12 Best Modern Shonen Manga In 2021

Best Modern Shonen Manga

Of all the foremost beloved, best-selling manga — those with the most important legacies; the staunchest fanbases; the most important numbers — most of them are shonen manga.

But many of these shonen mangas are now finished and aging. Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach. These names are being replaced, but by what? By these fantastic modern shonen manga.

The current age of shonen manga may be a very exciting one. We’re living in an experimental and varied world of manga generally. And, for shonen manga to still be relevant, it must experiment also. For that reason, we’re seeing a trend in modern shonen manga: an infusion of horror.

What American comics went through within the 90s, shonen manga (and Korean manhwa) goes through now (though these mangas do a far, much better job of exploring new ground). For this reason, here’s a touch disclaimer:

This list begins with the foremost popular modern shonen manga and moves into the newer, obscure, dark, and mature stuff because it goes. a number of these mangas are adapted to anime and a few haven’t (some will be).

Not all of it’s going to be suitable for younger readers, albeit it’s classified as shonen manga (for younger readers). So, if you’re a parent or guardian, use your discretion here.

Speaking of the shonen manga definition, let’s re-evaluate that quickly before diving into this contemporary shonen manga list.

What is Shonen Manga?

Put simply, the shonen manga definition is manga aimed toward a young male audience. There are a bunch of caveats to the present. The word shonen/shounen/少年 translates to ‘youth’, with the character 少 meaning small and 年 meaning year.

In Japanese, the word shonen/shounen is gender-nonspecific but, contextually, it refers to young boys specifically (with shojo/shoujo/少女 meaning girl — thus, shoujo manga is its genre.

For that reason, shonen manga features tons of the themes and tropes that young boys relate to. That approach might sound outdated — and that I certainly agree — but it’s still applicable to the shonen manga genre today.

Shonen manga typically features male protagonists. It often features a fantastical setting with elements of fantasy, magic, or the supernatural. Shonen manga also often features action and fighting (hence the existence of the sub-genre of ‘battle shonen manga’).

Over the years, shonen manga has become synonymous with certain expected tropes and themes. Popular shonen manga tropes include:

  • A long journey
  • Personal growth (both physical and emotional)
  • A hero vs villain narrative
  • An underdog story
  • Training and mastery of a skill
  • Bonds of brotherhood and friendship

Not all shonen manga and shonen anime feature all (or even any) of these tropes, but they are still shonen tropes nonetheless.

Shonen or Shounen?

As for the discrepancy between shonen and shounen, the latter is closer to the Japanese spelling. within the hiragana alphabet, shounen is spelled しよぅねん (shi-you-ne-n). But that u is usually removed for the sake of simplicity and, so, shonen is an equally acceptable English spelling. So, accompany either.

With these details and answers out of the way, let’s check out a number of the simplest modern shonen manga that you simply should be reading immediately.

The Most Exciting Modern Shonen Manga

As already mentioned above, these modern shonen mangas aren’t so as of quality, but rather during a loose order of fame and accessibility.

We’ll start with the foremost popular shonen manga immediately and advance to the marginally less well-known stuff. By ‘slightly less well-known’ we mean the manga that isn’t yet adapted into anime (or is probably soon to be adapted).

This list also descents into darker territory because it does. Shonen manga goes through a horror period immediately and tons of the manga on this list are dark, scary, bloody, and a few even feature distressing scenes.

So, be warned: shonen is growing up and therefore the lines between what’s and isn’t ‘mature’ are blurring. Not all of those mangas are suitable for teenagers, despite being published in Shonen Jump or being classified as shonen manga.

1. My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

Let’s begin with something that certainly is suitable for teenagers, but one that’s also filled from the crown to the toe top filled with thoughtful themes, compelling villains, and character arcs that more resemble twisting, winding roads.

My Hero Academia is that the biggest shonen manga and shonen anime within the world immediately (or, at least, it had been until another contender further down this list burst onto the scene. But we’ll get to that).

