Here I am again writing about anime. I do have the best job. But you’re probably wondering, “what more can you write about?” Simple, there are like a billion anime out there, and it can be hard to figure out what to watch. You might as well be looking for a needle in a stack of needles. If you think looking for a new show to watch on Netflix is hard, wait until you have to find a new anime to watch.
I’m jealous of people who are finding anime for the first time because they don’t have to take a chance on whether or not an anime is good. They get to watch the amazing stuff that is already out with having to wade through the hot garbage. But if you are new to anime and aren’t sure where to start, hopefully, this list of shonen anime recommendations will help you.
My Hero Academia (88 Episodes and counting)
My Hero Academia (MHA) is probably the biggest anime to come out of this generation. I grew up in the age of the Big Three (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece), which most 20+-year-olds grew up watching. When MHA first aired at the tail end of my freshman year of college, I felt like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons again. And I don’t say that lightly.
The world was just so much fun to be thrown into right off the bat. A world where powers, known as quirks, are an everyday thing, and you have to go to school to become a superhero? Sign me up!
The story follows a young boy who wasn’t born with a quirk and how he becomes the greatest superhero but first, he needs to graduate from UA High before he can be a pro hero. I would love to go into more detail, but I would hate to spoil anything for you, so if you’re a sucker for Marvel movies or DC animated shows/movies, this is the perfect anime for you.
Is this another origin story? Yes, but it’s not like one you’ve experienced before. So give the show a try and Go Beyond. PLUS ULTRA!! (You’ll eventually get that reference, I promise.) Oh, and yes, it is subbed and dubbed for those you might not be into reading subtitles yet.
Black Clover (161 episodes and counting)
I have such a love-hate relationship with Black Clover. There are parts where the animation is absolute hot garbage, and there are parts that are beautiful. The story has its lulls and its peaks. If I had to criticize Black Clover as a show, it would be that it is inconsistent. Okay, now that I’ve put that warning out there, Black Clover is just a super fun show to watch. It has a lot of anime cliches and tropes, but it does them better than most.
The story follows Asta and Yuno, two orphans from the boonies, who dream of becoming the Wizard King. Set in a world where everyone has magical powers unique to themselves. Except for Asta, yup, you guessed it, who has no magical powers whatsoever while his counterpoint, Yuno, is crazy strong. Watch these two compete over who will be the next Wizard King.
Honestly, if you like fun fantasy worlds with cool and unique magic systems, then you should give Black Clover a try. Just do yourself a favor and look up a filler episode list so you can skip the unnecessary episodes.
One Piece (931 Episodes and counting)
One Piece is the cult of the anime world but in the best ways possible. There are three camps when it comes to this absolute masterpiece of anime. The first group is the lifers who started watching the show when they were younger and have followed Luffy’s journey for the last 20 years.
The second group is the deniers who refuse to watch the show because of how long it is. (It’s at 900+ episodes and counting right now.) And the last group is where I fall into. The third group is those of us who used to belong to the deniers but were talked into watching the show by lifers. We are the converts. In my case, my college roommate made a deal with me. I watch One Piece, and he watches everything Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
One Piece is the story of Luffy and his crew, the Straw Hat Pirates. Look, I’m not sure how I talk about One Piece in a concise paragraph. There is just so much to it that it makes it one of the best animes. The world-building is next to none. The character development is top tier. Oda, the creator of One Piece, writes this grand adventure crazily and uniquely. He introduces unforgettable minor characters. He makes you empathize with the villains. You cry over a pirate ship, for Pete’s sake.
The one caveat with One Piece, outside of its length, is that it can be slow at times, especially at first. Oda takes his time to build up the story arc, and while there are times it can be painful when watching it week to week, the pain isn’t as terrible when binging the show.
While Luffy’s overarching plot is trying to become the Pirate King, One Piece is a more character-driven story than anything. If you enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean and the shenanigans that Jack Sparrow would get himself into, then One Piece and the Straw Hats might be the story for you.
Haikyu (85 episodes and counting)
My friends give me so much crap for saying this, but Haikyu is my favorite anime of all time. I grew up on Naruto, and it will forever hold a special place in my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever cried over the death of fictional characters more than in Naruto. But Haikyu is just different.
Unlike most popular Shonen anime, Haikyu is a sports anime. There are no big and flashy fight sequences or life and death moments. Haikyu is just a story of a short high school volleyball player falling more in love with the sport the better he gets.
I love this anime so much because it reminds me of what it felt like to play competitive sports in high school. The competition, the sweat shed during practice, the sting of losing, and the greatness of winning are all feelings that anyone who played a sport in high school probably loves.
