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The 5 Most Popular Shonen Anime In Japan (& The 5 Most Popular In The West)

The shonen genre of anime has a lot of talking behind it. Being the most popular of any anime genre, shonen series have constant debates surrounding them based around which of these series are the best and the most popular. Of course, the answer to this question is never consistent among fans.

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What some don’t put into consideration is the fact that the favorite anime of the West and Japan greatly differ from one another due to how the audiences were introduced to these series.

10 POPULAR IN JAPAN: SLAM DUNK

In Japan, the hit shonen series from Takehito Inoue, Slam Dunk is as popular as they come. This sports anime is actually the one that put sports anime on the map and is still held by many fans of the medium as the absolute best that the sports subgenre of anime has to offer.

This series took the nation by storm and even enjoyed some (but not as much) popularity in the West and was a key figure in the introduction of anime to the West.

9 POPULAR IN THE WEST: YU-GI-OH!

Yu-Gi-Oh!, while not as popular as its kodomo brother series Pokemon, definitely is one of those anime that literally took over the West. Much like Pokemon, it got this takeover done by introducing the nation to a whole new brand of toy which was the actual card game that spawned from the series.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! is very popular in Japan as well, but in the West, it is one of those heavy hitters that even non-anime fans can recognize due to the whole brand taking over for a while during the series’s golden era.

8 POPULAR IN JAPAN: DETECTIVE CONAN

Detective Conan or Case Closed is one of those anime series that Western audiences look at and wonder, “Why is that anime so popular in Japan?” Detective Conan is one of the longest-running series in Japan both in the worlds of anime and manga and its popularity seems to be everlasting.

In Japan, this series’ manga counterpart is constantly on the best-selling list. It is hailed as one of the juggernauts of anime and manga there.

7 POPULAR IN THE WEST: ONE PIECE

One of the most peculiar cases of shonen anime popularity in the West is that of the masterpiece of anime and manga, One Piece. This series is said by many to have arguably the best storytelling and characters out of any of the other big shonen, but this belief is only reflected in popularity in Japan.

In the West One Piece is plenty popular, but a rough intro to the series via a botched adaptation by 4Kids ruined what could have been.

6 POPULAR IN JAPAN: NARUTO

Naruto is easily one of the biggest shonen franchises in Japan. This ninja anime constantly stays at the top of popularity polls in Japan and was a great breakout manga and anime of its era.

Naruto actually arrived on the scene and received instant popularity. This popularity continues on with the sequel to NarutoBoruto, although many fans feel that the quality of this sequel is nowhere near that of its predecessor.

5 POPULAR IN THE WEST: BLEACH

Bleach is plenty popular in Japan, but in the West, this series has become one of the absolute most iconic things to come from the medium. While the series has a lot of issues that hold it back from being the best, a lot of things aligned perfectly to give it the impact that it had.

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Bleach showed up in the West in a case of “right place, right time”. It had the perfect modern style and wardrobe for its cast and captured anime fans here for years to come.

4 POPULAR IN JAPAN: DRAGON BALL

Of course, Dragon Ball had to make an appearance on this list. Even in Japan, a nation that was never foreign to the world of shonen, Dragon Ball made a huge impact. This series introduced a lot of tropes that the genre keeps using to this day.

Power scaling, transformations, rival tropes, name it and Dragon Ball is credited for it. This is one series that has never been a slouch.

3 POPULAR IN THE WEST: NARUTO

Naruto had a case that was similar but different from Bleach as well during its introduction to Western audiences. This series is one that is arguably the most popular of all anime in the West, as it has reached cultural phenomenon status and is one that quite a few non-anime fans can even recognize.

This series was helped out in its rise to fame in the West due to both Toonami and the constant saying that it was going to be the next Dragon Ball Z.

2 POPULAR IN JAPAN: ONE PIECE

One Piece is undoubtedly the most popular shonen anime in Japan. This anime, along with its source material manga counterpart constantly tops anime popularity and viewer lists in the nation and is always breaking records set by previous series in the genre.

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One Piece is a series that will live on forever in Japan as one of the greatest masterpieces in the nation due to its amazing storytelling and much stronger launch than in the West.

1 POPULAR IN THE WEST: DRAGON BALL

Dragon Ball is easily the most popular shonen (or anime in general) of the West. More specifically, the Dragon Ball anime sequel, Dragon Ball Z, took the West by storm and was the series to truly make anime popular in the West. It is credited with being the real breakout anime of the West.

Even now, Dragon Ball Z is hailed as the most popular series here and has reached true icon status in the nation on a level that series like Naruto and Bleach haven’t reached. One look at the popularity of the current Dragon Ball series, Dragon Ball Super is more than enough proof for that claim.

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Shonen anime is the most popular genre of anime, but the audience's favorites in this genre differ greatly between Japan and the West.

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