Labeling a manga series as shonen is sometimes a little deceiving. While it’s true that manga series considered such are generally targeted towards young men, occasionally the perception arises that adults have no business reading them, particularly outside of Japan.
But this isn’t true! Shonen manga cover a wide range of topics, and often tackle them in mature and creative ways. Sure, there are some that will almost never appeal to someone above the age of 12, but there are just as many that adults like myself can enjoy! Still nervous about diving into the shonen manga world? Then maybe a few of these titles can help ease the transition.
1. Koe no Katachi (A Silent Voice)
Image © Kodansha
Koe no Katachi is a rarity; a story that tries to take an honest look at the bullying problem so common to Japanese schools. Here we have a deaf girl constantly being bullied and forced to leave her school. After she’s gone, the class turns their attention to her tormentor, Shouya, who is ostracized from everyone. Rather than focus on the deaf girl, most of the story is told through Shouya’s, the bully, point of view. After they both have grown up, how do they cope with the trauma they experienced through school? Can Shouya redeem himself if he finds Nishimiya again? It can be a tense ride, but the story is absolutely worth reading.
2. One Piece
Image © Shueisha
Not all series have to be intense, emotional roller coasters to be awesome. One Piece is physical proof. The premise is simple. Luffy wants to be King of the Pirates. In order to do so, he must conquer the dangerous seas of Grand Line and be the first pirate since Gol D. Roger to reach the final island. Supposedly that’s where the ultimate treasure will be hidden.
One Piece is arguably one of the best shonen series currently being published, and for good reason. It’s situated in a fun fantasy world, packed with interesting characters, and layered with a surprising amount of mystery as the series unfolds. Its straightforward enough to follow, but it’s a blast the whole way through. Fit for all ages seems appropriate here.
Image © Bones
Fullmetal Alchemist is, at its heart, a series that will teach you about proper parenting.
… Okay, not really. There’s a lot of twisted stuff in here. Fullmetal Alchemist is one that manages to hit both sides of the emotional spectrum, at times packed with action, and other times heart-wrenching to read. Still, there’s a reason this is one of the most beloved series of all time, and it’s another one that anybody, young or old, should give a chance at least once.
4. Future Diary
Image © Asread
Future Diary is a lot of fun. Yuki and Yuno get caught up in a literal death game with twelve others to become the next Lord of Space and Time. The only way out is to find the other players and kill them before they get killed!
The series gets pretty crazy. Shocking, I’m sure. That said, several twists throughout are likely to leave anyone hanging in their seats, regardless of how much you might already know of this series. It’s well worth reading, but be warned, this particular manga can get very, very ugly for an innocent little shonen.
Image © TMS Entertainment
Detective Conan is a classic, one which every adult mystery fan should try at least once. I won’t deny the series has issues, particularly in the development of a certain heroine, but the mysteries have remained consistently interesting for over 700 chapters now. Kind of amazing, isn’t it? Despite being a shonen series, Conan holds little back when it comes to the crimes performed. The murders are often gruesome affairs, as are the details lurking behind them. Nevertheless, it’s hard to stop reading once you become embroiled in yet another crime that can only be solved by the title’s titular protagonist, Conan.
Although a few words of advice: If you’re not a fan of slow plot progression, this series might not be for you.
Image © Sunrise
If there’s one series that people always ask me to include in these lists lately, it’s Gintama. And that’s perfectly understandable, too. Manga comedies tend to rely on a lot of similar tropes from series to series, so when you have a series that manages to set itself apart (and still be hilarious), you’ve got gold.
Also, a few characters have an almost unhealthy love of soap operas, so if any of you can relate to that, then… Cool?
Image © Studio Gallop
Set in Meiji era Japan, Rurouni Kenshin tells the story of a wandering swordsman named Himura Kenshin. After ages of traveling, he bumps into Kamiya Kaoru and is brought into her home in Tokyo. From here we see how he influences people around him, garnering respect as he protects those he sees as precious. There are many who’re trying to draw him back into his old world, however — one of assassination and war. Seeing Kenshin try and protect the people he loves while avoiding this old lifestyle can be painful, but it’s a hard series to put down. The manga also makes for an interesting window into the Meiji era, something not many series tackle these days.
Now that I actually think about it, it’s kind of surprising that this was a shonen series…
8. AKB49: Renai Kinshi Jourei
Image © Kodansha
Idol culture in Japan is nothing new to most people, but how much do you really know about it? Even if you don’t know much, chances are you’ve heard of the most famous group there is: AKB48. AKB49: Renai Kinshi Jourei is the manga no one knew they wanted, featuring Minoru Urayama, a boy whose crush wants to become a part of AKB. In order to support her dream, he auditions as a girl with her and passes! From there on out the series follows their trials in the AKB world, all while he tries to hide his identity from everyone around him.
As silly as it sounds, it makes for a surprisingly deep look at the idol world in Japan. I won’t say it’s the most realistic series in the world, but there is a considerable amount of information for people interested in how the inner-workings of these groups function. And that’s coming from someone who has never had much interest in AKB in the first place! Give it a chance; you could be pleasantly surprised.
These are just some of the great titles anyone looking to delve into the shonen manga world should consider. Depending on your tastes, there are bound to be more if you keep looking. I just think all of these would make a good starting point. Happy reading!