Anime Underground
1.3k voters

14 Shonen Protagonists Who Changed The Most Since Their Introduction

May 14, 2021 6.9k votes 1.3k voters 71.8k views14 items

Shonen protagonists are often accused of being static characters - that is, characters who don't really change or develop over the course of their narrative. While this is true of some shonen heroes, it's definitely not true of all of them. In fact, some of them change so much over the course of the series that they're barely recognizable. With that in mind, for this list, we'll be looking at some of the shonen protagonists who changed the most. Some cases are more dramatic than others, and some are part of arcs that aren't finished yet, but all involve massive developments in who the main character is. 

One of the most shocking examples of this is Eren Jaeger from Attack on Titan, who went from a rage-fueled kid who loved his friends to a serious, cold-hearted person who no longer stands by their side. Here's one that's a little more hopeful: Naruto Uzumaki went from being a talentless kid with no meaningful relationships to a beloved leader who is recognized for his incredible talent. 

  • Photo: Wit Studio / MAPPA

    Did anybody see this one coming? Eren Jaeger has become almost unrecognizable from the person he once was. At first, all he wanted was to eliminate the Titans that destroyed his home and ate his mother. For most of the series, he's fuelled by that burning core of rage - that, and an unshakable loyalty to his friends. 

    As he begins to uncover the truth behind the Titans - who they really are, how that connects to his own background, and the conflict between the Marleyans and the Eldians - his personality begins to change. Instead of overtly expressing his anger, he's cold and calm, his rage simmering beneath the surface. He's willing to champion a plan to destroy the whole world that he'd never have considered in the past, and to cut loose the bonds he once cherished.

    We won't get into all the details, since many from the manga are coming up in the last leg of the anime, but it's already clear that Eren is worlds away from the kid he used to be. 

    Massive change?
  • Photo: Madhouse

    When Light Yagami first receives the Death Note, he writes down the names of criminals in the hopes that their absence would create a better world. Sure, there are a number of ethical problems with that idea, but at least he's generally concerned with acting according to his own moral compass. 

    But when he draws L's attention, things take a nosedive. Soon, he becomes less concerned about eliminating crime and more concerned with avoiding getting caught. He begins to use the notebook to slay everyone who gets in his way and even to manipulate and destroy his own allies. By the end of the series, he's a craven, snivelling mess who is willing to throw everyone else under the bus to save his own skin. Light's development is proof that change isn't always for the better. 

    Massive change?
  • 3. Tatsumi - Akame ga Kill

    Photo: White Fox

    At first, Tatsumi is a naive person who knows little about life in the big city. He's had a little bit of combat training and hopes he can use it to start earning money for his rural village. After being tricked into staying in the home of a serial killer, he ends up joining the Night Raid, a group of vigilante assassins who take down bad guys with the ultimate goal of destroying the corrupt Empire itself.

    Tatsumi quickly learns that not that everyone can be trusted. What's more, he learns how to fight effectively to protect himself and his allies, as well as how to power through intense grief and loss. By the end of the series, he's a far more competent version of the clueless kid he once was. 

    Massive change?
  • When we first meet Naruto Uzumaki, he's a lonely kid who is constantly getting into trouble and can't master basic ninjutsu skills. Despite all that, he's certain that he wants to become the Hokage - the leader of his ninja village. No one thinks that he stands a chance at achieving this goal, let alone smaller ones like graduating from Ninja Academy and becoming a Genin, or passing the Chunin Exams

    But through a ton of training and hardships, Naruto eventually becomes the ninja he always wanted to be. Not only does he master a wide range of ninjutsu techniques and start working together with the Nine-Tails in his body, but he's also recognized for it, and is eventually selected to become the Hokage. As an adult, he's a calmer, more mature person who is surrounded by love and respect - a far cry from the ostracized child he once was. 

    Massive change?