Old vs New Battle Shonen: How this demographic/genre has/hasn’t changed

If you are alive, which I hope is all of you reading this, then you know that things change over time.  You were once a baby that didn’t have an understanding of the world and if you are reading this, you’ve grown up with a mind of your own and understand that life isn’t as simple as we once thought it was.  Turns out that time affects everything.  A car that used to be shiny and new is not going to be the same after five years, that favorite shirt will eventually be thrown out, a logo and selling statement of a company will change over time, and a genre of an anime series will change over time as well.  I know that was a terrible segue, but it’s true.  The founding elements and tropes of a genre will always remain the same, but the context and visual aspects will change.  After going through fifty something episodes of Fist of the North Star, the idea of this blog was born in my head and I’m so glad to finally get it out.

Things that have stayed the same:

-Friendship and Allies:

This is something I hope never changes in Shonen battle series.  A protagonist will always go from place to place gathering friends on his/her way.  Whether they are fighters that the protagonist has to defeat, are people that are saved by the protagonist and are ever greatful, or just people that have the same ideals as the protagonist, a following will form.  Some will follow along and fight alongside the protagonist; others will not and that’s okay.  This is the main thing that always needs to be there.

-Cool Powers and Abilities:

I don’t feel like I have to explain this one, so here are some cool pictures to look at.

-Protagonist crew vs Forces of Evil:

This is another fundamental building block of a shonen battle series.  There will always be a new opponent that is more powerful than the last one and they will always have some sort of evil plan or are holding a large population of people against their will.  There is a long list of villain plans that can be used like: defeat me or I will blow up the planet, creating the villain’s image of a perfect society that is fundamentally flawed, finding the powerful artifact so they can rule the world, creating a portal to the demon world, ruling the world, and so on and so forth.

-Power gains through the pain of loss

Since friendship is what I consider the most important part of battle shonen, it makes since that characters become more powerful when they lose them.   Especially when a villain is the one who kills them.  These are people who may have known each other for an extremely long time or have known each other long enough to get an understanding of each other.  This is a big reminder of how friendship is a powerful thing and that it should never be wasted.  I don’t think I should post any photos on this one, because these would be spoilers and the photos are hard to find on google.

Things that have changed:

Character Designs:

This is one of the most obvious aspects because all character designs change over time.  This one is the most notable.  In the 1980’s with Fist of the North Star and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure reigned supreme, main characters were overly muscular men.  Over time, we got to the thinner and more attractive sorts of characters.

Used to be:

More Recent:

Jobs and Titles:

Main characters have to have titles now.  Originally, it was just people fighting other people for the purposes of fighting and ridding the world of evil.  Now we have spirit detectives, hunters, state alchemists, meisters, pirates, ninjas, Gods of some sort, and a lot of other things.  Whether or not these characters act on what title they are given is a thing that can be put into question, but none the less…


Since the main purpose of this genre is people fighting, of course characters are going to get beaten up.  That’s kind of the point of this genre/demographic/thing.  While people may be stabbed a lot and injured badly, but I don’t think that anybody is cut in half, have their limbs cut off, are cut into ribbons, or explode from the inside out anymore.  I mean, everything like that is throw into the category of seinen now days.  Encase the reader has a weak stomach, I won’t be posting any photos for this.  If you want to google things from JoJo’s and Fist of the North Star, go right ahead.

Female Character Role Evolution:

In the beginning, battle shonen was a manly men doing manly things kind of genre.  Female characters were either the plot devices for characters to go on adventures or were the emotional support of the group.  Now days, you see more female characters fighting in or with the hero group or even becoming the main protagonist themselves.  From a gender stand point the count is still heavily pointed toward male, but things have changed a lot and that is something that I am glad about.  Just keep an eye out for too much fanservice.

The past:

More Recent:

I will not argue whether older or new shonen battle series are better than each other.  I am a fan of a lot of shonen series through the years.  Each series shows the state of mind of society during each time period.  So I have no ill will pointed at anybody or anything when it comes to this list.  These are just some observations that I have made.  No big deal, I hope.  Having a larger female presence in shonen had added a lot to the genre/demographic.

19 thoughts on “Old vs New Battle Shonen: How this demographic/genre has/hasn’t changed

  1. This was such a great read as with each of your points I was thinking of other examples and remembering great moments in some of the shows you used images from. The other thing I’d probably have said has stayed the same is the bending of humour and action (though each show does this in a slightly different way).
    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Good break down, I agree with you. I feel like the new characters design being simpler is just to make that gap of normal human being to badass~
    I think most of the evolutions were good, specially more females being badass!
    It surprises me when shounen isn’t as graphic/gore as it could be, mostly because I’ve seen shoujo that are. Like Akatsuki no Yona has badass fighting but also lots of blood, cutting people in half, and is slightly gore~


  3. This was a fun read and I agree with a lot of the points you made. I’d even say that the formula of the shows have changed over time in cases like Magi however I also think that even more recent shows like Nanatsu no Taizai really capture that older feel of the action/adventure shounen anime and are fun for a whole different reason. Sure, Magi might have better characterization, a more compelling plot, and far more intricacies than the former but Taizai is so simple, fun and distilled it’s hard not to sit back and enjoy the ride. Thanks for the read.


  4. As someone who has loved the Shonen Battle Genre since he was a kid, I completely agree with your points how it has changed, or rather, evolved over time.
    And as an author heavily inspired by the Shonen genre, and anime in general, I can appreciate how the genre has evolved to fit an ever changing world of readers and viewers.
    Great Post!


  5. Excellent post, Scott! Yes, all of these are true and that’s what we’re seeing now. I especially love the part about the changing roles of females in anime. The female characters now are bad-ass! Love it! Anyway, thanks for submitting this post to my blog carnival. Keep on watching anime and writing posts like this. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I favor 90’s anime also, but I love it when 90’s or older source material is lifted up with today’s technology. Like Ushio and Tora, Gundam Unicorn, or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.


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