Inspired by eighty years of yank superhero comics from the parents at Marvel and DC, My Hero Academia may be a Japanese manga series that puts its spin on a world populated by superheroes.

My Hero Academia is in an alternate world where the bulk of individuals have some kind of unique trait or other (known during this universe as ‘quirks’).

People with the foremost powerful quirks often find themselves trying to use them for private gain and become supervillains, while others with a far better moral compass train to become professional heroes.

Our young shonen protagonist, Deku (real name Izuku Midoriya), worships Japan’s mightiest hero, All Might, only to seek out out that his quirk never manifested.

His dreams are dashed until a freak incident puts him altogether on Might’s path, and Japan’s greatest hero passes the facility of his quirk onto Deku.

My Hero Academia has been running for a few times and it’s gone from strength to strength. The series is consistently smart, taking the moral questions, themes, and tropes of superhero comics and using them to carve out compelling new story arcs with speed and consistency.

Whether you’ve seen the My Hero Academia manga otherwise you haven’t, this is often a shonen manga deserving of its hype. It’s an incredible series that caters to kids of all ages, fans of magazine superheroes, fans of classic shonen manga, and everybody in-between.

One of the series’ biggest strengths is its enormous and vibrant cast of characters, all of whom are given a backstory, an arc, a singular quirk, personal motivation, and more.

It’s a completely full-clad world that’s a joy to measure in and journey through. The stakes are high, the art is fluid and lovely, and therefore the characters carry you thru it all.

2. Spy x Family by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family

Spy x Family (pronounced without the x) is one among the foremost hilarious and exciting new shonen manga around. it’s yet to be adapted into an anime but that’s just a matter of your time.

Written and drawn by Tatsuya Endo, Spy x Family begins with legendary spy Twilight, a person of mystery whose newest mission tasks him with getting on the brink of a dangerous and corrupt politician. to try to do that, however, Twilight must assemble a whole family.

The politician he’s after is famously reclusive, and therefore the only way for Twilight to urge near him is by adopting a toddler and enrolling her within the same school that his target’s children attend.

When Twilight meets six-year-old Anya at an area orphanage, he adopts her without knowing that she may be a telepath; her powers were bestowed upon her by scientific testing.

Next, Twilight meets Yor, a girl desperately in need of a boyfriend to raised blend into ordinary society. Unbeknownst to Twilight, Yor is additionally a trained and accomplished assassin by night.

With that, we have a pleasant setup for a comedy-action shonen manga that meets and succeeds all expectations.

Spy x Family is exquisitely drawn, carrying both its comedy and action scenes flawlessly, with gorgeous character and environmental details (especially the fashion).

The comedy during this series is laugh-out-loud, with tons of it coming from Anya, a wide-eyed and sweet girl who often becomes overwhelmed by her telepathic powers.

Spy x Family is one among subsequent big shonen manga; a gorgeous melting pot of comedy, mystery, action, and political drama. the entire shonen manga package.

3. One Punch Man by ONE and Yusuke Murata

This is another intensely popular and lauded superhero-inspired modern shonen manga, but one with a touch more of a stimulating story behind it.

While My Hero Academia exploded out of the gate, took the planet by storm, and its fantastic anime adaptation has done an equivalent, One Punch Man may be a little more interesting.

The creator of 1 Punch Man, a writer referred to as ONE (who also gave us Mob Psycho 100) isn’t the foremost talented artist. the first incarnation of 1 Punch Man was a rough and hysterical webcomic that played homage to and parodied various inspirations.

The manga because it predominantly exists today may be a rework of the first, with the art being handled by artist Yusuke Murata, who is one of the foremost talented artists within the manga industry.

So, what we’ve here may be a masterfully written manga, supported by colossal and lovely artwork. A dream for any shonen manga fan.

This was made even better when the manga was adapted into a brief anime series with the very best production value and face-melting animation. Season 1 of the One Punch Man anime was flat-out gorgeous.

Season 2 of the anime, handled by a special studio, was decidedly less impressive, however, which only gives fans of the anime more of a reason to modify to the manga.

I would even go thus far on say that avoiding the anime’s second season entirely may be a smart move.

