Death Note

8 Shonen Anime That Challenged Their Audience

8 Shonen Anime That Challenged Their Audience
Written by publishing team

As with all fiction, each shonen anime has a moral to its story. While common themes in shonen are friendship and hard work, there are certainly some with darker implications. Though the genre typically attracts a younger male demographic, there are plenty of insightful comments to be found if one digs deep enough into a story’s themes.

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While younger audiences may not comprehend the heavier topics in a shonen title, adult audiences will resonate with its message. Some shonen anime entice the audience to question philosophical issues such as the meaning of life and how political corruption comes into fruition.

8 My Hero Academia Blatantly States That All Men Are Not Created Equal

Though primarily enjoyed by younger anime fans, My Hero Academia makes a pretty bold statement in the first few seconds of the anime. After the protagonist, Izuku Midoriya, appeared on the screen as a young child getting bullied, he states, “Here’s the sad truth: all men are not created equal.” While this directly applies to his situation de él as a quirkless boy who still seeks to become a hero, this statement carries over into many facets of My Hero Academia— the quirkless are society’s dregs.

However, if somebody has a quirk that isn’t deemed marketable enough, that individual is on the same level as the quirkless. After Shigaraki’s quirk manifested, society left him behind. No hero came to save him while he was aimlessly wandering the streets. In the case of Twice, his quirk affected severe mental terror upon him — yet there were no institutions to provide him the support he needed.

7 Hunter X Hunter’s Chimera Ant Arc Criticizes War & Politics

Hunter x Hunter Meruem

The Chimera Ant Arc from Hunter x Hunter presented several critiques of humanity and its inherent hypocrisy. While humans see no issue keeping other species as livestock, the circumstances change when humans are treated the same way. However, the human versus beast issue is not the focal point of this arc.

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There are several references to actual governments in Hunter x Hunter’s Chimera Ant Arc. NGL is a hermit nation ruled by an authoritarian who sells drugs that deteriorate the world. East Gorteau is an allegory to North Korea — a fascist government in which the elites are wealthy, but the average person starves. By the end of the arc, Hunter x Hunter presents how useless war and politics are in relation to humanity’s happiness.


6 Deadman Wonderland Used Grim Settings To Reveal Political Corruption

Deadman Wonderland poster

Deadman Wonderland is almost too disturbing to be considered shonen. It follows Ganta and his classmates on a field trip to an amusement park aptly called Deadman Wonderland. There, convicts become spectacles as they perform dangerous stunts to impress the audience. However, Ganta’s classmates all get slaughtered by a mysterious man in red and Ganta gets framed for the tragedy.

At its core, the Deadman Wonderland amusement park symbolizes the most twisted trio of all: the media, the judicial system, and corrupt politicians. While the mass media thrives off of depraved criminal acts, the courts pick winners and losers — regardless of the laws on the books. Behind the curtains, however, are the corrupt politicians pulling the strings on everything.


5 The Promised Neverland Presents A Nightmarish Existence For The Kids At The Grace Field House

Ray Emma Norman from The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland is a psychological thriller that follows three children who live in an orphanage. On the surface, the Grace Field House looks like the ideal living situation for these orphans. However, the leading trio quickly uncovers the nightmarish truth of the world—and of the very place they call home.

The Grace Field House orphanage serves as an incubator in The Promised Neverland until the children are sold to demons as livestock. The children are coerced into submission through dishonesty. While the story’s central theme is friendship, there are several societal comments to be found. The Promised Neverland comments on growing up and realizing that those in power are seldom who they claim they are. Many fans described walking away from this story feeling empty and deeply disturbed.


4 Akame Ga Kill! Features A Government That Runs Purely On The Fear Of Civilians

Esdeath Captures Tastumi, Akame ga Kill!

Akame Ga Kill! is a rather dark shonen title that follows a villager named Tatsumi who visits the Capital so he can raise money for his home. However, the Capital’s corruption becomes glaringly evident almost immediately.

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The Empire’s civilians are taxed immensely, making it impossible for them to purchase basic living necessities. Due to the high taxes, parents sell their children to slavery for financial gain. The Capital thrives by creating a culture of fear among its constituents; nobody dares to rebel. Anyone who speaks out against the regime becomes the victim of public crucifixion. Even surviving in the Empire feels like punishment for its civilians.


3 One Piece Disguises Its Political Commentary Behind Common Shonen Tropes

Luffy during Onigashima raid in One Piece

Despite the zany qualities associated with one piece, the series has an inherently political theme beneath its familiar shonen tropes. Its theme of friendship is one of the best depictions across anime as a whole — yet, it disguises something significantly deeper. On a surface level, one piece is about a young man following his dreams of becoming a pirate. However, it morphs into commentary about corrupt governments.

In one piece, all of the protagonists are pirates. However, this puts them in direct contradiction to the World Government. Initially, the Government holds no actual prominence to the story. However, in later chapters, their reign of tyranny becomes apparent. If anyone goes against the Government’s will, the regime forcefully targets them. This organization relies on censorship and indoctrination to remain in power. The Straw Hats, objectively, are the only ones who can defeat them.


two Death Note Makes The Audience Realize Morality’s Inherent Fragility

Light holds Death note

death note adheres to a cat-and-mouse dynamic between its protagonist, Light Yagami, and the forces trying to end his reign as “Kira.” death note presents psychological warfare with serious commentary on the meaning of life, death, and what morality truly is.

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Ultimately, death note makes the audience recognize that morality is inherently subjective. Light’s plan to abolish crime was established alongside an ever-growing god complex. While he started out killing criminals, he eventually killed anybody who stood in his way. The police have the same goal of abolishing crime—yet their sense of morality is different from Light’s. While Light and L declared themselves as the very definition of justice, their moralities were opposites. Therefore, there is no true definition of “justice” found within death note.




1 Attack On Titan Understands That Humanity Can Be Monstrous

attack on titan eren starts the rumbling

Attack On Titan’s protagonist, Eren Yeager, has become a radicalized extremist whose priorities have shifted from the beginning of the series. In the beginning, he sought to avenge everything he’s lost by exterminating the Titans.

However, Eren became just as corrupt as the Paladian government he swore to fight against. He’s committed numerous atrocities and slaughtered countless people. Eren even has a fanatical following called “Yagerists,” who encourage these monstrous actions. While he started as a hero, Eren is becoming more of a villain by the day. Attack On Titan does an excellent job of presenting the idea that humanity has the potential of becoming genuinely monstrous.

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