Essay/Opinion

Why are shonen anime characters so stupid?

Important Note: I haven’t been blogging recently due to the fact that I got a job working for USPS. It’s a temporary holiday job that will end in late December. I work overnight from midnight to 8:30 AM, six days a week. As you can image, I don’t have much time left if I include sleeping. I just wanted you guys to know that in case you were wondering why I stopped blogging. I’ll be back in full force in January.

A common question among anime and manga fans for decades has been, why are anime characters so stupid? This question is specifically asked when referring to shonen manga. It should be noted that “shonen” isn’t technically a genre, as it refers to a targeted demographic. However, within anime culture many fans know what’s being referred to when you mention, shonen. Shonen’s main demographic is young teen males. Intended for boys between the ages of 12 and 18, shonen series highlight the themes that generally matter most to this demo. Primarily, fighting series focuses on action packed battle scenes with friendships between boys being emphasized. To make characters more appealing to the young male demographic they tend to begin as young boys.

It’s Akira Toriyama’s fault


But, I think the reason that shonen feature “stupid” protagonists is primarily due to the admiration and influence of Akira Toriyama. A Japanese manga artists and character designer, Toriyama, first achieve success with his Dr. Slump manga series. It won him the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1981 and went on to sell 35 million copies. As a character designer he has been successful for Dragon Quests, Chrono Trigger and Blue Dragon series. However, Akira Toriyama is best known for his follow up manga series Dragon Ball. Having sold over 250 million copies, Dragon Ball is the second best selling manga of all time. Considered to be a primary driving force in increasing manga sales from the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s, Dragon Ball’s impact continues to be felt till this day. Akira Toriyama is credited with popularizing shonen manga beginning in the 80’s continuing to this day.

The invention of the Stock Shonen Hero trope


It is this influence that is responsible for the trend of “dumb” shonen characters. To be more specific, it is Dragon Ball’s main protagonist, Son Goku that is the template that shonen heroes are built upon. Considered to be the most influential manga characters of all time, he’s a saiyan that was sent to conquer Earth as a baby. After hitting his head as a child, he loses his aggression that comes naturally to the saiyan race. As a result, he is no longer able to conquer the world. As Goku ages, he makes friends, enemies, gets married and has children. He’s presented as being profoundly stupid, but innocent at heart. Always has mercy for his enemies and is capable of brilliance during combat. Goku, like all saiyans, takes pride in his strength. Goku has been credited with giving birth to the “Stock Shonen Hero” trope.


This trope describes a “big hearted, energetic kid,” that is not too bright. They have pride in their fighting strength. These heroes are willing to train hard to achieve even greater strength. However, their true power comes from the friendships they have gained and the sense of justice they possess. The “stock shonen hero” is always ready to help the weak, risk their lives for strangers and friends, while often showing mercy towards enemies. Every character that is inspired by Goku has many of these qualities as well. Akira Toriyama and his Dragon Ball series has been cited as inspiration for many manga artists. Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto) and Tite Kubo (Bleach) have all claimed to have been influenced by Dragon Ball. Oda’s Monkey D. Luffy, Kishimoto’s Naruto and Kubo’s Ichigo, all share the parts of the tropes Goku made famous.


A genre that priorities the physical strength of a character over their intelligence, is obviously going result in dumb characters with epic battles. Making characters dumb is considered to be a great way to make them appealing to a larger audience. What they lack in book smarts, they make up in “street smarts.” Meaning these characters are able to think on the fly and can problem solve when needed. In shonen manga this “intelligence” is often shown during fights. While shonen anime existed before Akira Toriyama, it’s his Dragon Ball series that popularized the genre. Toriyama’s Goku was the inspiration for many future protagonist, making stupid heroes the norm.

Lists · Top 10

The Top Ten highest grossing anime or manga media franchises (Part 1)

10. Neon Genesis Evangelion – $16.3 Billion


Neon Genesis Evangelion was created in 1994 by Hideaki Anno and Gainax. An apocalyptic mecha series that focused on the military organization NERV as they fight beings called Angels, to save humanity. Primarily an anime series, Evangelion has expanded to include, merchandising, karaoke, music, manga and Pachinko. It’s currently owned by Khara Studios.


9. Yu-Gi-Oh! – $20 Billion


Yu-Gi-Oh was created in 1996. A Japanese manga series, written and illustrated by Kazuki Takahashi. The plot follows the story of Yugi Mutou as he tries to solve the ancient Millennium Puzzle. The manga has resulted in a massive media franchise that includes a trading card game, video games and a anime series.