As for what it’s about, One Punch Man may be a comedy and action shonen manga that tackles some pretty smart philosophical questions on things like:

  • One’s purpose in life
  • Personal motivations and drive
  • The fulfillment that comes from struggle
  • What gives us true satisfaction
  • The importance of goals

The titular One Punch Man is an overpowered former twenty-something salaryman named Saitama. After training an excessive amount and too hard, Saitama finds himself unbeatable; ready to fell any enemy during a single punch.

Saitama comes up against increasingly absurd and massive foes, only to best them with one punch. The comedy comes from his frustration, disappointment, and deflation. He has no personal struggle; no motivation.

Where the series takes this idea, and the way it manages to stay fresh, is consistently entertaining. to not mention, every fight is drawn with jaw-dropping detail and flash. Murata may be a powerhouse of an artist.

4. Dr. Stone by Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi

While tons of classic shonen manga followed many of the tropes we’ve already mentioned, modern shonen manga is taking the genre in additional fun and varied directions.

One-Punch Man has added tons of comedy, satire, and philosophy to the genre and Dr. Stone brings the edutainment genre to the planet of recent shonen manga.

Before it had been adapted into a (very good) anime series, Dr. Stone was the large shonen manga for those manga readers that like to have something unique which anime viewers can’t share with them.

And while the anime is superb, the Dr. Stone manga remains something alright worth reading.

The biggest reason for that, in my opinion, is that the writing. the interpretation of the Dr. Stone manga is handled by Caleb Cook, who also happens to be the translator for the My Hero Academia manga and Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku (found below).

Caleb Cook is one of the simplest translators within the business. He’s so good that I’ll devour a book if I do know he’s the translator, albeit the initial premise of the manga doesn’t grab me. And that’s exactly what happened with the Dr. Stone manga.

Dr. Stone is a post-apocalyptic manga series about an arrogant, brash scientific genius (think Rick from Rick and Morty within the body of a Japanese high schooler).

When a sudden ‘apocalypse’ turns everyone within the world into a statue, Senku is one among the primary humans to return to life after nature has reclaimed the land for three, 700 years.

Using his smarts within the fields of chemistry, engineering, physics, etc, Senku sets out on a mission to figure out a cure for petrification, also as its cause.

Dr. Stone is, as I’ve said, a sort of edutainment series. It offers readers real lessons in physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering because the action plays out and therefore the story progresses.

This is a fun and inventive approach that, to my knowledge, has never been applied to modern shonen manga before.

5. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba by Koyoharu Gotoge

This is an enormous one. In 2019, the anime adaptation of the Demon Slayer manga dropped and immediately decimated the competition. It’s difficult to overstate just how huge Demon Slayer is in terms of sales and profits made, viewer and reader numbers, and general pop-culture impact.

This is a series that has inspired cosplayers, tattoo collectors, and artists around the world. Demon Slayer is everywhere.

That, of course, begs the immediate question: if the anime is that popular, should I even read the Demon Slayer manga? Well, we’ve already answered that question for you but, in short, yes, it certainly is.

For any who don’t know, Demon Slayer may be a modern shonen manga set in Taisho era Japan (shortly after the turn of the 20th century). It follows the story of Tanjiro, the oldest boy during a family who resides on a quiet, snowy mountainside.

When Tanjiro spends an evening in town, his family is massacred by demons. All, that is, except his sister Nezuko, who has been infected by demon blood but retains something of her humanity. Nezuko could also be feral, with the strength and ferocity of a demon, but she also remains kind and tender.

In true shonen manga fashion, Tanjiro sets out on a grand adventure to become a demon slayer, to cure his sister, to seek out the source of the demon scourge and defeat it.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is extremely much a standard shonen manga. It features tropes such as good vs evil, a hero’s journey, a young male protagonist, intense battles of skill, etc. What sets it apart, however, is its horror element.

Demon Slayer is dark in places and gets darker because it goes. It’s still suitable for teenagers but barely. there’s blood and gore; there are monsters, but it’s more reserved than a couple of of the opposite shonen manga listed further down.

