Top 20 Shonen Anime Series

Top 20 Shonen Anime Series
VOICE OVER: Ashley Bowman
They're the best the genre has to offer. Join Ashley as we count down our picks for the greatest shonen anime to date, including the likes of "One Piece", "Spy x Family", "Bleach", and more!

Script written by Alex Crilly-Mckean

Top 20 Shonen Anime Series

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we are counting down our picks for the Top 20 Shonen Anime Series.
For this list, we’re looking over the anime that adheres to the conventions of, and have since gone on to define, the shonen genre. Expect crazy fights, crazier characters and plenty of power scaling down the line, and let us know your favorite examples down in the comments below!

#20: “Fire Force” (2019-20)

Hot off the heels of its spiritual predecessor Soul Eater, this anime is so much more than a flash in the pain. In a world where innocents can turn into living flames known as Infernal at the drop of a hat, it falls to the Fire Force companies to wipe out any threats. It's there that newest recruit Shinra finds himself at the center of numerous factional conflicts, as the dark truths of the flames that they possess threaten to come to light. While the fights are furiously fun, it’s the crazed narrative twists that this series throws at us that keep us coming back for more!

#19: “Spy x Family” (2022-)

A spy, an assassin, and an esper. Put them altogether and what do you get? The most capable, dysfunctional, yet adorable family the medium has seen in years. Starting off as a mission to infiltrate a neighboring country in order to prevent a war, super spy Twilight finds himself entangled with a daughter who can unknowingly read minds, while his fake wife spends her nights killing off targets. The capers are certainly compelling, but it's really the comedy and cute family dynamic that endeared this series to so many, mainly through the medium of Anya’s mind-reading antics!

#18: “Saint Seiya” (1986-89)

A classic still worth checking out, especially for those who like their ever-expanding cast of bishounen heroes with colorful attires, plenty of bromance, all tied together with a mythological aesthetic. Tasked with protecting the Goddess Athena, Seiya battles other Olympians in increasingly wild, cosmic battles, some that even hold up to this day in terms of their scope. If you’ve been hungering for a Sailor Moon adjacent, one with its own grand legacy you can lose yourself in with a greater emphasis on action, Seiya’s got you covered.

#17: “Yu Yu Hakusho” (1992-94)

Demons, finger guns, and a punk kid turned spirit detective, the phantasmic action that this series dished out was a landmark for the genre. Following his accidental death, rebirth, and new occupation as a guardian between worlds, Yusuke’s new lease on life gave us plenty of tightly plotted arcs to indulge in, as well as a killer supporting cast. Between the exquisite Dark Tournament and the showdown with incredible villains such as Sensui, Yu Yu Hakusho is well worth a watch for this uninitiated in Yusuke’s particular brand of detective work.

#16: “Rurouni Kenshin” (1996-98)

Once a feared swordsman who killed without retaliation, Kenshin’s desire to atone lent itself to a fantastic historical fantasy filled with more slicing and dicing than you’ll likely be able to handle. Ignoring its atrocious final season, Kenshin’s retribution along with his clashes with vicious foes such as Makoto Shishio made the whole affair one of the best action anime to ever be released. Why do you think it’s gotten so many remakes and OVAs over the years?

#15: “Fairy Tail” (2009-19)

Are you after undiluted shonen with every kind of trope imaginable, along with a heaping helping of magic battles? This guild has got you covered. From dragon apocalypses to facing down armies of monsters to an endless slew of dark magic users to contend with, the brawls do not stop here, though that’s mainly down to hotheaded Natsu spitting fire everywhere he goes. While not exactly the deepest of anime, there’s an abundance of fun to be had here. Honestly the best kind of ridiculous.

#14: “Chainsaw Man” (2022)

Welcome aboard the crazy train, where every kind of expectancy goes out the window in exchange for a delightfully degenerate lead and an endless slew of bloody violence. You gotta love it. After being turned into a half demon filled to the brim with chainsaw blades, Denji chooses to embrace his new reality of bloodshed and servitude – all in the faint hope of a better life and the off-chance he can get some. Unafraid of going to some truly dark yet poignant places, this ain’t your granddaddy's shonen, but it’s well worth diving into all the same.

#13: “Black Clover” (2017-21)

It started off as the butt of a joke, and quickly rose up to become one of the strongest and beloved contenders of the whole genre. Asta’s dream to become the Wizard King might sound like the same old tale of determination and friendship, but what the premise may lack in originality it excels in with monumental battles and shockingly solid worldbuilding. The power system combined with the eclectic supporting cast does a wonderful job of reinforcing just how well this series understands shonen at its core, and we’ll be damned if we aren’t rooting for Asta to achieve his dream! We believe in you king!

#12: “Jujutsu Kaisen” (2020-)

Dominating the modern anime scene with a slick combination of dark fantasy, grim worldbuilding, and savage fight scenes that expertly navigate their way between tense and pure hype, Jujutsu Kaisen truly became a force of nature overnight. Roped into the world of sorcerers after becoming the vessel for a malevolent spirit, Itadori’s trials as he battles against curse users and outright monsters has been a complete thrill ride right from jump. Honestly, if you’re still on the fence about this one – we kindly refer you to look at the magnificence that is Gojo.

