Y’know why I just can’t bring myself to give a damn about Naruto, DBZ, Fullmetal Alchemist, and all of those other “shounen” series?
I think these series have to get you when you’re in a certain frame of mind. You have to be in your early days of fandom, where you’re looking for something to grasp onto– some sort of epic, grandiose, all-encompassing storyline that every intellectual and emotional aspect of your psyche can latch its tentacles upon and dissect, consume, and absorb into your very soul.
The first story you come across that hits all of these buttons is gonna be the one that you (for the most part) always stand by. You’ll forgive (almost) any plot contrivance, shark jumping, or any other shit and blow it off as “that’s just the way this shit plays things out.” And as you grow more experienced in fandom, your tolerance of other similar series starts to wane to the point where most of us old-timers bitterly rant and rave about how Bleach and One Piece are shitty. All the while, we’re cuddling with our precious irrational obsession, doing our best to ignore the fact that this so-called glimmering jewel in the wastelands is no different from the very things we’re bashing.
For most of y’all whose primary fandom is anime, you probably have a similar soft spot for a particular anime. The catch with me is that I passed that phase long before I became an anime fan. My “stereotypical shounen series” was X-Men.
It all came down to that melodrama shit. When I was a middle school brat, I loved that kind of stuff. It was all people falling in love and dying and falling in love while dying and crying and stuff blowing up and getting blasted and punched while someone cried. That’s what X-Men was all about (and still is to this day). But it also had engrossing, contradictory, rules and jargon filled mythos that required the sort of encyclopedic knowledge that powers a young fanboy.
It basically had everything that the likes of Naruto and DBZ have. DB has its arcane power level systems, strange rules about evolving and “going Super Saiyan.” Naruto has its jutsus and politics between ninja clans and crying about Sasuke and all that shit. X-Men has all of that and more. You have the pseudo-political shit with mutants being a metaphor for everything from racial minorities to homosexuals. Mutant powers let every character have their own distinct martial style while still having everyone fall under the same “umbrella” the way Naruto has its ninjas and Bleach has its soul reapers. You even have the whole “school” element since most of the X-Men’s history has revolved around Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Kitty Pryde? She was doing the “audience cipher” thing years before your typical blank slate action lead like Ichigo or Naruto.
So I was getting all of this shit into my system well before I became an anime fan. I’d already gone through that phase where this sort of minutiae-driven storytelling was my primary interest. By the time I got into anime and started seeing these shounen series, it was all “been there seen that.” These shounen series weren’t new to me the way the likes of Ninja Scroll, Ranma 1/2, and the like were new. They were playing off the same vibes as the stuff I’d been reading for years.
And I think that’s one reason why you won’t see a lot of old school western fans give a damn about your typical Shounen Jump stuff. A lot of us got our start in comics and when we want that sort of fix we look back on X-Men and the like rather than fondly remembering something like DBZ. Least I know that’s the case with me.