Before we even realize it, Shounen main characters steal the spotlight and become the primary brand representatives of their respective anime. Many a times they also take a step back and let the other characters steer the wheel. That still doesn’t diminish the role served by the main characters, only becomes an instance of proving their good leadership.
We decided to put together a list of some Shounen main characters who are still very much leading the anime scene in terms of their popularity, likeability, strength or leadership qualities. Some of these characters have also been severely critiqued for leading weak storylines which haven’t really led to any fruitful development.
Hopefully, you will like our picks for the day. We welcome any kind of suggestions to improve the list so mentioned, so please bring in all those protagonists whom you love but might not have made it to this list.
Here are some of the best shounen main characters that we have come across during our ride.
See also: Top 30 Cutest Cartoon Characters
Shounen Main Characters
21. Natsu Dragneel
Anime: Fairy Tail
Despite being the main character of his respective anime, Natsu Dragneel has often been portrayed as a caricature. He is obviously not like your average shounen MC. Fans frequently complain about how he has barely been developed throughout the course of the anime. Instead of projecting his vulnerabilities to add complexity to his character, we are shown a Demon Slayer who suffers from motion sickness. This posits him as a figure providing comic relief within the anime.
Nevertheless, the most prized quality of a Shounen MC is his loyalty towards his friends. It is this quality that compels him to launch into action, at times turning out to be violent too.
Shounen anime tend to build up a sense of belongingness with one’s friends. Natsu furthers that concept by putting himself in harm’s way if necessary so that he can save his friends. Thus, emerging as a dependable protagonist in times of need.
Anime: My Hero Academia
Midoriya is another clumsy main character in anime. Yet, this quality makes him a lovable character. More importantly, he is probably one of the humblest protagonists out there and it all has to do with his origin story. He knows well what it means to be vulnerable and weak and that is why he treasures his powers like no one else does.
However, there is a reason why he has garnered a low rank. Again, like Natsu, Midoriya is often used as a gag-reel element within the show. It’s no surprise that characters like Todoroki and Bakugo are much more intriguing and well developed over the course of the past few seasons.
In terms of multi-dimensionality, Midoriya emerges as a fairly flat character. He is quite relatable, but it doesn’t add to his heroic quality. A protagonist doesn’t simply serve the role of a hero because he is supposed to. When we think of Midoriya’s origin story, it is as plain and straightforward as him just wanting to be a hero, there are no layers to it, no sense of driving force, except maybe All Might. He has his fair share of overpowered MC moments, but it seems like his presence has been used to rather boost other characters, and it has worked nicely for them.
19. Yoh Asakura
Anime: Shaman King
Yoh Asakura is a rather carefree protagonist as compared to other main characters in anime. He would choose to communicate with spirits more than associating with human beings but that is because of his secluded childhood. Asakura is in fact a very caring character who will lay down his own life to protect others. The motto “Everything will work out” that he chooses to live by defines his character well.
It can also be noticed that he sports a laidback attitude and would rather make way for other characters to shine. Not all heroes have this capability to let others take the spotlight but Asakura does. Such a quality is highly appreciated in times of team building activities. A true leader isn’t always the most outspoken one, rather it is someone who helps make his team’s presence felt.
Yet many viewers strongly suggest that his portrayal falls short of what it seeks to achieve. They sense that Asakura isn’t as straightforward about his true feelings about humankind as he should be. And so, many of us are left in the dark, assuming what he truly feels. This has become a bit troublesome and annoying for some fans.
18. Soul Eater Evans
Anime: Soul Eater
Shounen anime lead their storylines with a typical trope of introducing the audience to a power duo. This pair is seen bantering with one another throughout the course of their journey, yet still know how to strike a chord between each other. In “Soul Eater”, this duo is formed by Soul Evans and Maka. The dynamic therein helps project the portrayal of the main character i.e. Soul Evans as someone who may not match the wavelength of his partner yet stays utterly loyal to her. This also makes him an ideal main character figure since it highlights that he holds staying loyal to one’s friends as the priority.
