35 Best Shounen Anime Of All Time (Ranked)
If there’s one genre anime is associated with the most in and beyond Japan, it’s shounen — stories made for teen males.
Granted, anyone can enjoy these kinds of shows. Many titles under this genre have received fanfare from old and young alike, regardless of gender.
But while the genre itself has no required story elements, shounen has since become synonymous with epic stories of super-powered action and adventure.
But are all the best shounen titles about that? No, and that’s a good thing.
This genre is
with distinct worlds and memorable characters. It’s the gateway genre for many anime fans. And it’s high time I share my top picks.
Shokugeki no Souma (Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma)
See? As one of the most popular shounen titles of the last decade, Food Wars didn’t need monsters and ninjas to be exciting.
At its core, this was
a cooking show
Yet Food Wars was also a non-battle battle series, as much as that doesn’t seem to make sense.
Like earlier titles such as Cooking Master Boy and the sprawling 69-episode Yakitate!! Japan, it knew how to make food preparation intense.
Instead of a more laidback, slice-of-life approach, Food Wars delivered on hype and sheer ridiculousness.
With hilariously outrageous first-taste reactions and gorgeously animated food (and best girls Erina and Megumi), Shokugeki no Souma followed its own recipe to the top of the shounen leaderboards.
With a little over 100 episodes, the anime adaptation of D.Gray-man had its fair share of success. Even if it didn’t reach the status of other
When I was a kid I was always looking for dark but also fun and action-packed anime series.
D.Gray-man is very much a shounen with its multitude of weapons and powers.But it also felt a little more sinister.
After all, it featured exorcists risking their lives to liberate souls imprisoned by the Millennium Earl. So its episodes often included serious themes like death and grief, but presented in a teen-friendly manner.
Nanatsu no Taizai (The Seven Deadly Sins)
If you skipped Nanatsu no Taizai after knowing that it has ecchi or fanservice elements, that’s fine.
But if you’re okay with those quick moments I implore you to consider giving this a try — at least the first season.
Think of this as both a magical action-adventure and a revenge story: Princess Elizabeth is on a quest to find the Seven Deadly Sins (knights who once led to contention in the kingdom) to stop the tyrannical rule of the Holy Knights.
Nanatsu no Taizai isn’t a seamless delight, particularly with the 24-episode Nanatsu no Taizai: Kamigami no Gekirin in 2019. But it does have its genuinely electrifying moments.
Zetsuen no Tempest (Blast of Tempest)
Zetsuen no Tempest is one of Studio Bones’ best shounen series ever.
It’s only 24 episodes long(this is relatively short in the world of shounen) but it tells a complete story of magic, adventure, and revenge.
Likewise, you don’t always get to see a post-apocalyptic anime with a sensible story.
Sure, it sounds basic at first. A guy and his best friend go on a magical journey to find answers and possibly save the world.
But Zetsuen no Tempest understands its universe — it’s not just made because post-apocalyptic settings are cool to look at.
The characters think and readjust their strategies based on how their world works.
Also I just love how this action-packed shounen title features classical, orchestral music.
I’m still not over the fact that season two will probably never happen.
For one, the first season veered off from the source material and opted for an anime-original ending.
Second, not enough fans are clamoring for either a sequel or a complete reboot.
It’s heartbreaking when an otherwise fantastic show ends as Pandora Hearts did.
Still, the 2009 Xebec adaptation is worth treasuring.
I watched it and had no idea what I was in for. Which I guess was also the case for Oz Vessalius, whose coming-of-age ceremony eventually led to terror and an encounter with a wicked girl who transforms into a scythe-wielding giant rabbit.
The Major franchise might just be the Naruto or One Piece of sports-based shounen.
In other words, it just keeps going. But the difference is that it hasn’t dipped in quality.
With over 150 episodes(that’s six two-hour seasons) it’s hard not to feel attached to Gorou Shigeno.
Like the best sports anime out there, Major is a mix of passionate competition and life outside the field — giving viewers the privilege of seeing Gorou grow from an aspiring kid to a full-fledged professional player.
And once you’re done with the main story, you can go straight to
, an ongoing series that follows the baseball-infused life of Gorou’s son Daigo.
I’d be lying if I said this anime wasn’t a national pastime where I live.
