Shonen is one of the most, if not the most, popular genres of manga, and it’s easy to see why with series like One Piece, Naruto, Dragon Ball, Bleach, and more. There are a ton of shonen manga out there, and new shonen pop up what seems like every day, but which are the best?
There are many shonen classics on this list, but there is also modern shonen to get into as well. The classics are a great place for beginners, who are new to manga, to start, but they are staples that long-time readers of manga may want to check out as well if they have yet to do so. I wanted to pay homage to shonen’s past, and its present as well. With that in mind, I included a mix of older series that, while older, are still incredible to this day as well as new shonen manga that are shaping the future of the genre.
That all being said, here are the best shonen manga you need to check out! First, though, I want to talk briefly about what shonen is.
What is shonen?
Shonen manga, also written as shounen manga, are series that are targeted at a young male audience. While they aim to capture this demographic, they have a much wider reach and appeal and they are series that everyone, no matter what they are a fan of, can enjoy.
Shonen are typically action-packed, battle-oriented stories with main characters that have to rise to the occasion to protect that which they hold most dear. There’s a strong emphasis on friendship and camaraderie in these stories as well and they often are full of training arcs and adversity, which help our characters grow and develop.
Adventure is a big appeal of these series, but rivalry is something that is often explored in shonen too. Our main character almost always has a rival that pushes them to do better. These are just a few of the common themes seen in shonen, but there are many unique shonen titles that push the envelope to give us something new as well. While many of these series are lighthearted and fun reads, there are some that are quite dark too, especially in modern shonen, and many of these manga fall within different genres as well, including sports, sci-fi, comedy, and more.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima
A Silent Voice follows Shoya Ishida, a young boy who used to bully Shoko Nishimiya, a girl with a hearing disability. However, when Shoko transfers schools, Shoya, who was once the bully is now bullied himself. Now that he’s older and he knows what it feels like to be bullied by the students in his class, he regrets his actions. A few years later, Shoya meets Shoko again and he decides to make things right.
A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima is a heartwarming and tear-jerking series about the importance of second chances, but even more so than that, it’s a moving story about redemption and how people, with time and experience, can change. It’s also very much so a story about communication and how difficult it can be to express one’s emotions.
Few series have made me feel as much as A Silent Voice. More accurately, few series have made me cry as much as A Silent Voice. Amazingly, though, it not only had me crying sad tears, but happy tears as well. That being said, it’s one that will take you on an emotional, but also an inspiring journey, and it is one of the best and most profound manga I’ve ever read.
GTO by Tohru Fujisawa
GTO or Great Teacher Onizuka by Toru Fujisawa made it to the top of my list of ecchi manga, but it’s one of my favorite comedy manga as well. Even more so than that, though, GTO is one of the all-time greats in manga that, despite first being released in the late 90s, still rivals manga released today. If you like comedy manga series that are funny, but also have a good message, GTO is a must-read.
A big reason why GTO is so funny is our main character Eikichi Onizuka. Whether it’s his antics or mannerisms, his facial expressions, or the situations he finds himself in, Onizuka adds a lot of humor to this story. But, as you’ll learn over the course of the chapters, he’s so much more than the “funny guy”. Onizuka is a former gang member who becomes a teacher—and he’s the toughest, roughest, and brashest teacher you’ve ever seen.
He’s not afraid to break all the rules to reach his students, who are wild delinquents that are hard to teach let alone please. But he really connects with them on a deeper level and, with the help of his unconventional teaching methods, gets through to them one by one.
GTO is as fun as it is thought-provoking. More so than that, it’s a lesson in how a series with simple elements can be just as meaningful and worthwhile as one with complex ones. What it offers more so than anything though is heart and soul.
You can collect GTO via the singles released by Tokyopop, but they are one of the most expensive out-of-print manga series you can collect right now. I really hope we get a reprint someday!
Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Naruto is one of the first manga I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart. Even to this day, though, it’s still one of the best shonen manga I’ve read. Naruto is largely successful because of its characters. The story follows Naruto, a shinobi that houses the power of the Nine-Tails, on his journey to become Hokage. It has a large cast, so some characters do get cast a bit to the side, but the ones that are in the limelight most of the time are properly developed. It also has one of the best villain groups in all of shonen, the Akatsuki.
The battles in Naruto are one of its biggest strong suits. The fights are well-drawn and easy to follow. They are thrilling and action-packed but have meaning too. I also really enjoy the fact that most of the “bad guys” in this story are likable as well as redeemable. You can sympathize with them in some way or other thanks to the backstories they’ve been given, and this pulls you even more into the story.
If you are new to shonen, Naruto is one of the tops I recommend. You can collect it via the Naruto singles, manga box sets, or the 3-in-1 editions. Not sure which is the best edition for you? Check out my comparison of all three on YouTube below!
Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
When it comes to shonen classics, few are as recognizable as Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. In the West, Dragon Ball was released in two installments, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. A total of 42 volumes collect the main series. Since its release in the ’80s, many side-stories and spin-offs as well as a sequel titled Dragon Ball Super have been released. It’s been going strong for years and is oftentimes recognized as the grandfather of modern shonen manga, paving the way for other popular shonen series like Naruto and Hunter x Hunter that came after it.
