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Stock Shōnen Hero

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Every challenge along the way, with courage I will face...
I will battle everyday to claim my rightful place!
Come with me, the time is right, there's no better team...
Arm and arm, we'll win the fight, it's always been our dream!
— The second verse to "Pokémon Theme"

After the massive genre-defining, global, and still ongoing success of Dragon Ball, its hero Son Goku quickly became the codifier for a wave of young male spiky-haired heroes in Shonen shows around the world.

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Most franchises will start with a big-hearted, energetic Kid Hero. Intellectually, he's nothing to write home about. But this average simple-minded boy is actually a cunning genius when it comes to the Serious Business of choice. He's got a natural gift that blows others out of the water. On the rare occasion he loses, he'll train so hard that he catches up to and outsmarts masters of the craft one after the other.

He takes pride in his strength, but his true power comes from his friends. Don't pick a fight with him, or anyone he cares about, because he never gives up and will find a way to beat you.

For as strong he is physically, he's got an equally strong sense of justice (often in those exact terms on official bios). He'll go out of his way to help complete strangers, sometimes show mercy on his enemies, and always stand up and speak out for what's right.

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The simpleness of the trope allows for endless age-appropriate stories about growing up, making friends, overcoming rivals, getting acknowledged for winning, being determined enough to work through your failings, and generally being a good person. All subjects that hit home with the target audience.

An encompassing trope that's usually some combination of a Book Dumb, Hot-Blooded, Idiot Hero, The Gift, Unskilled, but Strong, Training from Hell, Instant Expert, The Determinator, Time to Unlock More True Potential, The Power of Friendship, All-Loving Hero, To Be a Master. Often tends to be a Big Eater and/or Oblivious to Love. May also include aesthetic tropes like spiky Shonen Hair, Primary-Color Champion (leaning more towards Red (or increasingly Orange) is Heroic), using elements like Pure Energy, the vigor of Fire, or free-spirited Wind. Following Goku's example, the character is very likely to have Cross-Dressing Voices (an adult woman affecting the voice of a preteen/teenage boy) in Japanese versions; in English and other dubs, this is less common, but can still be seen in characters like Ash Ketchum and Naruto.

