The Ultimate Guide to 5 Different Types of Anime

by Laura C. Jones
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As most long-time anime fans already know, there are as many as five different types of anime. Furthermore, each type has unique characteristics that can help you discern one from another. In this article, I’ll go over those five different types of anime and teach you how to identify which is which.

Different Anime Types With Examples

This classification is not about differences in genres, it’s about the target audience. Furthermore, each type encompasses many different genres, from comedy and romance to action and thriller. Now that I got that out of the way, here is the list of 5 different types of anime with the most popular example for each type.

1, Shonen (meaning boy or youth) is a type of anime created for teen boys.

Some of the most popular shonen anime include:

  • One Piece
  • Naruto
  • Dragonball (Z)
  • Bleach
  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Death Note
  • Attack on Titan

2, Seinen (meaning young man) is targeted at young men and adult audiences.

Some of the most popular seinen anime include:

  • Berserk
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • One Punch Man
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
  • Tokyo Ghoul
  • Monster

3, Shoujo (meaning girl) is created mostly for teenage girls.

Some of the most popular shoujo anime include:

  • Kaichou Wa Maid-Sama!
  • Ouran High School Host Club
  • Kamisama Hajimemashita
  • Akatsuki no Yona: Yona of the Dawn
  • Vampire Knight
  • Natsume’s Book of Friends

4, Josei (meaning woman or female) is anime intended for older girls and women.

Some of the most popular josei anime include:

  • Yuri on Ice
  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
  • Usagi Drop
  • Paradise Kiss
  • Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover)
  • Chihayafuru

5, Kodomomuke (meaning directed at children) is anime created specifically for young viewers.

Some of the most popular kodomomuke anime include:

  • Doraemon
  • Pokémon
  • Digimon Adventure
  • Nadia: Secret of Blue
  • Hamtaro
  • Beyblade

How to Differentiate Between Different Types of Anime

Although it might seem like a simple task, identifying different anime types can be quite complicated. Sure, it’s easy to notice if an anime is targeted at male or female audiences. However, trouble starts once you have to determine the age group it’s targeted towards.

In order to teach you to discern between different types of anime, I decided to call your attention to some of the main characteristics of each type. Note that these characteristics are not set in stone.

Anime authors have creative freedom, so they will sometimes walk a thin line between different types. However, even in such cases, being aware of some of their general features will help you make an educated guess.

Shonen

This type of anime is targeted at boys between the ages of 8 and 18. Therefore, the protagonist is more often than not a male character of the same age. Although main characters in shonen anime are usually eccentric or silly, they can also be very relatable. A shonen story follows the protagonist as he grows stronger and matures.

The focus of this type of anime is on action, adventure, and comedy. Furthermore, some romantic subplots might be involved, but they’re usually there to make viewers laugh or as a token romance. Finally, shonen often introduces elements of science fiction, martial arts, or horror.

Shonen anime can sometimes seem dark and gloomy. However, they usually show the idealized world in which good always triumphs over evil. Furthermore, there’s a clear divide between heroes and villains, although antiheroes are also common (Death Note).

This type of anime series usually includes various story arcs (narrative wholes that unfold over several episodes). These arcs are almost independent of each other, although they all share the same central storyline.

Furthermore, each arc revolves around a certain mission or quest that’s just above the hero’s capabilities. Therefore, he must better himself in order to solve this mission.

Generally speaking, shonen anime will have a large number of episodes. For example, One Piece has 978 episodes, while Naruto, together with Shippuden and Boruto sequels, has 924. However, there are exceptions such as Death Note (37 episodes) and Kuroko’s Basketball (75 episodes).

Seinen

A typical seinen protagonist can be of any age or gender. Compared to the ones in shonen, seinen characters tend to be more complex and realistic. Furthermore, they aren’t always purely good, unlike traditional heroes in shonen.

One more difference between the seinen and shonen protagonists is their character arc. With shonen, it’s certain that heroes will grow stronger and wiser with each new quest. However, that doesn’t have to be the case with seinen characters. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to run into an insoluble problem, leading to a sad ending.

The focus of this type of anime is also on action and adventure. However, seinen anime tend to be a bit more contemplative. Romantic relationships are not uncommon, but they are never in the spotlight.

Comedic elements are also present, although not as much as in shonen. Finally, seinen anime often deal with topics such as politics, philosophy, psychology, and religion.

This type of anime includes scenes of massive bloodshed, profanity, and nudity, which are not common in any other type of anime. Overall, seinen anime are more realistic, while some are even straight-up cynical. However, there are genres within seinen that can be seen as idealistic, such as the harem genre.

Seinen anime series often include only one or two arcs. Furthermore, these arcs do not follow the patterns typically seen in the shonen arcs. They tend to be far less predictable, but also closer to real-life experiences.

The small number of narrative arcs means that the seinen series generally have only a few dozens of episodes. Furthermore, it’s not rare to see seinen anime in the form of a movie. As a matter of fact, movies such as Akira and Golgo 13: The Professional were the first works that brought adult-oriented anime to the West.

Shoujo

Shoujo anime are often talked about as the female counterpart of shonen. The main character of shoujo is usually a down-to-earth girl in her teens. Another important character that often appears in this type of anime is the love interest of the heroine.