Dragon Ball is full of adventures as we follow Goku and his friends on their journey to become stronger. In Dragon Ball, the story is about Goku’s childhood and his most formidable years, but in Dragon Ball Z, he’s an adult and faces new and formidable foes. It has some of the best battles and showdowns in all of shonen, and there’s just something about the constant powering up and growth of its characters, that keeps you wanting more.
There are currently seven different ways to collect Dragon Ball with English translation. I reviewed and compared them all, so you can find out which is the best Dragon Ball manga edition for you.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure by Hirohiko Araki
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a remarkable story about the Joestar family and their battle against evil, but for reasons I cannot spoil, it is so much more than that. It’s one of the most influential as well as best shonen manga to release to date, and it develops in ways that will continuously surprise as well as captivate you.
The first five parts of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Phantom Blood, Battle Tendency, Stardust Crusaders, Diamond Is Unbreakable, and Golden Wind, are shonen. The first three more so than the others, but as you get into the later parts, most notably Steel Ball Run and beyond, it becomes a seinen manga. If you are a fan of seinen and are looking to get into shonen manga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the tops, in addition to Claymore and Fist of the North Star, that I recommend.
If you get into the series and aren’t hooked by Phantom Blood, please stick with it, because it truly is one of the best to release and the series gets better with each part. I always thought JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was great, but it wasn’t until Part 3 that I felt it became amazing. It wasn’t until Part 4 and beyond, though, that I thought it was a masterpiece. Hirohiko Araki’s artwork develops incredibly over the course of the chapters and his panels and character designs are some of the best I’ve witnessed. And then there’s his style, which is one of the most distinct and recognizable.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is one of the most creative and unique shonen you can experience. It features exciting battles, has no shortage of interesting personalities, and it gets better and better as you keep reading.
Call of the Night by Kotoyama
Call of the Night is a modern take on a classic vampire romance manga and it’s one of my favorite ongoing shonen manga. Ko Yamori is a middle school boy who’s become bored with his current life and has developed a bad case of insomnia as a result. To deal with his trouble sleeping, Ko roams the streets at night. One night, he meets Nazuna, a vampire girl he’s determined to fall in love with.
To his surprise, Nazuna bites him, and before he knows it, he finds himself immersed in the world of the vampire. From then on, he has one goal, to become a vampire himself, so that he can enjoy the quiet of the night and forever escape the bores of everyday life. The path to achieving his goal is a little complicated, though, because vampires aren’t simply created with a bite in this story, they are born out of love.
What makes Call of the Night unique is that it not only takes inspiration from multiple different genres but that it makes use of them well. It has enough mystery to keep you guessing, but there’s a little bit of romance and elements of horror sprinkled in at times too.
Kotoyama’s depiction of the night, and its beauty, is compelling. There’s much to love about nighttime—the dark yet vibrant skylines, the neon or warm glow of the street lamps and lights, the emptiness of the streets, and commonly crowded areas like playgrounds, pools, and schools. Watching these two characters, Ko and Nazuna, grow and bond together in the nights they spend together, and their dynamic with one another, makes Call of the Night both an endearing and fun read.
Although romance and manga about vampires have long been intertwined, Call of the Night distinguishes itself with its great world-building and engaging characters, making it a standout in the genre.
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda
One Piece by Eiichiro Oda is an epic saga that’s full of adventure and it’s the most popular shonen manga of all time. It follows the journey of Luffy and the Straw Hat Pirates on their travels at sea, but it also highlights the friends and foes they meet along the way. There are many treasures to be found, but as seen in One Piece, friendship may be the best treasure of them all.
One area in which One Piece truly excels is its world-building. Eiichiro Oda created a completely unique world, where pirates and the military battle it out. There are many different regions in One Piece that keep things fresh and exciting as you read. You feel very much like you are exploring this world with Luffy and crew as they traverse the Blue Sea and beyond to islands, meet their people, and delve into their landscapes and customs.
With an incredible cast of characters, one of the best MCs in all shonen manga, and some of the best world-building I’ve seen, One Piece is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the reigning kings of shonen. You can currently collect One Piece with English translation via the singles, the manga box sets, and the 3-in-1 editions! I have a post as well as a video comparing all of the editions coming soon, so stay tuned.
Bleach by Tite Kubo
Bleach isn’t underrated by any means, but it is the most under-recognized of the big shonen series. For some reason, it doesn’t nearly get as much credit as it deserves. To me, Bleach is one of the most unique shonen series, because it has a gritty style as well as an edge that makes it far ahead of its time.
It’s as if Tite Kubo saw where manga was headed, because it feels very much in the vein of what’s popular in modern shonen manga, and his works influenced many of the creators that are popular today, including Gege Akutami (Jujutsu Kaisen). It’s one that has had a strong influence on the current landscape of shonen and it’s one that has a dark as well as a more mature tone than other shonen manga.
On top of having one of my favorite art styles in all of manga, Tite Kubo has created one of the best casts of characters in shonen, including some of the best female characters in the shonen genre. There is no shortage of interesting personalities in this one, and the various groups that exist in this manga, the Gotei 13, the Arrancars, the Quincy, etc, add a lot to the story too.
