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The 20 Greatest Modern Shonen Anime Protagonists, Ranked

Updated February 24, 2021 18.8k votes 2.6k voters 39.5k views20 items

Shonen anime has been popular for a long time, but in the last five years, there have been so many great new series that it's hard to keep track of them all. Many of these awesome series have equally awesome protagonists who keep the story's motor running. 

Who are the best modern shonen anime protagonists? If you like underdogs who never give up, you might like Izuku Midoriya of My Hero Academia or Asta of Black Clover. Prefer your protagonists a little less conventional? You might like Saiki Kusuo of The Disastrous Life of Saiki K or Red Blood Cell from Cells at Work. 

Aside from Dragon Ball Super, which features a protagonist who is beloved but definitely not modern, we're using the protagonists from the anime listed in The 20 Best Modern Shonen Anime That Easily Rival The Classics. We want to know if you think the protagonists are as good as the shows they came from, or if the protagonist outshines or drags down a particular show. Make sure to vote for your favorite protagonists here!

  • 1

    Tanjiro Kamado - Demon Slayer

    Photo: ufotable

    Tanjiro's entire family is slain by a demon - except for his sister Nezuko, who survived but was transformed into a demon herself. Tanjiro doesn't want revenge, but he does want to find a way to turn his sister back to normal. For that, he'll have to become a Demon Slayer. It won't be easy, but Tanjiro never gives up when it comes to saving others. 

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  • 2

    Yuji Itadori - Jujutsu Kaisen

    Photo: MAPPA

    After his club mates are attacked by a Curse, Yuji Itadori doesn't just sit back and let it happen - he springs into action. Action, in this case, means devouring the cursed finger of Sukuna, which leads to him having Sukuna share space in his body. If he doesn't want to be immediately executed, he'll have to use his newfound powers to collect all of Sukuna's fingers, all while attending Jujutsu High School and learning to fight. It's tough, but his grandfather's last words keep him dedicated.

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  • At first, Asta is the prototypical shonen hero: a loud, brash, and excitable underdog. While he certainly retains these traits throughout the series, his character gets more complicated as he moves from an orphan who wants to be the Wizard King but has no magic abilities to speak of to a key member of the Black Bulls with ever-increasing skills in anti-magic. 

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  • 4

    Izuku Midoriya - My Hero Academia

    Izuku Midoriya has always loved heroes, whether he's obsessively taking notes about them or filling his bedroom with All Might merchandise. But because he was born quirkless, it looks like he'll never get that chance - that is, until All Might sees him rush to save his friend from a villain and is so impressed that he decides to pass his quirk on to him. Thanks to Izuku's bravery in the face of impossible odds ad a whole lot of luck, his wish comes true. 

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