Contrary to popular opinion, shoujo isn’t devoid of adventure, action, or comedy. However, interpersonal relationships and romance are the main focus of this type of anime. And although more often than not it deals with heterosexual pairs, homosexual romances aren’t rare.

Since it’s targeted at teen girls, shoujo tends to idealize love and relationships. However, it’s far from a prince on a white horse trope popular in the Western world. The relationships you encounter in this type of anime, although romanticized, are still realistic. Furthermore, a female character is strong and self-reliant, rather than damsels in distress.

However, not all shoujo anime are romances. Some are centered around friendships or everyday problems, others involve mysteries and adventures. As I said, all the different types of anime cover many different genres, and shoujo isn’t an exception.

These anime contain only a few narrative arcs, each revolving around a certain event or situation. In addition, shoujo arcs usually involve overcoming hardships by self-betterment.  Although shoujo romance arcs can be somewhat formulaic, they are still gripping and fun to watch.

Shoujo anime rarely have more than a hundred episodes. Generally speaking, shoujo manga aren’t as popular as shonen ones, so they are rarely adapted to anime. Furthermore, the manga that get adapted are either shorter ones or longer ones that are already popular.

Finally, if you still can’t distinguish between shoujo and shonen, art style can give you some clues. First of all, shoujo is typically animated with lighter outlines, sparser backgrounds, and little to no shading.

Secondly, characters have even bigger eyes than in other types of anime. Finally, moe characters are all over the place (although there are even seinen anime where this is the case).

Josei

Josei anime could be seen as the female counterpart of seinen. The josei protagonist is in most cases, although not exclusively, an adult female. This type of anime is marketed to adult audiences, which means characters and plots are more mature and true to life. Furthermore, even the artistic style is more realistic than with other anime types.

Unlike all the previously mentioned types of anime, josei tends to take place in more mundane settings. In that respect, josei feels more like a live-action TV drama.

So, if a plot of an anime happens in a workplace or college campus, it’s in all likelihood josei. However, some genres within josei feature out-of-the-ordinary settings that are often associated with seinen anime.

Romance is by far the most common focus of this type of anime. However, other genres, such as action, comedy, life drama, and even horror, are also present. Furthermore, romance in josei differs greatly from that in shoujo. Namely, it’s more nuanced and graphic, with often sad endings.

Generally speaking, the josei is short and to the point. More often than not, it portrays the everyday life of a young Japanese woman. Furthermore, epic battles and strange creatures are rare in this type of anime. However, dramatic plots and heartwarming love stories manage to enthrall even the male audience.

Josei anime series typically have between 10 and 20 episodes, and josei movies are also common. Furthermore, the josei manga sometimes get adapted to live-action TV series since they don’t require any special effects or fancy camera work.

Kodomomuke

The final type of anime I will look into is kodomomuke. Kodomomuke (or kodomo) is aimed at children under the age of 12. However, sometimes it can be difficult to tell it apart from more silly shonen series.

Protagonists in the kodomo series can be boys, girls, and even animal-like creatures or robots. Furthermore, a kodomo hero is often accompanied by a group of close friends. Characters in this type of anime are not very complex, as they almost always stand for pure good. However, this comes as no surprise seeing that the purpose of kodomo is to teach kids life lessons.

The most commonly found genres in kodomomuke are action, adventure, or mystery. Furthermore, stories of family and friendships are also very popular. The fact that kodomo anime are marketed for children means that the elements of drama and horror are absent. However, martial arts, mythology, and science fiction still play a major role in some anime.

It’s hard to outline a general plot structure of kodomo, these vary from one anime to another. However, there are some features these anime share. First of all, they are more or less episodic. After all, it would be hard for young children to follow one plotline for over a hundred episodes. However, these episodes are sometimes joined together by one main theme.

For example, almost all of the Pokemon episodes can stand on their own. Still, they are connected within several narrative arcs and often follow a formula that’s common in shonen anime.

Another feature of kodomo anime is the appearance of a harmless villain or a complete lack of any bad guys. Namely, if there is a villain, it’s more likely that you would laugh at him than fear him. Furthermore, anime series that are created for younger children usually do not include any villains at all.

Unlike other types of anime, kodomo isn’t always based on manga. Actually, a whole subgroup of kodomo anime is devoted to adaptations of Western stories. Series like The Adventures of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are perfect examples of this practice.

Although the shonen anime are known for having a fairly high number of episodes, kodomo is an absolute recorder in this regard. Namely, the longest-running anime series (which happens to be kodomo) Sazae-san has over 7,500 episodes.

Furthermore, more popular kodomo series often get lots of sequels and spin-offs. For example, the Digimon franchise consists of eight different anime series. Combined, these have more than 500 episodes. Pokemon is even more impressive with over 1,100 episodes and 23 movies.

In Conclusion

Telling shonen and shoujo from seinen and josei can be hard. As a matter of fact, even the most devoted anime fans fail to do it correctly sometimes. Still, knowing some of their main features will make your guesses more intelligent. Furthermore, it can help you seem more knowledgeable during your next form discussion about different types of anime.


Featured image source: Pinterest

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