Bleach was released with English translation in singles, 3 manga box sets, and the 3-in-1 editions. To see a comparison of each, check out my review on YouTube below!
Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami
Jujutsu Kaisen‘s manga, which is created by Gege Akutami, rose to popularity within a short period of time, and with an exciting premise and some of the most interesting, likable characters, like some of my favorites Yuji Itadori, Megumi Fushiguro, Yuta Okkotsu, and Satoru Gojo, it’s easy to see why. It’s edgy, but not for the sake of being edgy, and it’s set in a dark world. I’m a huge fan of horror manga too, and Jujutsu Kaisen is one of the most horror-leaning shonen series, in addition to Chainsaw Man, that I’ve read.
This is a series that doesn’t hold any punches, which I really appreciate for a shonen because it really hones in the dangers that these characters are faced with. Gege Akutami makes sure that, even though Jujutsu Kaisen is set in an otherworldly place, it feels believable.
If you enjoy the series, be sure to check out Jujutsu Kaisen‘s prequel, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, as well!
Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto
Chainsaw Man is a recently released shonen manga by Tatsuki Fujimoto, who you may also know as the creator of Fire Punch. With an intriguing storyline, likable characters, and a darker tone, Chainsaw Man is one of the best new manga to come out in quite some time and it will tear, or more accurately saw, its way into your heart.
Some of the hunters join because they lost everything at the hands of the devils, others because they want money, while some are forced into it because they have no other choice. This creates an extremely diverse group of characters that, while different, are working together for the same cause; Somewhere along the line though, differences in personality are bound to happen and you always have those two characters that butt heads, which happen to be Aki Hayakawa and Denji.
These two characters highlight the difference between people, like Denji, who believe that good devils, like Pochita exist in the world, and Hayakawa, who believes that all devils are bad and deserve an excruciating death. So far, the dialogue and interaction between the characters in Chainsaw Man are done well.
There’s a narrative in this series that all devils are evil, but as Denji shows you, just like there are good and bad people in this world, there are also good and bad devils. This is one of the most exciting elements of Chainsaw Man, but it’s its absurdly entertaining approach that makes Chainsaw Man a true standout. It’s full of action and is wild, but it has a ton of heart and emotion packed within it as well.
Magi by Shinobu Ohtaka
Magi is a fantasy manga by Shinobu Ohtaka that takes place in a magical world where mysterious towers known as dungeons have appeared all across the land. The story follows the adventures of Aladdin, a young magician with a magic flute, and Alibaba, a former slave with ambitions of wealth and power, as they join forces to conquer the treacherous dungeons. On their journey, they encounter a cast of memorable allies and foes and uncover the deep and complex secrets of the world they live in.
Magi has a unique blend of action, comedy, politics, and philosophy that make it stand out from the rest. Even though the series explores complex themes such as slavery, war, greed, and justice, it manages to do so in a way that never feels too heavy. It has great comedic moments and heartwarming interactions between its characters, which add a lot of warmth to the story. Magi‘s characters are relatable and likable, but it’s set in a unique world too.
The world-building in Magi is top-notch, with vividly realized depictions of diverse cultures and mythologies. The characters are well-developed and memorable, each with their own motivations and internal struggles, and I really connected with their stories as a result. All in all, Magi is a series that’s full of action and adventure, but it will move you in unexpected ways as well.
D.Gray-man by Katsura Hoshino
D.Gray-man by Katsura Hoshino is a shonen that has a darker tone and great world-building. It’s set in a world where Akuma lurk in the shadows. Exorcists of the Black Order armed with weapons called Innocence are sent out to fight against them. One such exorcist is our main character Allen Walker, who joins the fight against the Akuma to prevent their leader, the Millennium Earl, from destroying the world.
D.Gray-man came out during a time when shonen series were blowing up, but it is one that flew somewhat under people’s radars. Because of this, it is one of the most underrated shonen manga, especially in comparison to others that were released around the same time, like Bleach and Naruto. Popularity, of course, isn’t everything. While not as popular, D.Gray-man is still one of the best. It has one of the best stories and some of the best art I’ve seen. More importantly, it’s unique and it’s unlike any other shonen I’ve ever read before.
Some volumes of D.Gray-man have been flickering in and out of stock. If you are looking to pick up the series, check out our manga restocks list for any expected restock dates that may be noted!
Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi
Hunter x Hunter‘s manga has been releasing since the late 90s, and it is still one of the highest-rated and top shonen manga of all time. It follows our MC, Gon, who dreams of becoming a legendary Hunter like his dad in order to one day find him. But to do so, he’ll have to pass a series of tests and overcome all of the obstacles that stand in his way.
The complex and endearing relationship between Gon and Killua is one of the biggest strong suits of Hunter x Hunter. As they work to find out who they want to be as individuals, they also have to navigate their friendship and the struggles that come with it.
On top of having amazing character dynamics, Hunter x Hunter has one of my favorite villain groups in all of shonen, the Phantom Troupe, and one of my favorite arcs of all time, the Chimera Ant Arc. This series is fun and full of adventure, but it’s one of the darkest shonen you’ll ever read and it delves into philosophical topics as well.
