Today the shonen genre is a cult. It has long lost its more demographic meaning, becoming a full-fledged representative of anime and manga with a set of its own rules and cliches. From the middle of the last century to today, we have shonen anime legends that continue to come out and nurture a new generation of otaku. First "Dragon Ball", then "Bleach", "Naruto", "One Piece", "My Hero Academia" and so it goes on for a very long time. Each era has its own shonen, which defined the anime. The history of the shonen genre is very rich and therefore attractive to consider.
Once upon a time, even earlier than furs
As I said, the demographic meaning of the word "shounen" [attention, author's subjective] has lost its meaning today at the basic level at which it appeared. We think of it as a genre because we know exactly what to expect from a title if its description includes a shonen tag. Originally, this word, which refers to the Japanese lexicon of kango [borrowed from the Chinese language], literally means "several years." It is applied to boys between the ages of 12 and 17. The actual anime or manga, christened with this word, is also aimed at this age.
But I would say that in our reality shonen has turned into an anime about boys and their way of men according to the stereotypical concepts of Japanese culture. Over time, the long evolution of shonen anime has turned it into a product with a humorous storyline involving male heroes, including martial arts, robots, science fiction, sports or horror. They almost always have motives for the importance of camaraderie between men, and the protagonists of such stories demonstrate a constant desire for self-improvement.
It is said that shonen appeared in the 18th century, but the boom in publications came precisely in the early 20th, when manga began to focus on a certain type of gender. So, one of the first magazines to publish shonen manga from 1895 to 1914 was Shonen Sekai.
As in the case of anime fur, and indeed the entire culture of Japan, dramatic changes took place after World War II and the nuclear strike. It was then that the image of shonen manga was formed, which focused on boys who were mainly interested in Sci-Tech: futurism, robots and space travel. The first shonen manga as we know it today was "Astro Boy" by Osamu Tezuki, which later grew into an anime. And after that there were many trends that solidified to form a new layer of boy-oriented adventure manga.
The cult magazine Weekly Shonen Jump, which has been publishing high-quality shonen manga on its pages since 1968, is continuously connected with the very concept of shonen. In its early days, it focused on action and mech anime like Mazinger Z. However, it had to compete with other market players as well. Soon the format was changed from a weekly magazine to a bi-weekly publication and Shonen Jump gradually began to grow. The key manga that helped Weekly Shonen Jump in its early development was Go Nagai's "Harenchi Gakuen". Manga became something of a departure from combat and comedy stories and focused on fanservice and nudity.
Despite the fact that the sex scenes themselves are not there, Go Nagai's "Harenchi Gakuen" is often considered the very first erotic / hentai manga, and it was a real hit. As a result, it was precisely because of the taboo nature of Harenchi Gakuen, combined with the rest of the juicy content of the magazine, that Shonen Jump was able to get off to a good start.
Shonen Jump continued to grow in popularity throughout the 1970s, with circulation increasing from 1 to 2 million copies. In the early 70s, the genre variety of manga also increased - from comedy and action films to sports manga. At the same time, in the mid-70s, Shonen Jump began to release several popular major series at the same time.
In 1972, Go Nagai wrote the classic Mazinger Z fur. It was a story about a robot fighting evil, inspired by Astro Boy. In parallel with him came the manga "Doberman Cop", published since 1975, she focused on the exploits of detective Joji Kano, investigating strange murders in Tokyo. At the same time, another popular series of the manga "Komikame" was released, which was printed from 1976 to 2016. It told about the policeman Kankich Retsu and his adventures. Today it is one of the largest in terms of the number of volumes and ranks 5th in terms of sales. And the manga "Ring ni Kakero" set a classic template for sports manga.
But the golden age for shonen came precisely in the 80s. Then Akira Toriyama came to work in the editorial office. Toriyama's first major hit to be published in Shonen Jump was "Doctor Slam," which began in 1980 and ended in 1984. Many fans fell in love with Toriyama's puns, parodies, and general toilet humor mixed in the Senbei Norimaki story.
The series was so successful that it led to anime adaptations by Toi Animation and other works, consisting of 11 animated films and several video games. It would seem that creating one hit is already an achievement, but nevertheless, his next work was "Dragon Ball", published in 1984. He opened the door wide for world fame.
"Dragon Ball" is considered to be the most shounen of all shonen. For Western audiences, DB has become one of the first anime to be shown on TV on Toonami. He paved the way for other similar shows, launched a franchise that grew into a bunch of spinoffs, games, sequels and prequels that tell about Son Goku's adventures in search of dragonball.
Manga ended in 1995, as did the magazine's golden age. However, it has been slightly extended by two iconic manga "Jojo Bizarre Adventure" and "Slam Dunk". Jojo Bizarre Adventure was launched in 1987 and was yet another Shonen Jump series that would last long enough, or rather 20 years, before hitting the Ultra Jump pages in 2005. Jojo's Bizarre Adventure focuses on 6 different adventures of the Joster family members from different eras. Slam Dunk, which began in 1990, resonated in Japan as it made basketball incredibly popular by talking about the path of the school basketball team.
The Big Three and the Internet Age
The magazine continued to expand and fill with new manga. And thanks to the popularity of anime in the west, they began to film it even more often. With the advent of the internet and other technologies, manga circulation began to decline at a significant rate, so people started reading it online.
However, due to the fact that Shonen Jump has established itself well, moving into new interesting genres, and successfully adapting manga into anime, the magazine continued to generate a lot of interest. We've had sports manga like Eyeshield 21, psychological thriller Death Note, action packed Hunter x Hunter, and comedies like Gintama. But it was three mangas that got their start at the turn of the century, and subsequently they formed the Big Three: "One Piece", "Bleach" and "Naruto".
"Bleach" was written and illustrated by mangaka Taito Kubo. He talked about Ichigo Kurosaki, who discovered the powers of the Shinigami, a demon hunter who helped the souls of the dead to go to another world. Despite the controversial ending, "Bleach" ended only in 2016. Many brawls, plots and characters were popular enough to turn anime into a media franchise of video games, 4 movies, and even 10 rock musicals. Not to mention over 90 million copies of the manga sold in Japan.
Naruto had a similar success as well. Created in 1999, written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, this shonen told the story of a protagonist who learned the path of a ninja in order to become the Hokage - the leader of his village, so that everyone would finally respect him. Naruto ended in 2014 and includes 11 films, many video games, and even a collectible card game.
"One Piece" by Eichiro Oda was about a pirate adventure led by Monkey D. Luffy. He is looking for the Big Score to become the Pirate King. Manga is also a huge media franchise, with sales of 3.8 million volumes surpassing Bleach, Naruto and even the worldwide bestseller Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Manga and anime are still being released today.
And although today not everyone is ready to master the same "One Piece", there are a huge number of other senenos who are icons. This is also "Fairy Tail" or "My Hero Academia". There are also many other titles that came out at the beginning and middle of this century. Yes, Shonen Jump's golden age is over, but although he personifies shonen, he doesn't dictate the rules. We have an equally cool future ahead of us, and the story of shino anime and manga does not end there.
The Topic of Article: History of the shonen genre.