If you have seen some shounen anime, you certainly know what I’m talking about.
The typical shounen protagonist trope is something you notice as a repeating pattern in many shounen anime.
First of all, let’s lay down a definition of the shounen genre. Shounen is a genre of manga and anime that is marketed toward teen males.
It usually contains a lot of action, comedy, and a male protagonist.
How do you define the typical shounen protagonist?
Well, if we look at the most common and popular typical shounen protagonists, it’s not that difficult.
There is a good chance you know at least one of these:
- One Piece’s Luffy,
- Naruto’s Naruto,
- Fairy Tail’s Natsu,
- Reborn’s Tsuna,
- Dragon Ball’s Goku,
- Black Clover’s Asta.
They are simple-minded and foolish at first glance, right?
The typical shounen protagonist is innocent, naive, kind, and a bit silly. He is usually not the brightest. He always goes out of his way to help people (even enemies), forgives people who wronged him, and has a never-give-up attitude. He is not afraid to rush into a fight and stand up for what’s right in his eyes.
He more often than not undergoes a lot of training to become strong. He typically ends up among the most powerful characters in the series.
To explain this further, let’s look at some real examples.
The typical shounen protagonist no.1 – Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
Naruto is born without talent, keeps failing at school, and is hated by the whole village because he has a tailed beast sealed in him.
Despite all of the mentioned above, he sets a goal to become a Hokage (the strongest shinobi of the village and its leader).
He trains endlessly to become powerful.
Naruto is innocent, airheaded, and kind. He will do anything to protect his comrades and tries to save his enemies too. He has this natural charm that draws people to him, and after they get to know him and his ideals, they adopt them too.
The typical shounen protagonist no.2 – Gon Freecss (Hunter x Hunter)
Gon is a professional hunter. Even though he is very young, he strives to obtain great power through training.
Gon is simple-minded, naive, and extremely friendly. His personality often makes people trust him and take his side, potential allies and enemies alike.
He also does everything in his power to protect his friends and shows a lot of sympathy for foes too.
The typical shounen protagonist no.3 – Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail)
Natsu is a (rather powerful) mage of the Fairy Tail Guild.
He is carefree, reckless, extremely loyal, and protective of his guild (comrades and friends).
Natsu also shows compassion for his enemies and is never bitter about getting defeated.
In the end, is it really a bad thing to be the typical shounen protagonist?
The short answer is NO.
I get it if you grew a strong dislike towards them because they appear as foolish kind-hearted idiots to you, but there are many good and appealing traits that they possess. And we need to talk about those to understand why they exhibit the above-mentioned traits so frequently.
The thing is, shounen is aimed at a young teen male audience.
If we consider the young teen male audience age around 11-19 (ca. adolescence basically), the personality traits of the typical shounen protagonist can have a rather positive impact on their lives. And they are easy to relate to as well.
That brings us to the final question that will explain it all.
Why is it a good thing to be the typical shounen protagonist?
Well, they teach us lessons about how to be better humans. They are not perfect in any way, but they have many desirable and under-appreciated traits.
1. They teach us to be more compassionate
This is extremely important because a lack of empathy is nowadays a problem. They try to relate to their allies and enemies and understand their point of view.
2. They want us to be kind to each other
They are nice most of the time and try to help people around them.
3. They motivate us to never give in and follow our dreams
Even if our dreams seem to be impossible, they try to portray that with a lot of training and invested time, we can get close to what we want. This is true.
4. They never seek revenge (even if they are hurt badly) and forgive those who wronged them
Revenge is never the answer. It brings only more destruction to our lives. Try to focus on the positive aspects of life, and on bettering ourselves. Forgiveness helps us too.
5. They have flaws, and that’s okay
Whether it’s impulsivity, emotionality, or foolishness, they are far from perfect. They are only humans, after all. Just like us.
Who is not emotional and silly during his adolescence? While these traits are prevalent even in the general adolescent population, to depict them better, in the typical shounen protagonist’s world, they are over the top to notice them better.