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa was first released in the early 2000s and it has become a beloved series that over the years has received two anime adaptations, the original 2003 series and a retelling titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that was released in 2009, and various manga releases, including paperback volumes, 3-in-1’s, a complete box set, and most recently, the Fullmetal Editions.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a tale about two brothers and alchemists, Ed and Alphonse, who lost a lot in their attempt to bring back their mother via the forbidden art of human transmutation. We follow them on their journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone to recover that which they lost, but there are many obstacles as well as dark plots that stand in their way.
While the artwork in Fullmetal Alchemist is rather simplistic, the emotion that Hiromu Arakawa coveys in her panels are amazing and the overall world and settings that these characters explore are interesting to witness. It’s one that has its fair share of comedic moments, but it’s one of the darker and more serious titles on this list, and it features incredible storytelling.
Assassination Classroom by Yusei Matsui
Assassination Classroom is a unique shonen and sci-fi manga that takes a hard look at the education system. Not only does it showcase various teaching styles over the course of the series, but it showcases the individual strengths and talents of the students in Class 3-E, a misfit class that is tasked with sharpening not only their skills as a student but their assassination skills as well. Their target? Their otherworldly teacher Korosensei looks like a yellow octopus and has a myriad of unbelievable powers and abilities, including the ability to move at Mach 20 speed, regeneration, and more.
The students in Class 3-E, which are excluded from Kunugigaoka Junior High School, struggled in their studies in the past, but Korosensei sees the potential in them from day one. He notices their strengths and weaknesses and changes his teaching style in order to best help each student. Korosensei even takes an AI under his wing. He treats everyone the same, but differently as well, to foster their strengths, improve on their weaknesses, and ultimately, help them reach their full potential.
On one hand, you see Korosensei being such an incredible teacher, one you’d dream to have yourself, but on the other hand, you are told from the start that he’s a threat to humanity. Not only did he allegedly blow up part of the moon, but he also plans to do the same to Earth as well unless one of the students assassinate him within a set timeframe. So it’s an interesting dynamic. You see the students really grow to love and appreciate Korosensei, but they are also always trying to assassinate him as well.
There is a very serious tone to this manga and it has a lot to say, especially in regard to education, but it’s funny and heartfelt as well. On top of all that, it has an incredible cast of characters. Even though it’s a large cast too, each character is given their time in the spotlight, so you’ll connect with them all. It focuses a lot on the group dynamic but spends time highlighting each individual as well, which is unique.
It’s one of my all-time favorite shonen manga, and while it’s loved by many, it’s still underrated in comparison to other series in the genre.
Black Clover by Yuki Tabata
Black Clover by Yuki Tabata is one I’d classify as an underrated shonen manga. It’s one that’s often criticized for being too similar to Naruto, but as a fan of Naruto and someone who’s read the entire series, I don’t see where the similarities lie aside from Asta and Yuno’s rivalry, which is similar to Naruto and Sasuke’s, or Asta’s motivations to become the Wizard King, which are like Naruto’s motivations to become the Hokage. This isn’t a proprietary thing to Naruto, though. Rivalries and main characters with lofty aspirations are common in shonen, and have been since the very beginning.
Black Clover follows Asta, a loud and lively orphan that possesses no magic even though he lives in a world that’s full of it. He, along with his childhood friend Yuno that lives at the orphanage with him, both have dreams to become the Wizard King. Unlike Asta though, Yuno is gifted with the ability to use powerful wind magic. This difference in skill doesn’t hold Asta back by any means, and he still works hard training his body every day, to reach his goals.
When both of them turn 15, they head off to receive their Grimoires, which allow them to use their magic at full capacity. Yuno receives one with the legendary four-leaf clover, but Asta receives none. When Asta successfully fights off a mage that’s trying to steal Yuno’s Grimoire, a mysterious Grimoire with a black five-leaf clover appears. This is where both of their journeys begin, but there’s so much more to this story. Black Clover is a series that’s full of surprises, unexpected turns and reveals. It’s a shonen that has genuinely surprised me with its twists and turns, which is rare, and this is a big reason as to why I love it so much.
While being set in a magical world isn’t all that unique, everything about Black Clover, and the world it’s set in, feels fresh, and this becomes even more evident in the later chapters. It has a phenomenal cast of characters that have unique abilities, fun group dynamics, captivating villains, thrilling and action-packed battles, and great art, and it only gets better and better with the release of each new chapter.
Deadman Wonderland by Jinsei Kataoka & Kazuma Kondou
If you enjoy seinen and you are looking for a shonen to get into, Deadman Wonderland is one I always recommend because it is one of the most graphic and mature shonen I’ve ever read. It also has a fair share of gore as well, which is unique for a shonen.
In this story, our main character is framed for the murders of his classmates and he is sent to Deadman Wonderland, a prison that also serves as a tourist attraction. There, he will have to fight in high-stakes death games against other inmates all the while trying to uncover the mystery of the Red Man, whose crimes he is paying for.
in addition to Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ohba, who created Death Note and Bakuman, Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou is one of my favorite duos in manga. They are amazing individually, but when they come together, they are unstoppable. The character designs and art in Deadman Wonderland are incredible. The panels are full of detail, the use of perspective is great, and they make an impact. There’s mystery, suspense, and twist and turns in this one that makes it compelling too and the way the story develops is top-notch.
Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo
In Soul Eater, you are introduced to a weapon meister named Maka, whose main desire and goal is to make her weapon Soul a death scythe. In this world, there are humans that can take on the forms of various weapons, and their meisters, who they are compatible with, wield them. For instance, Soul takes on the form of a scythe. The meisters are tasked with reaping tainted souls, but there’s of course much more to this story than that. I just want to keep it kind of vague so I don’t spoil anything, but the characters in this story are incredible.
I love the dynamics between the meisters and their weapons, but the dynamic of the group as a whole is also great. The teachers are awesome, so Soul Eater is full of memorable characters. Atsushi Ohkubo also has a unique art style and you really see him develop as an artist in Soul Eater. I also want to mention that he is the creator behind another recent favorite of mine, Fire Force, so if you enjoyed Soul Eater, this is one to look into too.
All in all, I just really enjoy his works and I love the gothic setting of Soul Eater. It’s fun to read, but it has serious moments as well. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I really appreciate this about the series. I highly recommend reading it, and if you are looking for the best way to collect the series, the singles, or the Soul Eater Perfect Editions, be sure to check out my review on YouTube below!
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun by Osamu Nishi
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun has been releasing since 2017 in Japan and it is finally getting an English print release thanks to Kodansha. It is one of my most anticipated new manga releases of 2023. You may have already watched the anime, which is incredible as well, but the manga is even better, in my opinion.
It has a great sense of humor and lighthearted comedic moments, fun as well as lovable characters, and the fantasy demon world that this one is set in and the world-building in this one makes it a true joy to read. It is an isekai manga with a unique setup and story.
Our MC, Iruma, is transported to another world when his parents sign a contract with Sullivan, a high-ranking demon. He will have to keep the fact that he’s a human hidden and convince everyone he’s a demon, which becomes increasingly more difficult when he begins attending demon school. Of course, though, there’s more to this story than we initially realized.
A lot of the humor in the series is a result of Iruma’s interactions with the students as well as his teachers, but it’s through them that he also begins to learn a lot about himself and begins to grow as an individual and form strong bonds with others. The characters are lovable too. It’s just a fun and amazing read. I highly recommend checking Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun out if you haven’t already when it begins releasing in Spring 2023!
Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
Hiro Mashima is a creator I love. He’s brought us series like Rave Master and Edens Zero, but his most well-known series is Fairy Tail. Fairy Tail is one of the most popular shonen manga series released to date, and it’s popular for good reason. With some of the best character development and one of the most interesting worlds, Fairy Tail is one of the best shonen to release so far.
Fairy Tail has one of the best casts of characters in shonen and the group dynamics are fun and interesting. As you watch the ragtag band of misfits that is the Fairy Tail guild work together to overcome the challenges that stand in their way, you grow closer to them not only as individuals but as a group too. You have your quintessential good and bad guys in this story, but there are characters that exist in the gray area also. These characters’ storylines, in particular, add a lot of interest to the plot.
Fairy Tail emphasizes the power of friendship and bonding together to overcome adversity. You watch these characters spend time together in their free time, but it’s still a battle-oriented series that’s chock-full of realistic power-ups. This one has no training arcs too, so if you are looking for a shonen that gets into the thick of things quickly, you’ll want to check out Fairy Tail!
Death Note by Takeshi Obata & Tsugumi Ohba
Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata are two of my favorite manga creators. Not only do I enjoy the series they’ve created together, like Death Note and Bakuman, but I also enjoy the series that Takeshi Obata has worked on with others like Hikaru no Go or All You Need Is Kill. Death Note is one of my all-time favorites of theirs as well as one of my top manga of all time, and it has a unique and thrilling storyline as well as amazing art that puts it in a world of its own.
Death Note follows Light Yagami, who finds himself with immense power thanks to the Death Note—a notebook that allows the user to kill a person simply by writing their name it as long as they’ve also seen their face.
Since he envisions a world where crime is a thing of the past, Light takes justice into his own hands and starts dealing punishment via the Death Note. This attracts the attention of law enforcement, who enlist L to capture him. What then ensues is a game of cat and mouse between L and Light.
As two incredibly intelligent and strategic individuals, L and Light’s battle is one of wits. And even though there’s no hand-to-hand combat or physical fights, the battle between these two minds is not short on action or suspense.
The most exciting thing about Death Note, though, is its take on moral dilemmas. With great power comes great responsibility, but when said power gets put in the hands of a high school student who thinks he’s a god, lines are bound to be crossed. It’s just a really interesting premise, and you’ll find yourself more and more captivated as the story unravels.
Want to find out which is the best way to collect the series? Check out my comparison of all of the Death Note manga editions on YouTube below!
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue
Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue is one of the best sports manga of all time. Slam Dunk is not simply limited though to just being one of the best basketball manga; It’s one of the best manga to release to date. And one can see why with Takehiko Inoue, the mind that also brought us stellar releases like Vagabond and Real, at the helm. To have not one, but three masterpieces under his belt is impressive, to say the least.