At the initial stage, Soul Evans almost has this nonchalant edge to him. He acted on his whims and quite recklessly at that. However, as the plot develops we can see him change his ways as well. His growing maturity brings forth a seriousness towards his actions and his thought process.
He takes the “benefit of the doubt” situation too seriously in terms of his weighing his judgments about someone he deems evil. Though he’s proven to be right in most cases, we can see how strongly he holds on to his beliefs that he barely gives the other person a chance to prove his accountability.
17. Tsunayoshi Sawada
Anime: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
When it comes to one’s personality, Tsunayoshi Sawada is apparently one of the most distinct shounen main characters. He stands out amongst all these shounen protagonists trying to establish themselves as heroes. Tsunayoshi’s main purpose in life seems to be to simply exist while struggling with the dire situation of his life as a 14 year old.
In a way, his character brings us closer to a somewhat realistic portrayal of a young boy. Characters like Naruto and Midoriya climb the ladder of greatness upon getting inspired by heroic figures they idolize. Adding on to that, these mentors also happen to be around them. While, Tsunayoshi on the other hand, happens to have no such support. He’s just a regular kid trying his best to get by at school. There he has to deal with the burden of labels like “loser” and “useless” been associated with his name. Things take a wild turn when he’s approached by the mafia to become their successor. It is only then that he finally comes into contact with powerful fighters and learns to fight himself.
Even after such drastic changes, Tsunayoshi never loses sight of what kind of a person he is. Right till the end, he chooses to stay the same ordinary kid he used to be over being a mafia boss. The only difference is that he comes to own his personality by the end. This in itself showcases his development as a character. It is this very ordinariness that sets him apart from the rest of the shounen main characters.
Anime: Black Clover
As far as overpowered shounen main characters are concerned, Asta is far from having acquired any such superhuman ability. He is one of those characters who has had to physically train to gain these ostensible powers. Despite this lack of magical powers, he has an edge over the others who do have these powers. Since he is well aware of his vulnerable side, he puts his all into his training.
People try to put him down by constantly reminding him of his powerlessness but instead of taking that to heart, he charges straight into the battlefield with his endless supply of willpower. It is this very quality of his that also ends up inspiring others around him.
It seems that some viewers of the anime “Black Clover” do find him to be an annoying character because of his loud personality. Well, all anime characters have their share of drawbacks and this is one of Asta’s, yet as has been widely observed, it isn’t enough to make one hate him. A lot of his character tropes rather make us count on him and learn from him. He’s not exactly a complex or dense character, but a simple one, someone we can see through and through.
15. Alphonse Elric
Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist
Alphonse Elric reminds us of the Cyborg narrative because his life is quite similar to that specific DC comics character. In order to understand him better, we can draw a comparison between him and his brother Edward. Both these brothers have each other’s backs but what sets Alphonse apart can be explained as- if Edward is the muscle, then Alphonse is the heart and the brain. Alphonse weighs out situations rationally and only takes recourse to physical action in times that are completely unavoidable, like when the lives of his loved ones are at stake.
As mentioned before, he isn’t just the rational one but also the emotional one. It’s but natural that his desire for his older body turns everything into an existential question for him. It often pushes him to think of himself as a mere shadow following his brother while having no originality to offer from his side.
Despite it all, we soon realize that each of the two brothers have their individual roles to play and need each other’s support at all times. Alphonse too recognizes this and chooses to fight alongside his brother. Even though Alphonse has his own battles to fight in his mind, he never falls short of being there for his brother and doing the right thing.
Anime: Dragon Ball Z
While discerning the main character, or any character for that matter, we look at their growth arc. It’s important to see the character grow from his/her initial state of being to a new, better and stronger one. In Goku’s case, the anime literally plots his coming of age and so we witness him growing up and learning the respective lessons along the way of becoming the hero he is known to be.
