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8 Common Tropes in Shonen Anime


In the vast, colorful and action-packed world of Shonen manga/anime, there are certain similarities that can’t be ignored. Whether you’re talking about old school series like Dragon Ball or later hits like Jujitsu Kaisen, there are things that connect each of them that are seen as commonplace. In the following list, I highlight these commonalities and explain which series are best known for said tropes. Ah-choo! Oh, excuse me. Looks like someone’s talking about me. Oh wait, it is me.


8) I’ll Never Give Up on My Dream

The main protagonists of anime’s like Naruto, One Piece and Black Clover have one thing in common, they all have big dreams. Naruto’s dream was to become the Hokage of the Leaf Village which he accomplished. Luffy has obtained the One Piece and becomes King of the Pirates. Asta who wants to become the Wizard King at the time of this writing hasn’t gotten there yet but is well on his way. All three main characters had a dream that they never gave up on, no matter how hard the path became. Following their dreams is something more people should do in my opinion, just like their favorite anime characters.


7) I Will Protect My Friends

Another spark of inspiration comes from anime’s that put a high value on their friendships. Naruto, Bleach and many others have done this so many times, that it’s like second nature. Characters that lay down their lives for their friends or get really angry when their friends end up dying. A good example of this would be in Dragon Ball Z when Frieza kills Krillin, causing Goku to be engulfed with anger and transform into a Super Saiyan for the first time in the series. In Shonen, you don’t mess with a main character’s best friend unless you want a beat down.


6) Two Rival Characters Who Eventually Become Friends

In anime series Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and My Hero Academia, there are two characters with something to prove to the other one. One character let’s say Katsuki Bakugo from MHA always picked on Izuku Midoriya who was born without a quirk, until All Might passed on his powerful quirk to Midoriya, this makes Bakugo nervous as he wants to be the one number one hero and feels that Midoriya threatens that. The two fight it out but begin to get closer as the series goes on and eventually become friends more than the rivals they started as. The same can be said from anime’s before My Hero Academia like Naruto with Naruto and Sasuke’s love/hate relationship and DBZ’s Goku and Vegeta who started as enemies, but train hard together to become strong enough for the next alien villain to show up on Earth.

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5) Lots of Filler Episodes

If there’s one thing that Shonen does that may tick off many fans is have an abundance of filler episodes to break away from the main story. DBZ and Bleach have done this with their main characters training for several episodes to get stronger. But one anime that stands out in this respect as least to me is in Naruto Shippuden when there are entire seasons that divert from the main plot. Anyone remember watching the Fourth Great Ninja War arc and being told character backstory after backstory. To put it in perspective, the Kakashi: Shadow of the ANBU Black Ops arc was 13 episodes, and the New Chunin Exams arc was 20 episodes. Not that they weren’t good episodes, but anything more than a two-part episode going back in time is too much filler.


4) Characters Train to Get Stronger

Que the Rocky training montage, in almost every action/adventure based Shonen anime, the main protagonist and his friends must train to defeat a powerful new enemy. In DBZ, Goku and his allies trained for the arrival of the Saiyan’s Napa and Vegeta. In Bleach, Ichigo and company trained to rescue Rukia from her execution in the Soul Society. Those are just a some examples, more training takes place in those series as well as in Naruto, Black Clover, One Piece, Yu-Yu Hakusho and the list goes on. It goes without saying that if you train your body and mind, you’ll get stronger and smarter, it just doesn’t happen on its own, right.


3) The Main Protagonist Loves to Eat…A Lot

In the big three Shonen series Dragon Ball, One Piece and Naruto, they all contain a main character with a bottomless pit for a stomach. Naruto is addicted to miso ramen and throws back a few bowls of it each time he’s at his favorite ramen shop. Luffy scarfs down Sea King Meat faster than you can say it, and never gain any weight due to an extremely high metabolism. And as for Goku, he eats just about anything that Chi Chi or King Kai puts in front of him. He burns food off so fast by his constant training. I suppose each character’s eating habits attribute to their incredible strength.


2) Main Protagonist Having a Father Figure/Mentor

It seems that many main characters either never knew their real parents or they died early on. But there is always that older guardian that is like a grandpa to them. This is true for Goku after his real parents Bardock and Gine sent him to Earth in a space pod where an old martial arts master named Gohan found and raised him. For Naruto, after his parents sacrificed themselves to seal away the Nine Tails spirit inside him, Hiruzen Sarutobi raised him until Naruto joined the ninja academy where his teacher Iruka Umino treated him like a son. Other characters who had a similar upbringing are Luffy from One Piece, Tanjiro from Demon Slayer, Yuji from Jujutsu Kaisen, among others. Much like Batman, having a tragic backstory of having your parents killed is just part of any main protagonist’s journey.


1) Ah-choo! Someone Must Be Thinking About Me

This is probably something that mostly goes unnoticed, but whenever someone sneezes after a character somewhere else mentions them, I know that I’m watching anime. It’s actually something that stems from an Asian superstition called “burning ears” in which if someone sneezes once, it means they are thinking or talking about you. Twice means that someone may be thinking or speaking bad things about you. The “burning ears” happens in basically every Shonen anime ever from Inuyasha, Rurouni Kenshin, Dragon Ball, Naruto, and so on. The reason that it’s number one on this list is because of how often it happens, and that it’s so etched into the culture, that anime wouldn’t be the same without this simple, but instantly recognizable trope.

© 2021 Corey Martinez

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