Shōnen anime series have narratives specifically designed for a young male demographic, although they ultimately manage to bring in a more universal crowd. Shonen series represent some of the most popular stories told in anime, and are often designed to run for decades over hundreds of episodes.
Shonen series are also often the biggest mainstream anime titles, meaning their mistakes hit harder and are harder to accept. In fact, some shonen series deliver such a fumbling narrative that they completely burn out the audience when it comes to this exciting, action-packed storytelling genre.
10/10 Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is a sloppy sequel series that repeats its hits
A popular trend not only in anime, but in most forms of modern franchise entertainment is to embrace older sequels and expansions that look at the universe’s next generation of heroes. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations is one of the more clumsy executions of this concept.
There are more than 500 Naruto episodes that tell a complete, satisfying story. Naruto’s son carrying on his legacy isn’t a bad idea, but Boruto spends too much time in the shadow of its predecessor. It’s such a retread of the original that it takes too long to find its voice and represents the laziest of cutting ideals.
9/10 Tokyo Ghoul fumbles with the adaptation and struggles to recover
The rise and fall of Tokyo Ghoulits anime is a cautionary tale that every shonen series can learn from. Sui Ishida is hugely popular Tokyo Ghoul manga led to an anime adaptation quickly coming into production. The series tells the story of Ken Kaneki’s transition to the world of ghouls after he experiences an accident that turns him into a hybrid between a man and a monster.
Tokyo Ghoulits first season is a faithful shonen adaptation, but the following Tokyo Ghoul Root A and Tokyo Ghoul:re is extremely disappointing and rushed. The quality drop which Tokyo Ghoul experiences are enough to turn people away from any modern shonen adaptation.
8/10 Mecha Mayhem is given a silly Shonen Makeover in Mobile Fighter G Gundam
There are many signature series that make up the giant robot mayhem of the mecha genre, but Mobile Suit Gundam is practically synonymous with this content. Some Gundam series takes some ambitious risks, and Mobile Fighter G Gundam is a series from the 90s that turns Gundam into a battle skinned.
The more youthful take on the mecha genre centers around a universal tournament where each country sends in a giant robot to fight for their glory. G Gundam is a fun change of pace from the franchise’s dour norm, but many mecha purists find it an insult. G Gundam appears as a parody of shonen and mecha series.
7/10 Black Clover’s magic users lead a rebellion that takes too long to get going
Asta’s underdog status as someone who cannot wield magic but idolizes the ways of magic is par for the course in shonen series. Black clover is gradually maturing into a competent and confident shonen fantasy series, but some fans are justified in their belief that it’s taking too long to find its footing and fix its problems.
At 170 episodes, it’s not irresponsibly long by shonen standards, but it’s more of a commitment than many viewers are prepared to make for a show that’s just average. Black cloverits upcoming feature film might be the best way to get a taste of this universe without nearly 200 episodes of baggage.
6/10 The Promised Neverland’s rushed and confusing second season destroys any previous goodwill
The Promised Neverland is a shonen series that had one of the most exciting debut seasons of the decade, only to be followed up with a rushed and lackluster second season that completely kills any interest in this inventive property. The Promised Neverlandits first season follows a group of orphans who learn they are cannon fodder in a world full of monsters.
Season 1 sets up an incredible journey, which is ignored in the confusing second year. The strong change that occurs between The Promised Neverlandthe seasons serve as a harsh reminder that even the best shonen series can turn into trash if not produced under the right circumstances.
Ichigo Kurosaki and his Shinigami redoubt helped Bleach become one of the “big 3” Shonen Jump series. ONE Bleach anime was inevitable, but it’s an unfortunate example of an adaptation that veers too far off course from its source material and never manages to recover. There are strong elements in it Bleach, but the rotated direction highlights the many shonen series that can’t stick their landings.
The original Bleach anime is a frustrating case of wasted potential and popularity. The release of 2022’s sequel series, Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War looks like it might actually be able to redeem the previous anime and save the shonen series’ tarnished reputation.
4/10 Seven Deadly Sins has predictable plotting and characters who fail to prove themselves
Powerful stories of redemption form the basis of many strong shonen series. Seven Deadly Sins has a noble goal as Meliodas and his band of warriors attempt to repair their reputations and create promising futures for themselves.
Seven Deadly Sins is guilty of gratuitous fanservice, broad caricatures, and lazy decisions that drag down what could otherwise be an engaging fantasy adventure. Picky tastes can pull some quality elements out Seven Deadly Sins, but if it’s someone’s first shonen series, they probably won’t return to the genre.
3/10 One Piece suffers from having too much material
With more than 1000 episodes and still no end in sight, Eiichiro Odas One Piece is undoubtedly one of the most influential shonen series of this generation. Luffy and the adventures of the Straw Hat Pirates have kept audiences entertained for 25 years.
One Piece have gradually figured out a successful approach for the filler, but this does not change the fact that there are literally hundreds of installments that are technically inconsequential. Some audiences purposely avoid shonen series because they require such commitment. One Piece is the pinnacle of this, and many people abandon the shonen genre after unsuccessfully completing the first few arcs One Piece.
2/10 Fairy Tail falls short and doesn’t leave the party soon enough
Many modern shonen series have embraced the fantasy genre to use a more action-oriented perspective on classic worlds of magical and medieval creations. Fairytale doesn’t stray too far from the norm when it comes to Natsu Dragneel and his brave Fairy Tail Guild.
Natsu, Lucy, Happy and the rest of their relatives are an eclectic mix, but they achieve incredible things through their adventures. In more than 300 episodes, FairytaleThe biggest problem is brevity. It feels like a lot of extraneous content could be cut, not to mention Natsu’s perpetually arrested development.
1/10 Shonen’s worst stereotypes are distilled into Dragon Ball Z’s over-the-top action sequences
Akira Toriyama Dragon Ball is one of the most successful anime series of all time, shonen or otherwise. The middle chapter of the franchise gets lost in poorly paced battles, endless padding, and repetitive and practical storytelling that highlights the genre’s worst tendencies.
Admittedly some of the greatest moments from all Dragon Ball occur in Dragon Ball Zbut at nearly 300 episodes, it’s far too laborious. Dragon Ball Z Kai condenses the narrative down to 167 episodes, which is a much more palatable way to experience the story.
NEXT: 10 Shonen Anime That Killed Their Best Characters