But on top of having just a nostalgic feel, Haikyu is unique because there is no real bad guy. It’s just different teams from different schools competing to be the best. There are times where you might catch yourself rooting for the other team. There are no villains, just a bunch of people passionate about a sport that they love. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you win. If you are a sucker for inspirational sports movies like Rudy or the Mighty Ducks, Haikyu is perfect. I really do love this show.
Naruto and Naruto Shippuden (720 episodes between the 2 shows)
Naruto is to my generation as Dragonball is to the older generation. It was the starter anime for most of us who grew up in the Big Three era. I grew up alongside Naruto. Do you know what it was like to watch a 12-year-old ninja who was hated by everyone in his village go out and try to be the best he could be? I mean, the two biggest lessons that Naruto, as a show, teaches us is to never go back on your word because that’s your ninja way (Believe it!) and that anyone who breaks the rules is scum, but anyone who abandons their friends are lower than scum. Plus, what kid didn’t want to be a ninja?
Naruto has some of the most iconic anime moments ever, with a soundtrack that will make you cry, laugh, and feel like you are ready to go into battle. Naruto follows the story of Naruto, a 12-year-old orphaned boy who has a demon fox trapped inside of him. The story follows him and Team 7 on the many missions they undertake.
While the same story, Naruto Shippuden is technically a separate show that follows the same characters from Naruto but after a two-year time skip.
If you want to watch something with characters you will love to hate or just plain love while watching some of the most emotionally charged fights, then this is the show for you. If you aren’t sold after the first episode, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Bleach (366 episodes)
Another of the Big Three, Bleach is about a secret society of Soul Reapers who fight Hollows (ghost demon things). Ichigo is a redheaded kid who stumbles into this world after a hollow attacks his family.
What makes Bleach such an iconic show is its unique world setting, music, and bada** moments. The world is split into the normal world and the Soul Reaper world, where only certain people can see hollows and creatures of the dark.
The music is some of the best music ever and not just for anime. Have you ever heard a Spanish guitar going off in some of the most hype moments ever? Because I can assure you that you will get goosebumps. I have the Bleach Soundtrack on my workout playlist.
As for the bada** moments, it’s just a bunch of sword-wielding characters battling over the fate of the world. Some moments are something that most people who have ever watched any movie or show with a hero and villain wished would happen. You know when the villain is just spewing their nonsense and unveiling their grand plan, and you just wish the hero would cut the chase and beat them already. Or vice versa? Yeah, that moment finally gets played out in one of the show’s most iconic scenes.
So if you are into crazy giant fights, swords, and unique worlds, Bleach is it for you.
Attack on Titan (69 episodes and counting)
Just going to get this out of the way, Attack on Titan (AoT) is not a show for everyone. With that said, AoT is the greatest and most perfect story ever to be told. I’m not trying to hype it up to the point that it won’t live up to your expectations, but Attack on Titan is one of those rare instances where the writer knew what they wanted to happen in the story from the beginning.
From episode one, not a single moment is wasted in getting thrown into one of the most terrifying worlds ever. A world where giant humanoid creatures, titans, try to eat the last remaining humans hiding behind walled cities is by no means child-friendly, but not all anime needs to be kid-friendly. Do you know the horror I’ve felt as I watched villages get massacred?
You know the running joke back in the day with Game of Thrones where you shouldn’t get attached to any character because if you did, they would most likely die some horrible and gruesome death? Yeah, Attack on Titan makes that feel like a walk in the park in comparison.
So if you are into intense and dark shows that deal with monsters, whether they are titans or humans, then AoT is perfect. Just know that once you start, the show never lets you up for air. Something is always happening, and the only moments that are not intense and horror-filled are when you are given a brief moment to grieve a character’s death if that.
Attack on Titan is a staple in the anime community and is coming to an end soon. The manga ends in 2 more chapters, and the season that is currently airing is the last one, so there is still to jump on board and experience the end of a great show along with its community and fan base. And I promise the ending is 10,000,000% better than what we got with Game of Thrones.
To sum it up
Shonen anime is a lot about adventure and action. The main character is usually some loud and boisterous kid that has some big dream that no one thinks they can achieve, but that’s the beauty of it. It taught me to be a dreamer as a kid and dares me to dream even now as an adult. But dreams only remain dreams if we do nothing to achieve them.
I watched Naruto say he was going to be Hokage one day, and for 700 episodes, I followed that journey until he finally achieved it. I’m still watching Luffy chase his dream of becoming Pirate King. I’m following Deku as he tries to become the number one hero, and these fictional characters are just great reminders that it’s okay to dream as long as I am willing to put in the work.
Nothing in life worth having is easy. Hopefully, you can find a journey to enjoy. If anything, I hope that my shonen anime recommendations can do that for you.
And if you were confused by some of the terms I used when talking about the shows, then read our Beginner’s guide to anime here.