The 15 Best Shounen Anime Protagonists Ever MadeThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
There’s no denying the fact that shounen anime has become the go-to for a lot of fans who just started to get into the endless void of the weeaboo multiverse.
And more often than not, these shows are somewhat carried by their protagonist – sometimes even bearing their name in the title.
And there’s a lot of shounen out there.
So which protagonists really stand out amongst the rest?
For this ranking we’ll look at the crème de la crème by ranking out the best shounen anime protagonists ever made.
Note: we’re just ranking the protagonists here, so this is not a definitive guide to the actual anime themselves – like how an amazing show like Dragon Ball can’t carry the wet blanket of a character called Goku.
15. Naruto Uzumaki
I want to start off with Naruto, as he barely made it onto this list to begin with.
He’s a pretty standard shounen protagonist overall.
But his talk no jutsu can truly ruin the mood in some major fights.
However, the dynamic he has with Kurama has always been a joy to watch. And he is definitely no pushover when it comes to combat.
He gave us some iconic scenes and fights, and is objectively the only reason that Boruto ever got a second episode. So he needs to at least be included on here somewhere.
Anime: Magi: Adventure of Sinbad
Although not nearly as influential or popular as Naruto, I heavily prefer Sinbad as a protagonist.
This is because the dude resides in that golden writing area known as the “morally gray”.
He’s extremely charismatic and powerful, but he’s also not afraid of punching under the belt if it means achieving his end goal.
He could be flirting with a queen at one point, blowing up a mountain the next second, and sleeping naked in the middle of nowhere a few years later.
Gotta love him.
13. Izuku Midoriya
Anime: My Hero Academia
Although Deku is also a very cookie cutter character, I find him more enjoyable that I initially thought I would.
Having him constantly taking notes of everyone and anyone displaying their Quirks really sells his character as the strategist, more so than as the overpowered “Superman Lite” archetype.
I still do prefer Bakugo. But I feel like that’s an acquired taste.
You know, getting over all the screaming and stuff.
So even though he’s not in my top 10, Deku definitely deserves some recognition.
12. Rimuru Tempest
Anime: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
Rimuru definitely prospers a lot because of the nature of the show they’re in.
Most of the time it feels like a relaxing slice of life show where we really get to know Rimuru and grow attached to them.
But then the show hits us with some serious stakes, and we get to see Rimuru go all out and wipe all those who dare oppose her.
Although this is nothing new in shounen, it was so masterfully done with Rimuru that I just have to place her right here.
11. Tanjiro Kamado
Anime: Demon Slayer
Although it might sound a bit stupid, I love Tanjiro because of how absolutely bland he is.
Unlike virtually every other character in the show, Tanjiro doesn’t just have that one central gimmick that his character revolves around.
He’s just a rather normal dude who wants to do some good and save his sister.
This is not to say that he’s boring. But rather that the supporting cast just makes him feel so relatable in comparison.
Plus, I can’t even look at his face without sensing some sort of hype. Especially after watching the movie.
Anime: The Seven Deadly Sins
As a fellow short king, I just have to love my boy Meliodas.
His character is very lovable overall, with a mix of demonic badassery and a perverted hilarity.
But what really sold me on this guy was his backstory.
Like holy hell, that is some Subaru level torture that he has gone through.
And yet he still manages to keep an optimistic outlook on life and bears very few negative emotions.
I mean, he literally won’t even get mad if a friend wants to kill him to achieve their goal.
9. Mob Kageyama
Anime: Mob Psycho 100
I think Mob might be one of the more (if not the most) relatable shounen protagonists out there.
Which is saying something, considering he can throw buildings around at will.
However, he’s one of the few teenage characters that acts like a proper teenager.
He struggles with finding purpose and fulfillment in his life, and he cares a great deal about what others think about him.
He has plenty of regrets. And holds no intention of saving the world or anything so grandiose.
Just seeing him work out alongside the bodybuilding club fills my heart with joy.
8. Senku Ishigami
Anime: Dr. Stone
With Senku, I just love how straight to the point he is.