Goku’s power defines his character well as we can see him rise to the occasion almost every time he is put at the center of any challenging situation. However, that is not all there is to him. He has often displayed his morality by forgiving many people who’ve come his way. More than being an overpowered main character, he is also a kind one with a sense of gravity. This doesn’t merely exude how humble he is but also encourages others to pull the better versions of themselves out of hiding.
Finally, one of the most common factors shared by main characters is their readiness to put their own life on the line for others. Goku follows suit and is more than willing to sacrifice himself to save those around him. He stands tall, both as a strong as well as a grounded main character.
13. Yuusuke Urameshi
Anime: Yu Yu Hakusho
“Yu Yu Hakusho” is one of the older classics that one can’t afford to miss out on, especially if you’re a shounen anime fanatic. The pantheon of characters found in this anime is a stellar ensemble indeed. In such cases it isn’t easy to define a particular character as the top tier protagonist. Yet, even after all that, Yuusuke Urameshi leads this group.
In Yuusuke, we find a teenager who is struggling to find his identity in society. He even comes off as a rebellious teenager initially due to this reason. And so, the anime also turns into a coming of age story centred around him. Once he accepts his role as the Spirit Detective, he finally finds a means to positively engage with his skills.
Typical of a shonen main character, he doesn’t envision victory as the ultimate end, especially if it has to be achieved by compromising his friends’ well being. What is even more enjoyable to watch are his attempts to save the world. Through this, he is ultimately able to discover his true self.
It might sound repetitive that the primary goal of a shounen anime main character is to protect his friends, but it’s one of those qualities that persistently keeps shaping up these characters. Considering those terms, Ichigo is like any other shounen protagonist. While an underdog narrative driven by most main characters renders them relatable and makes the audience feel for them empathetically, Ichigo’s backstory falls short there. He comes from an already ‘top of the tower’ background, which means that he doesn’t necessarily have anything to lose even if he fails. This is where he loses points for poignancy and depth somehow.
Despite this seemingly one dimensionality to his character, Ichigo enjoys the ‘best of both worlds’ kind of lifestyle since he is part human and part Shinigami, which thereby makes him unique.
Another quality that many fans seem to admire about Ichigo’s character is how realitic he is. Fans label him as one of the Big three of the anime world along with Naruto and Luffy. However, Ichigo’s portrayal is brought about in a more humane light. While the other two come off as powerful giants within the anime realm, Ichigo does so too but as one who is well aware of his fantastical surroundings and his presence within.
Anime: Demon Slayer
Tanjiro is in many ways one of the classic examples of the shounen main character trope. He has the backstory, the purpose and the motive to strive and move ahead to make things better for him and his family. More importantly, the fact that despite going down the bloody path of demon slaying he has still managed to keep his human heart alive, attracts a lot of admiration for him.
It’s only natural that even demons feel a chill up their spine when facing an opponent like Tanjiro. His strength doesn’t simply emerge from his inheritance of ‘Dance of the Fire God’ from his family but also his own self training, almost as if he’s earned the right to this strength.
The anime ‘Demon Slayer’ isn’t just about Tanjiro fighting to make his way to the top of the chain, it is rather about his resolve to avenge his family. In this process, he isn’t trying to project his robust disposition but how much will power it takes for him to stay on track and yet he does that with empathy in his heart.
Anime: Dr. Stone
Each shonen main character has his/her own appeal and for most MCs its their existence as the overpowered character who defies all odds to win every battle. Senkuu on the other hand puts this overused shonen tactical trope aside and puts forth his intelligence as his greatest asset.
Like any other shounen main character he too wants help better the lives of people around him but instead of using his physical strength to do that, he uses all his knowledge of science. Whatever way one might want to put it as, he definitely checks off this particular shonen anime trope. It’s just that he happens to do it in his own unique manner.
As far as the divided opinions go for him, yes, some viewers deem him annoying but it is also accurate that others see him as the perfect puzzle piece completing the vibe of this respective anime. In any other anime, such a character might fit well on the side or not at all but the differing flavour of “Dr. Stone” sets the stage for a character like him at the center.
