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How I learned to stop worrying and love shonen anime

11K View2023-01-14
It's not just shonen anime; I came to anime in general late in life, especially for someone as nerdy as I am. It wasn't until I was nearing thirty years that I finally watched a few great shows (Attack on Titan, Full Metal Alchemist, and Death Note, in particular) that helped me understand the appeal of this style.
But shonen has taken even longer to appreciate. For those who don't know, shonen is a particular sub-genre of anime and manga broadly aimed at teenage boys. These adventurous stories tend to focus on themes like the power of friendship and not giving up even the face of great adversity. And often those themes are played out via long battles between characters with wild powers.
(As a side note: Technically speaking, all three of those anime I mentioned above that first got me into watching qualify as shonen. But they're also shorter, darker, and generally a little less goofy than a lot of the most popular shonen anime and manga, so I'm drawing a distinction in my head, even if it's slight.)
Despite my own issues getting into them, shonen anime are among some of the most popular ever conceived. Just look at some of the top examples of this style: Dragon Ball Z. Naruto. My Hero Academia. And yes, of course, One Piece.
It's perhaps surprising that One Piece, of all the big shonen anime, was the one to pull me in, because it's also the most intimidating to get into. This lovable pirate adventure series first aired in 1999 and is still going strong today with over one thousand episodes. Even compared to other long-running franchises like Naruto and Dragon Ball, that's a lot of show to watch.
So what got me into it? Well, I got worn down. Anyone who has anime-watching friends has at least one who's constantly trying to sell them on One Piece. "It's worth the time investment, I promise!" "I swear it gets amazing after episode 135!" "THE ONE PIECE IS REAL!"
Well, I have several of those friends, and they finally broke me down and made me give it a shot.
A few years ago, I decided to simultaneously start watching the One Piece anime and reading the manga. I think it was the choice to do both at the same time that really helped crack the code for me. By reading the manga, I made the connection in my head between shonen anime and another type of story I've always loved: superhero comics. And they really are quite similar!
Both shonen and superheroes tend to be aimed at young boys. Both feature massive casts of characters who are often defined as much by their special powers as by their actual personalities. Both have stories that sprawl out across different mediums (comics, books, movies, games), and both sometimes seem never-ending, with characters and stories carrying on for decades and often switching creators.
When you get right down to it, what's the difference between One Piece star Monkey D. Luffy and Batman? They're both power fantasy characters with a strong sense of family and justice who are driven forward by traumatic events from their childhood. If anything, the only real difference is that Luffy's story might actually have a true, final ending one day. Maybe.
That's not to say that One Piece and similar shonen anime don't have their own issues. The power creep of constantly needing to introduce new and more powerful enemies can be exhausting, and shonen shows often have notoriously slow pacing, even as epic fights are taking place. See the video below for a great parody of that issue.
But even with those weaknesses, I've really come around in the last couple of years to enjoying these stories for what they are: colorful, juvenile fun with occasionally fantastic character moments. I won't lie and say that I'm all caught up, even after a few years—I'm taking it slow, not trying to binge a thousand episodes in a month—but I've learned to love One Piece and even dipped my toe into Naruto and other popular shonen shows. And I can't wait to jump into One Piece Odyssey later today!
💬 Do you enjoy shonen anime and manga, or are you not a fan? Which anime should I check out next? Let me know in a comment.
Mentioned games

oh u will definitely enjoy these. Some of which I would recommend r hunterxhunter both old and new, yu yu hakusho, bleach, vandal buster , beelzebub, kekkai sensen, ushio to tora , history strongest disciple kenichii, katekyo hitman reborn and many more. lol I am a geek.


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Kef Author

Ahhh thank you for the recommendations! I have a lot of watching to do 😅


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