Typically aimed at boys and young men, the shonen genre of anime is the most popular by far, with a wide variety of titles making it up. While a staple of the shonen genre is high octane action, as this list proves, there’s more to this genre of anime than meets the eye. Let’s look at some shonen anime that is more than suitable for beginners.
The most recent recipient of the Anime of the Year award from Crunchyroll as voted on by fans from around the world before it had even finished airing!
In this action series, Yuji is a member of his school’s occult club. One day, the club gets their hands on a sealed cursed item but accidentally unseals it, which unleashes a terrible curse that Yuji must defeat… by assimilating it into his body! After it’s confirmed that he has indeed ingested a cursed item, he joins a special group that uses their powers to fight off other monsters or “curses”.
Immediately green-lit for a prequel movie right after the television series concluded, Jujutsu Kaisen has been a hot property since episode 1 and it seems like it has yet to hit its ceiling. Jump on this series while it’s still fresh!
The primary law of alchemy is that of equivalent exchange. Whatever you try to create through alchemy requires an equal exchange. Two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, learn this the hard way one night when they try to use alchemy to revive their dead mother. Instead, the younger brother Alphonse loses his entire body and Edward loses an arm and a leg for being able to affix his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. After the tragic incident, Ed and Al join the State Alchemists and embark on an almost never-ending quest to restore their bodies back to their original forms.
Here’s the thing with Fullmetal Alchemist; there’s the original version which has an anime original ending and there’s the newer version (Brotherhood) which picks up the pace and animates the ending as it appears in the manga. It’s impossible to say which one you’ll end up preferring, but the fact that I put Brotherhood on this list rather than the original should say something.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
In our first isekai of the list, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is all about an office worker that gets stabbed on the street in a random act of violence and dies. Instead of heading for the afterlife, however, he is transported to a fantasy world and reincarnated as a lowly slime with only a few basic powers. Luckily for him, one of those powers allows him to adopt the qualities of anything he absorbs into his slime body, which leads to him eventually becoming the most powerful slime in this unknown world.
Definitely one of the best from the isekai genre this past decade, this series has a fantastic cast of characters that engage in frantic but always entertaining antics. While the power that the main character Rimuru gets over the course of the first season more than borders on overpowered, the story is solid and deserves all the praise that it gets.
My Hero Academia
In a world where at least 80% of the population are born with special powers called quirks, Izuku is just unlucky enough to not be born with any kind of power, but that doesn’t stop him from idolizing his hero All Might. One day, Izuku does something heroic and is seen by exactly the right person who bequeaths to him a very special quirk that only one person in the world can possess at a time.
My Hero Academia makes use of the “power crawl” trope (the trope where a hero gains power very slowly) but perfects the formula over the course of the first couple of seasons. In this series, the power crawl makes sense and the stakes that these kids have to deal with are very real, which adds a genuine human touch to the series that other shonen series tend to not have as much of.
My all-time favorite series. Period. Assassination Classroom takes place at a very special junior high that has the E Class system. In this system, they ship students who cannot live up to the lofty academic expectations of the school off to a special classroom on the top of a mountain behind the school known as E Class. These students are ridiculed beyond belief and subjected to unimaginable hardships. They are treated as the lowest of the low and are expected to go through life as permanent failures.
One day, a large portion of the moon inexplicably explodes and a couple of days later, a large yellow tentacle monster appears in E Class claiming to be the one who did it. This is followed up with the news that this monster will be the new teacher of E Class and in exchange, the students must become assassins and murder him before the end of the school year, or else he’ll blow up the Earth!
This series will touch you in a way that you didn’t know possible, and I guarantee tears along the way. Like, that’s not even me being hyperbolic. This series will make you cry over and over again and will make you feel things in the very best possible way.
Taking place in Victorian England, this dark drama follows a young lord named Ciel Phantomhive who was subjected to a dark and mysterious past that involved his parents being murdered in a fire. Seeking revenge, Ciel signs a pact with a demon promising his eternal soul in exchange for the demon’s eternal assistance and protection until Ciel can exact revenge.
Black Butler is one of those great series that turns the genre upside down and then shakes it for loose change. While there is some action, the real driving force behind this series is intrigue and mystery. Most of the story arcs in this series involve Ciel and his demon butler Sebastian investigating and solving some kind of mystery, and that’s what keeps the audience engaged throughout.
From the same creator of the above-listed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood comes this coming-of-age story about farming?
In this story that takes place at an agricultural high school, the main character is a fish-out-of-water transfer student named Yuugo who came to the school just to get as far away from his family as possible. What he doesn’t realize until it’s too late, however, is that farming is really hard work!
Silver Spoon is a fun educational series that shows people the not-so-glamorous lifestyle that gets our food into our kitchens. The one thing to keep in mind about this series, however, is that it can be challenging to watch at times, especially if you like animals and don’t want to see bad things happen to them.
Due to having a mean face, Ryuji is constantly accused of being a thug or delinquent. All he really wants though is to have some friends and get his crush Minori to notice him. One day, he has an encounter with a pint-sized terror known as the “Palm-sized Taiga”. This encounter starts a series of events that bring the two together in a way that neither one of them could have ever seen coming.
Who says that guys don’t like romance? One of the most highly rated romance titles in anime history, Toradora has become a beloved title ever since it premiered in 2008. While the character personalities might be a bit on the extreme side, the end result is more than worth the journey.
Full Metal Panic
A hilarious military mecha comedy with a bit of a supernatural twist!
Full Metal Panic is all about Sousuke, a teenage soldier who knows nothing except military discipline. This makes things hard on him when he must go undercover at a Japanese high school to protect a girl named Kaname who possesses a special power that a rival military force wants control of.
Full Metal Panic is a classic of the genre that doesn’t get enough credit in the modern age. Luckily it still has a loyal fan base who has followed this series all the way through multiple seasons, so it’s not hard to find other fans to talk about this one with.
Yu Yu Hakusho
Yusuke is a middle school punk who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. That is, until he’s hit and killed by a car while saving a child. When he gets to the afterlife, he learns that no one actually expected him to do what he did and that his death was completely unforeseen. Still, a selfless act is a selfless act, and for his good deed, he is able to return to Earth. However, he must now work as a spirit detective, a warrior who helps combat evil spirits around the world.
Yu Yu Hakusho captured imaginations when it aired back in the early 90s and became a runaway smash hit for many years afterward.
And there you have it! 10 shonen series that you can binge right now and get your shonen anime career kick-started in the right direction!
Related: 10 Best Seinen Anime for Beginners