Anime: Hunter x Hunter
There are a lot of pointers that may cross out one another when it comes to discerning Gon’s credibility as a main character. While some aspects of his character posit him as one of the best protagonists out there, some other take a step back as well.
Gon’s origin story can be easily laid out as one of the humble starts within shonen beginnings. He neither had anyone backing him up nor any kind inheritance that could help pave the way for his acts of bravery. He had to do it all by himself. Although many fans may point out how he is a unique exception within the shounen stream of anime, he does check off the aspect of strong friendship ties from the list of characteristics generally followed by shounen main characters.
It is Gon’s openness to new challenges as well as experiences that makes him even more likeable. However, one can clearly cite those instances where Killua had to clean up after Gon’s actions, and that is where his portrayal as a main character strikes a balance.
Most of us might have related to Naruto on one account or the other on being labelled an outcast of society. He is the quintessential instance of a shounen main character and is probably the first one to pop up in most of our minds when pondering over the shounen category.
He has emerged as one of the primary instances of the ‘underdog rising through the ashes’ trope. Adding to this, his quirky adn relatable attitude makes the audience vouch for him to a great extent. Moreover, one can mark the growth undergone by Naruto throughout the anime distinctly. Yet there are times when fans have contested his stance as the main character and looked up to Sasuke as the actual protagonist.
With all that said, Naruto’s story has played out as a beacon of hope to many for not giving up on themselves and encouraged them to keep treading an otherwise rocky path ahead of them, ultimately leading to greater heights.
07. Allen Walker
This is that one generous character who even ranks high on Shounen Jump’s list for the most friendly main characters. Although we get to mostly see his selfless side, he was embittered by the incidents of his past, one of them being how his parents sold him to the circus. It is here that he develops a brash attitude towards life, being exposed to the dark side by the ringleader.
The subsequent escapades with Mana, his adoptive father, teach him the importance of friendship and warmth. The bond developed there is hard to break and so he takes on Mana’s ways of living and accepts the Order as his next “true home”, but only after having to deal with the fried of Mana’s death. He later discovers the truth of the experiments conducted by the Order and this causes him to part his ways with them except keeping up with few of his friends.
Having had to deal with all these harsh experiences molded his personality and helped him earn experience about life the hard way. He can easily see though people. Most importantly, his life choices perfectly depict that he’s taken on the advice given by Mana to “keep walking forward”.
06. Satoru Gojou
Anime: Jujutsu Kaisen
Here comes an entry to this list that has probably dragged a lot of non-anime viewers to join this party – Satoru Gojou. Even if you don’t know his name, you’re bound to know what he looks like owing to his infamous appearance adorned with a black mask and ‘Jack Frost hair’.
Ideally, the main charcter’s title is held by Yuji Itadori but still the one who has caught everyone’s eye is the Jujutsu sorcerer Gojou. He is a scene stealer in the perfect sense of that term. His initial intimidating aura might’ve caught one off guard but with the progression of the show his amiable side is revealed to us, but that becomes evident mostly when he’s around his friends. Other than that, he still comes off as an arrogant character at times owing to his overreaching powers.
Other than that, Gojou’s command over his expendable strength and his comic timing, accompanied by the respective changes in his art design draw our attention towards him. Whether it is his hypnotizing clear blue eyes or easy going chibi (comic) self, one always stays intrigued by his presence.
Anime: One Piece
Here comes another shounen main character who shares the title of anime’s one of the Big three. It’s been really easy to root for Luffy, especially since he is a product of his hard work. He didn’t enjoy any sort of privilege but was still able to find the ground to make the most of what he had to rise to the occasion. His confidence in himself has helped him survive the tests of time over all these years. This ultimately fuels his stance as a captain as well.