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A nearly Omnipresent Trope in the genre as of the late '80s and beyond. See also Japanese Spirit. Compare its companion trope, the Stock Light-Novel Hero and contrast with Stock Shoujo Heroine. Naturally, this trope goes hand in hand with the Stock Shōnen Rival, the most common type of Foil for this archetype.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: Son Goku is the Trope Codifier, as most of the traits in the description are about him. He's simpleminded sometimes to the point of stupidity, a Big Eater that can put away 40+ full course meals in one sitting, showed mercy to the evil emperor of the galaxy after he had just committed genocide of the Namekians and killed his best friend, got excited at the challenge when he was informed that robots were going to kill all of his friends, mastered techniques after one glance that took other people hundreds of years to develop. Even after becoming a master he still trains, believing there's no upper limit to self improvement, and is soon on par with literal gods (and on a first name basis with them). He fights first for the thrill of it, but if his friends (or the world) are threatened he'll surpass any and all limitations to pull out a win. Goku is also an unbuilt example, as he's not as noble and unselfish as others inspired by him.
  • Beyblade:
  • Asta from Black Clover: Hot-Blooded Lightning Bruiser Nice Guy with Shonen Hair who is hell-bent on becoming the Magic King despite lacking magic entirely. Asta fits this to a T.
  • Bleach: Ichigo is a orange spiky-haired teenager who is determined to protect the vulnerable because he knows what it's like to be powerless. His mother was murdered in front of his eyes by a Hollow just before his ninth birthday and he doesn't want anyone to feel the way he felt about that. Three of the five story arcs are based around his determination to protect his friends (Rukia, Orihime and dealing with Uryuu's odd situation in the final arc). His genetic and spiritual inheritance means that his soul is made up of all four of the story's soul-types (Human, Soul Reaper, Hollow, Quincy) giving him enormous power. Soul Reapers can take decades or centuries to develop their power. Ichigo can surpass them after training for days. The villains keep "helping" him to power up because they want his power for themselves, but this just enables him to eventually defeat them. Unlike most shonen heroes, he actually gets good grades in school. He's very studious because he's conscious that the teachers are biased against him because of his odd-coloured hair. However, in battle, he fights instinctively instead of strategically.
  • Waku from Bokurano is eager to be Falling into the Cockpit. Out of the dozen main characters he gets the most emphasis early on and has the most "stereotypical" shonen protagonist traits, despite the series being seinen. He's boisterous, shouts while attacking, is Book Dumb, and is happy to become a hero. Waku is the Decoy Protagonist, as he dies before the first volume is done (episode 2 of the anime). This sets the tone of the series.
  • Digimon: A Recurring Element internal trope to the Digimon franchise. Every season has a goggle-headed boy, who is predictably Hot-Blooded, probably good at soccer, extremely caring, uses a fire-breathing and/or dragon-like mon, who becomes the most powerful team member and the glue that keeps the team together. Usually, over the course of the adventure, they tone down the hot-bloodedness and focus more on their friends and leadership. The only aversion is Season 3's Takato, who was a bit of a wimp to start but got stronger as it went on, and Season 5's Marcus, who didn't wear goggles (but was hot-blooded to the point that he would physically punch Mega level evil Digimon with his bare fists).
  • Shiki from Mashima's Spiritual Successor of Fairy Tail series, Edens Zero, serves as a Deconstructed Character Archetype, particularly his obsession with making friends, as it only makes him come across as a creep or a weirdo. His tendency to put his friends' needs before his own very nearly leads to him getting marooned forever on a deserted planet when everyone he knows on his home planet—who are all robots—are on the verge of breaking down forever and have to pretend they've turned on him to get him to leave.
  • Fairy Tail: Natsu is a Destructive Savior (the whole Fairy Tail group is this, but Natsu is one of the most egregious examples); very Hot-Blooded (understandably because of his Playing with Fire Personality Powers); applies "Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!" whenever he can; never quits, no matter what; seriously believes in The Power of Friendship; shares the role of The Heart of the team with Lucy...
  • Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star is an Unbuilt Trope example, alongside his manga. Despite being in what is the grandfather of modern Shonen manga, he himself is older, quieter, more brutal, and more intelligent then most other protagonists of this type of manga, although he does give a good Bruce Lee impersonation that's loud and shouty whenever he uses his signature Hokuto Hyakuretsu Ken.
  • Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist is a more complex version of this trope — he starts the series as The Atoner due to past events in which his overconfidence and recklessness led to truly horrific results. His essential personality completely matches the description, though, aside from Idiot Hero due to the enormous amount of studying it takes to do alchemy. Due to his past, he's also more cynical than most shōnen heroes, and his Big Eater status is a result of him giving nutrition to his brother Alphone's body in the Gate of Truth.
  • Gon from Hunter × Hunter is a compassionate Kid Hero with very spiky hair. Unlike other shōnen heroes, he has become something of an Anti-Hero over the course of the series and his bright-eyed personality has been called into question. He's more of a deconstruction than anything.
  • Inuyasha from the series of the same name starts out as an Anti-Hero who wants to take the Shikon Jewel for himself and become a full-fledged demon, but as he starts to surround himself with friends he abandons that goal and starts fighting on their behalf as well. While he meets most of the criteria for this trope, he is definitely not Oblivious to Love, as he still retains feelings for Kikyo for much of the series and picks up on a few hints from Kagome.
  • Akko from Little Witch Academia not only is a Rare Female Example, but she's the main character of a Cute Witch series to boot. Even then, Akko, is loud, very impulsive, eats a lot, most of her misfortunes are played for laughs, wants to be a witch to follow her idol's foosteps, is not very knowledgeable, and makes up for her lack of smarts and talent by sheer determination. Both her childhood dream and lack of talent take a tragic turn when a certain event of her and her idol's past is revealed.
  • Hikaru Shidou from Magic Knight Rayearth, with her hot-blooded, energetic personality, as well as an association with fire, is a Rare Female Example, even though she's actually a shojo heroine.
  • Kotaro from Mahou Sensei Negima! is a subversion. While he hits a good chunk of the requirements (Big Eater, Shonen Hair, Book Dumb, etc.), he's The Lancer instead of the hero. The actual main character (Negi) is an inversion. He's highly intelligent, something of a worrywart, and doesn't rely on the Power of Friendship (in fact he started using dark magic specifically so his friends wouldn't have to fight along side him).
  • Maken-ki! deconstructs the Shounen Hero archetype by showing that overwhelming power and determination alone aren't enough to overcome differences in skill, intellect, and experience. Takeru's lack of book smarts and forethought is often a detriment to himself and those whom he's trying to protect. Which is why Haruko and the rest of the student council usually have to come to his rescue, even though he's stronger than they are.
  • Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia averts many cliches of this trope. His aim is to master his Quirk and become the most powerful hero. He has True Companions and is a Determinator. While he can be reckless, he is known to strategize really well (the recklessness part has cost him a whole damn lot — by the time he finally figured out that he should be asking for reinforced knuckles on his costume as a Mid-Season Upgrade (among other changes to his fighting style), he's got such wrecked arms from his use of One For All that people are afraid he's going to get them permanently crippled). Compared to his counterparts, Midoriya's hot-bloodedness is replaced with some timidity, although he does have his occasional moments of shouting and going Large Ham.
  • Naruto:
  • Inverted with Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He's about as far from a stereotypical shonen protagonist as can be, especially for a mecha series. Shinji has a good heart but he's very docile and is Troubled, but Cute, with a lot of self-esteem issues and a fear of getting too close to others.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy is pretty much the Idiot Hero (as in people believe him to have become the Trope Codifier of the "new generation" of Shonen heroes of this type alongside Naruto) and a Leeroy Jenkins of a caliber so major that the rest of the cast tolerate him only because he is very good at fighting and The Heart of the crew. Still, the only time so far that his incredible drive to keep on fighting and his on-the-spot inventiveness failed him was during the Marineford arc, which was a massive Wham Episode.
    • Ace from One Piece could maybe count as someone who fits most of these criteria without being the main character. He's a Big Eater. He has a red and orange color scheme complete with fire powers. He has an immense loyalty to his crew and friends. He ends up as a sort of Deconstruction though, because his Hot-Blooded tendencies lead to him being lured into a trap when he tries to avenge the death of a friend, and ultimately he's killed when another villain baits him by insulting his honor. He's the main character's big bro, it runs in the family.
