Disclaimer: This post is fairly rambly and is more a stream of consciousness than a well thought out and carefully structured post. I apologise if anything seems a bit incoherent.
If you’ve been following me for a while, chances are you’ve heard me proclaim my love for Shounen Action Anime series at least once. I’m pretty vocal about my love for them.
It’s my favourite kind of show and at least three series from my all time favourites fall into this category.
But why is it my favourite? What is it about these kinds of shows that draw me in time and time again? Why do I flip out with excitement whenever a potential new challenger steps into the arena to find its place in the Shounen hierarchy?
A lot of it has to do with the way these kinds of shows structured and how they present their ideas and flesh out their setting. Almost every major Shounen Action title follows a particular set of rules. They tend to take place in a world focusing on a specific set of unique and powerful individuals that act as key players in shaping the societal norms. Whether they’re Ninjas, Pirates, Mafioso or Hunters, they all serve the same purpose and come with their own unique hierarchies with ranks determining ones level of influence or strength.
It differs from series to series, but pretty much every Shounen Action series follows this basic idea, and despite how typical and repetitive it may seem, I always get a kick out of it. There’s something about this structure that just clicks with me. Despite functioning in a similar way, I’m always eager to learn how the particular world of each of these Shounens is put together and what kind of rules said world governed by, even if they all follow the same general format.
Shounen Action series also tend to have protagonists who’s personality and circumstances are highly relatable to my own, both past and present. While they’re not always the most interesting or diverse characters, I more often than not find myself relating to their situation. They tend to be underdogs with a desire to be the best or achieve the loftiest of goals and they’ll stop at nothing to overcome anyone and anything that stands in their way. It’s the most commonly used archetype imaginable, yet it never fails to inspire me to have the same attitude in my approach to the challenges in my own life. It’s a personality type I can strongly relate to, probably more so than any other.
On the subject of characters, I’m also a big fan of large, sprawling casts when they’re done well. I love it when a show has an almost uncountable number of characters, each with their own unique personality quirks, backstories and cool superpowers.
While this isn’t always handled particularly well and can feel oversaturated, as is the case with Bleach, there are definitely shows out there that give enough time and focus to each character that it manages to become quite the experience. Part of the reason I love One Piece so much is due to its incredibly diverse and large cast of characters. All of them are unique, all of them are entertaining characters and almost all of them are relevant to the central plot in some way, even if their contribution is fairly minor.
I also have a thing for gigantic, all encompassing narratives that are comprised of smaller, individual and interconnected storylines and Shounen Action series always happen to provide just that with their story arc structure. I love seeing a series change its focus to an entirely new problem, while also seeing how said problem will affect the overall narrative in the long run. It’s part of why I loved Hunter x Hunter so much. The longest arc in the series, the Chimera Ant Arc was a mostly self-contained storyline that had very little to do with the arcs that came before it, and it took the series in a far more serious and dark direction from what we had previously been exposed to. But seeing how it affected and changed the characters from those previous story arcs and the resulting aftermath from the conclusion of the arc combined with the overall effect it had on the greater narrative that was going on was just so fascinating.
Whenever a long running Shounen Action series announces it’s entering a new story arc, I always get excited, because I have no idea where this new part of the narrative is going to take the series. We were just inside a augmented reality, card-collecting, video game and now we’re entering a war between super-powered humans and giant, super-powered, man-eating ant-animal hybrids? Doesn’t that dramatic shift in narrative focus sound so interesting?
Shounen Action Anime also tends to have really dramatic stakes that just appeal to my viewing preferences. I love high stakes stories. I’m a big fan of seeing the fate of the world being put at risk by an organisation of all powerful, egomaniacal, madmen who share a collective goal to do evil stuff.
But in all honesty, I just really love the spectacle of it all. I love seeing cool and interesting fights between characters I feel attached to. I enjoy watching bizarre and unique superpowers explode across my screen in a blaze of complete awesomeness. I get a kick out of seeing both combatants one-up each other through clever tactics and strategy.
And Shounen Action Anime provides all of that in some of the most ingenious and creative ways imaginable.
Shounen Anime gets a lot of flak these days for being derivative and typical, but at the heart of these epic fight scenes lies a well of creative ideas and awesome stuff that’s unique to each series. A show like World Trigger may fall victim to some basic Shounen tropes on occasion, but its fight scenes do nothing of the sort and are filled to the brim with strong ideas. I always get a kick out of seeing what crazy powers the characters are going to unleash on their opponents and how said powers are going to be used in strategic ways.
I understand that Shounen isn’t for everyone and many of the reasons I love these kinds of shows as much as I do are the very reason many others dislike them, but I wanted to get my thoughts out there.
Even after all these years, I still find myself enjoying these kinds of series the most. I guess they just click with me really well.
How do you feel about Shounen Action Anime?