Despite all the experience shonen anime protagonists have, it always seems like they range on the unintelligent side of things. It's not that they're totally dumb, but they lack certain social graces and educational foundations most people grow into or grow up with.
This can be blamed on any number of factors: no parents, rustic upbringings, and whatnot. Regardless, they are all quite lovable and can sometimes turn their lack of smarts into a strength!
Note: The entire article is just the author's opinion and may contain spoilers for popular anime.
Ten highly dense shonen anime protagonists
Goku from the shonen anime Dragon Ball has plenty of combat intelligence and is more than capable of handling deadly threats to existence. However, when it comes to regular human functions, he's not the brightest, and Goku's often seen as the prototype of an unintelligent shonen anime protagonist.
Since Goku was raised in the countryside by his grandpa Gohan, he lacks many skills and social graces. He thought Chi-Chi asking to marry him meant food, didn't know what a girl was when he ran into Bulma, couldn't cook, could barely manage a radish garden, among other basic skills humans take for granted.
He also gets duped a lot when it comes to fighting particularly deceptive villains. Goku even messed up the driver's test by turning it into a race! His obsession with training tends to override any sense he may have, like any shonen anime protagonist.
2) Yusuke Urameshi
He was more of a delinquent and troublemaker at the start of the shonen anime Yu Yu Hakusho, starting fights, skipping school, and even gambling and smoking in the manga.
His social graces were nonexistent, as he groped women and loudly insulted everyone. His mother being an alcoholic didn't help matters.
Despite all of this and his horrible grades, Yusuke still saved a kid's life by throwing him out of the way of an oncoming truck. It was later revealed to be entirely unnecessary, but it gave him a chance to revive.
While he does get better as a person and is smarter, too, most of his early fights are him winning via luck or accidentally outsmarting opponents. For example, shoving a tree branch into Gouki's mouth and firing a Spirit Gun to finally end him.
3) Naruto Uzumaki
The main protagonist of Naruto, and a person who fits the shonen anime character archetype to a T, Naruto Uzumaki wasn't all that bright in the beginning. He flunked out of the Ninja Academy three times and could not perform basic jutsu, for starters.
His fighting style could best be described as "bum rush the enemy while screaming" and never working together with his supposed teammates during the bell test. At first, his best jutsu, before he mastered the shadow clone justu, was the sexy jutsu: transforming him into a sexy woman that usually distracted male disciplinarians who came after him to stop his pranking.
He also went after Sakura despite being repeatedly rebuked, and his rivalry with Sasuke threatened to override everything else.
All that said, he did seem to grow up during Shippuden. While still engaging in some juvenile pranks, he matured in combat and social graces. Though he still had a few blind spots, like being oblivious to love at first, he's ahead of the curve.
4) Natsu Dragneel
The Dragon Slayer of Fairy Tail fits the bill of the unintelligent shonen anime protagonist. According to the databook, his intelligence sits at 2/5. He's very reckless, loud, and prone to violence.
It's like having Katsuki Bakugo as the lead character. Admittedly, the same could be said for literally everyone on this list, but with Natsu, it's turned up to 11.
In that sense, he's akin to DC's Booster Gold, as both have very straightforward approaches to situations. He has, however, gotten more strategic as his fights go on, especially against the S-Class mages, even if he loses.
Natsu also manages to stop himself from holding grudges and does show plenty of compassion, and he isn't perverse either.
5) Monkey D. Luffy
The would-be Pirate King was more obsessed with food than gathering a crew at the beginning of One Piece. Friends, food, and adventure seem to be the only three things on Luffy's mind when it comes to his adventures and quest to become the Pirate King.
He starts off with a small dingy, barely a sailboat, and not one iota of a clue about how to reach the Grand Line.
There are numerous examples of Luffy's lack of intelligence coming back to bite him. From falling to a blatant pirate trapdoor in the Alabasta arc (literally, a sign that says "VIP" one way and "Pirates" another) to punching the arrogant Celestial Dragon Saint Charlos to yelling at Usopp to leave, Luffy has done his fair share of comedic and awesome dumb things.
Then again, shonen anime protagonists are expected to be hotblooded and dumb since our following example is no exception.
6) Black Star
Black Star from Soul Eater may very well be louder than Hercule/Mr. Satan when it comes to ego. He's so arrogant at the start that he thinks it is a good idea to hand out autographs and start fights with allies.
Also, he had to go to remedial lessons with his demon weapon partner Tsubaki. Black Star was only saved from flunking by her too.
He slipped in the rain after not considering his super-speed skills being ineffective in the downpour. Black Star also picked fights way more than he could chew, like trying to fight the "God of the Sword" Mifune since they were after the witch Angela Leon's soul.
Put simply, if it wasn't for Tsubaki, Black Star would've died several times over!
Punch first and asking questions never seem to be Saitama's specialty! Given that One Punch Man is its own parody of shonen anime, it's predictable but funny all the same. Despite his incredible strength, he's incredibly oblivious to everything going on around him.
Oblivious is the first word that hits when talking about Saitama, seeing as he never registered with the hero association. Then there's failing to recognize specific threats as more important than sales.
When he does get serious, Saitama at least is able to handle threats, but the idea that someone this oblivious can function is ridiculous. His ideal word count is 20 or less, as he has no patience for lengthy explanations.
He may be very observant and tactical, but not so much in the smarts department.
The next three will make readers wonder why shonen anime heroes are so, so unintelligent and how they function. Well, Saitama has competition in Asta from the shonen anime Black Clover.
Akin to Natsu and Yusuke, Asta built up his rowdy disposition to counter his bullying. The problem is he never got any educational experience which is typical for shonen anime protagonists.
His magical expertise leaves a lot to be desired since he barely got off the ground the first time. He also doesn't seem to know the word "nuance" or "being quiet" since he's loud to the detriment of others.
However, he does not hesitate to confront any threat or anyone putting his friends or comrades down. This often works to his advantage, but it also makes him quite foolhardy as he attacks the invading villain Vetto multiple times to little effect. It did, however, allow Noelle to injure Vetto and open it up for Asta to keep fighting.
9) Ash Ketchum
For someone claiming to want to be a Pokémon Master, fans would think Ash Ketchum would know better than to (for instance) bull rush his Pikachu at Brock's Onix. Despite being a well-practiced trainer in the long-running shonen anime Pokemon series, he often has to step back and get the essentials of training back whenever he ventures into new locales like Sinnoh or Kalos.
Admittedly, a trainer should continuously be checking their Pokedex, but not for Pokemon they've already caught multiple times. The fact that the Pokemon world evolves constantly is another problem.
Credit where credit its due, though, as Ash doesn't give up or give in to despair and does learn from his defeats. Not only was he a runner-up in several leagues, but finally, he became a Pokemon champion in both the Orange League and the Manato Conference in the Galar region (aka Sun and Moon). It was a ceremonial moment in shonen anime history.
10) Gon Frecess
Gon Freecss starts off the shonen anime Hunter x Hunter as quite gullible. However, that's to be expected, as he spent lots of time in the woods when he was younger in a rural area and was homeschooled. Not being good at math is a worthy sacrifice to learn all the abilities he did!
Of course, this is a double-edged sword. When he's cool-headed, Gon Freecss can go through a problem with creativity and ingenuity, like in the third stage of the Hunter Exam, where he and his companions broke through the locked door and the wall to the finish line.
He also never judged Killua for his assassin past. However, Gon Freecss also thanked a serial killer for helping him get stronger and kind of went overboard when confronted with the Chimera Ants.
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