Golden Rules of “Action” Shounen anime/manga

This is part one of my “shounen cliche” series. I already have Action Shounen and Shounen Romance, and I’m thinking of writing about Shounen Sports too.

I usually say shounen crap here, shounen crap there, just for the sake of argument, though I read some myself. (yes, I don’t watch) It’s just that I really don’t like those rabid fangirls that squeals here and squeal there saying <insert character here> is uber cool, not knowing why <this character> is cool and not even knowing what “uber” means.

Most of the anime/manga fans grew up with Dragonball or <insert action shounen series here> so, we all have “shounen action fan” blood with us.

But, most of current series are merely DBZ iterations or follows the DBZ formula or basic shounen anime rules. they just change the setting to ninjas, exorcists, basketball players, boxers etc.

I’m really not sure who set up the standards in action shounen, though in every angle it’s pretty much DragonBall.

So it turns out that Naruto is Goku that became a ninja and instead of his hair turning blond, (hey, his hair’s yellow in the first place) he grows tails instead, and BLEACH is just a fashionable DragonBall with swords, youkai instead of alien monkeys and random mexican terms.

Note that older action shounen series deviate from these rules btw. Most of them just follows a common enemy throughout the series, and instead of arcs, it is divided into generations. (sons, grandsons etc.) Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Hokuto no Ken are examples. While others are in one goal per one or two episode format like City Hunter or Detective Conan. But old action shounen series can be classified as seinen this days due to their graphic nature. (Though some still mistake seinen series as shounen like Cowboy Bebop). So, how do we quickly differentiate Shonen and Seinen? Both has fanservice right? and of course boob shots in onsen or bath episodes.. check the boobs, if it has nipples it’s seinen, if there’s none it’s shonen.

Extra note: older series tend to do the one story per 1~3 episode format and does one big arc (4~up episode) as season/series enders.

Here are the rules I compiled, not entirely complete, but I guess most of it catches the basics. I provided examples from modern shounen series so that you can visualize it.

Edit: Cleaned the article because it’s sooooooo effin’ messy.

Another note: I increased my Shounen knowledge during my break and read a lot of popular and uncommon titles as well.

Moar notes: you must hate me for having lotsa notes.. but it looks like my layout is screwed in Firefox and IE. (I use Opera lol) some words are hidden in the background. If a sentence doesn’t make sense, there are usually words hiding on the far right though some are grammatical errors.


Main Character

There are actually two types of main character, the effin emo guy with a bad past, and the cheery guy that is actually a genius at being an idiot, or both.

Hmm let see… emo guy could be Bleach’s Ichigo Kurosaki (haha) and cheery guy.. (there’s a lot) maybe i’ll pick Fairy Tail’s Natsu Dragonil

Well, either ways… they all look like wusses, has gravity-defying hairstlye (most, but not all.. like D.GrayMan’s Allen Walker), and their godlike powers are usually inborn. (inborn… DBZ’s Goku duh)

Other Characters (Traits)

There are different types of characters in the main guy’s party and it’s usually made up of at least 4 members

1. Bestfriend/Rival

This guy is usually on par with the main character in terms of superpowers, and he is usually the opposite of the main guy. for example, if main guy is cheery, this guy has a bad past. if main guy is an idiot, this one is a genius. Notable examples, Nartuo’s Sasuke and hmm… let’s see… Shaman King’s Ren Tao

2. Potential Girlfriend

The main guy’s love interest, useful in battle… as bait. Well, not most of the time as some can fight too like MÄR’s Snow or Bleach’s Rukia.

3. an Idiot

When the main character is not the idiot someone has to take it’s place. Good for cleaning up small fry and sometimes useful in big fights. An example is Yu Yu Hakusho’s Kuwabara.

4. a trap

Since shounen action is aimed for boys, creators usually pit in some traps for girls to whore on. “Moneymaking technique” in short. notable examples are Yu Yu Hakusho’s Kurama and Flame of Recca’s Tokiya Mikagami.

5. Musclebound character

Can be combined with the idiot trait, and his role is usually the same with the idiot character

6. fanservice character

If there’s another girl in the party she’s usually the fanservice character, not good at fighting and not good at everything except having big boobs (well, not most of the time..) the only thing she’s good at is getting captured like Bleach’s Inoue Orihime.

Though there are fanservice characters that has a lot of contributions in the party and in the story, for instance, MÄR’s Dorothy, Flame of Recca’s Fūko Kirisawa and not to forget DBZ’s Bulma (yeah, she’s a fanservice character)


Big Boss (the series ender, not arc ender)

The big boss is, unfortunately the main guy’s relative, (father, brother, mother, etc) or his Bestfriend/Rival turned evil. example? Nartuo, duh or MÄR

Smiling Guys

smiling guys, are smiling… haha either foe or friend… they’re effin dangerous. mostly second in power rating of the arc boss… like Rurouni Kenshin’s Soujiro Seta

Arc Bosses

Arc bosses, are pretty strong at his arc but when he becomes yer ally, the writers decides to nerf ’em.

