka reacts to men talking about how they take sexual advantage of their girlfriends was snipped targeted at that demographic.
Pokémon Special is published in magazines aimed for elementary school kids, but its strong sense of character and continuity draws in older readers, especially those nostalgic for the games but got tired of the anime.
This also applies to the Pokémon anime itself, although to a lesser extent than the games and (possibly) the manga. This may be because unlike the games and manga, the anime's writers very rarely cater to the Periphery Demographic itself. Despite this, nostalgia for the early seasons of the anime tends to be very strong (partly due to Pop-Cultural Osmosis), and many people just enjoy the anime for what it is. This led to the creation of the series' action-oriented Mega Evolution Specials, which star an older protagonist and seem to be made to appease older fans, giving them the same kind of universal appeal as the games.
Bakugan is a typical Merchandise-Driven Mons anime, generally aimed at 6-11-year-old boys. The character designs of the humans, both male and female attract teenagers and 20-somethings who could care less about the story. There are also all manner of adults who buy the figures and cards and have long discussions about the mechanics of the game.
The show has a much larger female audience than you would logically expect from its well-earned fame as one of the goriest, most disturbing stories in existence. This is because its female characters are non-stereotypical, not to mention that it is perhaps one of the few works of fiction that treats rape and its psychological repercussions with realism and, what do you know, respect. And that, as fans will quickly tell you, the main story is based on more universal and epic themes than "tits and gore", infamy be damned.
Daily Lives of High School Boys is targeted to the demographic, but like most works in this genre it has a sizable female readership—due to the fact that most of the cast is male. The ending credits message for Episode 6, aired on the midnight before Valentine's Day, lampshaded this:
It may be Valentine's Day, but don't send the characters chocolate or anything. If you're sending it anyway, please send it to the studio, not the TV station.
Fairy Tail: Another case of a male-targeted shonen series that females fell in love with. Natsu's chest is on full display under his vest, and Gray Fullbuster has as many female fans in real life as he does in-universe. It's to be expected when one has a habit of stripping down to his boxers (albeit unwittingly). There are strong female leads in Lucy and Erza as well; though a fair number of women also happen to be fantasy fans.
MÄR, the anime anyway, got hit with this pretty hard. The manga is a relatively gory shonen, aimed at an 11-16 male audience; the anime toned down the violence to make it more suitable for children, so it was probably aiming for a 9-14 gender-neutral audience. However, the anime also ramped up the Fanservice, but only really in terms of Yuri and Yaoi fanservice, which attracted a HUGE audience of Yaoi fans that pretty much overtook the fandom. The show's biggest broken bases are all caused by what the Yaoi fans liked or didn't like and what everyone else liked or didn't like. Poor Snow has become The Scrappy to many for being caught in the middle. (As she's the only girl NOT exploited for fanservice but whose emotional connection to the protagonist interferes with possible Yaoi pairings.)
Free! or "Swimming Anime" was originally only a 30-second commercial featuring school boys on a swim team. Naturally, fujoshi picked it up immediately and caused tumblr to explode. The news of it becoming a reality in July caused multiple fangasms. Though, it is popular with men too albeit to less an extreme sense.
Of course, KyoAni doesn't ignore the male fanbase as well as it tosses in Matsuoka Gou.
Sangatsu no Lion is a Seinen series about a teenage who also happens to be a kishi, a professional player of Shogi. Despite being about a relatively unknown game outside of Japan, the series' heavy focus on character development allows the series fanbase to both genders and a wide age range, something that's even subtly implied to be one of its selling points in the commercials for its volume releases.
Kill la Kill is popular among the shonen demographic. It is meant for the seinen crowd but it can easily be confused for shonen upon first glance since it basically has all of the themes one would expect a typical shonen to have. Of course it also has lots of nudity and explores topics such as sexual assault and incest which would definitely not be in any shonen series.
Attack on Titan conversely is aimed at the shonen demographic, but thanks to its dark themes is popular with the seinen demographic. The series has also attracted a strong female audience, mainly due to the number of Action Girls with relatable and assertive personalities and numerous Bishonens as well (particularly Levi).
Princess Princess is a shojo manga featuring a trio of bishonens cross-dressing as the titular princesses in their One-Gender School. Despite the heavy dose of shonen ai it is sprinkled with, it is quite popular among guys because of the sheer hilarity of the main characters' antics.
Death Note was geared towards a shonen audience, but it has also attracted a large female audience as well, more or less thanks to Light Yagami. And much like 'Attack on Titan, the series has also attracted an older male audience (seinen) as well due to numerous dark themes in the series as well as moral ambiguity of the main characters.
High School Dx D is marketed as a Fanservice with a lot of Buxom Is Better involved. To the surprise of Ishibumi, there are a lot of female fans of the series with an even split between the fanbase that some bookstores sell the series in the women's section of light novels. Probably thanks to a lot of Action Girls, very masculine men, and some implied Ho Yay moments with the main character and various male characters involved.
This is hugely influential in anime/manga as they are today, since it led to the creation of genres such "the all female cast," "magical girlfriend," and even "harem" (which accounts for more 70-80% of all anime/manga today). A large female cast and the "Magical Girl" genre were originally meant to appeal to girls, giving them characters to relate to, but companies soon found out that there was a large young-adult to middle age virgin men demographics who got off on this kind of stuff. The Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure series are two of the most influential.
Likewise, in a similar vein with "the all female cast," the same applies with "all male cast." Many of the "all male cast" anime were originally meant for teenage male audiences from various Shonen Jump titles such as Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Bleach. However, with the introduction of shoujo titles such as Fruits Basket and Ouran High School Host Club sets the standard of any anime with a Cast Full of Pretty Boys is generally geared towards a female audience. Unlike the "all female cast" example above, the "all male cast" example is zigzagged, as anime featuring a Cast Full of Pretty Boysstill manage to attract the male audience like most shounen titles (with Free! being the best example).
Jojos Bizarre Adventure sometimes attracts the attention of classic rock fans who are not normally into anime or manga, due naming many of its characters after classic rock songs or musicians (although more modern rock, rap, and pop music is also referenced later). Unfortunately, a lot of these references are omitted in the English translations, due to fear of copyright infringement lawsuits, but it's easy to do a quick Google search and see what the original name was supposed to be.
Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy: Has a sizable periphery demographic, since it actually resulted in the release of cellphone trinklets, elecronic photo-frames and virtual stickers, none of which are useful to the target demographic.
Sgt. Frog: Some of the Asian countries with a substantial Keroro fanbase actually have mandatory national service, like Taiwan and Singapore. Do the math on that, and you've got a generation of otaku fanboys who have served in the army - rather like Keroro himself.