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10 Great Shonen Anime Series With Terrible Reputations


One Piece continues to be one of the season’s most popular anime series despite being nearly two decades old and that’s a testament to the power of a great shonen with satisfying plot development. Of course, the show hasn’t always had the best reputation, with many seeing it as inaccessible and a show that requires the viewer to watch an absurd amount of episodes to begin enjoying.

Those who do get into it consider it one of the best ever made though, which shows how misleading a reputation can be. From Tokyo Ghoul and Naruto to Black Clover and Food Wars, these great shonen series don’t deserve their often negative public perception.


Akame Ga Kill! (2014)

Akame holds her sword against an enemy in Akame Ga Kill

Based on the highly-rated manga of the same name, Akame ga Kill! tells the story of a boy named Tatsumi who joins a group of assassins who aim to bring down the greedy prime minister who has left their nation in ruins. Despite an interesting premise, the series is mostly remembered for brutal but unimpactful character deaths.

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Critics often call out the show’s unnecessarily edgy tone and for not developing characters enough for their deaths to be that meaningful, and its reputation isn’t helped by the fact that manga fans feel the conclusion differed too much from the source material. However, as a dark anime with stylish action, it still delivers an enjoyable experience that’s worth overlooking some flaws.

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (2015)

Soma presents a dish in Food Wars

Food Wars! is a show with plenty of great reviews that even sits comfortably in the top 400 series on MyAnimeList so it arguably has a strongly positive reputation amongst those who actually watched it. For outsiders and viewers who only saw an episode or two, its reputation is considerably more complicated.

That’s because it’s hard to ignore the gratuitous fanservice scenes where characters experience “foodgasms” from eating delicious food, and it’s understandable why this would be enough to put people off. For anime fans that can look past this, Food Wars! is actually an incredibly solid shonen anime and easily one of the best cooking anime too.

Tokyo Ghoul (2014)

Natsuki Hanae voices Ken Kaneki in the anime Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul has always been a divisive anime, with many disagreeing about the merits of an unapologetically dark show and its half-human, half-ghoul protagonist. With the most recent installment, Tokyo Ghoul:re, being considered a big disappointment even by many fans, public perception of the show may be at its lowest point.

However, the issues with Tokyo Ghoul:re arguably shouldn’t affect the reputation of the original seasons, especially as it’s more of a soft reboot than anything else. Taken on its own, Tokyo Ghoul may not have the most groundbreaking plot, but there’s no denying the whole gory package isn’t darkly compelling.

Darling In The Franxx (2018)

The main cast of Darling in the Franxx in promotional artwork

Some shows suffer as a direct result of how hyped they are when they first appear and that’s the case with Darling in the Franxx. An imaginative sci-fi mecha anime, it’s easy to see why many instantly drew comparisons with the critically lauded Neon Genesis Evangelion though Darling In The Franxx leans more towards romance.

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Unfortunately, after a very strong start, fans were blindsided by an ending that seemed incredibly rushed and to not do the rest of the show justice at all. Along with just not being particularly stand-out enough to earn the huge amount of hype it received anyway, it was the nail in the coffin for the show’s reputation despite the fact it’s a surprisingly well-made series with some undeniably memorable episodes.

Fairy Tail (2009)

Lucy and Natsu from Fairy Tail

It may be one of the most popular shonen anime series of the last couple of decades but Fairy Tail just doesn’t enjoy the revered status of some of its contemporaries and there are several reasons for that. The show suffers from many of the negative clichés surrounding shonen anime, including filler episodes and one-dimensional characters.

That’s why some see the show as an example of what’s wrong with the genre. However, Fairy Tail is popular for a reason beyond just nostalgia. With its lighthearted atmosphere and conventional style, the show works as a kind of shonen anime comfort food and, for that reason, many will enjoy it a ton regardless of its reputation.

Black Clover (2017)

Asta holds his sword high and looks up in Black Clover

First impressions are everything in entertainment and, for the most part, if a show can’t win over the viewer in the first few episodes then it’s never likely to be given much of a chance. That was the problem that affected Black Clover when it first aired, as many were instantly put off by the main character’s voice and personality.

Though Asta was always intended to start off as loud and overdramatic, a lot of viewers simply weren’t willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and that seemed to dominate the public perception of the show for a while. Those who did endure were rewarded with masterful character development and an amazing conclusion that left many wanting more of the anime.

Edward and Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 anime

Not to be confused with the second attempt at adapting the Fullmetal Alchemist manga into an anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which is widely considered one of the best shonen anime ever made, Fullmetal Alchemist was the original attempt that ended up deviating heavily from the manga, especially with its controversial ending.

As a result of this, the inferior animation quality, and some odd choices in general, many fans of Brotherhood assume that the original is just not a good adaptation and thus not worth watching. However, they would be smart to ignore the negative perception and make their own judgments as, with its higher dedication to character development and darker tone, some even prefer the older version.

One Piece (1999)

Luffy leading his band of Straw Hat Pirates in the One Piece anime

With well over a thousand episodes, the thing that many outsiders associate with the iconic pirate anime beyond its smiling, straw-hatted protagonist is its length which puts most other shonen series to shame. The downside of this is that a viewer needs to make a huge commitment in order to see the show at its best.

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For many, this has led to a perception that it’s a show where the viewer needs to endure a lot of bad before they get to the good, but fans would argue this isn’t the case at all. Whilst the animation might not start out top-notch and there is no shortage of filler, the show begins in a confident fashion before turning into what many consider one of the greatest anime ever.

Naruto (2002)

A poster for the 2002 Naruto series

Though most of the highest-rated shonen anime all contain their fair share of filler episodes that don’t really do anything to advance the plot or develop the characters, Naruto‘s reputation suffers more from this than any other. That might be partly deserved though as, in its 220-episode run, some put the number of filler episodes at nearly half.

However, if any show is considered worth enduring the filler then it’s Naruto, with its iconic characters and unforgettable action. Whilst guides can inform new viewers about which episodes are filler, so they know to skip them, many are enjoyable little diversions anyway that don’t detract from the experience nearly as much as Naruto‘s reputation would suggest.

One Punch Man Season 2nd Season (2019)

Saitama One-Punch Man Season 2

Whilst the first season of One Punch Man is considered by many to be an amazing take on shonen anime, the second season came out to a lukewarm response from fans and critics. Even some of the fans that loved season 1 often discourage viewers from watching season 2 of Saitama’s story if they can avoid it.

In truth, the problem with the second season isn’t so much that it’s actually bad but just that it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. With a massive change of staff from the first season, even the visuals are a far cry from the amazing first season. When taken alone on its own though, there’s a surprising amount to like about the season, especially in its hilarious sense of humor.

NEXT: 10 Worst Anime Reboots Of All Time

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