The Demon Slayer manga (and its anime adaption) implements only enough of that gritty, dark, monstrous horror element to line it aside from classic shonen manga but it doesn’t go so heavy-handed with the horror on alienate anyone. It’s a shonen manga for anyone and everybody.

The historic element also helps. Setting this series within the Taisho era — because the samurai had about faded into irrelevance and Western fashion, tech, medicine, and more had filtered into Japanese society — makes this a compelling historical manga also as a future classic shonen manga.

6. The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu

The Promised Neverland

This is a reasonably important one for a variety of reasons. If this list was so as of quality or importance (however you measure that), The Promised Neverland would be at the highest.

The Promised Neverland may be a shonen manga that stands head-and-shoulders above the remainder and, quite the other, it demonstrates what sets modern shonen manga aside from its predecessors.

Set during a quaint and idyllic country manor called Grace Field House, the series follows a gaggle of orphans who have all grown up under the watchful eye of Isabella, their “Mother”.

Our protagonists are the three eldest orphans, twelve-year-olds Emma, Norman, and Ray.

The manga’s very first chapter reveals the reality of Grace Field House: that the planet outside is travel by monstrous demons which their house is a farm for raising humans as cattle.

Thus begins a desperate escape attempt consisting of tactical mind games against Isabella.

The reason why The Promised Neverland is so important is that it shares so few tropes with classic shonen manga. It’s a series that, because it progresses, crosses paths with every single genre you’ll think of: mystery, horror, fantasy, fantasy, dystopia.

The Promised Neverland elevates the genre of shonen manga to new heights entirely. It explores outside the box that the shonen genre has placed itself in. Its plot and setting feel like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. At least, at the start.

But The Promised Neverland grows and evolves like no other manga out there.

This is also another series with an anime adaptation. But, as I’ve already mentioned in greater detail here, the manga is way better thanks, in part, to Demizu’s superior eye for capturing horror during a single shot.

7. Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami

Demon Slayer dips its toe into the waters of horror and gore. The Promised Neverland wades far into those waters. And Jujutsu Kaisen submerges itself entirely. this is often a series that commits to the darker side of shonen, imbuing the genre with monstrous, fearful energy.

At the time of writing, the Jujutsu Kaisen anime adaptation is growing into subsequent big shonen anime. It’s not getting to reach the heights of My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer, but it certainly has everyone’s attention.

The series follows Yuji Itadori, a somewhat idle but lovable high school student with a pointy talent when it involves anything physical — a natural runner and fighter.

When he’s told by a sorcerer that his school is cursed, thanks to the presence of an occult talisman (a finger), Itadori swallows the finger and becomes the host of a strong demon named Sukuna.

Somehow, Itadori is capable of keeping Sukuna suppressed, but now he has been tasked with joining Tokyo’s school for jujutsu sorcerers, and with locating the remainder of Sukuna’s fingers, of which he has twenty.

Jujutsu Kaisen feels like the classic shonen manga that came before it, especially Bleach and Naruto.

But, because of its willingness to rest on the dark, raw, and bloody side of both action and storytelling, the series is in a position to line itself apart and stand alone as something rather unique and fresh within the world of recent shonen manga.

8. Chainsaw Man by Tatsuki Fujimoto

At the time of writing, it’s just been announced that the Chainsaw Man manga is getting an anime adaptation. this is often big news because Chainsaw Man has been the recent modern shonen manga of the last year approximately.

This trend of horror infusion into modern shonen manga continues here with Chainsaw Man. Though this series has tons more fun with it. In zombie terms, it’s more Dead Rising than 28 Days Later.

So, yes, Chainsaw Man may be a shonen manga, but only barely. it’s an unlovable, childish protagonist, an absurd premise, and a thirst for blood and chaos.

It’s much more seinen than shonen in both its visuals and its themes. But that’s the trend that modern shonen manga has taken.

Chainsaw Man tells the story of Denji, a hot-headed and not entirely clever young man in debt to the yakuza (and it’s not even his debt).

