Most of us have grown up with what can be labeled as traditional Shounen anime, like Pokémon or Bleach. These types of shows rely a lot on the ideals of hard work and determination, and the episodes can become quite shallow and cliché fairly quickly. As we quickly learn over time, doing your best and yelling a lot will always ensure your success. This is why these series tend to focus more on flashy aesthetics, like cool designs and fight scenes, rather than character development, subplots, or profound thematic undertones.
While classic Shounen series like these still persist in order appeal to the younger audiences, there has been a recent shift and fusion of genres. An example of the shift would be the popularization of the harem genre, which many of us are quite familiar with. In the earlier days of anime, the Shounen and Shoujo genres were fairly cut and dry. Shounen series focused primarily on male characters, while Shoujo series would focus on female characters.
However, these days it’s much different with the rise of genres like the harem and slice-of-life, where an all-female cast will generally signal that the show is geared for a male audience. Within these shows, all the attention is devoted to the female characters and typically feature bland male protagonists or a distinct lack of male characters altogether. Twenty years ago, this type of show would have been branded as a Shoujo series, but not so today. The anime industry has caught wise to what truly appeals to many anime viewers, and with the popularization of these genres, we can see the clear shift from male-central to female-central casts while still maintaining its status as “Shounen.” One could make a case for how this objectifies women, and one could argue that this actually promotes female empowerment. However, I believe that subject deserves its own article and should be saved for another time.
More recently would be the fusion of genres, with Shounen-style plots and shoujo appeal. As an example, we have K from this season, which is a Shounen/Seinen with a slick action plot along with some obligatory fanservice provided by the provocative female characters. However, it seems to be receiving more positive feedback from the female community, thanks to its plethora of bishounen characters. This has been a rapidly growing trend in anime lately, proving the fallacy of assigning genre titles to target demographics. As we have discovered with the evolution of the medium, gender-specific shows are just too limiting and using the terms “Shounen” and “Shoujo” to categorize them is simply an archaic system that doesn’t really hold water anymore. Not everything is, or should be, so black and white.
One thing can be certain though: shows with pretty girls will be sure to attract men, and shows with pretty boys will draw in the females. It’s financially more appealing, so why not create shows that include both? The future of the anime industry is bound to rely more on this method of hybridization of Shounen and Shoujo elements, thereby creating a convergence of genres that aims to maximize its commercial success and popularity by appealing to as wide of an audience as possible.