In recent decades, shonen anime has slowly asserted itself as one of the most profitable genres in the anime industry, if not definitively claimed that title for itself. With feature films from Demon butcher and Jujutsu Kaisen franchisees who hit theaters around the world, the numbers certainly exist to support the argument.
Despite the increase in the Shone’s popularity, there are still many unknown gems that have been forgotten since its first release. Among these underrated series, a few selected titles stand out as especially worth mentioning.
10 Hajime No Ippo Nails The Sports Anime Archetype
A perfect example of the “quiet teenager who reveals an enormous potential” troop done right, Hajime no Ippo reminiscent of everything that makes boxing movies like Rocky and Creed loved by their respective fan bases. With his hard-working (and harder-hitting) main character, quality antagonists and technical dedication to boxing, Hajime no Ippo checks all the boxes for a solid sports anime.
Published by MADHOUSE (the studio behind One-Punch Manand Hunter x hunter) in 2000, this series was as ready for success as the writer George Morikawa could have hoped for – unfortunately its niche audience and an increasingly competitive landscape hindered its long-term success. Despite restarts in 2009 and 2014, it seems that fans have largely forgotten this classic title.
9 Rave Master announced other upcoming series
Ravemester may not challenge any shonen genre conventions, but similar Fairytale and Edens Zerowhich is also written by Ravemesterauthor Hiro Mashima, this series puts his finger on everything that makes the shone fun. Its main character, Haru Glory, is an absolute blast to watch throughout the series and brings laughter and excitement over 51 episodes.
One criticism that has often been lobbied against Hiro Mashima is the similarities between his various works. The art styles, tones and characters in his series are eerily reminiscent of each other, with some characters (such as Ravemester‘s Plue) which literally appears in each of his works. Given the extended success of Fairytaleit is likely that Ravemesterviewership declined due to fans jumping off for the more modern title, which is a shame given Ravemesterits beautifully constructed setting.
8 Beelzebub brought a different tone to a familiar genre
While the modern shonen landscape has gravitated towards high stakes, battle-driven stories, 2011 Beelzebub instead prefers a light-hearted, comedy-centric plot that revolves around the main character Tatsumi Oga. Oga, a criminal at the worst school in his area, stumbles upon Beelzebub, the infantile heir to the underworld, and sets in motion a series of events that see these two try to unite their vastly different backgrounds.
Beelzebub was well received by the audience at the release, and achieved a rather remarkable level of popularity during the original 60 episode. After this introductory pop, however, the series quickly lost its footing in the shonen milieu, and for some reason (perhaps due to the atypical tone of the genre), it has not yet fully recovered.
7 The Major series is a gem that deserves more publicity
Without a doubt, baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, so it only makes sense that franchisees like it Major has repeatedly made an impression on the anime market. Centered around the adventures of Gorou Honda, Major follows the baseball phenomenon as he works his way from the minor leagues to professional baseball.
Sports anime is an overcrowded, underrated market, making it difficult for any shone, even one as well-made as Major, to break through in the mainstream. This, combined with the series’ frightening 154 episodes, has resulted in this instant classic being forgotten by many fans.
6 World Trigger’s production problems killed the momentum
Written by Author Daisuke Ashihara, World Trigger follows the adventures of Yuma Kuga and Osamu Mikumo, two members of the National Defense Agency who are charged with protecting the world from other world monsters called “Neighbors”. Given the fact that Yuma is a neighbor in disguise, this goal turns out to be easier said than done.
Praise for his soundtrack and balanced storytelling, World Trigger (a Toei Animation product) was one of the most hyped releases in the fall of 2014. Still, for some reason, probably related to TV Asahi replacing the series’ time slot with sports programming, the syndication ended less than two years later. Although the series was taken off break in early 2021, World Triggerviewership has not yet recovered from the matte release.
5 The disastrous life of Saiki K. was an eclectic treat
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is a strange duck, even when it comes to shonen comedies. Kusuo Saiki, the show’s main character, was born with a range of abilities, including X-rays, psychokinesis and teleportation. Unfortunately, all he wants is to have a normal life like the rest of his peers at school.
Full of 4th wall breaks, parodies of other genres and hilarious comedy scenes, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is an extremely unique example of shonen anime. This feature, along with the show’s unusual 5-minute section release composition, probably explains its declining popularity in recent years.
4 To Your Eternity received good reviews, but lost a lot of the audience
With a second season coming out in the fall of 2022, For your eternity still has a chance to strengthen itself as a consistent figure in the shonen market. The first season, centered around the alternative way of life known as “It”, was released to remarkable fanfare and praised for its thorough examination of the human experience.
Despite the expiration date, For your eternity quickly lost traction after the first pop, and Google search for the term dropped by over 90% within a few months of the series’ release. Hopefully, the program’s second season can revitalize viewership and reintroduce For your eternity to the ordinary market.
3 Nura: Rise Of The Yokai Clan set the stage for more acclaimed series
Demon butcher may be the latest (and possibly the most popular) in a long line of successful shonen-anime that embraces Japanese spiritualism, but series such as Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan has proven the potential of the concept for years. Rikuo Nura, the main character of the series, is partly human and partly yokai, which makes him an exciting intersection for the two groups.
The show was positively received by the fans, narratively engaging and polished at virtually all production levels. While the decline in popularity of many shonen-animes may point to specific problems with the respective series themselves, Nura: Rise of the Yokai ClanThe lack of sustained fanfare can simply be due to genre oversaturation.
2 Ashita No Joe’s age has buried it in obscurity
As possibly the oldest boxing anime of all time, Ashita to Joe has inspired countless series since its first release in 1970, including the same names Hajime no Ippo, which draws clear inspiration from the older title. Joe, Ashita to JoeThe main character is a restless young man who, through his dedication to boxing, is able to navigate the stresses of the life-changing sport.
Although universally recognized, Ashita to JoeAge has undoubtedly influenced its long-term success, since the parents of many anime-watchers were not even alive at the time of its release. Regardless of age and outdated animation, this series’ brooding tone and serious themes still make it a breath of fresh air over 50 years later.
1 Beck: The Mongolian Chop Squad suffered from its own originality
MADHOUSE has become known as a model for consistency when it comes to publishing high quality anime, but even among their deep libraries, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad stands out as one of their most unique and entertaining titles. This story was first broadcast in 2004, and follows Yukio Tanaka, a 14-year-old boy who becomes friends with the upcoming musician Ryusuke Minami after rescuing the 16-year-old’s dog, Beck.
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad follows Yukio as he joins Ryusuke’s band, also known as Beck, and helps it become popular. The series contains some of the best original music that the production studio has ever released. While the anime market is large enough today for an eccentric series like this to gain a significant following, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squadits age has later made it a forgotten gem.
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