8. One Piece – $21 Billion

One Piece is the most successful manga series of all time. Created in 1997 by Eiichiro Oda, the story centers on Monkey D. Luffy as he explores the Grand Line in hopes of finding “One Piece.” Having sold over 450 million copies, the iconic series has expanded it’s reach. With several movies, an anime, video games and merchandising the series has developed into massive revenue.


7. Fish of the North Star – $22 Billion

Created in 1983, the Fist of the North Star manga series was written by Buronson and drawn by Tetsuo Hara. 245 chapters were collected in 27 volumes by Shueisha. Set in a world destroyed by nuclear war, the series follows Kenshiro as he uses his Hokuto Shinken martial art to give his enemies a gory death. While Fist of the North Star has included games, merchandise, anime and manga, the series mostly makes money from Pachinko and arcades.


6. Dragon Ball – $24.3 Billion

Dragon Ball is the storied series from Akira Toriyama. Created in 1984, Dragon Ball started out as a popular manga series. Eventually Dragon Ball became the second highest selling manga series of all time. It was adapted into two anime series, Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Through several companies, Dragon Ball has developed merchandising, films, both animated and live action, collectibles, trading cards and many video games.

Lists · Top 10

The top ten Highest-grossing anime film franchises and film series

10. Naruto

Total Worldwide box office gross: $147,064,005

Number of films: 11

Average of films: $13,369,455

Highest-grossing film: Boruto, Naruto the Movie ($39,500,00)


9. Yo-kai

Total Worldwide box office gross: $159,151,900

Number of films: 4

Average of films: $39,787,975

Highest-grossing film: Yo-kai Watch: The Movie ($69,698,865)


8. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Total Worldwide box office gross: $184,343,170

Number of films: 5

Average of films: $36,868,634

Highest-grossing film: Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo ($66,519,752)


7. Glitter Force

Total Worldwide box office gross: $199,966,807

Number of films: 24

Average of films: $8,331,950

Highest-grossing film: Pretty Cure All Stars: Friends of the Future ($12,099,273)


6. Crayon Shin-Chan

Total Worldwide box office gross: $340,744,810

Number of films: 25

Average of films: $13,629,792

Highest-grossing film: Asleep! Dreaming World Big Assault! ($19,100,000)


5. One Piece

Total Worldwide box office gross: $432,607,375

Number of films: 13

Average of films: $33,277,490

Highest-grossing film: One Piece: Film Z ($88,736,587)


4. Dragon Ball

Total Worldwide box office gross: $735,817,583

Number of films: 20

Average of films: $36,790,879

Highest-grossing film: Dragon Ball Super: Broly ($101,963,596)


3. Case Closed

Total Worldwide box office gross: $842,825,010

Number of films: 23

Average of films: $36,644,566

Highest-grossing film: Detective Conan: Zero the Enforcer ($108,105,223)


2. Pokemon

Total Worldwide box office gross: $1,050,235,271

Number of films: 21

Average of films: $50,011,203

Highest-grossing film: The First Movie ($163,644,662)


1. Doraemon

Total Worldwide box office gross: $1,218,955,319

Number of films: 39

Average of films: $31,255,265

Highest-grossing film: Stand by Me Doraemon ($183,442,714)


Source: Wikipedia

Challenges · The Salty Anime Challenge

The Salty Anime Challenge Day 9: Least favorite anime trope(s)

Clothing Damage

If you’ve wanted anime long enough you notice that during the battle sometimes an anime characters clothing will get damaged. Often this is a pathetic attempt to justify fanservice. Clothing damage in anime can ridiculous. Bleach for example has this problem, while it seems that only the male characters are susceptible to clothing damage. The main protagonists, Ichigo even stated that “his outfit changes when he assumes bankai, his shirt takes damage in proportion to how much spirit power he loses. As he rests, the robes mend.”

The most famous example is of course the Dragon Ball series. Goku in particular displays this troupe. You can often comically determine the point in the fight based on Goku’s clothing. If he’s still has his shirt on the fight cannot be over. Strangely enough his pants are apparently made of stronger fabric than his shirt. His pants may get torn, but they never get blow off like his shirt does.

Defeat means Friendship

In popular manga and anime, Fairy Tail, both Gajeel and Juvia join the guild after they are defeated. In the Dragon Ball series almost all of the Z team at some point tried to beat or kill Goku at one point. Krillin even stated that “all of the Z-Fighters were enemies with Goku at some point.” More specifically:

  • Piccolo, was an enemy of Goku until mutual respect for Goku’s fighting ability.
  • Vegeta, prince of the Saiyan’s was nearly killed when he and Nappa tried to steal the dragon balls. Through the series Vegeta slowly becomes a permanent member of the Z team.
  • Majin Buu, has about ten different forms. Fat Buu and Ubuu become members of the Z team.
  • Android 17 & 18, both were created to kill Goku. 18 later marries Krillin, 17 actually doesn’t even meet Goku until Dragon Ball Super.

