Anime has been getting more recognition in the Western Hemisphere what with movies like Your Name breaking records and all the live-action remakes or plans for remakes since Hollywood is running out of Disney classics to pedal out and superhero sequel fatigue is hitting hard.
You have your regular genres like horror, romance, comedy, adventure, etc. with anime but there are also larger categories that are demographic-based that divide up all the various shows and series. Typically, these demographic genres are reflected in which magazine a given series is serialized in.
Here’s a quick crash course on some of the main genres in anime, as well as a few recommendations!
To start off this anime genre crash course we’re going with shounen, one of, if not the most popular genre in anime. Shounen means boy in Japanese, which is why this is the boys’ anime demographic genre. Note that this means it’s only for boys because what year are we in, but that the target demographic for anime and manga in this genre are middle and early high school-aged boys. Shounen anime tend to have a 10 to 13-year-old male protagonist and is your typical adventure, fighting, fantasy epic.
Classics of this genre include Yu Yu Hakusho, the Dragonball franchise, One Piece, Naruto, and Full Metal Alchemist.
Other recent and popular anime and manga of this genre include My Hero Academia, Jo-Jo’s Bizarre Adventures, and Demon Slayer.
I would also recommend Hunter x Hunter and Mob Psycho 100 for this genre.
Mini Crash Course: Isekais
A large sub-genre within shounen anime is the isekai genre, which has been extremely popular as of late with no less than three isekai anime airing each season for the past year or so. Most of these are adapted from light novels as opposed to a manga. An isekai is a genre of anime in which the main character is transported to another world, such as in the case of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime and the infamous Sword Art Online.
Next in this anime genre crash course is shoujo anime. We have ‘boys’ anime, so we, of course, have the ‘girls’ anime, and as you might have guessed shoujo means girl in Japanese and the main target demographic for anime within this genre are middle and early high school-aged girls. This anime genre is often related to romance and comedy in high school settings, but some very successful shoujo anime has little to romance. Like shounen anime, this genre is filled with fantasy, action, and adventure as well but with a different perspective and overall tone.
Classics of this genre include Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Vampire Knight.
Some popular and recent anime and manga include Fruits Basket (the original and the new remake), Ouran High School Host Club, and Natsume’s Book of Friends.
In addition, I would recommend Kamisama Hajimemashita, Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama!, and Yona of the Dawn.
Mini Crash Course: Magical Girls
A very large part of the shoujo genre is the magical girl sub-genre. Magical girl anime is anime in which the female lead has a double life as a sort of superhero. This sub-genre involves lots of emphasis on female friendship and includes bright and flashy transformation sequences. Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon are very prominent titles in this genre. Other anime would include Princess Tutu and Kill la Kill (although Kill la Kill is not age-appropriate for a younger audience).
Deviating a bit from the demographic genres in this anime genre crash course with the sports genre. Some might combine sports anime with shoujo or josei (I’ll get to that part of this anime genre crash course a little further down) since women tend to make up a large part of the sports anime demographic. Sports anime are special in that they tend to have a very specific formula that, once you watch a lot, you will quickly pick out. They tend to focus on the bonds of friendship and very rarely include romance.
Some classics of this genre include Slam Dunk, Prince of Tennis, and Hajime No Ippo.
Some popular and recent anime and manga include Haikyuu!!, Yowamushi Pedal, and Free!.
I would also recommend Big Windup!, One Outs, and Kuroko’s Basketball.
*Yuri!!! on Ice is also technically a sports anime but it doesn’t really follow the sports anime formula and is more of a slice of life josei with a sports setting.
And we’re back to the demographic genres in this anime genre crash course. Seinen is the older brother of shounen anime in that it is aimed towards older teenaged boys and adult men. It’s essentially the same as the shounen genre but with older characters, more adult conflicts and relationships, and tends to be darker or more graphic depending on the series.
Some popular and recent anime from this genre include Tokyo Ghoul, Berserk, and March Comes in Like a Lion.
I would also recommend Bungou Stray Dogs and Vinland Saga.
Next in this anime genre crash course is josei. As shoujo is to shounen, josei is to seinen. The older sister to shoujo anime, this genre is targeted towards older teenaged girls and adult women. As the relationship between the seinen and shounen genres, josei is shoujo aged up through the characters, relationship dynamics, and general plot and conflicts.
Some popular and recent anime from this genre include Chiyahafuru and Nana.
I would also recommend Karneval and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu.
We’ve basically covered the demographic genres in this anime genre crash course so we’re back to the content-related genre with yaoi and shounen-ai, also called the boys love (BL) genre.
As mentioned above, shounen means boy and ai means love. While the other genres might have LGBT+ characters, the plot of a yaoi or shounen-ai anime or manga revolves around a sexual and/or romantic relationship between men.
Even though I have listed these two genres together, they have a very big difference in that the former is tends to focus on the physical aspects of attraction and is very sexually graphic whereas shounen-ai focuses on the emotional side of attraction. The yaoi genre is explicit with on-screen or on-page intimacy but anime within the shounen-ai genre will include a kiss at most, and if there is anything else rated above PG, PG-13 max, it’s left to the reader or viewer’s imagination.
Some popular anime from these genres include No. 6, Sekaiichi Hatsukoi, and Gravitation.
I would also recommend Given and the movie Doukyuusei.
And to end this anime genre crash course we have the sibling genre to yaoi and shounen-ai, the girls love (GL) genres yuri and shoujo-ai. Similarly to yaoi and shounen-ai, yuri is sexual and explicit where shoujo-ai is emotional and non-explicit.
Some popular and recent anime from these genres include Yuru Yuri and Citrus.
I would also recommend Bloom into You.
And that concludes this anime genre crash course. You might notice that the content you consume can be translated into some of these genres.