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Why I Don’t Watch Shounen

September 4, 2009


There’s always that one standoffish jackass who thinks having a contrary opinion makes him special.

I tend to pick up scattered tidbits of the latest news on One Piece when my friends talk about a recent episode or manga chapter. After dropping it towards the end of the Chopper arc, I’ve been met with some people saying I was better off, and others who have told me that the story only gets better from then on. I’ll admit that I’d occasionally watch an episode or two out of boredom, albeit begrudgingly. But for the most part, I really lack the impetus to keep up with any of the big three (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece).

[Also, let’s not get into semantics. I realize that the word “shounen” is actually meant to denote the target demographic of the show and not the genre itself. For the sake of simplicity, I’m using it to define any prominent ongoing action series whose primary target is teenage males.]

If you’re a fan of any of the big three, you’ll be glad to know that I don’t choose not to watch them because of anything I find stylistically fault-worthy with their respective premises. If anything, I think that the original creators should be commended for being able to capitalize on ideas that are mostly mainstays of Eastern culture by bringing them to the West. And I’m sure that most of you watched one of the big three at one point or another, with some of you using it as a gateway to other Anime, and know enough about it for me not to waste time discussing their plot points. My qualm is with the technical aspect that plagues the shounen formula.

The main thing that really prevents me from plowing through any given 100+ episode series is that I feel as though it wouldn’t have a lasting impression on me. Conclusiveness is a crucial element for me. It lets me know that the creator had a general message to convey from the outset, which in turn allows we the viewers to recall certain motifs and themes that let us probe into the creative left hemisphere of their brain. Without this, it just feels like the original mangaka are just plucking out whatever whim floats in front of their faces to wring the fanbase.

Not only that, but the characters are bastardized as nothing more than cheap plot mechanisms, employed whenever the writer feels they have to insert an unnecessary twist to drag out the storyline. I know absolutely nothing about the Bleach franchise, but Tite Kubo seems to have stoked enough ire in Bleach fans that it’s become almost a weekly mantra to vilify his name in digital effigy. I’ve heard rumors about characters getting ridiculous power-ups, or entire sub-casts being resurrected as if nothing happened. Do you really have to devalue the importance of a character’s life to make your story viable?

Compare them to regular shows that are released by the season. These creators package their ideas into simple 12 to 24 episode vignettes. Time and timing are always major factors for them, not only because they have deadlines to meet but also because they need to exercise precision when choosing which scene fits into which episode to make it an optimally effective story. Whether it’s a financial and artistic failure or not is a moot point; it’s a genuine work of love.

Here’s an extreme comparison: Imagine we were all granted immortality. While I’m sure some of us would still be brooding the existential crisis, a hefty majority would stop worrying about the meaning of life altogether. If time and space were to dilate, human beings would get lazy, and we’d most likely convert to a life of hedonism. It’s that fear of death that, I believe, keeps us moving. Without a proper ending, our lives would lack meaning.

I started this as a way to voice why I choose not to watch shounen, but I seem to have gone off on a preachy tangent. I really don’t mean to offend any of the fans, although I don’t think that anything I said was particularly scathing.


Don't you wish you could see this again?


On a somewhat related note, I must say that while I dropped Naruto early on, I still believe that the Haku and Zabuza subplot was one of the most touching moments in recent Anime history. An old floormate of mine from last year said that he was a casual fan of Anime, so of course he watched Naruto. I asked him what his favorite part was, and he was really enthusiastic about saying how he had a crush on Haku. Of course he had to preface it with “No homo.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    September 4, 2009 7:01 pm

    Woah, comparing shonens to immortality? Getting too deep here…

    Your post reminded me to read this week’s Bleach. The plot is moving at a snail’s pace and I wonder why I still read it at times. At least reading it only wastes a few minutes of my life compared to 24 minutes of filler anime. /shrug

    >Your email address will never be published.
    So you can’t see it either? Well, that defeats the purpose of making an unique e-mail. Also, makes me wonder how anonymous my posts are…

    • saturnity permalink*
      September 4, 2009 7:06 pm

      The truth is I’ve actually been tracking your e-mail since you first posted.
      I expected this comment.

      • Anonymous permalink
        September 4, 2009 7:47 pm

        You expected that I watch shonens..? That’s not a good sign…

        If you expected that I’d post about e-mails, then I’d like to point out that I could easily change it to some different and “authentic” looking for every post. Though none of this really matters if you have my ip address.

  2. September 5, 2009 6:46 am

    Hmm, I’ve never actually seen any of the so called Big Three shounen titles, so I can’t really comment on them much. To be honest though, I don’t really watch much shounen at all, unless it features giant robots.

  3. September 6, 2009 7:24 am

    Wasn’t it the author of Bleach who admitted that he thinks of what he wants to happen on a solely week by week basis? Some people were shocked and dismayed by the revelation, but I’m wondering how anyone could have thought otherwise.

    I’m not sure if I agree with the main premise of your argument (on the value of endings), and if you don’t mind I think I’ll write a counterpost in a few days. But I definitely see how it applies to your lack of enthusiasm for “The Big Three,” and in that respect I am totally with you.

    • saturnity permalink*
      September 6, 2009 10:20 pm

      Please do. It’s always a treat to hear what you think.


  1. Real and Illusory Time in Naruto and Shounen Manga « 2-D Teleidoscope

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