Top 36 Best Shounen Anime [2021]

Shounen anime is a bit of a mixed bag for me. It’s the most popular genre of anime by a country mile, but that’s because almost every single series can be categorized as it.

If it’s accessible to a somewhat young, male audience, then it’s a Shounen. Not very specific.

That being said, it does have some identifying characteristics we can highlight. Mainly, you’re dealing with anime that has a lot of action, fighting, and a focus on the power of friendship.

Not all Shounen follow this formula, but most do, so that gives you an idea of what kind of series we’re going to be looking at.

I’ve ranked the top 36 I could find, and even that was hard. 36 slots on the list and each one was a battle, so if you’re in need of something new to watch, you’re welcome.

Best Shounen Anime

36. Soul Eater

Soul Eater

Soul Eater is the perfect example of a great concept done well, but one that leaves so much potential on the table. It’s got everything you want from a Shounen, romance, comedy, and plenty of action. However, it deviates from the source material in all the wrong ways, which is a massive shame.

The plot’s premise is simple; you have an academy that has weapon meisters trying to turn humanoids that can turn into weapons into death scythes so that the principal of the school, death, can use them.

It sounds more complicated than it is, trust me.

35. Black Clover

Yes, I’m ranking black clover this far down. And yes, I understand if you’re not too pleased about that. The plot just isn’t for me, I’m sorry, but I completely get if you love it.

For those that haven’t seen this series yet, let me give you a rundown. Our protagonist, Asta, is born into a magical world without powers, which doesn’t happen. From there, you’ve got a series that somewhat resembles Fairy Tail, with different arcs and characters.

Black Clover is still ongoing, but you’ve got 170+ episodes to catch up on.

34. Mob Psycho

Okay, look, there are a ridiculous amount of great Shounen series out there. There isn’t a single weak entry on this list, so don’t hate me if your favorites are this far down. It can’t be helped; Mob Psycho could justifiably come in at number one on someone else’s list.

The protagonist, Mob, seems like an average ordinary dude except for the fact that he’s an incredibly powerful Esper. The 25 episodes long series highlights how he struggles to keep his powers in check. It’s simple, it’s fun, but I’m looking for something with a bit more inspiration.

33. Bungo Stray Dogs

Man, it genuinely hurts writing this list. Bungo Stray Dogs is an incredible series that I can’t believe only ranks 33, but that just goes to show how much meat there is in the Shounen genre.

The series is a supernatural detective show, although detective might be a bit of a stretch. It’s full of action and intrigue, but more importantly, it’s still getting new media to this day.

If you haven’t seen it yet, now’s the perfect time to jump in.

32. Food Wars

Food Wars

Food Wars, Yuri on Ice, and Haikyu are three examples of immensely popular anime that I do not enjoy in the least. That being said, I get why people do, so I have to throw at least one of them on the list somewhere.

Food Wars is just nonsensical fun. It’s about the students that are enrolled in a hyper-competitive culinary school; it’s anime, though, so you can guess how that goes.

This isn’t the most PG anime on this list, I’ll admit, so if you’re a parent or guardian, read up on it before you decide if little Timmy can watch it.

31. Boruto

It’s worse, Naruto, what do you want from me?

30. Fist of the North Star

Fist of the North Star is one of the earliest pioneers of the Shounen genre. Not only that, but it spawned one of the most revered memes of all time. You know the one, “Owae ma mou, shindeiru,” yeah, that’s from this show.

If that’s not incentive enough for you to load this series up, then I don’t know what is.

29. Rurouni Kenshin

This is a simple samurai anime that is as much about self-forgiveness and discovery as it is about sword fighting.

The protagonist, Kenshin, used to be a seriously bad dude. As in, he was a big-time assassin. However, he gave up his life of deception and violence to travel Japan, lending his sword to those in need.

The series follows him as he struggles with the ghosts of his past and the inevitability of getting caught up in that world again.