Fortunately, the planet is populated by devils, born from human fear and regularly hunted by people like Denji, who is looking to scale back his debt by working as a devil hunter.

When the story begins, Denji is amid his pet Marine named Pochita. Pochita may be a friendly devil who happens to seem and work sort of a chainsaw.

When Denji is betrayed and killed by an equivalent yakuza he is functioning off his depts for, his body merges with Pochita’s and he’s reborn as a human-devil hybrid with the powers of a chainsaw.

The initial plot is absurd, and Fujimoto is extremely conscious of that. It’s a story with dark and brutal elements, while also leaning on the absurd and therefore the funny.

It juggles these disparate tones remarkably well, which is merely aided by artwork that also juggles the disparate elements of rawness and sharpness.

Denji may be a lovable protagonist. Uneducated and born with no favors, Denji is certainly rough around the edges; he’s dumb and crass but there’s a heart (two, actually) to him that helps to hold the story and his adventures forward.

If you’re looking to urge just before the curve, devour the Chainsaw Man manga before it becomes subsequent big shonen anime.

9. Fire Punch by Tatsuki Fujimoto

Fire Punch

Tatsuki Fujimoto has the privilege of being the sole mangaka to feature on this list twice (scroll down another time to also see the incredible work of his former assistant, Yuji Kaku).

While Chainsaw Man is that the modern shonen manga on everyone’s lips immediately, and is additionally close to become subsequent big shonen anime series, Fire Punch deserves even as much attention. Fire Punch may be a very different beast to Chainsaw Man. It’s a bleak, angry story of revenge.

The Fire Punch manga was also Fujimoto’s first serialized work. So, if you enjoy the Chainsaw Man manga and need to travel back and see what came before it, you’ll get to devour Fire Punch.

The series is now finished and, at eight tankobon volumes, it isn’t overly lengthy.

Set during a frozen post-apocalyptic wasteland — an apocalypse caused by a ‘blessed’ referred to as the Ice Witch — the story of fireside Punch follows Agni, a revenge-fuelled young orphan who is checking out a person named Doma.

Agni, a ‘blessed’ just like the Ice Witch, has the unique ability to physically regenerate, as does his sister Luna.

When the story begins, the 2 live in a quiet village and are hacking off Agni’s arms for the opposite villagers to use for meat. this is often a shocking introduction to a manga series that only becomes more shocking chapter by chapter.

Shortly after we’re introduced to Agni and Luna, a team of armed men raid their village for food but, seeing their cannibalistic methods of survival, the lads leave immediately.

This is not before Doma, another ‘blessed’ with the facility of flame, torches the town. this is often what leads Agni on his go after revenge.

The world of Fire Punch, like most great post-apocalyptic fictional landscapes, is a character in and of itself.

Reminiscent of Mad Max and therefore the Fist of the Polaris manga series, this is often a world populated by cults and clans of dangerous, malicious, power-hungry people wanting to survive.

What you would like to be prepared for when reading this is often that fireplace Punch may be a particularly bleak shonen manga (if you’ll call it shonen at all).

If you’ve read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road then you would possibly be emotionally prepared for what you’ll find here.

Fujimoto’s artwork — this strange blend of raw scratching and precision depth — really elevates the story events and character beats to new heights.

Fire Punch is a gorgeously drawn, though crushingly bleak and dark, modern shonen manga series.

10. Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku by Yuji Kaku

is another manga that hardly fits within the suitable parameters of shonen manga. And yet, it had been originally published in Shonen Jump+ (though, admittedly, this spin-off from the first magazine does also include some more adult or young adult audiences).

It’s also a stimulating series thanks to the very fact that its creator, Yuji Kaku, worked as an assistant to Tatsuki Fujimoto (author of Chainsaw Man and Fire Punch above). Though, during this writer’s humble opinion, Kaku’s art skills far outstrip those of Fujimoto.

Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is an outstanding modern shonen manga series. Like Demon Slayer, the series places itself further back in Japan’s past (somewhere around the turn of the 19th century).

