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What I learned from Shounen Manga & Anime

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

"Shounen" is a term coined to describe Japanese comics and cartoons that are aimed at young men. The majority of these shows are targeted at teenage boys aged 12 to 18, and they all tend to gravitate around a common plot point: the ordinary main character becoming stronger and overcoming some seemingly impossible obstacle, and eventually unlocking his inner warrior/strength/purpose/champion.

These shows almost always center around competition- sometimes actual fighting, as in Boku No Hero Academia, and sometimes in sports, such as Haikyuu!! or Yowamushi Pedal. Sometimes it's goofy stuff like Beyblades, or even cooking, like Shogekogu No Soma.

The idea, though, is that in each of these shows, they focus on sportsmanship and healthy competition. They don't shy away from topics like ethics (in fact, there's almost always a character who "bends" the rules and is frowned upon and shunned as the Bad Guy). They address things like motivations, purpose, personal development, strength, and training. And even in the case of the "Bad Guy" that nobody likes, their own motivations are usually revealed to be not entirely selfish. They also just want to win, they just don't care what other people think of their methods (which is why nobody likes them).

I think one of the funniest things about the dialogue is when one character says "I will defeat you!" and their nemesis (usually the main character who is coming up through the ranks) says "I will defeat you, too!" It's preposterous, but also kind of cool how their resolve allows them to each say "I will win" even when they both know one of them won't. Maybe that's a Japanese thing, but I like that it shows how each character honestly believes in their chances of success.