Having learnt all that about him, he still does give in to his recklessness which doesn’t always pay him off well either. On the other hand, what helps us distinguish him from other shounen main characters is how his personality doesn’t directly derive from the ideal shounen hero trope of wanting to save everyone. He has his own set of goals and understands that it isn’t exactly possible to save the whole world considering he is also a pirate, which sets him apart from the basic all good and ideal protagonist figure.
Even if he falls short as the heroic figure during some exchanges, he never turns his back to that truth rather acknowledges it with all his understanding.
04. Light Yagami
Anime: Death Note
It’s hard to place Light Yagami as a hero. He’s one of those main characters who defies the stock patterns followed by shounen heroes, which is why it would be appropriate to label him an anti hero.
One can’t simply delineate his character’s disposition without spoiling a good chunk of the anime’s storyline. Let’s keep it safe and simple.
When Light comes across the death note, he uses it for the greater good of restoring good morals within society by eliminating crime and propagators of evil deeds. To sum it up, his sole purpose was to serve justice. But that’s just it, the power bestowed upon him with the death note in his hands is too much for him to get accustomed to. Soon enough, things take an unconceivable turn that by the end of it we’re barely able to see through any of the acts of our infamous main character. It is this very unreadability and unpredictability of his character which renders him an extremely intriguing and mind boggling instance of a shounen main character.
03. Edward Elric
Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist
Literally, a journey can be mapped up out when taking a look at Edward’s character development throughout the anime.
His journey starts off with solely relying on alchemy as the answer to everything. However, later on, he renounces this knowledge to save his family. That, in a nutshell defines him as a shounen main character. His life experiences eventually teach him that alchemy is equally capable of creating a mayhem other than solving issues. A person who is ignorant to both sides of the coin can never really grasp knowledge to the fullest. It is only after learning the limitation of his knowledge that Edward takes another chance to see through everything with an unbiased eye. Ultimately, it helps improve his own abilities and deepen his knowledge.
The presentation of this character attracts a lot of audience because he is deemed to be a relatable character. He isn’t simply a hero. We are taken through the journey of all his ups and downs along with him. This helps us see through his character and also take note of his will power and determination that keeps him going despite any kind of hurdle.
02. Joseph Joestar (Young)
Anime: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
As what can be observed, people either love Joseph or hate him, there is no in between. Each character has ample to provide in this anime and so it is hard to rank one of them as the most likeable character. Joseph, however, is not only the public’s favourite but also someone who knows how to strike a balance. He knows well when to turn into a laidback person and when to switch to being a serious one.
Joseph Joestar has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. Strategies just come naturally to him in times of need and eventually help him outshine everyone else in most battles. Basically, his brain works at a fast pace. Moreover, to balance it all out his portrayal sparks a very meme-ish existence. Certain incidents that befall him or that he happens to become a part of end up turning into a laughter riot.
On top of it all, he proves his capability as a shonen main character by looking after the well being of his friends. He is a package of all things chaotic and heroic so he might be a little too heavy to digest for some. Nevertheless, those who do like, can’t seem to get enough of him.
01. Eikichi Onizuka
Anime: Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO)
Topping the list of shounen main characters is this unconventional teacher who doesn’t adhere to any protocols detailed out for teachers to follow. Though he seems to be the most unlikely fit for this position, it turns out that he becomes a great helping hand for his students after all.
Other than the dramatic aspects of the anime, this comedy does go over the top many times. For example, Onizuka took a five-hour test to qualify as a teacher, which he completed in just over an hour, and that too while bleeding. Being a shonen main character also requires you to have some kind of powers or strengths. His fighting skills and body’s resistance really leave us awestruck.
All in all, he is quite a questionable character, but again it’s his growth from there into a respectable teacher that posits him as the protagonist of the show. His life is no short of extraordinary and complements the overall concept of the show.
That’s it for now! Thank you for sticking with us till the very end. We hope this list of shounen main characters stood tall as per your expectations.
There is a plethora of shounen MCs out there. However, we can’t name all of them, considering this to be an exhaustive list. Please leave some of your suggestions down in the comments if you think that we have missed out on mentioning some characters who deserve this title equally.