Each afternoon, Slam Dunk would air in one of the biggest local TV networks. And millions would watch Sakuragi and the gang.
This wasn’t totally unexpected since basketball was the dominant sport in my country.
The anime had a built-in fanbase in many ways.
Still, I got to hand it to Toei Animation. Slam Dunk was a well-animated, hype-building shounen with infectious OP and ED theme songs.
The way this series drags out its clutch moments is pretty much a meme these days. But fans will always cherish the colorful basketball team of Shohoku High.
Yuu☆Yuu☆Hakusho (Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files)
Before Slam Dunk became the king of afternoon anime shows where I live, it was Yu Yu Hakusho that led to arguments between kids and their parents on who should have the remote control.
Amusingly called Ghost Fighter in my country, this 112-episode shounen is a Studio Pierrot masterpiece.
Airing from 1992 to 1995(and with an insane number of reruns), Yu Yu Hakusho proved that you can combine arduous fighting competitions with supernatural powers, beasts, and spirits, and death gods.
The series was so beloved during release that local cinemas were packed with families eager to catch
. Also, a quick reminder that it won the
Anime Grand Prix
for two consecutive years in 1994 and 1995.
Dragon Ball Z
This list wouldn’t be complete without Dragon Ball Z.
Yes, the franchise is old — and the series does look generic.
But many people are forgetting that DBZ set the standard back then.
It only looks dull or typical today because there wasn’t anything like it, filled with explosions, destruction, and power level-ups.
Did I expect Goku and Vegeta to further surpass their already overpowered states and have electric blue hair? No.
But I think a lot of fans enjoyed what they witnessed in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ and Dragon Ball Super: Broly in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Not to mention
all the memes
Detective Conan (Case Closed)
I don’t know why anyone thought it was a good idea to have it named Case Closed in English — when Detective Conan already works as a title for the international market.
Anyway, this anime proves that shounen doesn’t have to be about supernatural powers and stopping the world from ending.
Yes, Shinichi Kudo does occasionally solve cases that would have otherwise led to disasters (especially in the movies that come out every year). But its scale in setting and story is relatively small.
This shounen franchise has been around since 1996, and I honestly don’t want it to go.
As long as it has strong well-paid writers, fans can expect more thrilling mysteries even if they know that Shinichi will solve the case in the nick of time.
Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan (The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.)
The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. wasn’t exactly stellar when it came to animation. But its release format was noteworthy.
In Japan, this supernatural school comedy initially aired every weekday for five minutes each.
Then fans got to see the complete 24-minute episode on Sunday evenings.
So while you’ll see that the first season had a
whopping 120 episodes
, these episodes only amount to 24 regular episodes. Which is the same as its equally popular second season.
If you love Gintama, give Saiki and his oddball buddies a try.
It’s a complete story too: The final chapters have already been adapted into anime.
If there was any dislike that I’d have for Noragami, it’s only because it was competing against Zankyou no Terror for the anime of the year award in one popular Facebook page.
Other than that, I have nothing but praise for Noragami — including its 13-episode second season.
Studio Bones production
, Noragami is top-tier, both in its visuals and sound. I’m sure you’ll have the
looping in your head.
And sure, it’s another trio composed of two guys and a girl. But it’s also unique.
I mean, the protagonist dubs himself as the “delivery god” and the world features spirits (formally known as Regalias) that turn into weapons. Nifty right?
Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit)
I’ve mentioned shounen titles that center on baseball and
, so why not boxing?
Like Major, this helped me witness the many struggles and successes of one driven guy.
And I’m not kidding when I say Hajime no Ippo has a ton of content: The Madhouse franchise (along with some help from MAPPA for the last season) has 126 episodes and two hour-long specials.
I don’t blame you if you think it’s odd for a boxing anime to last this long, but that’s the magic of Fighting Spirit — it boasts top-notch realistic fighting sequences, funny moments, and some romance to boot.
Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
What else is there to say to make you watch this?
Out of all the isekai series saturating the market ever since the debut of Sword Art Online, this has been a rare refreshing take on that whole genre.
Instead of being a generic male novice, this sees the main character live his new life as a slime — a cute, small slime.
With a rich and vivid fantasy world, plus a lighthearted vibe that sometimes makes me think of
, the anime is such a good relaxer after a long day.
