While there is no dearth of shonen anime, many famous creators are only known for the famous animes. Akira Toriyama, for example, appears to be known solely as the creator of Dragon Ball. To be honest, many well-known creators have experimented with other anime and manga to broaden their horizons.
This list will feature ten underappreciated shonen anime and manga by well-known creators like Toriyama.
Disclaimer: The following article will contain spoilers for the various anime and manga profiled and likewise is subject to the author's opinion. The author has set a limit of two manga/anime per creator to keep the story as objective as possible.
10 underappreciated Shonen works by well-known creators
1) Sand Land (Akira Toriyama)
Sand Land is a lesser-known shonen manga created by acclaimed Dragon Ball Z creator Akira Toriyama. This manga, which unfortunately was never adapted into a shonen anime, is about a Mad Max-style quest for water in a world overrun by a greedy king hoarding the water.
It follows a group of heroes, including the demon prince Beelzebub, a friendly Thief, and Sheriff Rao, a former general in the king's army, as they steal a tank to fight off the king's forces and restore water.
This manga contains many of Toriyama's Dragon Ball staples, such as oddly designed characters, scattered humor, and a quest to stop a tyrant. Its lesser-known status is probably due to the fact that it only had one volume with 14 chapters.
Fans of the manga should check out the "Sand Land Project" website on December 17 for an announcement from Bandai Namco, as rumors suggest that a shonen anime adaptation is on the way.
2) Dr. Slump (Akira Toriyama)
Fans of Toriyama's work should be familiar with Dr. Slump. After all, Arale Norimaki made his debut here. To sum up, Dr. Slump is an entertaining shonen anime and manga about the naive Arale and her creator, Senei, and their misadventures in Penguin Village, a place where humans and anthropomorphic animals coexist.
While Dr. Slump is by no means unknown, as it launched Toriyama's career, sold over 35 million copies in Japan, and was awarded the Shogakukan Manga Award for shonen and shojo manga in 1981, it didn't last in public memory once Dragon Ball took over.
That said, the anime is available on streaming services such as Tubi, and is worth the watch if one enjoys Dragon Ball's brand of humor.
3) Oumagadoki Zoo (Kohei Horikoshi)
The creator of the smash hit anime and manga My Hero Academia also has two other shonen manga out that may not have received as much attention.
The first is Oumagadoki Zoo, which follows a teen girl named Hana Aoi as she works at a cursed zoo. She meets and has to help director Shiina get his body back after he was cursed into the body of a rabbit.
The story, based on this admittedly strange premise, lasted for over a year (2010–2011) and consisted of 37 chapters spread across five volumes. It was eventually canceled, but the success of My Hero Academia gave it a boost. Sakamata/Gang Orca was the most popular character in the series, and he was later reincarnated as a hero rather than a villain in the shonen anime My Hero Academia.
4) Barrage (Kohei Horikoshi)
Similarly, the space drama Barrage was another shonen manga that wasn't quite as successful as the shonen anime My Hero Academia. It centered on a homeless kid named Astro who, due to a mix-up, finds himself tasked with liberating the final stronghold of humanity, the Battle Star, from oppression.
It gained more of an audience in America than in Japan, due to space dramas being an easier sell there. This shonen manga lasted only a few months in 2012 due to its inability to attract a readership despite efforts to expand the story and polish the writing.
5) Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru (Masashi Kishimoto)
Naruto is a difficult act to follow for any shonen anime/manga attempting to emulate it. Samurai 8 is no different. It's a manga about a weak and sickly boy named Hachimaru who becomes a samurai and joins forces with others to become a cybernetic samurai.
Masashi Kishimoto himself even acknowledged this, expressing hope that people would enjoy it both because of his name and the manga's premise. Sadly, this particular shonen manga was stymied by a slow-paced opening and ended with five volumes just shy of a year later. It had better luck outside Japan at least.
6) Zombiepowder. (Tite Kubo)
One would expect zombies with a title like that and Tite Kubo, the creator of the popular Bleach shonen anime, does not disappoint in this regard. Zombiepowder is a shonen manga that follows Elwood Shepherd, a teen who joins criminals Gamma Akutabi and C.T. Smith in their search for Rings of the Dead, which can raise the dead and grant immortality to anyone who collects 12 of them.
The show featured a lot of gore, gunplay, and dark themes. The issue, however, is how suddenly it all concluded. Although Kubo has stated publicly that he wrote the series during a dark period of his life, it only ran for four volumes before being canceled in 2000.
7) Burn the Witch (Tite Kubo)
Burn the Witch is for shonen anime fans who are more into Bleach. The plot of Burn the Witch takes place in the Bleach universe, specifically in Reverse London's Western Branch of the Soul Society. It follows two witches, Noel Niihashi and Ninny Spangcole, as they battle evil dragons that threaten the world.
Since this shonen anime and manga was initially announced as a one-shot before it got serialized, the fact that it is set in the same universe came as a surprise. It's still ongoing so if any fans of Bleach are keen on seeing more women in the story and fighting dragons, this is for them.
8) Level E (Yoshihiro Togashi)
Yoshihiro Togashi is best known as the creator of the popular shonen anime series Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, but his lesser-known work, Level E, is a bit peculiar. The story has a tendency to switch gears abruptly and contends with some 500 species and their presence on Earth.
The manga was also adapted into a thirteen-episode shonen anime series by Studio Pierrot, in 2011.
9) Baoh (Hirohiko Araki)
Baoh is a story about two children with supernatural powers who are on the run from a corrupt organization. It serves as evidence that Jojo's Bizarre Adventure creator always had a taste for extreme violence. The first kid is a psychic nine-year-old, and the second is Baoh, a nine-year-old who was kidnapped and turned into a bioweapon.
The series provides the sort of bloody, gory thrill that fans of shonen anime, and especially JoJo, crave. Sample: Acid melting people and monsters, blades that dice, and other kinds of over-the-top violence.
10) Silver Spoon (Hiromu Arakawa)
Silver Spoon is one of Fullmetal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa's lesser-known shonen anime and manga, despite winning two awards, the Manga Taish Award and the Shogakukan Manga Award in the Shonen category in 2012, and selling millions of manga volumes in Japan. Not surprisingly, given that it involves a boy enrolling in an agricultural school after fleeing a strict wealthy upbringing.
Given the many milk jokes that were made at Edward's expense in Fullmetal Alchemist, a follow-up shonen anime and manga focusing on a farm school is natural. The mangaka herself worked on her family's farm as well, so it's based on real experience. Fun for shonen anime fans that just want a break from big adventures.