#11: “My Hero Academia” (2016-)

A homage to all things superhero that has since gone on to become a shining example in its own right. Even in a world of caped crusaders, Deku and his fellow wannabe heroes have proven themselves to be a cut above the rest, with their heroics not only allowing for a medley of epic bouts against villains of all shapes and sizes, but have also consistently elevated its narrative by putting the spotlight on what a superhero society might look like, and all the vice and darkness that it produces. For anyone who loves any and all aspects of superhero culture, this is a plus ultra recommendation!

#10: “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba” (2019-)

What do you get when you combine an epic tale of swordsmen against demons, along with UFOTable’s godly animation? One of the shonen’s shining stars that has consistently blown us away with just how monumental Tanjiro’s journey to cure his sister of her demonic affliction, has become over the years. The action scenes that pit the Demon Slayers against the Upper Moons are some of the medium’s most fluid and explosive to date, all the while it’s held down with some off the cuff comedy and a truly sobering sense of drama, as despite constantly losing allies and loves ones, Tanjiro continues to soldier on for the sake of his sibling.

#9: “Bleach” (2004-)

Ichigo Kurosaki’s life took a rather ghostly turn when he became a substitute Shinigami, and in doing so led the way to a series that soared during its prime. We were treated to some dazzling sword fights throughout Ichigo’s encounters with the members of the Gotei 13 and again with the Espada. While many can claim that the series somewhat fell apart near the end of its original run, it found new life with its revival via the Thousand Year Blood War arc, reinforcing just how spectacular this series can be when firing on all cylinders.

#8: “Gintama” (2006-18)

Bringing the laughs just as much as the bloodshed, the misadventures of samurai freelancer Gintoki Sakata lend themselves to comedy more so than most. While the countless odd jobs that often end poorly for our protagonist constantly have us in stitches, the series knows just when to bust out the bokuto and deliver on some truly savage fight scenes. You wouldn’t have thought a narrative involving paying the rent and alien insurgency would blend together with a heart-wrenching duel between two former allies, but you’ll find that the series balances itself seamlessly.

#7: “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” (2012-22)

The saga of the Joestars is one the ages. Following a different JoJo throughout the years, every subsequent series has always delivered when it comes to cultural commentary, abilities that go beyond the pale, and so much creativity placed into its fight scenes that it’s become a juggernaut that all aspire to. Whether you’re down bad for the early days of Phantom Blood, or you’re all about the perilously, Floridian adventures of Stone Ocean – JoJo remains an anchor for shonen goodness, despite breaking, inverting and redefining every cliché along the way.

#6: “Naruto” (2002-17)

Does it have an ungodly amount of filler episodes? Yes. Does it have some shining moments? Absolutely. Blazing the trail for many shonen that followed, Naruto and its sequel series gave us one of anime’s most well-known protagonists, whose way of the ninja leads him on quite the character arc, going from prankster and social outcast to the hero the Hidden Leaf Village needs. Complete with an unforgettable roster including Sasuke, Kakashi, Sakura and a whole lot more, to this day the series continues to rack up more hits than misses.

#5: “Hunter x Hunter” (2011-14)

Second time’s the charm, apparently. With contrasting but equally investing leads, we see our four heroes fight their way to earn themselves the title of Hunter and accomplish their own personal desires. Everything from Gon’s and Killua’s moving friendship, Kurapkia’s lust for vengeance against the Phantom Troupe and the unnerving appearances of the psychotic Hisoka, there’s a little bit here for everyone. But most of all, these fights can be brutal as hell!

#4: “Attack on Titan” (2013-)

Hey, the manga was posted in a shonen magazine, it counts! What started off as a fight for survival against giant, cannibalistic creatures known as Titans swiftly evolved into a beautifully told, utterly devastating delve into human cruelty and resistance, as Eren and company soon discover that for as monstrous as the Titans are, it’s nothing compared to the savagery found within themselves. With moral ambiguity, slick sequences and some of the most harrowing death scenes you’re likely to encounter, unraveling the layers of this blood-soaked mystery is worth all the emotional damage!

#3: “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (2009-10)

While the original series remains a strong contender, this second adaptation remained much truer to the manga, and in doing so gave us the definitive tale of the Elric brothers and their mission to find the philosopher’s stone. With beautiful visuals, a top notch soundtrack, and a compact plot that doesn’t slow down for a second. This is one that doesn’t shy away from the heavy subject matters either, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself choking up on more than one occasion.

#2: “Dragon Ball Z” (1989-96)

Is there anything more shonen than having a Super Sayains screaming his lungs out? We don’t think so. While the series continues to expand with its newer incarnations, no fan can forget just how much fun it was to see Goku go up against the likes of Frieza, Cell, Majin Buu in fist fights that would more often than not end with a planet getting destroyed. With so many iconic moments that have worked themselves until pop culture, this classic proves that even decades on, no one will be forgetting the Kamehameha anytime soon.

Before we reveal our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Seven Deadly Sins” (2014-21)

“Dr Stone” (2019-)

“The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.” (2016-18)

“Inuyasha” (2000-10)

“Katekyo Hitman Reborn!” (2006-10)

#1: “One Piece” (1999-)

Amazingly developed characters? Check. Out of this world settings? Check. Perilous struggles with equally complex villains? Check. Fight scenes that will make your head explode? Aye captain! Still riding high to this day, the Straw Hat Crew continue to bring us a mixture of thoughtful commentary on concepts like good, evil and justice all wrapped inside a bombardment of downright goofy comedy and surreally brutal fights. All we can hope is that this ship continues to sail for as long as possible.