Rimuru Tempest is one of the most lovable anime protagonists of the past decade, and I can’t wait for the sadly delayed second season to arrive.
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
Would you believe me if I told you this series had characters named Alibaba, Aladdin, Sinbad, and Jafar?
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic is your ticket to deserts, treasures, empires, and a darn good time.
While other shounen titles focus on urban settings or Japan,
the Magi franchise
embraces settings depicted in 1001 Arabian Nights.
Yes, Aladdin is quite overpowered. But he also starts out clueless on how to wield his strengths — and Magi isn’t just about following one young guy.
With over 60 episodes(this includes the sequel The Kingdom of Magic and the prequel Adventure of Sinbad), this anime has room to showcase both solo and group adventures in distinct and colorful locations.
I totally understand if you’ve never heard of Slayers.
Its very first release was the one-hour movie
Slayers: The Motion Picture
back in 1995.
Slayers is a shounen for the “old” anime community.
It was for those who were little kids 25 years ago.
Still, I’d recommend this for the younger anime fans in a heartbeat.
You rarely see a genuinely fun and awesome shounen led by female characters Lina Inverse and Gracia Ul Naga Saillune.
And while Slayers is old, it’s most recent release was actually in 2009 as Slayers Evolution-R, which was still animated by J.C. Staff.
Yakitate!! Japan (Freshly Baked!! Ja-pan!)
Perhaps my all-time favorite shounen cooking anime (yes, even more than Food Wars), Yakitate!! Japan took my country by storm when it aired on local TV.
Somehow, a show about bread proved more exciting than the generic action shounen at the time.
You know that he’ll succeed in the end. But this Sunrise adaptation made the whole journey worth seeing.
The characters all had their shining moments, and it’s so fun witnessing how the judges react to what new genius bread Kazuma had made.
If you had a bad day, watch Yakitate!! Japan. It’s sure to bring out a laugh or two.
I’ve always found Shaman King amusing.
Yes, it was intended for kids and teens with its cool premise. Still funny.
Basically, a chill kid named You Asakura becomes the shaman in control of the samurai ghost Amidamaru — and a fight among shamans that only happens every 500 years is on its way.
Yet what I still remember today are the characters and character interactions, their facial expressions and distinct personalities.
The art doesn’t hold up today. But it’s amazing seeing all the spirits battle it out.
And sometimes, after the dust settles, you see the shamans become dear friends. It really is epic when it needs to be.
Okay, how about American football?
Adapted from the manga series that sold more than 20 million volumes, Eyeshield 21 was an unexpected hit — spawning 145 episodes and airing for three years.
Is it realistic? No, and that’s okay.
Sena Kobayakawa, like many kids, was timid and the target of bullying in high school.
But then Youichi Hiruma notices Sena’s insane speed, which is perfect for a running back in a football team.
The ultimate goal is for Sena (disguised as Eyeshield 21 in the field) and his team to reach the annual Christmas Bowl tournament, but it’s also filled with senseless comedy and supporting characters who all got their respective backstories.
Arriving two years earlier than the mega-popular shounen series Naruto, InuYasha had the identity and quality to stand out from the crowded genre.
Yes, many female friends I know couldn’t stop drawing fanart of the white-haired dog-demon-human OP that is Inuyasha.
But beyond the amazing character design of not only Inuyasha but everyone else, InuYasha was a rich world filled with time travel, demons, and curses (and pacts and rituals).
InuYasha has 193 episodes in total — and they’re worth it.
Plus, if you finish them all, you’ll be ready for the upcoming Hanyou no Yashahime: Sengoku Otogizoushi, which focuses on the daughters of two main characters in Inuyasha.
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom)
It’s funny writing about Assassination Classroom when fresh rumors of a new season started circulating.
Look, the anime adaptation is over. It ended on a solid emotional high that’s easily one for the books.
Studio Lerche did a swell job covering the story in 47 episodes (and eight 5-minute shorts).
I didn’t even like the series at first.
It wasn’t edgy, but the humor wasn’t working for me.
But I didn’t give up because my friends kept telling me it will be worth it. And it was.
Assassination Classroom is a well-animated school-based comedy shounen featuring an all-powerful tentacled yellow teacher, and it brought me to tears by the end.
