Hello everyone! It’s been a little while, I apologise. I lost all my motivation a few weeks back, but after wallowing in self pity for a while – I’m back.
And what better way to welcome myself back than to talk about my favourite genre: shounen. Now, calling shounen a ‘genre’ can be a little bit tempermental. Shounen literally translates to ‘young boy’, meaning that Shounen anime are generally shows aimed at boys aged under 18. I am neither a boy or under 18, and yet according to very scientific research, it is my highest rated genre, and almost my most watched, too (718 hours!).
Inspired by this, I thought I’d make a post. What shows have I seen that went beyond all expectations, did everything and more?
For the sake of not repeating everyone ever, I will not be talking about ‘The Big 3’: One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto. These shows have gone beyond the shounen genre, beyond anime. Whilst they’re great starter shows (Bleach was my very first anime), I do not wish to regurgitate what has been said 1,000,000 times. They’re the big 3 for a good reason.
Things I’m taking into account when thinking of the best: Are they accessible to both their demographic, and to those beyond? If it’s too ‘grown up’, then I probably don’t rate it. The same goes for childish. When looking at tropes (as all genres have them), it is not about whether these tropes are there, but how well they are used in telling the story and providing entertainment.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
It’s impossible to imagine a list of ‘best anime’ that fails to mention Full Metal Alchemist, let alone one about a genre it completely owns. Full Metal Alchemist is the #1 highest rated anime of all time for a good reason: it is just that good. The story follows the two Elric brothers: Edward and Alphonse, as they take part in a journey to recover what they have lost after a failed attempt at human transmutation. FMA:B deals with some incredibly deep and dark topics, namely religion and the idea of life after death, as well as the blurred boundaries between good and evil; human and…homunucli. It certainly doesn’t shy away from any uncomfortable areas of alchemy: in the first episode alone we are faced with death and despair. However, not everything is gloomy. We still have our ever optimistic and growing stronger protagonist in Edward, who grounds the viewers in hope even when everything is taking an awful turn for the worst. This – along with the light-hearted but never out of place humour that is scattered through, keeps the show accessible to a younger audience, whilst being more than enjoyable for those out of the demographic. And my goodness, the action in Full Metal Alchemist. As mentioned in a post past, I’m yet to see a fight scene that blew me away as much as the one between Roy Mustang and Lust. There’s no cop-outs, no power of friendship: just sheer determination that gets people through a lot of the fights. Edward certainly didn’t win every fight, nor did he pick many that he knew he’d lose. I say this almost every day, but I’d give anything to wipe my memory of watching Full Metal Alchemist, just so I could experience what first time watchers feel all over again. If you watch FMA for the first time after this – I envy you.
HUNTER x HUNTER (2011)
In a similar vein to Full Metal Alchemist, it baffles me when I don’t see Hunter x Hunter on best anime lists, particularly in regards to Shounen. For sure, there’s probably a little bias there, it is my favourite show of all time. But favouritism does not make you blind, and whilst I acknowledge the flaws Hunter x Hunter has, it does not make the show any less than the 10/10 it deserves. The synopsis of HxH does not do it any justice: just your average protagonist going on an adventure to become a ‘hunter’ like his father. Of course, he enlists the help of the ‘power of friendship’ from a tsundere, a goof with his heart in the right place, and a badass bishounen. Sound familiar? Of course it does, we’ve seen this done 100’s of times. However, whilst this synopsis may provide an outline for the plot, HxH excels in its world building. With the manga still being written, and the mangaka claiming that there’s still more than 1/2 of the world to discover, you really are left amazed at the amount of content we have been given. And whilst HxH may have very typical character types originally, the way the characters are developed during the course of the story is possibly the series’ strongest point. Whilst initially, Gon may seem like your average do-gooder, we can see throughout the series that our first impression should be taken with a pinch of salt. You’ll find yourself sympathising with the villains (hello, Chimera Ants), shaking your head at the heroes, something that is rarely given in shounen. After all, the main characters are the good guys…right? Give this show the legacy it deserves.
SHOKUGEKI NO SOUMA (FOOD WARS!)
What if, instead of big fist fights that so often characterise shounen anime, we had ‘fights’ about who could cook the best dish? And instead of your opponent declaring defeat, they have an orgasm over how amazing your food tastes? Yep, then look no further than Shokugeki no Souma, or ‘Food Wars!’ in English. This is a great example of a show that takes all of the shounen tropes – the protagonist that wants to be the best, a rival he must overcome to achieve that goal, and ‘fights’ with all the appropriate power ups and climaxes – yet manages to keep the genre fresh and exciting. Shokugeki is Souma’s journey to becoming the greatest chef, like his father, competing in ‘shokugekis’ (cooking contests) to prove who’s the best of the best. And wow, does it execute its concept well. I never imagined I’d be so enthralled by a show about cooking, but I was hooked from the very first episode. Not only did the Shokugeki’s manage to be just as exciting as any fist fight – but that food! Try to watch Shokugeki without a snack, I dare you.
And whilst ecchi is an area of anime that turns a lot of people away from a show, it actually works very well in SnS case. Not only is it actually relevant to the plot (Yes, it’s fanservice, but it isn’t shoehorned), but it makes Shokugeki memorable. As I’ve mentioned before, Shounen is easily one of, if not the most popular genre in anime, so it is easy to get lost, or forgotten in the rush. However, pairing ecchi with delicious food gives Shokugeki it’s flavour, and makes it a dish not to be missed.
There are some more shows that I rated highly -possible personal bias may have been involved, so I have not wrote as much, but honorable mentions go to: Haikyuu!! – replace the fights with a volleyball, The Seven Deadly Sins, and my personal slammed favourite, Black Clover (think every trope as cliche as you like and boom).
Sorry this was such a short post, I have a backlog of posts to write, so I want to get to them as soon as possible! Anticipate my Danganronpa posts (FINALLY), reviews on Full Metal Alchemist 03, The Seven Deadly Sins, Karneval and Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, as well as my thoughts on Winter 2018 and some gacha related nonsense. Phew.
Until next time!