  • Pokémon:
  • Another female example is Emma from The Promised Neverland, surprisingly, despite the series being mostly horror-mystery with some action. She's bright and energetic, rather impulsive, a little silly (though still way smarter than your average kid), is the most physically fit of the kids, a very quick learner including when it comes to fighting, and can will herself back on her feet through sheer determination after being stabbed through the abdomen. It doesn't get more shonen than that.
  • Real Account has Yuuma Mukai, an All-Loving Hero, Determinator, strong, and a Nice Guy all around to the point of Chronic Hero Syndrome. He's ultimately a deconstruction as he only cares about himself, and his girlfriend before she unfollowed him (he's trapped in a survival game where they need followers to survive) who enjoys watching the carnage of others and doesn't care how many people he sacrifices to get what he wants.
  • Ranma Saotome from Ranma ½. Trained all his life to be a martial artist which he has natural talent for, has a Fun Personified personality, is a terrible student who borderlines on being Book Dumb, many of his story arcs are focused on training and learning new techniques, and he's a very Big Eater. Unlike most Shonen protagonists however, he possesses an Unwanted Harem.
  • Pegasus Seiya in Saint Seiya fits most of the criteria. He's the most immature of the main Bronze Saints, tends to be extremely rash and impulsive, often not thinking about the consequences, and he frequently jokes around when fighting. He subverts the Oblivious to Love part, though, as he evidently has a Bodyguard Crush on Saori, and would readily give his life to protect her no matter what.
  • Yasaka Hachiki from Shuukan Shounen Hachi. It's actually pointed out in-universe that he exhibits a number of traits of a standard "nekketsu" protagonist… and also that said archetype has become outdated.
  • Simon and Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann embody different parts of this trope. Kamina is a borderline exaggeration of the Stock Shōnen Hero; he is very impulsive and Hot-Blooded and prone to rash decisions, and finds every opportunity to give bombastic speeches about his utter manliness. Meanwhile, Simon is depicted as a small, timid person similar to Shinji Ikari, who was deliberately written to be much bleaker than the typical shonen hero. Once Kamina bites the dust, Simon ends up building up his own strength and taking on characteristics of the Stock Shōnen Hero himself, albeit more successfully than Kamina.
  • Haneru from Tribe Cool Crew has some elements. He's a terribly Hot-Blooded kid with huge Anime Hair who has some Big Eater qualities. He's friendly and determined but lacks Idiot Hero qualities. Haneru isn't a fighter but a street-dancer, and is determined to be a great one.
  • Nate from Yo-Kai Watch is a more downplayed example, because the anime is a Slice of Life mon anime. For starters, Nate has the Shonen Hair and also wears red clothes. He can be selfish and bratty but Nate's heart is usually in the right place. Nate is one of the very few people who have a yo-kai watch, which allows him to interact with youkai, and it's implied Nate is special even amongst those few. When it comes to solving problems or (rarely) fighting battles, Nate calls upon his yokai friends to help him. Nate is not Oblivious to Love, but his crush Katie is.
  • Yuna from Yuki Yuna is a Hero is a Rare Female Example. She's a Hot-Blooded middle schooler Magical Girl Warrior. Yuna isn't very motivated in school and is Book Dumb (however she is very good at perceiving others emotions, though she downplays that). She has Big Eater traits (but not on the league of Cool Big Sis Fu), has a very strong sense of friendship, uses her fists during combat, and is a Plucky Girl who enjoys being a Hero even after learning the Awful Truth behind it. She is oblivious to the fact her best friend Togo likes her (and it's implied Karin does too). Yuna has red hair, however it turns pink when she goes into Hero form.
  • The titular protagonist of Zatch Bell! is similar to Goku. Zatch is a determined, excitable young boy who has Super Strength. He can literally eat an animal whole (bones and all, cooking optional) and is Oblivious to Love.
  • ONE seems to like turning this trope on its head:
    • Saitama from One-Punch Man is someone who was at some point a more shonen-esque protagonist, with spiky hair, a love of fighting, and a drive to get stronger and fight more powerful opponents. However, he eventually got so powerful that the things a Shonen hero lives for became too easy to excite him, resulting in Saitama eventually losing his passion... and his hair.
    • Shigeo Kageyama from Mob Psycho 100 is part Inversion, part Deconstruction — he's kind of average-ish intelligence, emotionally stunted, hates fighting, and the few friends he has are less to bolster an already existing confidence and more to keep what little he has from collapsing in on itself. In addition, while he does get spiky hair when his powers flare up, his usual 'do is a round, subdued bowl cut.

