One of the major upsides of nearly every new-gen shonen anime that released since the 2010s began is their willingness to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the medium. This is done in a number of ways, from changes in plots to power systems to how protagonists are written, and is usually done to meet a positive, worthwhile end.
One key shonen anime trope, which the new-gen series are finally correcting, is the use of young children as front-line fighters against a series’ evil forces. While some series inherently have an excuse for why their combatants are so young, others don’t even address the subject, accepting it as the norm of life.
Follow along as this article fully breaks down exactly how modern shonen anime is finally correcting the portrayal of its most controversial trope.
New-gen battle shonen anime My Hero Academia, Jujutsu Kaisen finally address the dangers children are put through
How new-gen shonen anime breaks the mold:
Ever since the dawn of the battle shonen genre, a series’ fighters have always seemed to be some of the youngest cast members on the show. Classic shonen anime such as the original Dragon Ball proves this, where Goku is barely 12 years old, but finds himself fighting paramilitary groups, demon clan leaders, and more.
Yu Yu Hakusho does something similar as well, with protagonist Yusuke Urameshi being only 14 years old at the start of the series. Despite this, he constantly finds himself battling supernatural forces of evil, putting his recently regained life on the line on a nearly episodic basis.
Series to come after these two didn’t exactly fall out of line in this trope, either. Dragon Ball Z sees a 5-year-old Gohan be put up against full-grown, intergalactic warriors from outer space to fight for Earth’s survival. The entire Naruto series sees kids as young as 12 years of age fighting for their lives against other combatants, who were sometimes of a similar age but at other times full grown adults.
Many other battle shonen anime of the past have fallen into similar trappings, oftentimes without addressing the obvious danger such young children are thrown into as a result. However, new-gen anime began to change this, with series such as My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen showing the consequences of such young children being involved in these conflicts.
One of the first examples of this is in My Hero Academia’s USJ arc, where an attack from the League of Villains meant to target All Might ends up putting the school’s children at risk. While the schoolkid heroes were able to hold their own and escape without severe injury, things could’ve very easily gone incredibly differently.
The exploration into such consequences only continues as the series progresses, with protagonist Izuku Midoriya’s own mother eventually threatening to pull her son out of school. Mother Inko Midoriya expresses fear for her son’s life, saying that while she respects Midoriya pursuing his dreams, she won’t allow him to do so at the cost of his own life.
A subsequent arc for the smash-hit battle shonen anime series sees Midoriya’s outlook on his dreams and role as One For All’s inheritor change. He eventually goes off on his own, even cutting off his own mentor All Might to ensure the safety of his friends while he alone shoulders the burden of his dreams.
Jujutsu Kaisen is yet another battle shonen anime series which sees itself arrive at a similar conclusion on a distinctly different route. The first example of this comes in the form of Junpei Yoshino, a normal schoolboy protagonist Yuji Itadori becomes friends with. However, his involvement with Yuji eventually sees both him and his mother painfully transformed into curses and killed.
The Shibuya Incident arc sees Yuji watch as his friends and mentors are killed or severely injured one by one, while he can do nothing but sit back. The guilt Yuji feels for being so useless at the time forces him to abandon the friends he made up to that point, instead going off on his own with no company but a Cursed Death Womb Painting.
While Yuji eventually does forgive himself and reunites with his friends, his outlook on the situation is immutable, and he continues to try and right his wrongs. It shows that even if he’s told everything is okay, he understands the gravity of putting his friends in life-threatening situations, finally acknowledging just how risky and dangerous the jujutsu life can be.