Which anime genre gathers the most fans? If that question is asked to a frequent or a casual anime watcher, then the most likely answer would be shonen. Shonen is the genre many people fell in love with before even knowing what it actually is.
The genre is great and all, but once someone is overexposed to it, they will start noticing some cliches, ones that are hard to disregard. These said shonen tropes include shonen protagonists; plenty of shonen protagonists share obvious similarities with each other, so much so that one might suspect that they are cloned. But of course, every once in a while, audiences are introduced to an era-defining shonen anime that features a protagonist that could only be described as a crane amongst chickens.
10 Original: Tanjiro (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba)
The newest addition to the shonen big boys, Demon Slayer, dropped a few months prior, and boy oh boy did it leave the anime communities intoxicated.
The series’ main character, Tanjiro, particularly stands out from his counterparts. While he utterly despise the creatures that destroyed his family, he also shows them sympathy that should otherwise be impossible to present to such vile creatures.
9 Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Natsu (Fairy Tail)
To be clear, Fairy Tail is an iconic show that deserves all the credit it receives; however, once the topic of generic shonen protagonists is mentioned, there is a predetermined spot for Natsu.
Natsu is a walking mass of shonen genericness – he is fueled by the power of friendship, has plot armor so thick it’s almost impregnable, and of course, one cannot forget his immense love of food.
8 Original: Meliodas (The Seven Deadly Sins)
Just a few weeks prior to this date, the hit manga The Seven Deadly Sins witnessed its epilogue. The fantastical ending garnered some mixed reviews; some readers were rather satisfied, and as to be expected, others were confused.
The protagonist of the series, Meliodas, is an oddity, but in a positive way. He is unpredictable, merciless, and behaves out of the shonen box. He is an example of an overpowered protagonist done right.
7 Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Asta (Black Clover)
The shonen dynamics are starting to shift slowly but surely. Old shows like Naruto and the Dragon Ball franchise are getting less and less frequent viewers, while new anime hits, like Black Clover, are starting to dominate the current meta.
Asta is everything one expects a shonen protagonist to be, nothing less and nothing more. He could have been perfectly balanced had he gotten a few tweaks here and there.
6 Original: Gintoki (Gintama)
Now if Asta was an embodiment of what one would expect of a shonen protagonist, the total package, then Gintama‘s Gintoki is the exact opposite. He just makes audiences wonder whether he really is a shonen protagonist, or even a protagonist for that matter.
Gintoki is just your average retired samurai, albeit a rather skilled one. Once he gets in a fight, it can go either way, because he won’t be getting a last-minute power boost out of nowhere.
5 Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Kirito (Sword Art Online)
Sword Art Online could be considered as one of those era-defining anime. It’s a pioneer for the modern isekai genre and offers a wonderful new experience for anime fans. Even if it did not originate from Shōnen Jump, Sword Art Online targets the same audience as other shonen series.
However the series aside, Kirito is one of the most disliked anime protagonists out there, if not the most. His character is two dimensional, and could even come across as lazy. While he might be quite an unconventional shonen protagonist, sometimes it is better to stick to conventions.
4 Original: Gon (Hunter X Hunter)
Hunter X Hunter flipped the entire shonen genre upside-down. The show completely messed up the audience’s perspective of what is shonen. Typical shonen anime revolve around their respective protagonists, with the plotlines being vulnerable to shift based on the protagonist’s whims.
However, Gon does not have the authority nor does he have the necessary strength to accomplish that feat. In fact, compared to the array of characters introduced throughout the series, he comes across as one of the weaker ones.
3 Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Tatsumi (Akame Ga Kill!)
Akame ga Kill! is one of these anime that only receives extreme reviews; people either hate it or love it. For those who hate the anime, the credit can mainly be granted to Tatsumi. Unlike the many protagonists on this list who just require some minor adjustments to shine, Tatsumi is a dead case.
You know a protagonist is hopeless when he starts making jokes with his new friends just a few minutes after the tragic demise of his childhood friends.
2 Original: Luffy (One Piece)
At first glance, Luffy might seem like your average shonen protagonist – he is goofy and a borderline oaf, he can’t stop rubbing his dream in strangers’ faces, and he overeats.
However, after taking a closer look, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to Luffy than meets the eye. He is not needlessly selfless to strangers, in fact, he may even come across as selfish at times; furthermore, he is not fueled by self-righteousness and could even be apathetic.
1 Leaves A Lot To Be Desired: Ichigo (Bleach)
The friendship power element in Bleach is strong alright. Arc after arc, Ichigo ventures into these semi-impossible quests to save his abducted friends.
While that almost makes him admirable, there is no denying how repetitive it gets after a while. Audiences haven’t seen a visibly obvious new dimension to Ichigo in a long time; hopefully, the upcoming sequel will be different.
Here are some of the most original protagonists in shonen anime, along with five that could use a bit of tweaking.