What are the best shounen anime? Defined by incredible battles and underscored by an enduring sense of humanity, many of the longest-running and most beloved anime are shounen.
Stalwarts like Dragon Ball Z and One Piece, both among the best anime series ever made, demonstrate this well. They’ve got anime characters you love, and that makes their sequences and ongoing plots all the more engrossing.
Step beyond those, and you find lots of under-appreciated and off the radar animated series. We’ve compiled the greats to give you the best shounen anime – sadly, not over 9000 (yet).
What are the best shounen anime?
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Hunter x Hunter
- One Piece
- Dragon Ball Z
- My Hero Academia
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
- Demon Slayer
- Slam Dunk
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
If you know, you know – and if you don’t, you’ve probably been recommended Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood many times before. But that’s for good reason, because it’s truly all killer, no filler.
That’s literal, because Brotherhood faithfully re-adapts Hiromu Arakawa manga about two brothers who’re searching for a mythical object to restore their human bodies after a previously baggy attempt. This version brings out the characterisation, psychology, horror, and beauty of the manga, fleshing out the fascinating universe. You might never look at a dog the same way again.
Hunter x Hunter
Absentee fathers is a common theme among shonen anime. In Hunter x Hunter, the yearning for paternal guidance becomes a great quest for Gon Freecs, who gradually understands you can make your own family.
Over the course of the show he trains to be a hunter, someone who’s adept at finding rare objects, just like his old man. Eventually, Gon hopes to find his dad, but part of you doesn’t want it to happen because every step along the way becomes so gratifying.
Will it ever end? Does it need to? Luffy and the Straw Hats have endured over 1000 episodes and multiple movies without letting the wind out of their sails. Their search for treasure on the high seas has yielded many hearty misadventures, and plenty of lore for dedicated fans.
That said, once you understand the basics of the pirate way, you can just jump in. The oceans were made for exploring, and One Piece has more tha enough great action and vibrant settings that you can forego the minor details.
Dragon Ball Z
A beginner’s guide to a great shonen battle: one side is Goku, who’s so pissed off he’s about to go another level of Super Saiyan, and on the other is a menacing alien that just killed Krillin. Just sit back and watch the blend of fireworks and lightning fast punches.
The Dragon Ball Z characters are an ever-evolving engine for exhilarating sequences. Whether it’s Gohan, his dad, Picollo, or Vegeta in charge, spectacle is guaranteed, on top of some glorious male bonding. Just bros being dudes, aving the universe time and time again.
My Hero Academia
Superheroes and shonen just go together, and My Hero Academia is among the most charming mergings of the two. Rather than following established heroes, the show focuses on Izuku, a child born without powers who remains determined to contribute heroically.
Gradually, he accrues some abilities, and alongside his friends, defends humanity from the forces of evil. A multitudinous array of mutations makes for quick, colourful fights, wrapped in some truly cheeseball dialogue. But the joy’s in the sincerity.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
A superpowered family solves crimes and challenges evil over the course of several generations, and that’s barely the half of it. Their powers, known as Stands, are rooted in psychological manifestations, breeding some utterly audacious visuals and wild set-pieces.
One of the most unscrupulous shows, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure changes setting and characters every seasons, regularly creating new jumping on points. Once you understand the great rivalry between Joestar and DIO, you won’t want to miss a single round.
Horror anime has become popular of late, with this and Jujutsu Kaisen garnering particularly large fanbases. Demon Slayer, following young Tanjiro on a path of demonic destruction after his family is murdered, is a perfect example of why.
The backdrop imbues early 1900s Japan with eerie mysticism, taking a relatively grounded look at what it might be like to have demons knocking about. All the Demon Slayer characters bring something to the mythology that keeps it constantly expanding and enthralling.
Becoming available to British and American audiences in the late 2000s, Naruto was a gateway drug for many to the wider world of Shounen. The titular ninja works to defend his village and become the most powerful warrior in an ongoing, inter-generational saga.
Together with his son Boruto, the show has joined the 1,000 episode club led by One Piece. Jovial fights are a large part of why, but all the great Naruto characters are what really make it worthwhile.
Cowboy Bebop is far from the only Western-inspired anime, and Trigun’s a fine watch if you want something that has old west tinge. Vash the Stampede, a notorious gunlinger, hides on a notorious planet after accidentally levelling a city.
Bounty Hunters regularly come for him, but he refuses to kill them, instead using incapacitation whenever possible. Oh, and his short term memory sucks. Trigun’s basically a very powerful man who can barely remember what he had for breakfast having to regularly fight for his life, and it’s great because of that.
Sports anime are some of the most exciting shounen stories you can find. Slam Dunk takes the already thrilling basketball and turns it into a transformative vehicle for personal growth and acceptance.
By enlisting on his high school team, young offender Hanamichi Sakuragi starts to see his options outside of petty crime and gangs. Watching him captain his team to victory will have you on the edge of your seat like any fight to save Earth. As far as recommendations, this one’s as the title suggests.
Those are the best shounen anime. Check out our list of best romance anime and best anime movies for more great picks, and our guides to the Dragon Ball Super season 2 release date and One-Punch Man season 3 release date. Don’t forget our new anime guide as well.