Shonen is a type of manga. Manga is the common term referred to Japanese comic books and graphic novels. There are many subgenres of manga, and shonen is generally used to refer to manga that is written primarily for boys. These mangas can certainly be enjoyed by girls, but they are generally written for boys to read. Shonen mangas have become extremely popular and many of them have been turned into animes. They are generally stories written about a main male character and are full of action. A lot of jokes and comedy goes on between the male characters. Often it is aimed at the beautiful female characters. Some shonen also features giant robots, which are also called mecha.
There are quite a few magazines dedicated to printing only Shonen comics. Some of the more popular ones are Weekly Shonen Jump and Weekly Shonen Magazine. Weekly Shonen Jump was extremely popular around 1996 when it was received by over six million people. The circulation has since been divided in half with only about three million people receiving the magazine now.
Most of the popular anime series that are seen on a weekly or daily basis in the United States can be classified as shonen. One of the most popular, Pokemon, started out as a shonen manga. Pokemon started out as Pokemon: The Electric Tales of Pikachu. It focuses on a boy, Ash Ketchum in the American version, who is focused on becoming a Pokemon master. In order to do so he has to beat competitors using the pokemon he collects in his travels. One of these Pokemon, Pikachu, is with Ash from the beginning. Pikachu is a small creature who has the ability to shoot lightening from his body. Pokemon demonstrates not only a camaraderie between friends, as Ash has numerous people join him on his quest, but also shows the love between a boy and his pet.
Another extremely popular manga and anime is Ranma ½ . Ranma ½ was created by one of the masters of shonen manga, Rumiko Takahashi. It is about a boy, Ranma, who has fallen into a cursed spring. Due to his mishap, he changes from a boy into a girl whenever he is splashed with cold water. He turns back into a boy when he is splashed back with hot water. There are quite a few characters who are also cursed and pop in during the series. Ranma is a martial arts master and the series has a lot of action going on, with challenges coming from both women and men. Ranma is also engaged to marry Akane, which leads an air of romance to the story. He resists, however, which makes the story-line easily relatable to young boys.
InuYasha is another shonen manga by Rumiko Takahashi that centers on strange occurances. It is about a half demon named InuYasha and a girl named Kagome. Kagome goes back in time to the warring states era. She discovers that she is a reincarnation of a dead priestess who is charged to care for a sacred jewel. InuYasha ends up helping her gather the shards of the jewel. This series has a lot of action as well, making it extremely appealing to boys.