Posts Tagged ‘ Shonen Manga ’

Introduction to Shonen: An Opinionated Look

I’ve been writing on this blog for a few weeks now and of all the subjects I haven’t really touched on in depth as I would like to, Shonen series are the ones that I most wish to talk about.

Good old Shonen series…WHERE would we be without you and your many contributions to story telling? In a way I both love and loathe Shonen series. Most are basically the same with minor differences and few try to be really in depth and thought provoking…well the few of the series that I’ve read. Now keep in mind that I’m not a professional and my words should be taken with a grain of salt before moving on because from here I’ll be mixing facts with personal opinions. If I say something about a series that offends you in anyway you have two options. You can either leave a polite and intelligent comment explaining why you’re offended or you can shut the fuck up and go somewhere else! ūüôā

Shonen series are usually marketed at boys aged 10-18ish and usually feature the following:

1. A cast made of mostly males

2. Plots that focus on action and humor

3. FANSERVICE~!

4. Few Female characters with notably defined and developed personalities

5. A main character with absurd hair, a brash personality, the intelligence of an old brick and a dream or goal of being something they currently are not

6. Running the length of more than 10 volumes

and finally

7. A main character who is the strongest in their given universe

These are the ingredients that make up many shonen series. It’s near impossible to determine what the very first shonen series was but the one that set the bar for most modern shonen series is one of, if not, the most famous series to ever come out of Japan.

Good old¬†DragonBall! Written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama,¬†DragonBall¬†was inspired by the Chinese classic novel,¬†Journey to the West¬† known in Japan as¬†Saiyiki.¬†Telling a story of epic proportions and spanning a length of 42 volumes,¬†DragonBall¬†focused primarially on Son Goku, a little boy with a big appitite, very little brain, immense power and a monkey’s tail. Goku lives in the mountains all by himself until he meets the blue haired beauty Bulma Briefs. She’s searching for magical plot devices/mcguffins called Dragon Balls and when all seven are gathered a Chinese Dragon named Shen Long/Shenron appears and grants a single wish. Bulma has a radar that lead her to the 4 Star Ball that Goku has and the two team up in order to collect them all. Over time the series moved away from it’s fantasy roots and delved into the realm of science fiction and also managed to stretch 5 minutes into TEN FUCKING EPISODES! But regardless of everything,¬†DragonBall was EXTREMELY popular. This series is known throughout the world and it introduced MOST of us to anime. It also introduced Japan to a new way of writing Shonen fighting series. As I explore the demographic and the tropes that somewhat make it a genre in and of itself, I’ll also do articles on the staples of a classic and typical Shonen manga/anime. This is merely to serve as an introduction to these kinds of series and my opinion it as a genre which it has kind of become over the years.

Shonen series USUALLY follow a very basic plot line. Character X wants to be the greatest Y and is an idiot. He crushes on character Z while his rival, A, is better at most things than he is. Characters B,C,D and E as well as A end up forming some sort of team and continue on towards their goals. This makes up MANY shonen plot lines and is by far the most typical routes for shonen series. Because these things are usually found in Shonen series, I see it not only as a marketing demographic but also a genre in and of itself. A Genre is defined by Wikipedia as “the term for any category of¬†literature¬†or other forms of art or entertainment, e.g. music, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.” Because Shonen series generally follow a very similar set of criteria, I tend to look at it as a genre and a demographic despite it NOT being a genre. Like I said, take this with a grain of salt.

Now, how do I feel about Shonen series? Personally, I love and loathe them. I enjoy series that will make me think but that also have constant action. Shonen series OFTEN lack anything truly deep and substantive and often rely on and CONTINUE to bring up the Power of Friendship which often shines though and saves the day by reforming antagonists that later join our protagonists as allies. But the thing that most Shonen series USUALLY have are GREAT characters. Off the top of my head I can name at least 6 Shonen series that have great well developed characters but I’ll go the extra mile and try to name 10.