When pressed to choose between these three though, I have a hard time choosing. That being said, there’s something about Slam Dunk that’s undeniable. It’s suspenseful and thrilling, has a great sense of humor, and has an unforgettable cast of characters. But it’s how he conveys the emotion of the players, whether they are celebrating a win or contemplating a loss, that really sets him apart. These emotions are one’s you’ll feel as well, so Slam Dunk and the games within the series, really invoke an emotional response.
The team dynamic is a focal point of Slam Dunk and this is one of its strong suits. While most manga really hones in on one or two or three main characters, Slam Dunk highlights the entire cast. You really get behind the teams as a result. As you are reading as well, you feel the passion that the players have for basketball. Not only that, but Takehiko Inoue’s passion for basketball is very evident as well.
When someone writes about something they are passionate about and conveys that passion through characters who are just as passionate about it, it’s hard not to feel that passion or even develop a passion for it within yourself. The way that Slam Dunk and Takehiko Inoue can connect with you as the reader is truly special.
Slam Dunk can currently be collected via the singles released by Viz. I know the stock for many of the series volumes has been in and out, so they have been quite difficult to get. I am keeping track of the volumes over on our manga restocks list, and will notify you guys on there if any of the volumes come back in stock!
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of series that has made a lasting impact not only on fans but the industry as well. Not only has the Attack on Titan manga made waves as one of the best-selling manga of all time, but its anime adaptation has also, reaching new heights as the most popular TV show in the US the week Attack on Titan‘s final season began airing. Later on, we learned that there aren’t going to be two, but three parts in Attack on Titan‘s last season.
With the manga being complete and the final season wrapping up, it’s a bittersweet feeling, but there’s a lot to celebrate as well, especially given how much the series has grown and flourished over the years to become the colossal titan it is now.
Attack on Titan is equal parts mystery, horror, action, and drama. There are a lot of working parts to this series yet it still manages to feel cohesive. On top of all that, it has one of the most well-thought-out and interesting lores in all of shonen.
There are currently four different ways you can collect Attack on Titan!
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi
Claymore by Norihiro Yagi is one of my favorite dark fantasy manga, and while it’s classified as a shonen, it feels close to a seinen to me. If you are looking for a manga like Berserk, which is my all-time favorite series by the way, Claymore is one of the first I always recommend. Both have a similar feel and setting, but Claymore is unique because it features a strong female lead and it is one of the more mature titles you can read in shonen.
In Claymore, monsters called Yoma, who live amongst humans in disguise, prey on villages. The only people who can seek out, and fight against, these monsters are Claymores—half-human, half-monster hybrids that possess supernatural strength. The Yoma aren’t the only thing they must fight against, though.
With such strong impulses, they must ensure they remain more human than monster, or risk losing it all. Our main protagonist, Clare, is an expert swordsman and Claymore, and we follow her story. Her main goal is to hunt down an Awakened Being named Priscilla that killed her adoptive mother, Theresa.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotouge
In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Tanjiro and Nezuko are forced out of their quaint and quiet life after losing everything at the hands of a demon. During the attack, Nezuko was transformed into a demon, so Tanjiro sets out to find a way to return her back to normal. But, he also wants to avenge his family and bring an end to the demon who killed them all. You’ll experience every emotion as you follow them on their journey and experience the joys and troubles they’ll meet along the way.
The characters are one of Demon Slayer‘s biggest strengths. Both the heroes and villains of the series have interesting stories and personalities. As a result, the dialogue and fights between the two are exciting to witness. But, it’s the relationships in Demon Slayer that I find to be the most endearing.
And then you have the setting, which is inspired by Taisho-era Japan. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is set in the past, but it feels so modern and current, and it’s this blend that makes it such an exciting read. It has a gripping story that, while dark, is also full of light thanks to characters, like Tanjiro, whose gentle and kind heart is warming to watch.
If you enjoy the manga, I highly recommend checking out the anime as well. The anime, as an adaptation, is one of the best, and they’ve done an amazing job at celebrating Demon Slayer‘s distinct and bold art style. I actually enjoyed the anime even more than the manga, because of how beautifully animated the series is, especially the fight scenes. The manga is still incredible, nonetheless, and it’s one of the best shonen manga to release so far.
Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo
Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo is an action comedy manga, so it is as action-packed as it is fun to read. With a core group of characters that develop incredibly over the course of the chapters both individually and as a unit, it’s impossible not to love.
Spy x Family is a story about an immensely charming family that is anything but typical. The father, Loid aka Twilight, is a spy, the mother, Yor, is an assassin, and the daughter, Anya, is a telepath. They were all brought together by Twilight because he needed a family to complete a mission that requires him to infiltrate the highly prestigious Eden Academy to get close to his target, Donovan Desmond.
As far as characters go, Spy x Family features a lot of interesting and likable personalities. Loid and Yor are two of my favorites, but Anya is the shining star of the bunch with her funny expressions and remarks. The faces she makes are comedy gold. She also has a big heart, which adds a lot of endearing moments to Spy x Family as well.
