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10 shonen cliches that people like

Vegeta going berserk in Dragon Ball Super (Image via Toei Animation)
Vegeta going berserk in Dragon Ball Super (Image via Toei Animation)
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Joshua Corvington

Whilst many cliches in shonen anime aren't good in abundance, there are those that stand the test of time and continue to be beloved.

Tropes are not bad. They are writing tools that have their own usage. Quite a few in shonen anime can be fun and classic. From the power of friendship to good fillers, there are many notable cliches that people can't help but love.

These are 10 shonen cliches that people enjoy.

Note: The following article contains spoilers for multiple anime and only reflects the opinions of the author.


The 10 cliches in shonen that everyone likes

1) The power of friendship

Watch out villains, he’s got the most important anime power of all, the power of friendship. #YuYuHakusho https://t.co/ycP4Hoyx3a

As derided as this entry is, it's worth noting that plenty of anime don't have protagonists function as independently as one may think. In fact, it's a staple of several anime that the main character should not shoulder every burden by themselves.

Friendship and love is weaponized in several different anime spanning genres from shonen to seinen to Magical Girl, to great effect (The Spirit Bomb, the Sailor Planet Attack and various other power ups).

The Sailor Team's group maneuver "Sailor Planet Power" — which was similar to and eventually replaced by "Sailor Planet Attack" — first appeared in the Dream arc of the manga as "Sailor Planet Power Meditation". #SailorMoon #SailorMoonTrivia https://t.co/R6IYEIDE1A

Beyond weaponization, it's a great life lesson: don't be afraid to ask for help. Doubly so if trauma ties into it. It's a mature theme, showing that humans are meant to help each other and be there for each other.


2) Determined and kind-hearted protagonists

i never give up, i never go back on my word, that's my nindo, my ninja way ~Naruto #Quote #KHL http://t.co/cLof2mjbkO

Cliche? Yes, but one that many have taken to heart. From Ash Ketchum in Pokemon to Goku in Dragon Ball, the list goes on, the kindhearted determination to never give up on people and the world is ultimately a good thing.

For all the selfish messages out there, those that say to give up and turn their back on people needing help, these protagonists plant their feet firmly on the ground and refuse to abandon anyone.


3) Heroes going berserk

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A friend or a loved one of the heroes has either been threatened, severely injured, or killed by the villain. The villain begins to laugh or gloat about how useless it is to continue resisting. Suddenly, a howl of rage and fury. The lead character bursts at the villain in sheer rage and begins tearing into them.

Super Saiyan 1 Goku against Frieza, Deku against Muscular, Jotaro beating DIO, one is spoilt for such moments. It's always worth seeing a hero absolutely tear into a villain, especially one that's avoided punishment until then.


4) Good Filler

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Despite being a dreaded cliche, its execution can elicit plenty of favorable opinions. Filler can help flesh out personalities, backstory, and worldbuilding. It can be a breather from all the intense fighting going on, fleshing out a lesser used character, helping a relationship along, and so on and so forth.

A humorous example is the famous Goku and Piccolo driving episode in Dragon Ball Z, where they end up racing and crashing the cars as a break from the epic Frieza Saga.

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A few miserable examples include the Kakashi and Itachi backstory arcs that fill in the gaps from their origins. They explored how both characters had to either abandon their loved one's principles or outright massacre them. These filler arcs do a wonderful job giving further context to why people act the way they do.

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5) Rivals

いろいろなキャラを描いてみよう!(ジャンプライバル・仲間編) https://t.co/03LazzBK9l

Rival characters aren't a cliche unique to Shonen anime, but the genre is replete with such figures - Vegeta, Bakugo, Killua, the list goes on. Yet, despite their ubiquity, rivals tend to get audiences excited.

The audience is either excited to see their rivals get what's coming to them, or in some cases think they are better than the lead. Vegeta from Dragon Ball had audiences rooting for him since he was always beaten up and never seemed to get a win (post Saiyan and Frieza saga).

Bakugo from My Hero Academia can be interesting to watch as he explodes at the slightest inconvenience. Even Seto Kaiba could be fun to watch, purely for his arrogance and love of dragons.


6) Villain trump cards/final forms

@ctbeiser "This isn't even my final form" - everything https://t.co/gOLv1j0vxo

As cliched to death as this entry may be, it's always nice to know villains have trump cards. A truly smart foe doesn't hedge everything into one attack or one plan.

Frieza in Dragon Ball Z had multiple forms, and even a Golden one in Super. Aizen from Bleach had his Shikai, and All For One in My Hero Academia had more than a few mutations.

Also, plans. Villains being lousy with schemes is a shonen trope that will not die. Aizen and Gendo Ikari, among others, have had so many plans and schemes that they pull out to stop the heroes.


7) Food loving protagonists

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Everyone loves to eat, right? Not as much as some anime protagonists. The amount of food they eat without gaining much weight can seem ludicrous. Fans love this cliche because the food often looks really delicious. Food Wars even has this as a feature.

One of the best arguments people have is who will win in an eating contest? The answers usually range from Goku to Luffy with the latter's Devil Fruit making his stomach bigger, and many others!


8) Shouting all the time!

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Screaming their attacks, rivals/villains' names or just screaming in rage in general! Normally so much screaming would be cringeworthy or bloodcurdling, but when used well in dramatic moments? It works!

Whether it's the Kamehameha being yelled in Dragon Ball or Naruto and Sasuke screaming each other's names in Naruto, this shonen cliche isn't going away anytime soon.


9) Training Arcs

Shounen Anime protagonists during their training arcsItadori Yuji: https://t.co/Ke1Yc9bDT2

Characters having to go through training can be fun to watch. Whether it's 100 times gravity for Dragon Ball or watching movies like in Jujutsu Kaisen, the main character having to make themselves better than they are is a key thing in most shonen anime.

Training from hell isn't exactly healthy unless someone needs a power up like the Kaio-Ken. It is, however, fun to see the results of training pay off when the hero is faster or smarter or even stronger than they were before.


10) "I wanna be the very best!"

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Usage of the Pokemon theme song aside, this is one of the core motivations for mainstay Shonen protagonists that hasn't died out. Deku from My Hero Academia is aiming to be a hero to put smiles on people's faces; Naruto wanting to be Hokage to aid people and gain love and recognition; Ash Ketchum from Pokemon wanting to be a Pokemon Master; Luffy wanting to be King of Pirates, the list goes on and on.

Bottom line, shonen protagonists usually want to be at the top for any number of reasons. That hasn't changed, and it is unlikely to do so because people like these types of motives.


Conclusion

These were the 10 shonen anime cliches that everyone likes. There are countless more on offer in other anime and it reminds us that tropes aren't necessarily bad.



Edited by Sijo Samuel Paul
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