5 of the Most Overrated Shounen Anime

5 of the Most Overrated Shounen Anime

Of the four main manga and anime demographics, shonen—whose titles are primarily aimed at Japanese male teenagers—is easily the most prolific, thanks in particular to longtime industry juggernauts like the “Big Three” (Naruto, Bleach and One Piece) and the “new big three” (My Hero Academia, Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slaughter). These works have taken not only Japan, but large parts of the globe by storm, and have been huge successes both critically and commercially.


However, not everyone likes certain aspects of the stories that tend to permeate shonen franchises. For example, since many of them are incredibly long, it means that their anime adaptations often have unsatisfactory filler content or low-quality animation. Meanwhile, some shows dip into immature fanservice for the sake of comedy, or try too hard to be edgy, only to come off as eye-rollingly self-serious and bleak. Such problems, among others, are all present to some degree in the titles below.

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Rurouni Kenshin (1996–1998)

Kenshin Himura draws his sword from Ruroni Kenshin

In the twilight of the Bakumatsu period, a notorious assassin known as Hitokiri Battousai—the sword-wielding assassin—suddenly disappeared, though the name lives on. A decade later, a cheerful wandering samurai named Himura Kenshin stumbles upon Kamiya Kaoru, a young woman doing her best to run her family’s dojo. After saving her from an assassin posing as Hitokiri Battousai, Kenshin is revealed to be the real assassin, now sworn only to use his sword to protect. Kaoru allows the pacifist samurai to live at her dojo, where many friends, enemies and adventures inevitably find him.

Based on a 1994-1999 Shonen Jump manga, the Rurouni Kenshin TV shows were the first exposure to anime for many Western fans who started watching at the time. It also transcended demographics in many ways, with the title having broad appeal across genders and age groups. Nonetheless, the series is riddled with problems, with dramatic tonal shifts depending on the story arc, slow pacing due to a large amount of filler content, and a predictable villain-of-the-week storyline throughout much of its runtime. Season 3 in particular is often lambasted, even by fans of the anime, who criticize the lack of realism, relatively lackluster fight scenes, and unsatisfying conclusions.

RELATED: Rurouni Kenshin: Hajime Saito’s dignity makes him the ideal ally — and fiercest opponent

Inuyasha (2000–2010)

Inuyasha carries Kagome in Inuyasha's final act.

Higurashi Kagome is a strong-willed and brave girl who on her 15th birthday finds herself forcibly transported into a demon-infested feudal Japan. Unbeknownst to her, she is in possession of the Shikon Jewel – a relic containing incredible power that demons greatly desire. When she is discovered by the half-demon Inuyasha, he takes a dislike to her on sight, mistaking her for a priestess named Kikyo, but decides to help. Now he and Kagome, the latter of whom turns out to be Kikyo’s reincarnation, embark on an epic journey to recover the shards of the Shikon Jewel after they were broken and scattered across the land, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

Takahashi Rumiko’s works are loved by many anime and manga fans, and perhaps none more than Inuyasha. Anime, based on a series from 1996-2008 published in Weekly Shonen Sunday, is often cited as Takahashi’s best animated work. Still, this doesn’t mean the show is without its problems. Aside from the high amount of recaps and filler content one would expect from a 150+ episode series, which slows down the pacing considerably, one of the biggest problems is the formulaic characters and rather one-note characters. Kagome and Inuyasha’s overly tsundere relationship in particular appears as a matter of course; however, their constant bickering, immature stubbornness, and overbearing jealousy are far more annoying than romantic, making for a frustrating viewing experience.

RELATED: Inuyasha: How Kagome Differs From Typical Shonen Heroines

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006)

Haruhi Mikuru and Yuki from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Kyon is an average middle school boy who meets a not-so-average classmate: a girl named Suzumiya Haruhi, who actively seeks to uncover the existence of supernatural entities such as psychics and time travelers. Kyon is reluctantly drawn into Haruhi’s plans when she forms the SOS Brigade Club to investigate such phenomena, soon joined by the seemingly more normal Nagato Yuki, Asahina Mikuru, and Koizumi Itsuki. However, much like Haruhi, there is far more to these people than meets the eye, and Kyon’s life is quickly upended by the various secrets that could threaten the world around them – even though Haruhi herself is blissfully unaware of this fact.

First published as a series of light novels in 2003 by Kadokawa Shoten’s teenage male-oriented The sneaker magazine, then adapted into a shonen manga in the pages of Shonen Ace, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is still best known for its anime adaptation, at least in the West, where it became a major cultural phenomenon. However, despite its undeniable popularity, anime contains many pitfalls. It is extremely dialogue and exposition driven, and does far more in the way of telling than showing. Combined with the unrelenting over-sexualization of Mikuru and the fact that the titular character herself is often completely unbearable, this results in a show that is disjointed at best and otherwise unfunny.

RELATED: Has Fairy Tail’s Fan Service Hurt Erza’s Important Shonen Female Representation?

Attack on Titan (2013-present)

Armin, Eren and Mikasa are standing next to each other

In a world where humans live behind huge concrete walls, constantly threatened by man-eating human-like giants known as titans, a brave few wage war against these terrifying enemies. Eren Yeager, who once saw his own mother die before his eyes at the hands of a titan, joins the Survey Corps – an elite military unit dedicated to fighting for humanity. Together with their adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and childhood friend Armin Arlert, they attempt to eradicate the Titans once and for all – but political strife, numerous betrayals and buried secrets follow them, changing the course of their respective stories and challenging their worldview in the midst of merciless death. and destruction.

It would be hard to exaggerate how popular it is Attack on Titan franchise has grown over the years. First released in 2009 as a Bessatsu Shonen Magazine manga, its ongoing anime adaptation has garnered legions of fans despite its many glaring flaws. While Attack on Titan presents itself as groundbreaking and adrenalizing, there is very little truly unique about the plot, and the explicit gore and violence comes across as more for shock value than anything else. Complete with uneven pacing – especially in the first season – and underwhelming character development, Attack on Titan may appeal to the grimdark “edgy” crowd, but lacks too much subtlety and depth to be genuinely good.

RELATED: Attack on Titan vs. Game of Thrones: Which Series Challenges the Plot Armor Trope Most?

To Your Eternity (2021-present)

to your eternal creator and fushi

Fushi is an immortal created by an otherworldly presence known only as the Container. First in the form of a stone, then a dying wolf, and finally a lonely, nameless boy when he too perishes, Fushi travels across the country in search of meaning, learning along the way what it really means to be human and part of society. However, both Fushi’s and others’ existence is threatened by the Nokkers – supernatural plant-like beings that seemingly only seek to kill. Full of both love and grief, Fushi’s journey leads him to make connections and protect those he comes to love, even as humanity itself sometimes turns out to be manipulative or malicious.

Originally published as a manga in Weekly Shonen Magazine in 2016 and is still ongoing, the anime is also broadcast by To your eternity has amassed quite a following, thanks in large part to its incredibly strong premiere and highly impactful themes. The main problem with the show is that the first season went downhill, starting off incredibly strong but slowing down in its storytelling with each major story arc. To your eternity has huge potential, but it often bogs itself down by becoming formulaic and predictable with the characters (especially the character deaths). It also sometimes sacrifices proper character development for Fushi by focusing on far less poignant plot points or characters, which is what made the final “Jananda Island” arc in Season 1 so disappointingly weak.

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