Genre Guide – Shonen Manga: From the Big 3 to New Gen Sensations

Want to go on a grand adventure with a large cast of fun characters? Interested in magic, power systems, fights between rivals, enemies turned friends, found families, signature moves yelled out loud and more? Well, I think Shonen manga is a great place for you to go for all of this! Shonen manga is the most well-known and popular genre of manga that is adapted to many popular anime you may already watch yourself such as Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, and My Hero Academia. Shonen manga truly has something for everyone and is a great mix of adventure, comedy, action and jaw dropping moments and cliffhangers. I have put some of the mainstays of the genre in the list below as well as some new up and coming and exciting series. As always you can consult with your favorite local librarian for even more recommendations! Immerse yourself into the fantastical world of shonen manga and enjoy some escapism and all new worlds to enjoy! 

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One of the most popular series of all time that has had an impact on culture and seen its impact spread beyond the anime community is Naruto. You may know it from its distinctive shinobi run, but this series will really suck you in with its phenomenal art and great world building and character development. This series follows the young ninja in training Naruto whose goal is to become the world’s greatest ninja. You can also check out this title as eBook on Libby. 

Bleach, Vol. 1

Part-time student, full-time Soul Reaper, Ichigo is one of the chosen few guardians of the afterlife. Ichigo Kurosaki never asked for the ability to see ghosts—he was born with the gift. When his family is attacked by a Hollow—a malevolent lost soul—Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper, dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping the tortured spirits themselves find peace. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby. 

One Piece, Vol. 1

One of the longest running manga of all time (and anime) which is still ongoing to this day!  This along with Naruto and Bleach makes up the “Big 3” of the classic shonen manga due to their massive worldwide popularity that is still seen today, along with many of the tropes and developments in newer shonen taking inspiration and aspects from these and other series. The simple premise is Monkey D Luffy and his crew are on the hunt for the ultimate treasure, the One Piece! This series is also now a popular live action series on Netflix! You can also check out this title as eBook on Libby.

Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z is another manga with massive worldwide popularity and impact and this manga along with its anime has been enjoyed by a massive global audience for many years now. Toriyama’s distinct art style and character designs shine in this series and you can see their impact in many other properties such as the video games Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest. After years of training and adventure, Goku has become Earth’s ultimate warrior, and his son, Gohan, shows even greater promise. However, the stakes are increasing as even deadlier enemies threaten the planet. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on Libby.

Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail is another manga with massive worldwide popularity due to its manga and its anime and it is easy to see why. Mashima created a sensation with this great ensemble cast featuring some of the best female characters in the whole genre including Erza the swordswoman and Lucy, the writer with a big heart and a strong kick! This series follows Lucy who decides to join the Fairy Tail guild and she teams up with Natsu, a boy looking for his dragon father who has a flying cat companion named Happy with him. This setup takes them and many others on a long adventure and many ups and downs, creating one of the most compelling stories out there with great art and character designs, accompanied by an anime with a soundtrack that will be stuck in your head for years to come. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook from Libby.

Demon Slayer

To describe this manga as a worldwide sensation would be an understatement as this series took the world by storm and instantly became a massive worldwide bestseller for all of its volumes and its box set. Koyoharu Gotoge created a series with a simple premise and filled it with likeable characters and a classic story proving that there is a yearning for the classic good versus evil narrative. She created this manga and its accompanying anime which is still ongoing and continues to be one of the most viewed anime of each season, with some of the best animation of any show in production. Demon Slayer follows Tanjiro Kamado, a kindhearted boy who makes a living selling charcoal until his peaceful life is shattered when a demon slaughters his family and turns his sister into another demon, forcing Tanjiro on a dangerous journey to destroy the demon and save his sister. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook from Libby.

My Hero Academia

After saving his friend from a villain, Izuku Midoriya is bestowed with his own superpower, or “quirk,” and admitted to a high school that cultivates the next generation of heroes. This series is heavily inspired by the superhero comics of the west including X-Men, Spiderman and others and it is a very good pick for people who enjoy these comics and want to try something from a new perspective with fantastic art and very likeable characters. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook from Libby.

Black Clover

Young Asta was born with no magic ability in a world where magic is everything. In order to prove his strength and keep a promise with his friend, Asta dreams of becoming the greatest mage in the land, the Wizard King! Black Clover is an ongoing series with one of the best ensemble casts out there including the many characters within the Black Bulls group including Yami the motivational captain, Noelle the noble who is lacking confidence but has unlimited potential, Vanessa the wizard, Charmy and her team of cooking sheep and many more. If you are looking for a grand adventure with magic, fights, great male and female characters working together this will be a great series for you. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook on Libby.

Chainsaw Man

Denji was a small-time devil hunter just trying to survive in a harsh world. After being killed on a job, he is revived by his pet devil Pochita and becomes something new and dangerous–Chainsaw Man! This manga is a fast-paced zany adventure with a very likeable main cast. It is very well known for its breakneck pacing some have even coined the term Chainsaw Man pacing as a result and its many western movie influences throughout it, this is a great pickup for older teens and adults who enjoy a bit of a modern edge to their reading experience. It’s a great time to start this series too with an ongoing anime, and the part 2 of its manga with a new female lead ongoing as well. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook from Libby.

Undead Unluck

What happens when an unlucky girl meets an undead guy? Pure chaos! The newest series on this list and one that has an anime that just started with a talented team behind it as well makes this a wonderful time to pick up this story. This manga will feel similar to X-men fans, but its unique take on superpowers and how the heroes get them will keep you hooked. Fuuko is the female lead of this series and her spunkiness and her ability to make friends with anyone, as well as her nature to never give up makes her one of the best new protagonists out there in shonen manga today. This title is also available for checkout as an eBook from Libby.