Yakusoku no Neverland (The Promised Neverland)
Before the release of the anime adaptation, I knew the hype for the manga was strong.
And yet I still wasn’t prepared for it.
The Promised Neverland is a miracle in the shounen world.
This is one of the shortest anime series on my list — and the next entries are way longer than it.
In just 12 episodes, CloverWorks captured what made the source material special.
Like Shingeki no Kyojin, it knew how to raise the stakes and kept fans on the edge of their seats.
Even if I just close my eyes, I can still see the terrifying facial expression of Isabella in one episode.
The Promised Neverland put me in a cycle of hope and hopelessness, and I cannot wait for the second season.
Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba)
Was there any other anime that took the world by storm in 2019? Nope.
Somehow, Studio Ufotable finally found something other than the Fate franchise that could catapult them to a bigger audience.
Demon Slayer didn’t change the shounen genre. But it was a masterclass in how a traditional shounen anime should look like.
Like One Punch Man and Shingeki no Kyojin, it was that rare anime series everyone paid attention to.
It had stunning action sequences and had an emotional core to it.
Official and non-official merchandise were being sold left and right. And it was even Shonen Jump’s
best-selling manga of 2019
, beating the legendary One Piece.
Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academia)
When the “big” shounen series finally end or lose their luster, you don’t have to lose hope for the genre: Boku no Hero Academia is proudly carrying its flag for the new generation.
Sure, Boruto is still around.
But if there’s one series to recommend to kids, it’s this one.
Boku no Hero Academia offers one of the most likable sets of characters of the past decade. And you’ve got All Might and Izuyu Midoriya — two characters who’ll keep you going when you want to give up.
It’s never lacking in its funny and awe-inspiring moments, and it has valuable lessons for kids and kids at heart, especially on themes of being a good person, of being a hero in your own little way.
Season 5 is right
around the corner
, so get to it.
Death Note is a curious case.
When this aired 13 years ago, everyone thought it was the best anime ever — and for good reason.
With a dark mood (not to mention, it’s about having a notebook to write on about who you want to die) and appealing characters who’ve been cosplayed to oblivion, Death Note was ironically refreshing.
But times have changed. And the anime didn’t help reinforce its legacy with a latter half that wasn’t as well-received as the first.
Still, Death Note remains a Madhouse classic that, for a while, made kids around the world want to look like L Lawliet and Misa Amane.
Naruto is filled with fillers, and it definitely has moments of uninspired animation.
But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular anime of all time, only comparable in global appeal to the likes of Pokémon and Dragon Ball.
I still remember when the first season aired on local TV. I and most of my classmates hurried home to catch it on time.
And the following morning we would all talk about the hype moments. This series is huge.
With 220 episodes for Naruto, 500 episodes for Naruto: Shippuden, and at least 150 episodes for the on-going spinoff Boruto: Naruto Next Generations, you and your future (or current) kid can share this series for years to come. And if you’re into games we’ve even ranked
our favorite titles
in the Naruto series.
Elitists might scoff at new anime fans for not knowing who Vash the Stampede is.
But you can’t really blame them: Trigun was in 1998, more than 20 years ago.
So what’s so special about this 26-episode Madhouse title?
Trigun feels like Cowboy Bebop.
Both aired in 1998 and served viewers with humor, gunfights, and main characters whose identities are worthy of deep examination.
Along with Outlaw Star, these two series formed the unofficial space Western trilogy that year.
Vash the Stampede is a fun guy, sure. But he has flaws. Severe flaws that come to the fore as the show goes on.
Trigun is a classic that is always worth revisiting at any age.
JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
If the criteria for the best anime ever was the number of memes it spawned, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure would at least land at the top five.
Ever since its debut in 2013, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has slowly but surely gained popularity, especially among Western anime fans.
And how could it not be a favorite source of otaku humor?
From their absurd poses to the facial expressions and phrases (“This must be the work of an enemy stand!” and “Ora ora ora!”), the charismatic characters of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure were born to be recognized.
Major props to David Production for doing a swell job on
As my top-rated sports shounen anime, Haikyuu!! is a testament to how amazing source material can be elevated with the help of top-tier production.