    Comic Books 

    Literature 

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.: The titular character is an unusual example, being a blue-collar everyman rather than a youth (although he possesses enough boyish exuberance to make up for it), but nonetheless is acknowledged as the greatest hero of the Mushroom Kingdom, goes out of his way to help anyone he meets, is quick to forgive and forget, dresses in primary colors and defeats entire armies through sheer determination and athleticism. He is associated with the element of fire and has the Hot-Blooded-ness that comes with it. The spin-offs, particularly Super Smash Bros., put more focus in his competitive streak.
  • BlazBlue
    • Bang is pretty much a stereotypical shonen hero... while not being the protagonist. He's got the sense of justice, the Hot-Blooded-ness, the somewhat gullible disposition and the utter hamminess. He even says (in one of his win quotes) "tune in next week!" He starts off as a loudmouthed fool whom everyone looks down upon, but over time he gains more prominence, badassery and resolve.
    • Subverted by Ragna the Bloodedge. While Ragna is visually based on the traditional anime hero (spiky hair, red outfit, short fuse...), he has more in common with the '90s Anti-Hero archetype. He does shed his more negative attributes in the later games, but not enough to fit the trope.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Sora is an All-Loving Hero who often gets into trouble because of his naivety. He's got the spiky hair, red color scheme, and a strong sense of justice. He's constantly going out of his way and derailing missions to help everyone he comes across, and only grows stronger because of it. Despite being an Un Chosen One, he ends up as one of the most reliable and powerful Keyblade wielders.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: The title character, mixed in with some Totally Radical '90s cool and swapping fighting with running. He's got the equivalent of spiky hair, a strong sense of justice, is fueled by the Power of Friendship, and (particularly in spin-offs) loves to compete with other speedsters to see who comes out on top. Even when a giant alligator chases down the team in a jungle level, his only response is "Interesting, let's see who's faster." Unsurprising, since the series has several Dragon Ball Shout Outs, including seven Cosmic Keystones and a Golden Super Mode that makes his hair stand on end.
  • Tracer from Overwatch is a female example. She has the trademark spiky hair, dresses in bright yellow/orange, and has an energetic, happy and childish personality and a strong sense of justice. Overall, she's the cheeriest character on the roster, making her a great choice for the game mascot like so many shonen heroes are for their series.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising: Pit is a thick-headed, think-with-his-gut hero who doesn't strategize much beyond Attack! Attack! Attack!, but remains effective enough to be Palutena's personal One-Man Army, motivated by his Incorruptible Pure Pureness and Undying Loyalty to Palutena. Uniquely, his character combines this with being an Adorkable Butt-Monkey; he is constantly picked on and thrown into perilous situations, causing him to express a lot more reluctance and vulnerability than usual of this archetype.
  • The Charizard species in Pokémon is occasionally depicted with shades of this. Charizard is an orange, boisterous Hot-Blooded dragon-like creature whose Pokédex entries state that it always seeks strong foes to battle, and very little focus is placed on any intelligence the species may have. Charizard is frequently the signature Pokémon of Red, himself a Stock Shōnen Hero in many depictions, as well as a strong recurring member of Ash Ketchum's team who usually acts as his ace whenever present. Some adaptations give it a rivalry of sorts with Pokémon with a cooler-toned color scheme that would fit the Stock Shōnen Rival archetype in comparison, such as Blastoise, Mewtwo and Greninjanote .
  • Undertale: A rare antagonistic example. Undyne is one of the strongest fighters in the Underground and is a hero among monsters. She's Hot-Blooded, believes strongly in the Power of Friendship, and in a game where determination is a recurring factor, she possesses it in droves. She even discovered the wonders of anime through Alphys and thinks it's all true, so it can be assumed that she got at least some of her personality from it.
  • Mega Man Battle Network: Lan is a textbook example; he's not terribly bright or well-organized but is immensely skilled at the Serious Business of Virus Busting, makes good use of the Power of Friendship (not to mention Defeat Equals Friendship), and is generally brave, outgoing and heroic. He even has a cooler but less talented rival and a dose of To Be a Master when it comes to Net Battling tournaments. The same can't be said for Geo Stelar from the sequel series.
  • Avan from Valkyria Chronicles II is one, being a Hot-Blooded Idiot Hero and The Determinator. As the previous game was a mostly-serious War Is Hell story with a more grounded protagonist, he wasn't particularly well-received by the fanbase, especially since his Idiot Hero nature causes him to do some things that would be a terrible idea in wartime. Most-infamously, he tries to help one of his teammates get over her phobia of blood by shooting himself in the foot.
  • The lead hero of ARMS, Spring Man, is described as one of these. He is said to be a goofball outside of the ring and a pizza-loving Big Eater, but he loves to fight, trains incredibly hard, and has enough determination to come back from a tight spot. The latter is incorporated into gameplay as a Comeback Mechanic, as when he gets low on health, his punches get permanently charged.
  • Talus from Paladins is an energetic, bighearted, Cute Monster Boy who is quick on his feet and finds battle exciting. His species, the Ska'drin, are looked down upon and horribly maligned, but Talus is unfazed. He's optimistic and believes he can change the world (and the Ska'drin reputation) with the power of his ancestors.

