Shonen anime tends to have a lot of tropes and cliches that are called out by the community and made fun of. Concepts like the value of friendship and never giving up are fine ideals, but they’ve been presented to the point of nausea throughout the popular series. It can also be frustrating to see a series where the stakes are high, but everyone gets out alive and no dire consequences are suffered. There’s no way of knowing how many animes this applies to, but it might be better understood through Weekly Shōnen Skip creed.
Friendship, effort and victory represent the guiding principles of Shōnen Jump. They are found in one form or another in just about all of their manga. It sounds monotonous, but it’s led Jump become one of the best-selling manga magazines in Japan. Not only that, but many individual series released under Jump have become resounding successes by following these same principles. As generic as they may seem, something about them works. Here is an overview of each of these principles and how they have shaped not only Skip greatest works but also anime and manga in general.
The close bonds of the heroes of the bonds of friendship
Perhaps the most common of Shōnen Jump’s principles is friendship. The idea is simple; people who surround themselves with friends and loved ones will find greater satisfaction in their lives. In most cases, friendship becomes a source of power for the main character. In battle manga, this often involves combining powers into a single ultimate attack or having the main character’s friends use their powers to support and enhance their own combat abilities. Having strong allies who can provide the necessary support can mean the difference between glorious victory and shameful defeat.
Friendship can also take the form of teamwork. By working separately, even a group cannot achieve much, but if they coordinate their efforts to achieve a common goal, anything is possible. Each person in a group has their strengths and weaknesses; by covering up the weaknesses of others, people can achieve things they could never do alone. Working together is a fundamental theme in sports manga like Kuroko’s Basketball and Haikyu!!, where the main cast has learn to play as a team. Whether it’s a classroom full of students (Jigoku Sensei Nūbē), an alliance of Heroes (my hero academia), or a paramilitary unit (demon slayer), like-minded people aiming for a common goal are bound to produce great results.
Friends are also important for providing emotional support. When something bad happens, one can be put in a desperate state of mind that makes it difficult to think clearly or move on (Hunter X Hunter). Good friends will help you get out of this negative mental state and move past it (naruto). They can also take a slightly less proactive role by cheering characters on the sidelines and reminding them who they’re doing everything for (Yu Gi Oh!). Once all of this happens, the receiving party can feel free to reciprocate (blue box). Friends taking care of each other like that is something everyone needs in their life, whether they think it or not.
Naturally, the antagonists of Jump the series will often see friendship as a weakness. They have a cynical mindset where the only way to get anything out of life is to manipulate everyone and trust no one (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind). They will lose because they don’t trust others or have no one worth fighting for (Dragon Ball Super). While the antagonist relies primarily on their own strength to win, the protagonist draws their power from their friends.
Effort defines a hero
Effort is a little harder to define as a trope because it takes many forms. Perhaps the most common form it takes is hard work. Whether it’s physical training (dragonball), studying (Assassination Classroom), or hone a skill (Akane banashi), the fact is that it takes a lot of time and hard work to become good at or excel at something.
In some manga, the effort a character needs to become good is left offscreen. This could be done for several reasons. If the manga is more comedy-focused than action-focused, the character may start to be overpowered so they can easily get through enemies and still focus on humor (Mashle: Magic and Muscles). In many modern manga, the protagonist will start the manga with a lot of experience so the story can progress faster (Food Wars! : Shokugeki no Soma). Likewise, if the story has a strong enough adventure element, characters can blast through most enemies so that the focus can be on world-building (Toriko). While starting the story off so strong seems at odds with the theme of effort, the fact remains that most of these characters worked hard to get to that level. However, if a character really wants to excel at something, which most of them do, they’ll have to put in a lot more effort than they already have. Many characters need training arcs to deal with current and upcoming challenges. This is also why the expression “to become stronger” and all its variations resonate everywhere Skip manga collection. Always strive to be better than you already are.
Improvement is another aspect of effort that is emphasized in Jump. No matter how good you are at something, there will always be room for improvement; there will always be tougher challenges to overcome and bigger enemies to fight. And it’s not something that stops either; life is an eternal struggle against new challenges (Bleach). Meeting these challenges means continually progressing and developing without becoming rusty or stagnant.
Effort also means never giving up in the face of adversity. Those who are knocked down but can get up must do just that (Saint Seiya). It also means being willing to move forward towards your goals, no matter how difficult or daunting it is or how many people say they can’t be achieved (A play). Whoever tries hard enough will eventually find a way to succeed and seize it.
Victory is effortless for a true hero
The idea of working hard to achieve your goals leads to the third and final theme of Shōnen Jump, victory. If it’s a Jump series, we can generally expect things to go well for the main characters. They will have overcome all the obstacles, achieved all their dreams and had a great time doing it.
Of course, this also leads to many Skip too positive stories for some. If a series promises high stakes and does not end in major losses or at least a Pyrrhic victory, the audience may feel cheated. However, that’s how the magazine works; even darker stories like Hunter X Hunter and Chainsaw Man will inevitably have something of a happy ending. Whether Jump had too many stories with darker results, it would conflict with the positive vibe the magazine is supposed to give off. At the end of the day, it’s all a fiction of escape and wish fulfillment.
Are Shōnen Jump Directors Overused?
For What It’s Worth, featuring the themes of Friendship, Endeavor, and Victory has produced many successful series. In Jump alone, manga style Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Demon Slayer, the “Big Three” of One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach have all consistently displayed these ideals and achieved financial and even mainstream success. The same goes for many other series published by Jump, including Saint Seiya, My Hero Academia, Black Clover, Dr Stone, and Jujutsu Kaisen. There are also all shonen manga that are not published by Jump but always follow their formula, including Fullmetal Alchemist, Fairy Tail, The Seven Deadly Sins, Soul Eater, and Fire force. The actual number of series that have been shaped by this mold is immeasurable. Whatever can be said about all of these series, the fact that they all managed to follow pretty much the same formula speaks volumes about its power.
Shonen manga can sometimes feel repetitive and even derivative, but it just adheres to Shōnen Jump’s basic themes. If a Jump the manga feels like it relies too heavily on these concepts, keep in mind that this probably has more to do with the magazine than any writer. Moreover, these principles, in addition to being wise words to follow, have been the basis of many great manga in the past. Anyway a really good one Jump the manga will manage to bring its own unique flair and thus capture the hearts of readers anyway.