The name Jigokuraku is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’.

We follow the exploits of Gabimaru the Hollow, a ninja of some renown who has powerful resistance to death. Gabimaru was orphaned by his village’s chief then raised to be a brutal, bloodthirsty ninja warrior. He was even offered the chief’s daughter as a wife.

When the story begins, Gabimaru is awaiting execution, though every plan to kill him fails.

Eventually, he’s offered a pardon if he accompanies a trained executioner named Sagiri to a cursed island to be retried, for the Shogun, a mythical elixir of life.

Gabimari and Sagiri don’t travel alone, however. they’re a part of a gaggle of dangerous criminals, each paired with their executioner (one of whom is Sagiri’s father).

So begins a story that feels a touch like Battle Royale meets Pirates of the Caribbean but with ninjas, tons of blood, and a few nudity.

Like the aforementioned Dr. Stone and My Hero Academia, Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku is translated by the astonishing Caleb Cook, whose outstanding prowess as a translator makes the series a pleasure to read.

As already mentioned, Yuji Kaku’s art is phenomenal. Like with The Promised Neverland, the art here helps to elevate the story and its emotional beats to thoroughly new heights. It’s the maximum amount of pleasure to easily check out because it is to read through.

11. Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida

Tokyo Ghoul

From Demon Slayer to fireside Punch and Hell’s Paradise, this list of recent shonen manga has gotten progressively darker, gorier, and fewer suitable for youngsters, despite the connection to Shonen Jump magazine.

Because of this injection of horror into shonen manga and anime, we thought it only right to supply readers with something a touch different at the top of this list.

Think of the previous seven manga recommendations as a bridge between classic shonen and all-out horror manga.

And that’s just about what Tokyo Ghoul is. Officially designated a seinen manga, instead of a shonen manga, Tokyo Ghoul is technically for adult readers but, during this reader’s opinion, the events and visuals during this series are not any darker than what you’ll find within the Promised Neverland or Jujutsu Kaisen.

For this reason, Tokyo Ghoul has made it on this list. Also, consider this as your next step if you discover yourself loving the remainder of what this manga list has got to offer.

Tokyo Ghoul is set during a world where Japan is populated with ordinary humans and the second sort of human referred to as ghouls. These ghouls are vampire-like creatures with impressive physical traits and a hunger for human flesh.

Our protagonist may be a bookish university student named Ken Kaneki, who manages to wrangle a date out of a woman only to be almost eaten by her.

When she suddenly and accidentally dies before she will eat him, her organs are wont to save his life and, now, Kaneki has the powers of a ghoul.

The series explores the relationships between ghouls and humans, with hunters hunting hunters and a whole underground world becoming known to Kaneki. He lives in both worlds.

The series shares tons of shonen tropes but is designated horror thanks to its graphic visuals and emphasis on monstrous, man-eating creatures. That said, any shonen manga fan will get a kick out of this series, because of its supernatural bent and its endearing protagonist.

12. Haikyuu!! By Haruichi Furudate

This entire list thus far has focussed entirely on shonen battle manga, horror manga, and superheroes. the very fact is, however, that an enormous part of the shonen genre is formed from sports manga, the foremost popular of which is Haikyuu!!.

I’m getting to admit that I’m not a sports manga fan. I binged Season 1 of the anime on a flight to LA, then got sick and forgot to stay going. That said, I’m still happy to recommend Haikyuu!! on its popularity alone.

Haikyuu!! maybe a sports manga and anime about an underdog volleyball team. The manga saw such an intense spike in popularity that it turned half of Japan’s youth into volleyball fanatics, and suddenly every school within the country had its volleyball team.

The series relies entirely on the strength of its characters and their relationships.

They grow in personal skills and teamwork. They learn to like and appearance out for each other. They face increasingly difficult challenges and refuse to offer up.

Haikyuu!! Is an uplifting and galvanizing sports manga through and thru. If you wish what you read, there are plenty more sports manga out there for you to get (but, as I said, I’m no expert).

Leave a Comment