The 3 Most Common Shounen Archetypes in Anime
“It isn’t victory that you want, it’s peace. Even though there isn’t any such thing in this world. ” Archer, Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks
If there’s something that shounen anime is known for, it’s the hero. At the same time, though, many critics are quick to rip a shounen hero apart because they usually fall under several stereotypes. Take Shounen Jump, for example. Shounen Jump characters tend to fall under shounen stereotypes that critics deem to be boring, and yet, these anime tend to be the most popular! Naruto anyone? One Piece? How about Ao no Exorcist? Anyone heard of these anime? Yeah, I thought so.
Shounen anime is popular and it’s not just because the stories are amazing. Many of these heroes, though stereotypical, are conceived in a way that will fascinate you, draw you in, or be someone you can relate to. Perhaps you can project yourself onto the hero and live a life of adventure like you’ve always wanted. Let’s take a look at some of these shounen archetypes.
If the idiot hero isn’t your favorite shounen archetype, I’m not sure who is! The “idiot hero” is a character who starts off as an idiot who is the butt of everyone’s jokes and doesn’t quite understand anything. A great example of this would be Son Goku from the Dragon Ball Series.
The idiot hero is the type who starts off with nothing, but gradually realizes his true potential hidden beneath. Somehow, he manages to become stronger than all the “geniuses” around him and is able to do things that no one has even dreamed of. Naruto, anyone?
Why is it that idiot heroes are so common though? Well, for one thing, it makes the protagonist easier to relate to. Also, not many young boys dream of being geniuses, so they can relate to the protagonist’s dream of becoming stronger. Sometimes, though, many viewers want someone who isn’t necessarily smart, but capable of achieving so much more. Doesn’t that give them hope for a better future?
The next shounen hero on our list is the punk martyr. By punk martyr, I am referring to the character who appears to be a delinquent at the beginning, but would sacrifice his own life to save the lives of others. Despite what society may view these types of shounen protagonists as, the punk martyr will not always do what he or she thinks is right.
One example of this would be Okumura Rin from Ao no Exorcist. Rin starts off as a trouble maker who doesn’t want to go to school and can’t hold a job, but when his life changes he does whatever he can to put a stop to Satan’s madness no matter what the cost!
Punk martyrs are necessary in many shounen anime because they can show viewers that even if society deems you as a trouble maker, you can still do great things. We are not limited to what society makes of us as a whole! Sometimes, the punk martyr is the hero we need even when we ourselves feel like we don’t need one.
No, I don’t mean Robin the boy wonder, but that’s pretty close. As a shounen hero, the boy wonder refers to a young adolescent child who is somehow stronger and more capable than any other character in the series. We can see this with Gon Freeces from Hunter x Hunter.
Despite being a young boy, Gon has proven that he is more skilled than many others just due to his tenacity and natural competitiveness. His eagerness to compete and continue advancing has led to his ability to triumph over even the toughest abilities. That is not to say his friend Killua isn’t a boy wonder himself, because he is, but Killua has had the training. Gon is merely a playful little boy capable of great things. He even surprises Killua!
These boy wonder heroes make for great aspirations for children who may question whether they are really capable of handling grave situations. Many boys can aspire to do greater things while watching these heroes; they’ll have someone to look up to who is around their age! Don’t we all need that sort of role model for our lives?
Many times, we question the purpose of these shounen archetypes. Why are they all so cliche? Why can’t they all be different? Well, truly, each archetype exists for a reason and it is so they can provide a hero for kids to look up to. Remember, shounen wasn’t created for you (unless you’re a young boy). It was originally created for young boys, so you should be able to understand why these heroes are the way they are.
So, will you still give Shounen Jump a hard time for publishing these hero stereotypes?