    Web Animation 
  • Stinkoman from Homestar Runner is a parody of this archetype brought about when Strong Bad was asked what he'd be like if he were an anime character. Despite (or because of) Strong Bad's limited knowledge of anime, Stinkoman has a lot of Shonen trappings down pat, having an inexplicable mop of blue hair and single-minded passion for challenges and combat that he expresses with rip-roaring hamminess. His best friend 1-Up (Homestar's 20X6 equivalent) also nods to this trope; he wants To Be a Master but is Just a Kid.
  • Parodied in the video Hiro The Dense - Dense Shonen Protagonist. It's about a spiky-haired man named "Hiro" who is on a quest to become a knight. He comes to a castle to kill a demon lord. When he comes across a succubus, Hiro's ridiculously dense towards her advances and just wants to defeat a demon. Later, the demon lord tries to seduce him as well, but he doesn't understand her innuendo. When the demon lord breaks it down to Hiro that he was supposed to "lay the demon lord" (not "slay the demon lord"), he still has no interest in having sex with her because he's just interested in being a knight.

    Western Animation 
  • Finn of Adventure Time is a deconstructed example. At the series' start, Finn was a simple-minded yet righteous Kid Hero who lives to right wrongs and go on dangerous adventures. The problems started when he slowly came to see the Graying Morality of the world around him, and his impulsiveness bit him in the buns as he entered adolescence without anyone qualified to offer him any helpful wisdom or guidance, leading him to make some really dumb moves and blow his chances with two Love Interests. Nowadays, while he's never stopped being a hero and fighting evil, he's a lot more of a mature Mellow Fellow, a sharp contrast to the early days when "I'll slay anything that's evil, that's my deal!" was his Signature Line.
  • K.O. of OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes is an obvious parody of this type. He's Hot-Blooded, hammy, loyal, kind, and always eager to battle evil and learn a new fighting move. He's also very stupid, but luckily the Troperiffic nature of the setting ensures his foes are Obviously Evil enough for him to succeed. For bonus points, he's voiced by Stephanie Nadolny, who voiced kid Goku in Dragon Ball and Gohan in Dragon Ball Z.
    Radicles: Is that kid really brave or really stupid?
    Mr. Gar: Both.
  • The eponymous Steven Universe is something of a Shoujo-esque take on the archetype. He's an excitable Large Ham All-Loving Hero who wears his heart on his sleeve, tends to act without thinking, extends a kind hand to anyone, and cherishes his family and friends above all else. However, his energy is more Keet than Hot-Blooded, he's In Touch with His Feminine Side, and is also The Heart who prefers to make friends with his enemies rather than fight them, which fits with the series' emphasis on love and understanding. That said, he's still a Super-Strong Child who will fight if need be and has expressed a drive to get stronger, though it's less out of any inherit desire To Be a Master and more about living up to the legacy of his mother and predecessor, Rose Quartz, who left a great void to give birth to him.
  • Po, the main character of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. He's an idiot who eats a lot with dreams of becoming a kung-fu master. He winds up being The Chosen One on multiple occasions and he masters powerful techniques — which his predecessors took years to perfect — in mere days.
  • Aang, the titular protagonist of Avatar: The Last Airbender, has many of this archetype's characteristics owing to his show's anime influence. He is a naive, energetic Kid Hero who lends a hand to everyone in need, and as the Avatar, he has a natural gift for bending the elements, and indeed has the latent ability to become the most powerful bender on the planet. However, he is a youthful Keet as opposed to a masculine Hot-Blooded hero, he lacks the Big Eater component common to shonen heroes, and he actively dislikes fighting, unlike most shonen heroes who love doing so.
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