It’s one of the best samurai anime out there, so if you like that genre, you’re going to like this.

28. Dr. Stone

I didn’t like Dr. Stone all that much. It was good, great even, but I don’t think it deserved all the love and hype it got. More power to you if you think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, though.

The plot is unique; I’ll give it that. You’ve got petrified humans, deception and violence, and enough chemistry to make Walter White blush.

It’s plausible that this show has inspired an entire generation of anime fans to become chemists, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

27. Seven Deadly Sins

It took me a good few tries to get into Seven Deadly Sins, but once I did, I loved it. We’ve got anime Great Britain, or Britannia, here, which is a setting I absolutely adore (more on that later), as we’re thrown into a plot involving knights, deception, and politics.

It’s remarkable how light the series is kept while balancing these usually heavy themes. Don’t worry about watching it and having some existential crisis because you won’t.

26. Haikyu!!

You thought that Haikyu wouldn’t be on this list, didn’t you? Well, it is. It’s only here because my girlfriend is a massive fan of it and made me watch it all.

I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, but I’m going to give it the number 26 spot to appease her.

25. Pokemon

Does this count? I mean, it’s still an Eastern anime; it’s just massive in the west, as well.

You know Pokemon. You’ve played Pokemon, and at some point, you’ve watched an episode of Pokemon.

The anime isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit, but the nostalgia that the early seasons (before that disastrous art change) brought about was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.

If you were a Pokemon fan back in the day or are younger and are a fan now, do yourself a favor and seek out the originals.

24. Yugioh

This is in the same boat as Pokemon, except you shouldn’t seek out the old stuff. Well, you can out of respect, but be aware that the early Yugioh anime was made before the card game actually had rules.

If you’re looking for the best Yugioh anime experience, get your hands on the 4Kids dub of Yugioh GX. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s easily the best thing that 4Kids has ever done.

23. Noragami

Noragami is one of the more mature series on this list, so if you want something a little lighter, stick to One Piece.

If you are looking for a great and touching series that also happens to be one of the best supernatural anime ever made, search for Noragami on your totally legal and legit anime streaming service of choice that you definitely paid for.

22. My Hero Academia

MHA might just be the most popular anime there is with the next generation. I know this because all my sister and her friends talk about is how great it is. I’ve tried to put her onto the classics, to no avail.

The fact that I hear so much fanfare about it has made me biased, hence why it’s only 22. If you’re on the younger side of the anime fandom and you’re looking for something to watch, though, treat My Hero Academia as if it got the first place spot.

21. Hunter X Hunter

Hunter X Hunter

Hunter X Hunter is considered one of the best anime series of all time. To me, being the elitist and puritan that I am, it’s not all that great. However, I have to respect the show, so I’m giving it the number 21 spot.

If you haven’t heard of Hunter X Hunter, then I am genuinely confused. It’s everything that Shounen needs to be: fighting, powers, friendship, and journey.

20. Bleach

I like my samurai anime dark and gruesome. That’s the opposite of what Shounen is, which is why I’m putting Bleach on this list instead of something more graphic.

It’s a supernatural samurai anime following a soul reaper that must guide spirits to the afterlife. It’s an admittedly “anime” plot, but the show is revered for good reason.

19. Full Metal Alchemist

The first Full Metal Alchemist. It’s inferior to Brotherhood, which spoiler alert will appear later. However, it’s still great, so I include it.

If you’re a fan of FMAB, then you should seek this out. If you’re new to that universe, just find Brotherhood.

18. Deadman Wonderland

Deadman Wonderland has one of the best OPs of all time. It rivals Unravel and the Mirai Nikki OP 1. The opening isn’t all that’s phenomenal about this show, though.

It’s such a gruesome and macabre idea that it is nothing short of genius. There are these individuals that have powers associated with their blood. So far, so good.

However, a secret society kidnaps and traps these individuals to force them to fight one another for their amusement; okay, that’s great.