Plot / Storyline

1. New Arc, New Enemy, New Power, New Transformation Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After the main character was beaten helplessly in the arcs transition phase, he usually trains for a few frames. (which is equivalent to months or years, or Dragonball’s special “training room”) He then gains a new power just to “befriend” the new enemy. examples are Hitman Reborn’s Tsuna and his crew gained new powers during the Future arc then, Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Regarding New Transformations… remember Shaman King where their Power Spirits became weapons, then mechs, then smaller, stronger weapons? or how about Bleach’s Bankai for newer fans.

2. Yesterday’s enemies are tomorrow’s allies

So, why not “TODAY”? Yesterday’s enemies usually come back in another arc as allies. An example is Gaara’s crew coming back in Sasuke’s arc to help and of course, Piccolo and Vegeta from DBZ. In Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s “Diamond is Unbreakable” arc, Josuke made around 60% of the villains (from start to end) into his allies

3. You can usually find ladderized fights or tournaments

Every action shounen anime features a tournament arc. Notable examples are Dragonball’s YuYu Hakusho’s and Flame of Recca’s. If a fighting tournament is not present, we can find ladderized fights, where the main character must go through different levels of people before reaching the big boss, such as BLEACH’s Soul Society Arc.

This is where the main character usually find allies, therefore the previous rule applies.

There ARE special cases too, cooking tournament anyone? yes Cooking Master Boy falls under shounen category too, not to mention he gained a lot of allies throughout his cooking battles.

4. Sudden release of hidden power

Ok, we got a new arc and new power, and prolly some new transformations too. But, in the end we got beat up. So what do we do? NEW HIDDEN POWER

5. Flashback Arcs

Usually the mangaka’s scapegoat when he/she runs out of materials. Flashback arcs are usually found before a big arc, or when the series is nearing its end.


So, shounen manga is for boys… How do we get girls to read it?

Simple, a gay bishie emo trap character. Not necessarily the main hero, he can be the hero’s rival or some underling or even the main antagonist.

Most popular example is Nartuo’s Sasuke.

Shounen Series usually spans up to forever

A Series usually dies if the creator doesn’t get more money from rabid fanboys (and girls). there are old ones still running though, like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure that spanned for 7 Generations of Jojo (well, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure can be considered under the seinen genre these days).

Things may be added whenever I find new information.

I’m lazy to put links for each example I posted, oh well I guess I’ll edit and add more in the next few days.

So, why is Anime Tenchou the header image? lol, no reason really. Also, there are some f-tards in the interwebs saying anime tenchou is a reference to either Akane Maniax’s Jouji or Go Nagai’s art. well, its kinda wrong, since Anime Tenchou (Meito Anizawa) is from his own anime. a promotional anime for Animate produced by GAINAX. (therefore the hotbloodedness)

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9 Comments on “Golden Rules of “Action” Shounen anime/manga”

  1. shizzy Says:

    lol….its so true. most of them are formulated, but so is the majority of anime and manga. Especially romance…the characters just look different. so im pretty picky with my anime ad manga. i can never find any good action animes though cuz im really picky with the visuals too. do you recomend any visually appealing action anime.

  2. Leo Khan Says:

    I’m pretty picky with anime in general but I usually don’t watch action anime these days unless they involve mechs which pretty much most your rules could still apply to. I mostly focus on the art on the anime alot meaning if I don’t like the art or I think the art could have been art(manga looks better than anime) than I usually don’t bother watching it. I’m not as picky with plot if I was I’d probably reading more novels than manga. Why is that about 99% of the time the manga is better than the anime? An article answering that question would be awesome.

  3. sNooZe-kun Says:

    the Mecha genre actually has its own rules to follow, I can name a few but it’s not really my specialty.

    A “which is better?” article is very hard imo, there are a lot of pros and cons and different viewpoints.

    Though, I don’t really like comparing them much . Anime is Anime and Manga is Manga. both are from different realms.

  4. Indurrago Says:

    Yeah I guess I was thinking about something else when I said that. I’m not an expert on that genre either.

    An anime vs manga article would be hard but intriguing.
    It’s amazing how well these rules fit with some of the popular shounen anime.
    *Shounen Series usually spans up to forever–lol my favorite rule, I only managed to watch only one series from beginning to end that was 100+ episodes but then again that was only one part of an even bigger series.

  5. […] audience. I'm talking about complex, serious anime with great characters and deep plot, not the shounen formula most people are used to. I'm talking about anime titles that make us think, that we can actually […]

  6. ocelot Says:

    i’m sorry but detective conan has many story arcs like:

    well, since you have made this mistake i guess we have to ignore your “definition”(if we want to call it that way …)

    cownboy bebop is a shounen anime. how else do you explain the childish behavior?

    • mjsnoozer Says:

      Huge story arcs comes once in a blue moon. But, Detective Conan still maintains its standalone story arcs, mostly 2-3 eps per arc though it sometimes jump to 5.

      so, childish behavior automatically merits for shounen category? well, no.

      what I’m explaining is Cowboy Bebop is categorized as “seinen” as it is still intended for older watchers. If you look at the elements behind Cowboy Bebop, will you say those stuffs are for kids? of course not.

      Though in current time, pretty much everyone watch everything. Like children watching h and older men watching Precure. These categories nowadays are useless per se.

  7. dbz fanboys are fags Says:

    No you darn kid goku is not naruto naruto is naruto and goku is goku u fag

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