One of our Twitch streamers, negativeprimes, recently tagged a number of our staffers on a Twitter post that’s making the rounds asking users to name their five favorite non-shonen anime.
Non Shonen anime that are excellent:
A Place Further Than the Universe
Interviews with Monster Girls
Turns out there's quite a few! https://t.co/JLlaIXAyKH
— Black Lives Matter (@crslydeadcat) November 2, 2020
Oh, good ‘ol shonen—ye source of thousand-episode series, tropes without end, and anime quotes about life. It seems like a basic question, but there are surprising layers here. For one, the very idea seems to infer that shonen is king—and while that can’t be argued from a popularity standpoint, it certainly can from a critical one. The question also brings up real divides between those who tend to watch the more popular series and those who tend to stream other offerings from different genres, and might even lead to an assumption that shonen fans are more casual viewers while the rest are more truly “otaku,” though those types of sweeping generalizations aren’t usually accurate or helpful. Another note is that many anime, manga, and light novels could be categorized as both shonen and something else. In fact, our light novel club president, stardf29, noted yesterday that one particular title was promoted both as shonen and shoujo!
Besides all those different layers, this question excites us because it gives our writers an opportunity to present favorite series that might not be on the radar for a legion of anime fans. Because of that, we couldn’t resist taking this from Twitter to our blog as a number of our writers present their top five shonen anime!
We hope you’ll enjoy these lists, and just as importantly, that you’ll share your own in the comment section below! And let us know, as well, if you try out any of our recommendations.
MDMRN’s Top 5
- Angel Beats!
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
- Sakura Quest
- Sanrio Boys
- Wotakoi/She & Her Cat
I cheated, I included 6 series – I did the same on Twitter and I’m so sorry. Apart from Wotakoi/She & Her Cat being last, the remaining series are all in no particular order. Each of those are anime I treasure, but Sakura Quest has special places in my heart. It features a predominantly female, adult cast and 1) is not focused on romance, 2) does not sexualize the cast, and 3) does not show the characters wearing the same things every single day. It felt more real and I appreciate that.
Follow MDMRN on Twitter for more thoughts on anime, parenting, and all manner of things.
stardf29’s Top Five (sort of…)
- ARIA the Animation (& sequels)
- Ascendance of a Bookworm
- Fruits Basket
- Hidamari Sketch
- Usagi Drop
Considering how my interests skew away from shonen in general, a list of my favorite non-shonen anime would just be a list of my favorite anime, period. So instead, I picked five series that are as unlike the stereotypical shonen as possible, while still being among my favorites. Oh, and of course I included a light novel adaptation; while most isekai light novels have a shonen flavor to them (even if not explicitly classified as such), Bookworm, with its slow pace and focus on character and relationship drama and gradual worldbuilding, fits in well with the other not-shonen titles in my list.
Follow stardf29 on Twitter to read about his varying interests, including light novels (natch).
Jeskai’s Top Five Non-Shounen Anime I Like That No One Else Already Mentioned and That May or May Not Be “Favorites” at Any Given Moment in Time
- Library War
- Non Non Biyori
- The Pet Girl of Sakurasou
- Recovery of an MMO Junkie
- Sound of the Sky
The source of the image above, Non Non Biyori is one of the finest and funniest slice-of-life anime I know. Meanwhile Recovery and Pet Girl are romcoms, with the former just being sweet and the latter having drama as well. If you ever wanted a post-apocalyptic story where the tune of “Amazing Grace” is a significant plot point, Sound of the Sky has you covered. And Library War is one of those rare aired-before-2010 anime that I actually like, with the curious premise, “What if libraries needed their own paramilitary forces to protect books from censorship?”
Follow Jeskai Angel on Twitter for unfiltered thoughts on, well, just about everything.
Samuru’s Top Five
- Cowboy Bebop
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Made In Abyss
- Violet Evergarden
Each of these series has inspired or motivated me to continue watching anime for what it is—a beautiful art form that brings animated characters to life. I really wanted to put Slayers on the list as well, but I didn’t feel it matched up to the others. Having watched so many newer anime over the years, sometimes the older ones lose their luster and I feel it’s just nostalgia talking instead of it being a real gem of a show.
Follow Samuru on Twitter for gaming and faith content.
Josh’s Top Five Non Shounen Anime! (Because Not Everyone Wants to Be The Best Like No One Ever Was)
- Daily Lives of High School Boys
- Mysterious Girlfriend X
- Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story)
Truth be told, with few exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of shonen anime; much of that genre can be rather repetitive, following the same “I wanna be the strongest ____ in the world!” trope, so I tend to gravitate towards more slice-of-life shows where the characters move the plot along. I feel these five shows are prime examples of this. I originally had Aria The Animation/Natural/Origination on my list, but stardf29 got to it first. Great minds do think alike. Also, I dare you to watch Mysterious Girlfriend X without squirming, especially nowadays when germs are front and center in people’s minds.
Follow Josh on Twitter for thoughts ranging from the latest Toonami series to politics.
Tyler’s Top Five
- Crest of the Stars
- Gundam 0083
- Serial Experiments Lain
- Trinity Blood
- Vatican Miracle Examiners
Shonen is not a genre I usually care for. It typically emphasizes selfish boyhood dreams, with a rags to riches setups leading into a minimalist easy-mode character growth arc, and features romance and relations with the opposite sex as an afterthought or a most basic trophy for the hero at the end. There are plenty of virtuous elements that can exist in the genre, but that’s why my favorite anime are mostly not categorized as shonen.
Chat with Tyler on our Discord, where he’s an admin keeping law and order in our version of the wild, wild west (not really).
sleepminusminus’s Top Five
- Is the Order a Rabbit??
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War
- Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions
- Made in Abyss
Shonen anime is such a broad category that I couldn’t even include The Promised Neverland on this list. And while there are so many better slice-of-life shows than GochiUsa, there’s just something about those adorable idiots that keeps me coming back.
If you like shonen, definitely don’t follow sleepminusminus on Twitter.
Chickennuggee’s Top Five
- Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
- Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
- Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
Most of my shoujo favorites have already been listed by others, so here are a few non-shounen shows I love which target multiple demographics! Honestly though, I could probably fill up my top five with the multiple Free! seasons and movies.
For something completely different, follow Chickennuggee on Twitter for K-pop goodness and…Demon Slayer cosplay?
Twwk’s Top Five
- Cowboy Bebop
- Kimi ni Todoke
It’s only recently that I elevated Genshiken and Kimi ni Todoke in my anime rankings, joining these other three and one more (Silver Spoon, which is shonen) as the only series I’ve given perfect scores to. They’re also among the most “rewatchable” series out there, perhaps which is what convinced me to give them higher scores—the earlier in all its painful authenticity and meta-ness and latter, which demonstrates that shoujo can be touchy-feely and addicting while still featuring excellent writing, characterization, and animation that some might say are traditionally lacking in that genre.
Follow Twwk on Twitter for random thoughts about anime and Star Wars, and reminisces about the 90s.