Since 2014, Production I.G. has taken care of this volleyball series. And their passion for it shines through.
With at least 70 episodes and another 12 planned, Haikyuu!! is certainly long.
But what’s different here is you’ll never see it that way.
The pacing here is god-tier, and the same goes for character design and animation.
This is why viewers can feel just how crucial a moment is during a match.
Plus the characters here are so amazing (whether they’re on the team or not) that it’s hard to pick a favorite.
Gintama is one of the longest anime series ever.
And I can actually see it lasting forever like Detective Conan and Pokemon if it wanted.
Well, it doesn’t have an absolute end goal.
It isn’t as much about the story as much as it’s about the characters and their hilarious antics.
The animation isn’t amazing. But it’s been consistently funny for over 350 episodes. That’s a tough role.
Gintama can be like Saturday Night Live — just picking up on the contemporary issues and making a parody out of them.
Also, the comedy here knows no bounds. It’s absolutely irreverent, as it should be.
Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X)
When you see anime fans complain about Studio Deen for their shoddy or lackluster animation, as if they’re being held to a higher standard than most, that’s probably because of shows like Samurai X.
In the 1990s, Studio Deen went all out with adapting Rurouni Kenshin. Arguably one of the best anime set in historical Japan, particularly during the Edo period and the Meiji era.
If you’ve ever wondered how an anime can mix deep politics, moral complexity, complex sword fights (among other melee and ranged weapons), and themes of family and belonging, check this out.
I love Rurouni Kenshin. And I think you will too. Don’t forget to check both the prequel and sequel if you’ve got time.
Shingeki no Kyojin
If I had to choose based only on my emotional investment in an anime, this would be No. 1.
Alongside One Punch Man, Boku no Hero Academia, and Demon Slayer, Attack on Titan was one of the biggest anime shows of the past decade. It brought more people outside Japan into the world of anime.
I love how Shingeki no Kyojin has gotten consistently better in terms of visuals, music, and the overall story, which seamlessly blends politics and religion with mental fortitude and unwavering courage.
From the three seasons (and one final season from Studio MAPPA) to even the OVAs, this anime hasn’t failed even once, keeping me enthralled each time until each episode ends with a huge cliffhanger.
Season 1 was already top-tier (and has one of the best first episodes ever). But Seasons 2 and 3 have cemented Attack on Titan as one of the “perfect” anime in my books.
Alongside Naruto and Bleach, One Piece is one of the three big shounen series of anime. And its main story has yet to end!
Sure, fans are seeing signs that the manga is nearing the final arc.
But no one really knows how.
Eiichiro Oda could continue his story for a decade more because that’s just how entertaining One Piece is.
If you don’t know just how long the anime adaptation is, here’s a clue:
The anime started in Fall 1999 and it’s still ongoing
after 900 episodes
Admittedly, One Piece isn’t immune to filler arcs. But this is a saga no anime fan should miss.
It’s one of the greatest adventures in any medium, and you’re one of the lucky people who get to see it unfold.
Hunter x Hunter (2011)
The first adaptation of Hunter x Hunter was in 1999.
It didn’t exactly have an ending (even after 62 episodes), but I loved the solid character design and cool fight scenes with the Phantom Troupe.
Little did I know, Madhouse would take on the reigns from Nippon Animation to offer a 148-episode
masterpiece in 2011
It looks like a kiddie adventure because... well, the two main characters are young boys.
But Hunter x Hunter, like Harry Potter, explores more serious and darker themes as time goes by.
Once you finish watching you’ll be astonished at how the anime started out and ended where it did. Simply epic.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Yes, I’m sure you saw this coming a mile away.
It’s a bit amusing seeing the similarities between Hunter x Hunter (2011) and FMA: Brotherhood.
Both series are the second anime adaptations of the manga source material, and most fans prefer them over the first adaptations.
So with 64 episodes, how did this Bones production rule the shounen world?
It’s been 10 years, and it’s still the No. 1 anime
on My Anime List.
FMA: B has no major weaknesses whatsoever.
Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric are top-tier main characters. And the same goes for its many supporting characters like Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, and Winry Rockbell.
Studio Bones didn’t hold back with the animation either, which is only fitting given how bombastic FMA: B gets. And if the animation and characters don’t hook you in, the story definitely will.