Like this man can literally not be bothered with lying, or with huge sentimental gestures.
Not to say that he’s a kuudere, but rather that he’s just that engrossed with science and an objective view of life.
He will openly tell you if you’re going to die. And he never sugarcoats his chances of winning.
Which is honestly really refreshing after seeing the one millionth “I get stronger because of my friends” monologue.
Anime: Assassination Classroom
I immediately fell in love with this yellow tentacle man.
He’s so goofy and upbeat that it’s just infectious.
Even though he’s teaching literal children how to wield guns, he just comes off as the most caring creature to have ever been made.
Once his backstory is revealed, my love for Koro-Sensei only grew larger – because of reasons I cannot get into.
He just truly feels like a role model. And I could honestly watch him for years without ever getting bored.
6. Monkey D. Luffy
Anime: One Piece
Speaking of watching someone for years, we have to address our Straw Hat Boy.
Luffy is both generic and painfully unique at the same time.
On the one hand, you have those classic tropes of the protagonist being kind of stupid and eternally hungry.
On the other hand, he’s such a believable leader that you never put his position into question.
It always feels like he gets his crew, and he doesn’t have that usual “MC ego pack” that’s so typical in some anime.
He knows when it’s time to run, and when he should let certain people go.
So even though he might not be my personal favorite, I have to give the man some real credit.
5. Gintoki Sakata
What makes Gintoki so iconic and lovable is the absence of almost any shounen trope in his character.
This dude just wants to sleep around and read some manga.
He often looks completely unreliable, and like he’s constantly on the verge of bankruptcy.
He has no real ambition in life either. And just wants to get by day to day.
This on its own is already pretty remarkable, as it’s a stark contrast to the usual wide-eyed “save the word” protagonist.
But Gintoki also has his badass moments, reminding us all that he still is a shounen protagonist after all.
4. Eren Yeager
Anime: Attack on Titan
Had the final season concluded when I was writing this, Eren’s placement would have been a lot different.
This is because he’s initially quite the unbearable brat who can’t seem to do anything but cry and get kidnapped.
However, as the show progressed, we got to see some S-class character development – leading to the absolute badass that we saw in the final season.
Even if the entire story flopped in the end, I would still watch just to see how Eren would turn out. And that’s a sign of a truly compelling protagonist.
3. Edward Elric
Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
That thing that makes Ed so iconic is the fact that everything he does, and everything that happens to him, seems earned and logical.
He doesn’t have a demon fox inside of his belly. Nor is he some sort of super alien.
He’s just smart and eager to constantly learn.
When he messes up, it isn’t brushed off. And when he fights, he isn’t enjoying the whole ordeal.
We seem to forget that fighting for your life isn’t all that fun nor enjoyable.
Ed just feels like a genuine dude that’s trying to right a terrible wrong that he himself created, avoiding any bloodshed when possible.
Plus, he’s another short king, so bonus points.
2. Joseph Joestar
Anime: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
I remember being so caught up with the new JoJo characters that I completely forgot what an absolute legend Joseph was.
Sure, Giorno and Jotarou are badasses who produce five quotes by the minute.
But Joseph’s antics are just way more entertaining.
The dude is absolutely mental, and truly harbors the Internet troll mentality.
His schemes are always stupid, and yet somehow successful. Plus his personality is impossible to hate, and his fights are a fresh mix of hype and laughter.
The dude missed his own funeral, used Tequila to take down guards, and landed the sickest uppercut known to man.
He is a legend.
1. Gon Freecss
Anime: Hunter x Hunter (2011)
I will be 100% honest here:
I love Gon because he’s absolutely messed up in the head.
He seemed like the most generic protagonist imaginable in the beginning, and yet somehow ended up being my absolute favorite.
Just search up a video essay on Gon on YouTube and you’ll see how deep this rabbit hole really goes.
He’s a rotten little dude that only cares about himself, or anyone whose interests align with his own. And he’s prepared to throw away his own if it means achieving what he wants, regardless of how messed up it is.
His transformation was one of my all-time favorite anime scenes.
And Gon is hands-down my pick for top shounen protagonist.