I watched some shonen battle anime

I have pretty bad taste in anime. Basically I watch either comfy slice of life shows where nothing really happens but you get a nice fluffy feeling afterwards or trashy harem shows where between three and ten inexplicably hot girls throw themselves at a basically personality-free male lead who serves as a screen for the audience to project upon. Often these latter shows feature fantasy worlds or supernatural elements, but they all pretty much feature boobs.

Occasionally, OCCASIONALLY I watch something with some actual substance to it. Like, this season has me watching both Rent-a-Girlfriend Season 2 AND “My Stepmom’s Daughter is my Ex” but I am also watching Lycoris Recoil which would probably pass for a fluffy slice of life show if it wasn’t for all of the terrorist plots and the underlying premise that modern Japan owes its famously peaceful lifestyle to a heck of a lot of extrajudicial murdering.

In fact, it’s kind of like Is the Order a Rabbit? but with far more guns. Also it’s not based on any manga or light novels so you don’t have to put up with Smug Internet People knowing how the story is going to go.

I also like idol shows. I’m not sure where those fall. You could argue that stuff Love Live! or The Idolmaster is basic waifu trash but I also really enjoyed Idolish 7 and that’s 99% waifu-free.

One thing I don’t watch much of is shonen battle anime. The closest thing to the genre that I can remember watching in the last few years is Fire Force, which felt a lot like Fullmetal Alchemist – the good FMA series, not Brotherhood – but also had the “How will Tamaki fall out of her uniform THIS episode?” as a draw.

However, I have been watching a lot of Trash Taste and related youtubers, and if there is one thing you get exposed to over and over in those, it’s the slow realization that many nerds out there have a really strong connection to a trio of shonen battle shows and that I had never watched any of them.

So, with a spare evening I figured I would fix that.

OK. One Piece is the currently-reigning champion of the shonen battle anime genre, with over a thousand episodes and movies and video games and tie-in media and on and on and on. It has a huge and devoted fan-base and I would rather not raise their ire, so I will simply put it this way:

After one episode, I realized it was not for me. Moving on!

Naruto seemed like a much shorter series, but I rapidly discovered that this is only because it’s actually several series and there’s a time skip and some of it features Naruto’s kid, and knowing that he gets hitched AND who he gets hitched to does take some of the drama out of things I suppose.

I actually kind of dug this. Having the titular character be an outcast in his home town is probably huge for any young kid watching this show, because every kid is going to feel like an outcast at some point and this holds out the promise that you may be an outcast but you may also have a Super Cool Hidden Destiny. It also feels like it goes pretty hard with the Valuable Life Lessons mixed in with the ninja life, and I enjoyed seeing the degree of growing up Naruto does just between episodes 1 and 2. Plus, as aforementioned he does get hitched and has a son and presumably there will be humorous episodes where he has to deal with his kid being just as much of a brat as he was.

And, hey! The idea that there is a hidden Ninja village of Ninja bureaucrats who send their kids to Ninja grade school, and for some reason they felt the need to carve a Ninja Mount Rushmore into the mountain above their hidden village is pretty fun.

Watched two episodes. May watch more! I understand there is a deep and lasting rivalry between fans stemming over who Best Girl is, and I haven’t seen enough to have an opinion. At the very least it’s nice to know that both Best Girl candidates are also ninjas so with any luck there shouldn’t be many damsel in distress episodes.

There are probably a ton of damsel in distress episodes, aren’t there.

Best for last here, because I am a colossal sucker for shows set in modern everyday settings but with some supernatural elements for spice. For extra points, Bleach opens with an Orange Range song and I love me some Orange Range.

The worst thing I can say about this is that there were bits in the episodes I watched where I found myself thinking, this is Ushio and Tora but with the serial numbers filed off. It seems to find its own footing pretty fast, and if you ignore the Annoying Dad character I found everyone pretty likable.

Besides, the gimmick of the main character getting his soul punched out of his body every time the main girl wants him to get to work on the whole spirit battling thing is just the sort of running gag I can find myself enjoying no matter how old it should get.

Side bonus, I now know where the leekspin girl is from.

Watched two episodes. Will watch more. While shorter than the other two shows, it still has 300+ episodes, and we’re not exactly talking a fast watch here.

Of the three, this show seems to have had the least cultural impact. It’s less goofy and has older characters, so maybe it wasn’t able to really land with kids.

One thing common to all of these shows is that they’re pretty old and not exactly lookers. They’re all 4:3, at least in the episodes I’ve seen, and I swear that they look like paint on cellulose instead of being digitally-painted. They’re that old. All of them ran for several years, so presumably there’s a point where the production values go up. I vaguely recall these all found release in the US during the dark ages of dub-only shows, so it’s nice that Crunchyroll has them all in subtitled form.

I’ll acknowledge that if I wanted to go with the real grandaddy of shonen battle anime I probably should have started with some Dragonball, but (a) I’ve seen a little of that in the past, by which I mean a handful of episodes from the original series and one movie from DBZ and (b) I didn’t want to.

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