1. YuYu Hakusho

2. Shaman King

3. Rurouni Kenshin

4. Flame of Recca

5. Gurren Lagann

6. Rosario+Vampire

7. Soul Eater

8. Detective Conan

9. FullMetal Alchemist

10. One Piece

11. Negima

12. Saiyuki

13. Ranma 1/2

14. Love Hina

15. Katekyo Hitman Reborn

Okay I named 5 extra series but these are among my FAVORITE Shonen series. Now like I said, even though I consider Shonen to be a genre, it’s a demographic and it’s a marketed towards boys age 10-18. Now, why do I like Shonen series? Well, generally Shonen series have heart. There’s a passion for the stories being told and this shines though in the characters. What else do I like? I like the romance. Seldom seen are great romances in Shonen action series. Romance is often used in the Harem Genre, which I’ll also be covering in this category at a future point. Hands down, the best portrayal of an honest romance was in¬†Negima, a Shonen Action Harem written and illustrated by Ken Akamatsu. Then again the one I’m thinking of is more of a one-sided love as we’re never given any resolution in regards to the romantic entanglements of this series. But if I had to pick a reciprocal romance from a shonen series, it’d be all the craziness of¬†Love Hina which is also by Ken Akamatsu. I’ll cover that more later but since romance is rarely at the forefront of a Shonen series, I love it when there actually IS a romance to develop. What else do I like? I usually like the comedy. It’s usually well timed and doesn’t do too much to offset the mood. I also like the action. Most Shonen series have pretty good fight scenes which is another way of translating the emotion a lot of them have. Another thing I really like, most of the time, is exposition. I LOVE exposition when it’s needed and even when it’s not sometimes. I love learning about the universe I’m looking at and I love finding out how it works and why it works the way it does. But even I have a limit to how much exposition I can take in one sitting and this brings me to some of the things I LOATHE about shonen series.

First, I don’t like flashbacks. I understand how useful flashbacks are BUT I don’t like being treated like a COMPLETE IDIOT! A lot of shonen series will continually flashback to things that happened just a few pages/minutes ago! It’s annoying when you’re doing it just to pad the run time of your series! Second, FANSERVICE! I’ve begun to despise fanservice, which is usually when female characters are walking around showing skin or their boobs or stuff like that for no reason. Even fanservice has an appropriate time and place and even a proper use. Harem series generally tend to use fanservice in all the right places but when used too much it becomes stupid. I also don’t like characters being powerful with no justifiable reason. I don’t like¬†repetition, poorly developed characters, and all around bad writing. I don’t like things being dragged out longer than they need to be and I don’t like copouts. Needless plot points, series with lots of characters that don’t get enough development, series that CAN’T pick a setting and stick with it without jumping into another world five minutes after getting back to their own world, pointlessly powerful main characters, main characters with LITTLE TO NO INTELLIGENCE, characters that are constantly hungry, characters that lack common sense, characters hell bent on revenge to the point where it becomes a horrible obsession, characters with needlessly tragic back stories, long speeches, long speeches on the powers of love and friendship, characters that are utterly devoid of selfishness or negative character traits, characters that are FAR too smart for their own good, typical struggles between good and evil with no grey areas, introducing romance into a series and NOT DEVELOPING IT AT ALL WHATSOEVER, characters that think they’re right when they’re not, characters like Vegeta who have NO redeeming character traits and only act out of spite and in an effort to boost their own ego, and much much MUCH MORE.

So, I hope you’re ready to join me on my quest through this strange world of Shonen. We’ll cover the following in no particular order:

1. FANSERVICE

2. The Idiot Hero

3. Female Characters

4. Bad Boy rivals or Bad Boy Characters in general

5. Revenge

6. Nakama and the importance of Friendship

7. Main Characters in general, The best and the worst

8. Harems

7. Tournament Arcs

8. Kidnapping/Rescue Arcs

9. Betrayal and the effect this has on the rest of the cast but especially the main character

10. Villains and Antagonists because they’re NOT THE SAME

11. Humor…or something along those lines

12. Death

13. GREAT Shonen series

14. Average Shonen series

15. HORRIBLE Shonen series and WHAT makes them HORRIBLE

and much much more! I hope you’re prepared to learn a bit about Shonen from my perspective! And I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know in the comment section if there’s anything specific or in particular that you’d like me to cover when it comes to Shonen series.