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thumbnail Shōnen Manga

on August 24, 2017
Tags: Adult (60), teens (14), graphic novels (7), manga (6)

This post was written by Anders A., Youth Services intern.

Manga encompasses a myriad of genres, from science fiction and fantasy to mysteries, sports, and realistic fiction (often labeled slice of life), to name a few. It’s also often grouped into broad demographic categories: shōnen (“young boys’ manga”), shōjo (“young girls’ manga”), seinen, and josei (manga for young adult men and women, respectively). These categories are mainly used by publishers and aren’t exactly genres unto themselves—you’re just as likely to see fantasy shōjo manga as slice of life shōnen manga, and they appeal to readers of all ages, regardless of gender.

That said, shōnen, shōjo, seinen, and josei manga have certain unique characteristics. Today, we’ll look specifically at shōnen manga. Shōnen manga tends to focus on plot and action rather than interpersonal relationships. That is not to say that characters don’t have meaningful interactions, but the backbone of the manga is the story, rather than interactions between characters. Despite the fact that shōnen manga is marketed primarily to young boys, female protagonists are becoming increasingly prominent, and some of the most successful shōnen manga creators are women. Check out the list below for suggested shōnen titles in a variety of genres.


Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama (YA GRAPHIC TORI)

The quintessential shōnen manga, Dragon Ball draws inspiration from the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. The series follows a young boy named Goku and his adventure to collect the seven Dragon Balls, which, when brought together, summon the wish-granting dragon Shenron. If you enjoy manga but have yet to read Dragon Ball, you’re in for a treat—not to mention that it’s a great entry point for new readers.


Inuyasha by Rumiko Takahashi (YA GRAPHIC TAKA)

Rumiko Takahashi is one of the most celebrated manga creators in Japan. In addition to Inuyasha, she has written other popular series such as Ranma ½, Urusei Yatsura, and Rin-Ne. Inuyasha follows modern-day Tokyo high-schooler Kagome, who is mysteriously transported to feudal-era Japan, where she meets Inuyasha, a half-demon dog in human form (inu is the Japanese word for dog). This fun series combines humor, fast-paced action, and Japanese folklore.

Bakuman by Tsugumi Ōba and Takeshi Obata (YA GRAPHIC BAKU)

From the creators of Death Note comes Bakuman, a series about high schoolers Moritaka and Akito who dream about creating manga for a living. If you’ve ever wondered how manga is created, Bakuman offers a funny and irreverent glimpse into the process. This series might lack dragons and demons, but it is absolutely brimming with humor and action.

World Trigger by Daisuke Ashihara (YA GRAPHIC ASHI)

With the threat of extra-dimensional leviathans dubbed Neighbors looming, an elite group of warriors is formed to defend the planet. What the protagonist, Osamu, lacks in skill he makes up for in his determination to defend Earth from the deadly aliens. Osamu is a classic shōnen hero, who starts out as an underdog but perseveres by virtue of his grit and tenacity. World Trigger offers lots of sci-fi action and adventure.

Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama (YA GRAPHIC ISAY)

Attack on Titan is set in a dystopian alternate Earth, where humanity has retreated into walled cities to defend itself from the threat of the Titans; bloodthirsty humanoid giants that prey upon the few humans that are left. The series begins with childhood friends Eren and Mikasa attempting to join the Survey Corps, a branch of the military that battles the Titans on the front lines, following a breach in the outermost wall of their city. Attack on Titan is tense and action-packed and a great read for fans of dystopian stories.