After browsing my Netflix and Hulu Watch List, I’ve noticed a trend: I really like shounen anime.
I consume an equal number of shounen and shoujo anime, but content aimed at young men, or “shounen” dominates my favorite titles. As odd as this is, especially given my endless love (trademark) of Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, it made more sense to me the longer I thought about it. Shounen Island may be a dark and strange place, full of pointy-haired men grunting and screaming, but such things are only on one shore. If you do some walking, some other natives are worth the trek indeed.
Yeah yeah, the metaphor got away from me, but follow me here.
I know this is an odd choice, especially since this is a genre that harbors a good chunk of my anime pet-peeves, but shounen also harbors a side of anime I find much more appealing, and that’s followed me for most of my childhood. It offers me a nicer buffet to choose from for my viewing experience and I figured I’d share my thoughts on it, see if they resonate with y’all.
- More Action, More Story
I like action, just as much as I like drama. In fact, a mix of action and drama is one of my favorite types of shows, hence why I’m so head-over-heels with Sailor Moon. But, for all the magical girl anime out there, shoujo has just not dipped a toe in the ring as much as I would like.
Shounen thrives on action, as any DBZ fan will tell you. It thrives on underdog heroes in impossible situations rising to the occasion after a big, flashy action scene. If done right, you get the likes of One Piece: an exciting, fast-paced plot with awesomely animated fight scenes, tension, and tear-jerking dilemmas. If done wrong, you get action lines and a lot of talking. A lot of talking.
Yeah, I reuse pictures. Cause this is still true.
By contrast, shoujo likes things to be slow, emotional, and partially comedic. It grows its garden more in the drama department, using pathos and internal conflict to push forward. Funnily enough, I also adore this kind of storytelling, but shoujo is lacking in one more aspect.
- Thinking Outside The Bento Box
As I said before, I love weird anime. As such, I prefer the genre that will lead me to the strangest and most creative places possible, which shounen has been the main source of for a very long time. Shounen has a story-telling freedom that shoujo lacks, and I find it far more entertaining.
Best example hands down comes from a single show, D-Gray Man. In one single place we have demonic machines stuffed inside dead bodies; a boy who can fight these machines with an arm composed of holy stone, an amnesiac samurai from a science lab, a vampire who drinks the blood of other demons, and his grandfather who grew man-eater plants inside a dark, gothic castle.
Why does nobody ever come to visit?
Most of the shoujo anime I’ve seen takes place in a more urban setting. Creative concepts still abound, a la Fruits Basket, but we never really see someone go off the deep end and keep swimming. While I don’t dislike the notes shoujo likes to hit, I need to explore out-of-the-box ideas every so often.
- Our Girls Can Hit Harder
But here we have the kicker: how can I love something that isn’t aimed at girls? There’s almost no female protagonists to be had, barring a small handful, making it difficult to identify or some such.
To those spinning such tales, folly on you. Any avid fan of shounen anime will tell you that the women in these shows not only are far more proactive but much easier to look up to. Who wouldn’t wanna be like Olivier Armstrong, who commands an entire military base? Or how about Mikasa Ackerman, the most bad-ass protector anyone could ask for?
Pictured Above: the day Armin saved Captain Levi’s life from She Who Is Vicious
Now, there is an argument to be made for women in shounen being sexualized, not as skilled as their male counterparts, and often rescue-fodder. But good shounen dabbles in self-sufficient women who not only do great things but become great things. By contrast, shoujo’s cast of females tend to all run along the shy side and tend to be pretty passive in the story.
- But, At The End Of The Day, I Don’t Hate Shojo
For all my complaining here, I can never bring myself to hate shoujo anime. Shoujo often has some of the most beautiful art, most bittersweet plots, and characters that reach your heart in the most unexpected of ways. For what it lacks in heavy action it compensates with intense emotions and pretty complex characters.
But, at the end of the day, shoujo’s fatal flaw has always been the scope. The shows I’ve seen have always been very small in scale, and lacking in epic storytelling. Shounen scratches an itch I have to see grand plots of evil foiled by some ragtag group of misfits, and I foresee it dominating my watch-list in the future.
But, of course, I’m always eager to be proven wrong. So feel free to comment below and tell me how wrong I am, any show you know that breaks all of this, anything of the sort. Don’t forget to like and follow for more content just like this.