What is Shounen Anime Explained: Definition, Meaning, Examples

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What is Shounen Anime Explained

There are a lot of different terms that appear when you delve into the wide world of anime. For people just getting into it, some Japanese terms can be a little confusing, so we’re here to explain one of the most common phrases: what is shounen anime?

Related: Anime Genres Explained

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What is the Meaning of Shounen Anime?

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Shounen anime are any Japanese animated shows that are likely to appeal to a young-teen male audience.

The term shounen (also romanized as ‘shonen’ or ‘shōnen’) roughly means ‘boy’ or ‘youth’.

Shounen was first used for characterising manga, from which many anime are adapted.

New manga series are usually released chapter-by-chapter in a compilation magazine featuring many different stories. These magazines feature stories targeted at a specific demographic, hence the term ‘shounen’ for those targeting young male readers.

Some of the most popular shounen magazines include Shonen Jump and Weekly Shonen Magazine.

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Should it be Spelt Shounen, Shōnen or Shonen?

Unfortunately, there is no perfect translation of the Japanese term shounen – spelt in kanji as 少年 – into English. Really, all three spellings are acceptable.

Technically, Shōnen is the correct spelling, but the ō indicates that the letter needs to be extended when pronounced, creating an 'ou' sound.

As a result, in English-speaking regions where accents aren't readily used, people tend to move between shonen and shounen.

What Makes an Anime Shounen?

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Shounen is the biggest category for both manga and anime, which also makes it the hardest to define.

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The term shounen anime refers to a certain demographic and not the type of show itself. Therefore, shonen anime regularly cover every genre, from romance, action, drama, slice-of-life, and more.

However, shounen anime are usually defined by having a male lead protagonist and being told primarily from a male perspective.

Shounen anime are also known for being high-action or high-intensity series with increased emphasis on camaraderie and humour compared to other genres, like the female-equivalent shoujo anime.

The majority of shounen anime are adapted from a manga that was categorised as such during its production. Popular shonen series like Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer were both first published in shounen magazines.

However, there are also some great original anime classed as shounen because they share similar characteristics. One example of an original shounen anime is Cowboy Bebop.

Related: What is the Difference Between Shoujo and Shounen?

Is Shounen Action Anime?

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While many shounen series are high in action, that’s not the case with every shounen series. There are many great shounen anime without any action at all!

A good example of a non-action shounen anime is Your Lie in April. One of the most heartbreaking anime of all time, it’s a romantic drama that was first published in a shonen magazine.

While Your Lie in April doesn’t look like a shounen at first, it is shounen because it hits many of the genre's other points, such as a young male lead, emphasizing camaraderie and a strong comedic element.

Ultimately, all a shounen anime needs to do is appeal to a young-teen male audience.

Related: What Is the Difference Between Shounen and Seinen Anime?

Shounen Anime List

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Many of the most recognisable anime are classed as shounen. The reason for this is because many of the classic anime tropes, such as superheroes, big action and young male leads, fall under this umbrella.

Here are some of the most famous shounen anime, so you can understand a little more about what’s classed as shounen:

  • Attack on Titan
  • Demon Slayer
  • Jujutsu Kaisen
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • My Hero Academia
  • Assassination Classroom
  • Bleach
  • Haikyuu!!
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  • Nisekoi
  • Food Wars

In reality, though this list only scratches the surface when it comes to shounen anime!

Related: What is the Difference Between Shoujo and Shounen?