I know that what I am about to write is controversial to a lot of people, but this is something that needs to be said. I still watch this genre of anime, but it gets harder and harder for me to pick shows that I really like from it. So many long running series fall into similar traps and lose their quality because of it and short running series just start out bad. While shows don’t have to follow all of these guide lines, these are what I recommend to make a great series.
1) Characters must have physical limits:
To me, it’s always way more interesting a main character actually has a possibility of losing or can lose. A lot of main characters start off strong because of their back woods upbringing, for some reason, but being physically out matched gives main characters a point to grow off of. It gives character a means of developing a different philosophy of style and engage in more training. They are the underdog and people have a tendency to root for them.
2) Less Deus Ex Machina solutions:
Too many characters rely on flash backs to some training they had to control a power they could have already brought out or conveniently get a power that they never had before. This ruins all the tension that the fight was developing and lets us know that this character is never going to learn anything and is going to rely deus ex machine through the entire series.
3) Shorter Battles:
A short fight can have as much or more impact than a lengthy fight in a much more compressed space. The shorter fight can also have more budget and time put into it to make it look more amazing and explosive. Longer fights usually have long panning shots with characters staring at each other and characters on the side lines telling the audience how amazing each character is. This feels so dragged out after going on and on for many episodes.
4) Some grounding required:
I now this is action shonen and eventually people get strong enough to punch people through mountains and shoot their blue laser beams through entire forests, but the damage that characters can do must be consistent with their powers. If they are able to destroy planets, then why are they causing the same amount of damage then they are doing five seasons ago? Consistency is key here. Growth of powers and damage to the surrounding environments should make sense.
5) Interesting side characters:
Side characters are the spice that make the show what it is and have their own stories and abilities. These are the characters that the mains run into, talk to, fight against, teach, or join up with and they should be at least as interesting and fleshed out as the main character.
6) Side heroes are important too:
Many shonen battle series get to the point where the main character is the only one who is capable of fighting the current level of threat. The characters who fight alongside the main hero should also be getting stronger to match the level of threat. Always going to “it’s up to the main character again to defeat all the things” is boring. Let the side heroes win important battles too.
7) Villains with motivation:
Villains have backstories that explain who they are and how they get there which follows through with what their goal and end game is. Just “because I want to take over the world” is boring and Saturday morning cartoonish.
8) Well defined and varied powers:
Obvious critique is obvious, but each hero should have their own separate ability and never use the ability of another, unless it is taught to them through the same master. This keeps the fights fresh and varied throughout the series. It adds the mystery of not knowing what the villain is going to do next. Also, characters should not forget about abilities they already used after they learn a new technique so that they have a wider arsenal. Abilities should be used to their ultimate capabilities.Abilities should be used to their ultimate capabilities.
This may be a harsh list, but there are a few shows that follow these criteria and are what I consider the best of their genre. If they end up being popular, then they definitely deserve it. Some of these shows are Fullmetal Alchemist Brother, HunterxHunter, Noragami, the first two seasons of Rurouni Kenshin, and Yu Yu Hakusho. These shows are very solid and I recommend everybody to watch them.