Now, throw the fact that the prison that traps them is set within a regular prison that is created as a theme park to rehabilitate inmates. Okay. Now imagine those inmates being forced to participate in death obstacle courses for audiences who think it’s all a big act, but it’s not.

It’s layered, I’ll admit, but absolutely great.

17. One Punch Man

One Punch Man

Is Saitama the most powerful character of all time? There’s a strong argument for saying yes. How did he do it? Hard work. He’s a working man’s inspiration.

16. Assassination Classroom

I fell deeply in love with this show. I loved it so much that I dreaded each new episode because I never wanted it to end. I would leave episodes for weeks before watching them just so I could keep my head-canon alive.

The plot is ridiculous, but it works so well. You take this alien that can and will destroy the earth. The alien is invincible and can’t be destroyed.

Then the alien says that if he is given a classroom, then the students can try to kill him before he destroys everything, so they begin to train as assassins.

Yeah, it’s stupid, but it’s so goddamn good.

15. One Piece

It’s got too many episodes. Simple as that. If you’re going to watch this, then you already are. If you’re not going to watch it, then nothing I say is going to change your mind.

14. Gintama

I’ll go on record by saying that this is the best comedy anime are created. It’s hilarious in all the right ways but never afraid to take itself seriously. However, it’s not the best Shounen, so it only gets 14 for this list.

It’s a samurai anime about post-feudal Japan after aliens invade and disband the order of samurai. We follow Gintama, who is, believe it or not, a samurai, as he tries to make ends meet.

It’s wacky, simple, and utterly brilliant.

13. Sword Art Online

I like Sword Art Online, Okay!?

Yes, Reki Kawahara could do with less of the harem self-insert, but he’s a fun writer, and the anime series reflect that. Even the games are great, and I’ve just played through GGO for the Switch, again, so it’s fresh in my memory.

While I’ll argue that SAO peaked with season one and GGO, all the other arcs are still great. If you haven’t seen this staple yet, don’t listen to all the noise and make your own mind upon it.

12. Naruto

Sakura Haruno, Naruto

It’s better than Boruto and worse than Shippuden.

Being series, though, Naruto is one of the most widely recognized anime series of all time. While Shippuden is the better installation, you can’t watch it without watching the OG first.

11. Naruto Shippuden

You know what this is, you’ve already seen it, and you love it.

If you haven’t seen it, then cancel all your plans for the next two months (if you even have any, let’s be honest), and binge the OG Naruto and this. You’ve got a massive hole in your anime knowledge, and that’s just unacceptable.

10. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Brotherhood follows the source material much more faithfully than the original interpretation, and thank god for that because the manga is one of the GOATs.

This show is on everyone’s top 10, and there’s a reason for that. The central premise of the show is the alchemical system of magic. If you want to conjure something, you need to offer something of equal value.

It’s a great idea that immediately plays a part in the main story when, in an attempt to bring their mother back, two brothers make a mess of a ritual with some disastrous consequences.

It’s also got one of the most haunting plot points in history, so brace yourself. It doesn’t happen until later on, though. I promise.

9. No Game No Life

Give us the next season. Please. I’m begging you.

It’s been so long there has been another episode or novel in this series, but the author has been sick, so that’s understandable. I do hope he gets better soon because this is one of my favorite shows ever, and it hasn’t even started yet.

A brother and a sister get transported to a magical world full of kingdoms divided by races. Games have always determined wars in this world, but humans have always been terrible at them. It just so happens that our two protagonists are prodigies. They’re so good at games that they beat god in a game of chess in the first episode.

The plot writes itself from there, but it’s so much more than that. If, and hopefully, when, the author makes a full recovery, the sky truly is the limit for No Game No Life.

8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Trish, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Golden Wind

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure isn’t so much Shounen as it is aimed at fans of all ages. It’s a timeless classic, and you know about it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, firstly, what are you doing? Secondly, stop reading this and go watch it right now, for god’s sake.

7. Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail is my guilty pleasure when it comes to anime. I’ve loved every single arc from start to finish, even if some were better than others.

Whereas Naruto and One Piece and drag, Fairy Tail does not.

What it does do, though, is rely on the power of friendship way too much. That being said, the hype you feel when that cliched hero powering up after getting their ass kicked never stops feeling amazing.

Fairy Tail is wrapping up soon (we are getting Next Generations, right?), so now’s the perfect time to jump into the series.

6. Death Note

Yes, Death Note is a Shounen. It’s also one of, if not the most widely known anime outside of the like of Pokemon.

It was the first anime I ever watched, and I’m willing to bet a bunch of you are in the same boat.

It’s clever, satisfying, and brings up some serious moral questions that don’t have any clear answer.

It’s one of the heavier shows I’m putting on the list, but you’ve seen it by now, surely? If you haven’t, just don’t watch “part two.” Trust me; you’ll know what I’m talking about.

5. Dragon Ball Z

No, I don’t like Dragon Ball Z. Yes, I’m putting it here because I realize that 99.9% of you do, and I don’t want to deal with that backlash.

4. Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer was a bit of a surprise hit when it first came out, at least for me. I really did sleep on it until recently, but what a mistake that was.

I’m not even going to touch on the plot; you can discover that beauty for yourself. Instead, I’m going to sum it up by saying it has some of the most beautiful animation I’ve ever seen.

Seriously, it’s unbelievably impressive. It looks like it should be doing too much, but it isn’t. It’s a masterclass in action and will be getting studied for years to come.

3. Attack on Titan

Everybody is loving how AoT is concluding, and I don’t get it. The plot completely went off the rails. Threads were left early on that never got resolved, there are inconsistencies everywhere, and there has been absolutely no build these last two seasons.

That being said, everybody loves it, and I adore the early AoT, so I’m going to look past that.

I’m going to go on record and say that Attack on Titan is going to be a blueprint for generations to come. It’s going to be looked back on as a masterwork, and it fully deserves that.

To sum up the plot for the one person out there that hasn’t seen it, humanity has been forced to retreat into a singular city after being wiped about by man-eating titans. They erect massive walls around the city, divided into three districts, to keep the titans out. Then, one day, the titans get in.

It’s a simple inciting incident that leads, or should have lead, depending on who you ask, to so much more.

2. Code Geass

Yes, it’s true. Code Geass is coming back, and I cannot express how excited I am for it. It’s a mecha anime, in case you didn’t know, but that’s secondary to what’s really going on.

It’s political intrigue at its finest, and remember that whole loving the Britannia setting? This series does it way better than anything else out there.

Lelouch, the protagonist, is the most badass character that has ever existed with one of the best powers ever conceptualized. From the first time he uses it to the end of the last episode, this is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Watch it, please, I’m begging you. There’s even a new season coming out, so you have no excuse!

1. Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul

Could the number one spot honestly have been occupied by anything else?

Regardless of whether you love or hate the direction that the series took after the initial story sort of concluded, you can’t deny that those two first seasons are perfect in every way.

It’s got one of the best soundtracks of all time to the point where I would argue that the first OP, Unraveled by TK from Ling ToshiteSigure, is the best OP of all time, and OP2 is the second best.

The animation is beautiful and does justice to Sui Ishida’s art style. The plot is masterful and paced perfectly, don’t even get me started on how good the characters are, and it has one of the most badass revenge sequences I’ve ever seen. Not just in anime, but in general.

Tokyo Ghoul isn’t just my favorite Shounen anime, but it’s my second favorite overall, falling just short of Mirai Nikki.

If you haven’t seen it yet, brace yourself for what will be the best several hours of your life. And after that, buy the manga, because that’s great, as well.

Founder
Amar is the Chief Nerd at Nerd Bear and can be mostly found binge-watching Netflix, researching tech, shooting things on PS4, and arguing over who is the strongest Avenger.
follow me
No Comments

Post A Comment