Shonen protagonists are notorious for falling into common character tropes. One reason for this is that it's easy to root for characters who possess these stereotypical traits. However, anime and manga fans like to see variety. This article will specifically consider action/adventure genre shonen protagonists, not the entire shonen demographic.
Franchises often start with a charismatic hero with a big heart. Though not particularly intelligent, they are adept when things get serious. They typically have at least one natural talent that sets them above others. In the rare instance that they are defeated, they will train to extreme extents until they can outsmart the best of the best.
Though they take pride in their skills, their true power generally originates from their friends. Even though we love these characters, some of the core parts of their character are stereotypical.
5 shonen protagonists who are extremely typical
1) Son Goku
This beloved character may very well be the posterchild for streotypical shonen protagonists. Goku is a happy-go-lucky combat junkie who rarely goes anywhere without his friends. This Dragon Ball character first hit the scene in 1984, making Goku one of the oldest shonen protagonists to still hold relevance today.
2) Monkey D. Luffy
Luffy's goal is to be the king of the pirates, but it's safe to say that he's already the king of goofballs. Even in the midst of a dire situation, Luffy never loses hope thanks to his belief in his own strength and his absolute faith in his friends. Despite his complex lineage and flamboyant adventures, Luffy checks quite a few of the trope boxes.
3) Uzumaki Naruto
This gutsy ninja is hard not to like. However, he follows many common shonen tropes. Naruto is an underdog, he goes through strenuous training regiments, draws his strength from his emotional bonds, talks more than he fights, and always leans on his comrades.
4) Ichigo Kurosaki
Ichigo, the series' sarcastic and grumpy hero, initially tried to portray himself as a tough guy to cover up his powerlessness in dealing with the spirits and people he can secretly see. Once Kurosaki gets his Soul Reaper powers, he quickly outshines Rukia.
5) Izuku Midoriya
Midoriya is almost too easy to root for. He begins My Hero Academia without a Quirk, following a strong sense of justice, and chasing the lofty dream of becoming a pro hero. He is often saved from peril by Deus Ex Machina style occurrences, he trains beyond the limits of his body, and he couldn't possibly be more blind to the feelings of his love interest.
5 shonen protagonists who are unconventional
1) Gon Freecss
Gon's moral compass alone sets him outside of most shonen protagonist tropes. This Hunter x Hunter character doesn't care about right or wrong when he is intrigued about something. Gon has a complex ethical outlook. He values life and ethics, but can easily dissociate from his personal feelings. He thanked Binolt, a serial killer, simply because he helped him become stronger. Although Gon is aware of how dangerous Hisoka is, he admires him because of his power. Additionally, Gon never let Killua's past as an assassin hinder the development of their friendship.
Unlike many shonen protagonists, Saitama is only a hero as a pastime. He isn't driven by a sense of justice or burning desire to save others. He fights primarily for his own entertainment. Saitama is often absent-minded. His overwhelming strength leaves no need for intense training or adventure. He only gets serious when he feels like it, which frankly doesn't happen often.
3) Yusuke Urameshi
As the story of Yu Yu Hakusho develops, Yusuke does start to follow common shonen protagonist tropes. However, Yusuke is introduced to the series as an ambitionless delinquent. He's already the strongest person in his city, he cuts class to smoke cigarettes and play pachinko, and he couldn't care less about others. The closest thing Yusuke has to friends are his sworn rival Kuwabara and his love interest, Keiko, who he constantly accosts.
4) Megumi Fushiguro
This Jujutsu Kaisen character is absolutely bonkers. His dark and moody personality has been compared to Sasuke, but Megumi's character is arguably far more unique. He typically keeps his darkness confined to his inner thoughts, but it oozes out of him in battle. Megumi is so unconcerned about death that it even inspires him. Although he cares about saving the lives of others, he is quiet and introverted.
5) Senku Ishigami
The Dr. Stone protagonist is a logical and straight-forward thinker individual who is far from humble. In spite of such a demeanor, Senku is generally clear-headed and down to Earth. He is not a physically strong person, but his knowledge of science is unparalleled. He rarely gets flustered and stays level-headed at all times. Although Senku strongly believes in justice, he bends rules, withholds information, and manipulates others to achieve his goals.
Poll : Is your favorite shonen protagonist a typical or unconventional?
Honestly, they follow tropes
They're totally unique!