This is a family of mysterious misfits that share more in common than they realize. Each with secrets of their own that make for an interesting dynamic, and this, in turn, adds a lot of humor to the dialogue and interactions between them. And of course, there’s the fact that Anya knows everyone’s secrets, but keeps this a secret as well, which makes this scenario that much more comical.
Spy x Family kept me laughing, but it also moved me as well. I feel deeply connected to the plight of its characters, which keeps me emotionally invested in the series. A big part of its appeal is its thrilling and dramatic scenes, but its story keeps you hooked also. For these reasons and more, it’s one of the best new comedy manga series to release within quite some time!
An anime for Spy x Family began airing in April 2022. It’s fun experiencing the series in action, but I highly recommend checking out the manga too!
Eyeshield 21 by Riichiro Inagaki & Yusuke Murata
When I heard there was an American football manga written by Dr. Stone‘s Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by One Punch Man‘s Yusuke Murata, I knew I had to get it. It’s a 37-volume series that has a perfect balance of action and comedy, which make it as inspiring as it is funny. On top of all that, it is an underdog story, which always tends to capture my heart, but none have captured my heart quite as much as Eyeshield 21 and its MC Sena Kobayakawa.
The story follows Sena Kobayakawa, a student at Deimon Private High School that’s a target for bullies. One day, he angers them, but he manages to get away from them thanks to his quick speed. This is all witnessed by the quarterback of the Deimon Devil Bats football team and one of the stars of this story, Youichi Hiruma. He recruits Sena to be the team’s running back, but he ends up becoming much more than that—their secret weapon.
You have Riichiro Inagaki’s masterful storytelling, which is brought even further to life in the panels by Yusuke Murata’s art. He is a master at perspective and that is very present here in Eyeshield 21. But where this story really shines is its characters, which have unique and colorful personalities, and the team dynamics. It’s one of the best sports manga released to date and it’s well worth the read whether you are a fan of American football or not!
Dandadan by Yukinobu Tatsu
Dandadan by Yukinobu Tatsu is quite the trip. This is one that a lot of people may already recognize because it was recommended by two of my favorite manga creators, Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of Chainsaw Man and Fire Punch, and Yuji Kaku, the creator of Hell’s Paradise, which is getting an anime adaptation, and Ayashimon. This definitely makes sense because Yukinobu Tatsu was an assistant to both of them.
If you haven’t checked out Dandadan yet, the story follows Momo Ayase, who comes across a boy named Ken Takakura that’s being bullied. Because of her kind heart and her knack for jumping into situations without thinking, she ends up confronting the bullies and saving Ken. Ken then takes this opportunity to try and make a friend and attempts to connect with her by talking about one of his favorite topics: The occult. Ayase rejects his claims and says she doesn’t believe in aliens, but that she does, however, believe in ghosts. Funny enough though, Ken doesn’t believe in ghosts.
The two break out in an argument and set up a challenge to determine who’s correct; Ayase will head to a fabled local alien hot spot and Ken will head to a fabled local ghost hot spot. When they both reach their destinations though, it turns out that both of them were right. Not only do aliens exist, but ghosts do as well. Thus begins their wild journey as they attempt to navigate the supernatural and sci-fi worlds they’ve stumbled into and work together to return their lives back to normal.
There is a charm to Dandadan that is undeniable and it’s absurd in the best way possible. This one had me saying “What the hell am I reading,” especially when I first got into it. Aliens obsessed with bananas and a turbo granny, that’s all I’m going to leave you with. Definitely not a bad thing though, because I loved every second of it. It’s quirky and wacky but in a lovable and funny way.
Dandadan is set in a world that has both sci-fi elements, like aliens, and supernatural elements, like ghosts, in it. Instead of focusing on one or the other, the two collide in this world, and this makes it unique and intriguing.
Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate
Haikyuu!! by Haruichi Furudate is the best volleyball manga, but it’s also one of the best sports manga to release so far. Not just because of its characters, but also because it emotionally invests you in its story. Few sports manga have made me feel as much as Haikyuu!!. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and feel victorious but also feel defeated at times as well; Everything an athlete could feel, you’ll feel too while reading Haikyuu!!.
The character development in Haikyuu!! is expertly done as well. Haruichi Furudate gave each and every character their moment or moments to shine and you feel connected to them all as a result. The dynamics between the teams as well as the players are also interesting. You have some players who have joined new teams, so what was once their rivals are now their teammates, and this adds even more interest to the story.
Haikyuu!! is one that I feel is a great gateway manga for fans who aren’t typically into sports but are looking to explore the world of sports manga, but it’s also one that die-hard fans of volleyball will love as well!
Blue Lock by Muneyuki Kaneshiro & Yusuke Nomura
The hype is real for this Blue Lock, and rightfully so, because it’s not just a unique take for a football or soccer manga, but it’s a unique stand-out in shonen manga as well. Not only does it focus on one position of the sport, but it’s one that takes a different approach from any other I’ve read before.
Blue Lock follows 300 of the best strikers in Japan as they take on the experimental program, Blue Lock, which is designed to create the ultimate striker that’ll lead Japan to win their first-ever World Cup. It’s like this survival of the fittest, almost prison-like setting where they are thrown through various obstacles and challenges. They are ranked from the very start based on their abilities and while this creates animosity between some of the players, it also fosters growth in our characters by pushing them to be better.
