Naruto was my childhood. Okay, maybe that statement’s stretching it a bit considering I’m not even in my twenties yet. Still, the fond memories of me binge-watching episodes at the cafeteria, library, and even mid-lecture will probably follow me for awhile longer. It was my very first shounen after all; a time where I escaped from my daily routine to join Team 7 on their various escapades, mimicking their hand signs (I’d honestly still make them if I remembered any), and just having fun with it. I don’t recall when I first realized Naruto’s childhood was a reflection on loneliness, nor did I care for it until much later in the series. To the me only a few years ago, Naruto wasn’t a character-driven journey. It was all about the fights, the special abilities, and the strategies revolving around them.

What made a shounen a shounen.

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This is my first journey through the “100 Days of Anime” Challenge, an ambitious project that I’ll be taking. For the full list of prompts, click here.

“Favorite Shounen Anime?”

I fell in love with so many characters from Naruto. Kakashi’s mystique and skill instantly became a favorite, while Shikamaru stunned me with his calculated approach both in and out of combat. They were *cool* to put it bluntly; style backed up with sweet action scenes and animations the hyped up my impressionable (and rather violent) younger self. The designs for each character were appealing, unique, and easy to understand. But that was it. I didn’t care for much beyond the action. Backstories became filler episodes that I absolutely loathed. Character developments and story arcs were something I begrudgingly trudged through until I could get my next fix of secret techniques and forbidden handsigns.

The genre has changed since then.

Lets take a look at My Hero Academia Deku is an outlier. He’s quirkless for one, an oddity among his superpowered peers. But like many other shounen heroes, that doesn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of become a hero. Where Naruto has a seemingly unlimited amount of willpower, Deku also draws upon an irrepressible urge to become hokage a hero. Not just any hero, however, but the best of them all. The Symbol of Peace: All Might. And it’s here where something changes.

Because despite those similar motives, Deku made me care more in 24 episodes then Naruto could in 700+.

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Maybe it was the presentation. Maybe I relate more to a quirkless than I ever could a Jinchuuriki. Though the tournament arc of MHA may be comparatively similar to the Chunin exams, MHA managed to raise the stakes without shoving background elements down our throats. There are only two characters in the ring, each with different motives and abilities. Both desperately fighting for victory. It made me care not just for Deku, but his rivals as well.

My Hero Academia is an example of taking everything we love about the shounen formula, and refining it. We have some of the greatest action scenes of the season, lovable characters, and an underdog story I just can’t help but cheer for. We’ve got a greater evil plot happening in the background that doesn’t ever feel evil for the sake of evil. It’s organic storytelling at its finest. It’s something that many of the longer shows in the genre have failed to do, stretching out episode after episode of arcs and plot points that feel too shallow, too artificial. Or maybe the genre hasn’t changed at all; but rather gave me a greater appreciation for characters as a whole.