In Naruto, Neji and Gaara are transformed after Naruto defeats them and changes their lives. The problem with this troupe is that it’s unrealistic. For example, Piccolo, Vegeta, Buu, and Gaara kill many people and seemingly go unpunished for it, other than being defeated in combat.

Not Worth Killing

It is common in anime that a hero or villian will conclude that their opponent is too weak to be worthy of death. This is clearly design to keep the average skilled friends of the main character alive when the “main” bad guy decides that they don’t warrant being killed. It’s also a good way to display the power of a villian while not causing the lives of heroes. However, we all know that eventual the hero will surpass that villian.

  • DBZ, Goku is notorious for leaving villains alive, hoping that they have “learned their lesson,” or even hoping that they comeback stronger because he loves the competition. He does this too often with Frieza, who then goes on to destroy the planet TWICE. He manages to kill everyone on Earth in “Resurrection F ” on for Whis to reverse it.
  • One Piece, even though this series features much fighting, it is rare that they end up in death. Luffy fights brutally but I can’t think of any situation that resulted in anyone being killed by him. This doesn’t necessary mean that villains learn from their mistakes or go to prison, in fact some villains end up better off. For example, Wapol, become “an incredibly wealthy toymaker and tyrant of another kingdom, and Eneru went to the moon like he originally wanted.”
  • Bleach, many of the fights in the series ends with the loser remaining alive due to being unworthy of death. Kenpachi leaves Nnoitra after defeating him, he turns around to leave and Nnoitra attacks him forcing Kenpachi to finally kill him.

Stock Shonen Hero

If your a fan of Shonen anime or you’re just aware of it, you should be able to easily identify which character is the main protagonist. Goku is the template for most of these hero types. They tend to share the same characteristics and are even created to emulate Goku as the creators were inspired by DBZ. The most famous characters that represent this troupe is Natsu from Fairy Tail, Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece and Naruto from Naruto. Some of the the characteristics are:

  • Simple mindedness that borders on stupidity
  • Massive appetites
  • Have orange hair or clothing
  • A tendency to show mercy to enemies that have commit horrible crimes
  • A mastery of difficult techniques in short time
  • A need to train excessively despite quickly learning these techniques
  • Often fights for the thriller of it, and if necessary will surpass all limits to always win

Interestingly, Ichigo from Bleach shares many of these characteristics particularly in battle, however, he’s a smart student.  Edward Elric shares personality traits of the typical Stock Hero but is highly educated due to his mastery of Alchemy. However, some characters subvert this troupe:

  • Boruto from Boruto is actually the opposite of his father, Naruto. While he looks just like him, he’s actually considered to be a “genius,” and wants to be like Sasuke, sharing more qualities with him than his father.
  • Saitama from One Punch Man also subverts this troupe, he does wear orange and trains a lot but because he became too powerful none of his fight thrill him and he’s now bald.
  • Shigeo Kageyama from Mob Psycho 100, is average in many ways, he’s emotionally limited, hates to fight, his usual hair style is a bowl cut and wears all black.
  • Izuku Midoriya from My Hero Academia, has a powerful quirk but his most important ability is his intelligence and ability to analyze and be strategic.

Alright, this post is already too long. I could go on and on. There are many other troupe that bug me, but these are some of the most obvious.

30 Day Anime Challenge · Challenges

30 Day Anime Challenge – Day 14

30 Day Anime Challenge

Dragonball-Z

Anime that Never Gets Old, No Matter How Many Times You’ve Re-watched It

The anime that never gets old was easy for me to determine, Dragon Ball Z (DBZ). Any average anime fan probability has seen DBZ. It was on of the premier anime from my childhood and I can’t seem to get over it. To be honest I talking about the fights that occurred in the series. Despite the facts that the disparity between most characters (that weren’t saiyans) became massive, I still manage to enjoy the fights.

Speaking of fights they weren’t particularly high quality in terms of creativeness. The battles can be linear and as a result predictable. Although, most anime is predictable on some level.  My tastes for the style of fights have become more sophisticated over time, but I still find DBZ to be enjoyable. I don’t remember how many times I’ve re-watched the series, but I think I’ll do it one more time.