I’m quite particular when it comes to shounen anime. It’s hard to follow a shounen series because most of which have hundreds of episodes, and so oftentimes I find myself having a major backlog. In fact, I dropped most of the series I follow in this genre. After a while, I start to get bored of the formula. In this article I would try to look at the patterns of shounen series based on the very few of them I watched, and hopefully I could discover the aspects about it that either makes me go “AWESOME” or go “zzzzz”.
STRONGER AND STRONGER
One of the most typical patterns of shounen would be this one. The heroes and protagonists would generally become stronger, ergo their opponents will become stronger too. There are a variety of ways of showing this, like having local or small-scale tournaments and fights first, then on to bigger and national or international tournaments and fights. Slam Dunk would fall on this formula quite nicely, as the story tries to revolve on reaching each tournament one at a time. Naruto, while having no formal tournament, features stronger opponents over time. It was its downfall for me though, in that as the series progressed, the skill levels rose from being tactical ninja to just a bunch of super fantastic powers. A mix of both would be in Prince of Tennis. We have tournaments and a skill curve that started to become more ridiculous as episodes go by. We have all heard of the fireball tennis shots by now.
Many shounen series can revolve on the past in order to give some meaning and motivation to whatever a character may be doing right now in the present. There are examples of these in any shounen anime, but a shining example of it would be in One Piece. This is a great epic journey because even if you have sheer length of story and many characters, the backstories and flashbacks are very effective in bringing drama and emotion. I think I can remember Rurouni Kenshin having effective past stories on it as well. With this kind of formula a series may never get old because there would be a fresh story everytime a new character arrives.
MONSTER OF THE WEEK
New characters can be annoying though sometimes, especially when you don’t flesh them out too much or too often. Inuyasha has these annoying story arcs that feature new heroes and enemies, but more often than not those characters only last for a few episodes or chapters. Inuyasha is a filler series for much of its run, there’s not much story advancement for its length. Tsubasa Chronicle suffered from this a bit, though they do give plot revelations from time to time. Unfortunately, the anime didn’t hook me up because it’s too Beetrain-yawny.
Sometimes a shounen series’ shortness would be quite annoying too, because there is really no room to flesh out characters. A very familiar example would be current anime Saki. It featured interesting characters ALL AT ONCE on one big arc, and now the anime has nowhere to go because it had exhausted the manga content already. Saki shouldn’t have been animated this early I think.
ONE BIG ARC
This is a rare breed which I only encountered in Fullmetal Alchemist. This series doesn’t seem to be divided into arcs, everything revolves on the fight of the humans vs. the superhumans over there. I like it that the story really progresses rather that stopping itself for a diversion like a backstory or a monster-of-the-week.