When it comes down to it, Blue Lock is entertaining. The way the motion and auras of these players are conveyed through the art is unparalleled. It makes the sports look cool, but I also feel the way that it is drawn is really accurate as well in regards to the movements of the players and their moves. It’s thrilling and adrenaline-inducing, but it’s also touching at times as well as you see these players pool together to navigate this survival of the fittest setting, while at the same discovering their own reasons for playing the sport and further honing their techniques.
Blue Lock is getting an anime in 2022, so definitely keep an eye out for that as well. I am really looking forward to seeing the action and characters in this manga come to life on screen. The Blue Lock manga is also being printed in English for the first time by Kodansha beginning in the Summer of 2022, so you’ll be able to pick up physical copies of the series soon!
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku by Yuji Kaku
While I love shonen, I’ve been in search of something that’s more brazen in its approach for quite some time; Something different, something more graphic and bloody, but still has an interesting story. Luckily, I got all this and then some with Chainsaw Man, but I’m happy to add Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku to the list as well.
This comes as no surprise really though, because Yuji Kaku previously worked as an assistant to Tatsuki Fujimoto, the creator of both Fire Punch and Chainsaw Man. For me, Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku feels like a shonen, but at other times, it feels a lot like a seinen. With that said, it falls somewhere in the middle of the two for me, and as a fan of both, I really appreciate this about the series.
Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku initially hooked me with the introduction of Gabimaru the Hollow, who’s painted as this heartless, bloodthirsty killer, but you learn deep down he’s anything but. It is true that he is fearsome and will cut down any and all who stand in his way, but only when provoked or put in a position where it’s kill or be killed. That is then, of course, paralleled with the way he kills, which is pretty gruesome, to say the least.
There’s a stone-cold nature to Gabimaru that has been ingrained in him due to his upbringing, but that coldness within him is thawing thanks to the warmth and love he feels for his wife. He’s offered a second chance and you really push for him to get the normal life he desires.
Even though the art in Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku features some gruesome content, I still find Yuji Kaku’s art style to be beautiful. The way he depicts certain scenes is really impactful and the story could be told alone through his art. With such amazing illustrations, I always worry that the story-telling won’t be on the same level, but that’s not the case here. Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is visually-appealing, but it also has a gripping story, and it’s one of the few manga as of late that has excelled in both areas.
There’s a strong emphasis in this world between hell and paradise, and as you learn on the island of Shinsenkyo, more often than not, what is seen as a paradise is often hell. Similarly, the line between a blessing and a curse is sometimes very thin. In Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku, people are in search of the fabled elixir that grants everlasting life.
Immortality is thought to be a blessing, but in all reality, it is more so a curse. It is this constant search for immortality that continues to draw people to this island, where those who are “lucky” enough to survive return with lumps and various flora growing out of their bodies. While terrifying, they return, as odd as this sounds, looking like “art installations” crafted by a psychopath, like those you’d see from murderer Rikako Oryo in Psycho Pass. These scenes really drive home just how dangerous and horror-filled this place is. And who better to send to explore this unknown, unforgiving island than a bunch of criminals that were going to be executed anyway?
The island is full of unknown terrors, and the mystery it holds keeps me reading, but it’s the emotional moments you get from characters, like Gabimaru and Sagiri, that has me hooked even more. One of its major appeals is the sheer amount of violence that occurs in this series, but the story is never sacrificed by any means. As a result, Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is one of the best shonen manga to debut within quite some time. The 13th and final volume of Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku was released, so it’s a relatively short read as well.
Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi
Gintama by Hideaki Sorachi is up there with Grand Blue Dreaming for me, because it’s made me laugh out loud more times than I can count. It is one of the most hilarious manga I’ve ever read in addition to being one of my favorite sci-fi manga. In my opinion, Gintama is the best shonen of all time. Not only is it set in a unique, sci-fi world, but it also has a wonderful sense of humor, perfect comedic timing, and an incredible cast of characters.
A lot of people love Gintama because of its humor, including me, but to say that Gintama is just a comedy would be doing it a disservice. Even though the series’ absurdness and Hideaki Sorachi’s sense of humor are a large part of its appeal and success, Gintama has so much more to offer.
Gintama gets serious later on, and while its main character Gintoki is a lovable dope, he’s a complete badass as well. It’s a well-balanced series that is chock-full of sidesplitting as well as action-packed panels, but it has relatable characters and moments that will connect with you on a deeper level too.
Another thing about Gintama that I love is the fact that it’s episodic, but it also has an overarching story that ties everything together. The story follows Gintoki and his friends at Odd Jobs, who take on a myriad of different requests. It’s set in the Edo period, but aliens called Amanto have taken over, so it has a very unique and interesting world.
Gintama was released with English translation by Viz, but only 23 of the 77 volumes were released. Here’s hoping the series is fully translated one day because it definitely deserves it!
These are the best shonen manga you can read! Shonen is a vast category in manga, so there is a lot of series I still want to add to this list, so stay tuned for more. If you are interested in manga recommendations, be sure to browse our manga recommendations! And if you want to know what new shonen manga are on the way in the future, check out all of the new manga releasing in 2023.