The anime industry splits all anime and manga into four broad demographics, those being shonen, shojo, seinen, and josei. Over time, all four have been enriched and made more diverse with some cross-pollination, which is a boon for manga and anime. Still, the core concept remains the same, with shonen being aimed at younger boys and seinen being geared for adult male consumers.
Amusingly, some shonen and seinen anime series get confused with each other, with Grand Blue being seinen and the tough-guy anime Fist of the North Star being shonen. These blurry boundaries suggest that many characters in shonen anime would feel right at home in a seinen anime series instead, where more sophisticated and graphic content is allowed, unlike in shonen.
10 Kenshiro Is A Mad Max-Style 1980s Hero
Fist Of The North Star
Fist of the North Star is an iconic 1980s manga/anime franchise that helped set the stage for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Taking clear cues from the Mad Max movie franchise, Fist takes place in a brutal post-apocalyptic world where roving bands of leather-clad tough guys raid and pillage with impunity.
Protagonist Kenshiro is a brawny man’s-man who regularly beats up those villains to save innocent lives, and he must also face his own brothers and associates, who misuse their shared fighting style. Given the series’ aesthetic and tone, becoming seinen is the obvious next step.
9 Donovan Desmond Is Smart, Creepy, & Totally Aloof
Spy X Family
Most Spy x Family characters are right at home in shonen anime, such as the tsundere foster father Loid Forger and the goofy Anya. By contrast, the antagonist, Donovan Desmond, is a sinister and mysterious politician who might lead Ostania and Westalis to war.
Donovan’s eerie aura and his sophisticated lifestyle make him perfect for a seinen psychological thriller or spy thriller series with less found-family humor and more serious action. Donovan could once again serve as the antagonist, with a super-agent straight out of a Tom Clancy novel going after him.
8 Captain Levi Ackerman Is Already Dark & Gritty
Attack On Titan
It’s only a generalization at best that seinen is supposed to be dark and gritty like Berserk or Monster, but it’s still a good reference point for what seinen stories may be like. For example, a variety of Attack on Titan characters would do well in seinen, Captain Levi Ackerman among them.
Levi is a bitter, aloof anithero who grew up in the underworld, raised by his vicious uncle Kenny. His hardcore attitude, merciless combat skills, and grounded, jaded worldview make Levi the prefect protagonist for a typical seinen dark fantasy anime series of Titans and mind-bending politics.
7 Kento Namami Is A Jaded, Relatable Millennial Sorcerer
By now, Millennials are fully grown up and can relate to 30-something fictional characters who have already seen and experienced the world’s darker side, one way or another. An example is Kento Nanami the sorcerer in Jujutsu Kaisen, who is a stark contrast with the goofy Satoru Gojo.
Kento Nanami is bitter about office work and sorcery alike, but at least he can save lives with sorcery. His age, attitude, worldview, and brutal fighting style make him ideal for a seinen take on Jujutsu Kaisen, with no starry-eyed teenage heroes necessary.
6 Stain The Hero Killer Feels Like An X-Men Villain
My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia‘s most stylish antagonist, Stain the hero killer, is like something an X-Men villain with a rather dark storyline. Stain is a vicious and darkly idealistic assassin who believes that only truly worthy heroes should wear the cape, with All Might being one of the very few worthy ones.
This makes Stain a deconstruction of pro heroes, who combined crime-fighting and Quirks with money and fame. It’s a dark and potentially complex topic that would be fascinating to view through a seinen lens with Stain being an even more prominent antagonist than he is already.
5 Soichiro Yagami Belongs In A Seinen Crime Thriller Anime
As it is now, Death Note is a fairly dark crime thriller with supernatural elements, and it may even feel like seinen at times. Ultimately, it’s a shonen anime with a protagonist in his late teens and plenty of comic relief. Some fans might want an even darker, deeper take on that formula.
A seinen reboot of Death Note would star Soichiro Yagami, perhaps as an idealistic cop who grows bitter and frustrated with the Kira case. He might even go rogue, chasing after Kira as a vigilante who knows his way in and out of the Japanese legal system to deliver justice himself.
4 Shu Ogata Could Be Much Darker As A Seinen Hero
Engage Kiss is a fairly lighthearted cyberpunk-lite shonen anime, but it has the right ingredients to be a much darker and more brutal seinen anime instead. The story follows Shu Ogata, a desperate young man who willingly gives up his memories so his demon partner, Kisara, can fight for him in battle.
Shu is determined to find and rescue his little sister Kanna no matter what, and he will deceive and use anyone and pay any price to find her. That, combined with the presence of demons and cyberpunk elements, means Engage Kiss can and probably should be a grim seinen adventure rather than a modern-day Demon Slayer.
3 Colonel Roy Mustang Might Lose Himself To The Darkness This Time
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime that can just as easily be shonen or seinen, depending on who the protagonist is and how the material is presented. This anime has many dark and serious themes ranging from genocidal wars and highly unethical science experiments to politics, and that’s ideal for seinen.
The tsundere Edward Elric could step down and let Colonel Roy Mustang lead a seinen version of the story, complete with an even more brutal character arc. This time, Roy might actually lose himself to rage and hate after Maes’ death, making him a gripping seinen antihero who must be saved from himself.
2 Hidan Is A Horrific, Bloody Menace
Most Naruto characters look and act like the shonen characters they are, such as the idealistic Naruto Uzumaki and the dandere Hinata Hyuga, but there are a few exceptions, like Hidan. He is an Akatsuki member who belongs to a deadly cult, and he uses bloody voodoo to kill his enemies in grim rituals.
Hidan is downright horrific with his cult markings, three-pronged scythe, and fighting style based on blood and injuries. He could easily make an appearance in a seinen fantasy anime where his fighting style is not the exception, but the norm.
1 Aki Hayakawa Is Tearing Himself Apart To Keep Fighting
Chainsaw Man looks like seinen, with its many twisted antiheroes and its grim setting, but it is actually a partial deconstruction of shonen, being a dark counterpart to Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer. Many of its characters, including the Aki Hayakawa, would feel at home in seinen.
Aki is giving up his lifespan to gain demonic powers, and he’s grimly determined to slay devils even if it means losing himself. This rough lifestyle, paired with Aki’s antihero mindset, make him an ideal protagonist for a seinen story of devils, violence, and the soul-crushing weight of despair.
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