2017 was a pretty great year for anime, and a solid year for shōnen anime. Fans of the genre saw some incredible series return after years of absence, a couple of unexpected gems, and the climactic conclusion of one of the biggest names in anime. These are the 10 best shōnen anime released in 2017 that you need to check out before the winter 2018 season begins.
Made in Abyss
Made in Abyss takes place in a world where all life is based around procuring resources and valuables from an impossibly deep and mysterious chasm. The further down one travels, the more valuable the goods they find but the more dangerous the creatures and environment. But if someone travels below the fourth level, it’s impossible for them to ever leave.
Made in Abyss is one of the most stylistically interesting anime of 2017. The chibi character designs juxtapose heavily against the imposing designs of the various creatures that appear in the abyss. This also helps accentuate the fact that the main characters are a very small part of a big and scary world. The show is one of the cutest yet darkest anime to premiere in a good while, and it’s absolutely worth marathoning before the winter 2018 season kicks off.
Black Clover, an anime about a young man without any magical powers trying to become the Wizard King, is a bit frustrating at times. The anime is a series of peaks and valleys; what it does well, it does really well, but what it does poorly, it does horrendously poorly. However, any shōnen fan owes it to themselves to check this series out, as it serves as a microcosm of the entire genre.
Black Clover’s high points include intense battles and beautiful animation; while its low points include weak female characters, poor depictions of romantic relationships, and tedious pacing. In watching Black Clover, a viewer can gain insight into what the shōnen genre does well, how it can improve, and how other anime are beginning to innovate the genre.
After more than 15 years of existing in one form or another, the saga of everyone’s favorite orange ninja finally came to an end this year. While both the original Naruto and Shippuden anime do have their problems – such as putting out more filler content some years than canonical material – it’s undeniable how big of a role the Naruto series played in popularizing anime in the West and how it helped make anime a mainstream fandom.
If you fell off the Naruto bandwagon some time ago, the last few episodes of Shippuden are still worth a watch. It’s not a perfect ending, but it gets close and contains beautiful action and plenty of emotional gut-punches.
Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond
Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond – the sequel series to 2015’s Blood Blockade Battlefront – is absolutely bonkers. The anime takes place in a version of New York City where a portal to an alternate dimension filled the city with all kinds of otherworldly creatures and individuals. The show is at its best when it depicts how mundane things like the Xbox gaming system or The Avengers movie fit into this insane world.
Blood Blockade Battlefront and Beyond is the cotton candy of shōnen anime. There are tons of crazy situations and characters, but the show almost completely lacks any kind of overarching narrative or plot. However, when the visual direction is this good, we can forgive a shallower narrative.
Dragon Ball Super
2017 saw Dragon Ball Super enter into one of its longest and best story arcs so far. The Tournament of Power arc offers a healthy combination of new material that makes the series feel dynamic and nostalgic moments that give some of the oldest characters in the series time to shine again. The fact that Master Roshi gets some character growth in the same story arc that Goku becomes even stronger than he is already is a joy to experience for lifelong fans of the series.
While Super does have its fair share of problems and has yet to quite reach the heights of Z and the original Dragon Ball anime, it’s still a must watch for shōnen fans. It’s also amazing and kind of touching that the grandfather of the shōnen genre still manages to be such a big player in the anime world today.
Inuyashiki is a story about a down on his luck old man who is struck by a spaceship and turned into a robotic version of himself. This transformation gives him impossible powers that allow him to cure diseases and injuries, possess superhuman strength, and fly (but only if he sings the Astro Boy theme song, which is adorable). However, it turns out that a young man named Hiro also became a cyborg in that accident and he uses these godly powers to kill people on a whim.
Inuyashiki is an intense story that examines both the best and worst aspects of humanity. It is one of the most unique and compelling anime of 2017 regardless of genre and might be one of the best shōnen-seinen anime released in quite a while.
Garo: Vanishing Line
Garo: Vanishing Line follows the adventures of an incredibly buff man named Sword as he travels through Russell City on a search to find the meaning behind the words ‘El Dorado.’ Along the way, he combats Horrors, which are human beings that have become monsters after experiencing intense distress or trauma.
Garo: Vanishing Line is a unique anime loosely based on a live-action television show, rather than a manga or visual novel. The plot is wholly unique from the source material, though, and manages to blend some respectable action sequences with some likable and compelling characters. While the quality of the show earns it a spot on this list by itself, the fact that it is an entirely original story rather than an adaptation makes it all the more interesting and hopefully helps popularize anime not closely tied to other IPs.
Attack on Titan Season 2
The second season of Attack on Titan was never going to live up to the hype surrounding it. The junior high spinoff released in 2015 didn’t exactly satiate anyone’s appetite for more AoT either. However, when it finally aired a whole three years after the first season finished, fans experienced a surprisingly solid continuation of the series that takes the anime in some new directions.
The first season of Attack on Titan very much resembles a horror story with a unique take on the zombie apocalypse setting before transitioning into a militaristic action story. Season 2 also starts out resembling a horror story, but then slowly comes to resemble a political drama towards the end. While some parts of Season 2 work really well and others fall a little flat, it’s still a treat to return to this brutal world and witness Eren try to get his revenge on the colossal monsters that have forced humanity into a very small corner.
Gintama Seasons 5 and 6
Gintama’s fifth and sixth seasons premiered this year, and these entries continue the series’ long-running trend of switching between absurd humor and awesome action. These seasons keep the adventures of the eccentric samurai Gintoki going, and he and his beloved employees continue to find themselves in ridiculous and heart-wrenching situations.
These two seasons do not do much to change Gintama as a series, but considering how successful and established it is, that’s not really a bad thing. If you liked the previous seasons, you’re going to like these two, and if you’ve yet to check out the most combat-heavy gag-anime ever created, you can jump into these new seasons without any trouble.
My Hero Academia Season 2
The second season of My Hero Academia is arguably the best shōnen anime of this year, and perhaps even the past few years. This season consisted of MHA’s lovable cast of characters competing in a tournament against each other, fighting a serial killer, and facing off against professional heroes to move closer to becoming pro heroes themselves. This season of MHA was amazing and featured incredible animation, pacing, and a greater focus on supporting characters that were sorely missing from the first season.
Besides being fun and enticing, MHA feels like a progression of the shōnen genre that has learned from the mistakes and shortcomings of past shōnen series. If Black Clover is the best and worst parts of the shōnen genre, then My Hero Academia is all the best parts of the genre with considerable effort put into improving the weakest elements of the genre.
2017 was a great year for shōnen anime, and it looks like 2018 is set to be a treat for fans of the genre as well. Between One Punch Man Season 2, My Hero Academia Season 3, FLCL Seasons 2 and 3, the final season of Fairy Tail, the third season of Sword Art Online, a possible second season for Made in Abyss, the third season of Attack on Titan, a new season for The Seven Deadly Sins, and an anime adaptation for Persona 5; there are plenty of reasons to be excited.