What Are Your Five Favorite Non-Shonen Anime? Here are Ours!

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.

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

  1. Angel Beats!
  2. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
  3. Sakura Quest
  4. Sanrio Boys
  5. 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…)

  1. ARIA the Animation (& sequels)
  2. Ascendance of a Bookworm
  3. Fruits Basket
  4. Hidamari Sketch
  5. 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

  1. Cowboy Bebop
  2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  3. Made In Abyss
  4. Trigun
  5. 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)

  1. Daily Lives of High School Boys
  2. Kodocha
  3. Mysterious Girlfriend X
  4. Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story)
  5. Planetes

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

  1. Crest of the Stars
  2. Gundam 0083
  3. Serial Experiments Lain
  4. Trinity Blood
  5. 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

  1. Hyouka
  2. Is the Order a Rabbit??
  3. Kaguya-sama: Love is War
  4. Love, Chuunibyou, and Other Delusions
  5. 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

  1. Free! Iwatobi Swim Club
  2. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
  3. ReLIFE
  4. Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend
  5. Tsurune

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

  1. Cowboy Bebop
  2. Genshiken
  3. Kimi ni Todoke
  4. Oregairu
  5. Shirobako

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.

18 thoughts on “What Are Your Five Favorite Non-Shonen Anime? Here are Ours!

  1. Cool choices. I’m surprised to see shows like Vatican Miracle Examiner, ReLIFE, Hyouka and Trinity Blood make it onto the list! For me I guess some of these non-shonen picks of mine would be, in no particular order: Hyouka (as well lol!), Love Live, Little Witch Academia, Hinamatsuri, and Nichijou.

    1. Hinamatsuri and Nichijou…two comedies that really push far beyond what’s generally conceived of in an anime comedy.

  2. My top five favorite non-shonen anime are:
    1. Toradora!
    2. Shinryaku! Ika Musume (Invasion! Squid Girl)
    3. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
    4. Made In Abyss
    5. Love Live: School Idol Project

    1. Oooh, nice mix! However, Rachel, Toradora is considered shonen. Weird, huh? Otherwise it would have been right near the top of my list, too!

        1. In general, high school romcoms are considered “shonen” (for example, Nisekoi and We Never Learn are pretty major Shonen Jump titles).

  3. I think FMA is considered shonen, though it seems to also transcend that label by quite a bit.

    March Come In Like A Lion
    Yona of the Dawn
    Snow White with the Red Hair
    Kino’s Journey, original series

  4. For the record – I was going to include Your Lie in April, but several reliable sources say that it was aimed at a shonen demographic, so I excluded it. But, otherwise I stand by my list.

    1. Yeah, very much like Toradora, Your Lie in April is categorized as shonen…definitely one of those “Oh…yeah I guess so” kind of things.

  5. Lovely lists! Lots of shows for I’ll want to check out.

    This one’s easy for me, since most of my favorite anime aren’t shonen.

    1. Cowboy Bebop
    2. Revolutionary Girl Utena
    3. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
    4. Samurai Champloo
    5. Mushi-shi

    Then there are a couple of borderline cases that might have made the list: Mob Psycho 100 is shonen, but it deliberately inverts a lot of the standard genre tropes. Nichijou is based on a manga in the shonen demographic, but since it’s a gag-based sketch comedy, YMMV on whether or not it fits the shonen “genre.”

    1. Ah yes, Mushi-shi is an “honorable mention” on my list, too. There really is nothing quite like it in anime/manga.

      And yeah, Nichijou is one of those “borderline” cases; overall, “high school comedy” is very much shonen, but then it goes into the absurd… Well, as I see it, there’s no reason to get too hung up on whether something is “shonen” or whatever else; if it’s good, it’s good.

  6. I was late for this one. How interesting! i Will benefit for all these lists. My own picks for non-shonen anime (if we consider Nichijou a shonen) would have been the following:
    1# Sakamichi no Apollon, which seems to be a josei,
    2# Haibane Renmei
    3# Serial Experiments Lain
    4# Chihayafuru
    5# Puella Magi Madoka Magica

    I look mainly for wonder, heroism and inspiration in my shonen and shoujo anime. When it is seinen or josei, I mainly appreciate the art, the Deep insights, the atmosphere, the calmer pace, the humanity of the characters. The shows I like the most are those which manage to do both things at once, or those which strike a personal chord…

  7. I just saw Trinity Blood in the thumbnail and I squealed! SUCH an underrated show, but that may have been because its extreme level of violence coupled with its emphasis on story and politics instead of its action may have come across like an odd combo.

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