The TRUE Father Of Shonen Anime, And Why It’s Not Even Up For Debate

goku father of shonen anime wallpaper

The Father of Shonen anime. Which anime is it and why? This is an argument I’ve seen a lot.

One thing I’ve never understood is why it’s even a debate in the first place, and why the answer hurts so many feelings.

It’s not like the answer changes the quality of older Shonen, or Shonen that came after the fact either.

It just means ONE Shonen in particular was responsible for what we see today.

Aka – the “father” of Shonen anime.

 

Dragon Ball Z Is the father of Shonen anime

dragon ball z cover 1989

When I say Dragon Ball Z, I mean as a franchise. Not necessarily just the season itself.

The anime started off with Dragon Ball in 1984, and aired on TV February 26th, 1986. Before most of us were even born (modern anime fans).

Akira Toriyama took inspiration from Journey To The West, a Chinese novel from the 16th century.

It wasn’t until Dragon Ball continued with DBZ in 1989 that the father of Shonen anime came to be.

Dragon Ball Z took the series, the franchise, the industry, AND Shonen to levels it would never have reached without it.

That is a FACT. Even to this day Shonen anime borrows ideas, unknowingly or not, from Dragon Ball’s world and mechanics.

Powering up, getting angry and blowing up the surrounding area, energy blasts, etc. And of course Shonen cliches like the main character having an impossible appetite.

 

The grandfather of Shonen would be Astro Boy

Astro Boy is about as old school as it gets. Even more so than You’re Under Arrest, Bubblegum Crisis, and other series in general.

This series, created by Osamu Tezuka, was released in 1963-1966. Very few anime fans (if any) were around during this time.

Because of the time period it was in, and the fact that it’s Shonen, it’s considered and should be classed as the grandfather of Shonen anime.

It might not have been the biggest, best selling, or anything grand like that, but it’s responsible for what comes years later to an extent.

 

Why Dragon Ball Z Is the TRUE Father Of Shonen Anime:

 

1. It’s the main inspiration behind the biggest and classic anime

one piece 1999

You’re obviously aware of One Piece, and the great anime (and manga) it’s become. Well, the author was inspired by DBZ.

Eichiro Oda has  come out and admitted it publicly, and has said he drew many influences from the Dragon Ball franchise.

This is true mainly for the beginning of One Piece, its characters, and the early beginnings.

There’s nothing wrong with this which is why it’s weird how fans take it personal.

naruto sakura sasuke 2002

The same is true for Naruto, an insanely successful Shonen series.

Just look at Naruto’s outfit and the fact that it’s orange. And the rival dynamic with Sasuke (similar to Goku and Vegeta).

The author himself admitted to being inspired by DBZ in a Shonen Jump interview….

“Kishimoto cites Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball series as one of his influences, noting that Goku, the protagonist, was a key factor when creating Naruto Uzumaki due to his energetic and mischievous personality.”

He also went on to say this about how he started:

“I got into Akira Toriyama Sensei’s Dr. Slump anime and Dragon Ball manga. I loved his characters. I was especially attached to Dr. Slump’s Arale and Dragon Ball’s Goku. Also, his art really appealed to me. There was something about his cartoony drawing style that felt right, more so than realistic drawings. I thought to myself, I want to become like Toriyama Sensei.”

There’s more similarities between Naruto and DBZ as well. Like Orochimaru taking over Sasuke’s body with the CURSE seal.

This is ironically similar to Babidi doing the same thing to Vegeta with the MAJIN mark. And Goku having to fight him (like Naruto).

Kamehameha and Rasengan share subtle similarities, too.

slayers anime series 1995

And then we have Slayers. A classic from the 1990’s.

It was fairly big, and Spain was one of the countries where this was true.

I call it the female version of Dragon Ball Z.

You have a powerful sorcerer called Lina Inverse, a female protagonist. And right from the beginning she can easily destroy an entire town with one simple energy blast.

As the series and the adventure progress, she becomes more powerful, and stronger opponents and villains are introduced.

Not to mention techniques that can destroy the universe at large.

There’s no direct quotes from the author of this series in regards to DBZ, but it’s clear as day.

one punch man 2015

And we have One Punch Man. Yes in this case it’s a parody series which takes the piss out of Shonen tropes and cliches.

That doesn’t change the facts though. Even the author has admitted the series takes influence from Dragon Ball.

One Punch Man likely wouldn’t exist if not for Dragon Ball Z’s influence for that reason.

That fact has also lead to fandoms being toxic because everyone fights over who’s stronger between Saitama and Goku.

It’s not hard to see the similarities on the surface, even though there are unique differences below it.

 

There’s also modern and other old school anime DBZ inspired like:

  • My Hero Academia.
  • Fairy Tail.
  • Gintama (more the parodies).
  • My Bride Is A Mermaid.
  • Good Luck Girl.
  • Sailor Moon (only loosely).
  • Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • Bleach.
  • Twin Star Exorcist.
  • Hunter x Hunter.

And so many more anime I missed.

Many of these series have become influential, classics, best sellers, or have built strong fanbases in general.

That’s the effect of DBZ being the father of Shonen anime.

Related: 25+ Of The Most Devoted Anime Fanbases The Industry Has Ever Known

 

2. Unbeatable influence

goku day 2019 may

There’s a thing called Goku day for a reason. This isn’t by accident or by some stroke of luck that fell out the sky.

Dragon Ball Z is REALLY that influential and it’s hardly a surprise. Just look at the effect its had on entertainment, anime, and people worldwide.

Not to mention Japan itself since they’re the ones who created “Goku Day”, and Goku has been chosen to represent the Olympics as well.

There’s also the influence its had on gym culture and fitness overall.

Many fans have gone on to create their own fitness businesses, online and offline. And have named some of their workouts based on DBZ.

They see characters like Goku, Vegeta, and so on as an inspiration to the point where they wanna keep and stay fit.

Not even an anime like Naruto has had that kind of impact in the way DBZ has in specific ways.

Let’s not forget how DB is still dominating decades later, and is doing a better job than Naruto’s follow up series “Boruto”.

Back when the fight aired between Jiren and Goku, it literally broke the internet.

Streaming services couldn’t handle the demand, not even Crunchyroll, which I thought was a bit nuts.

That alone speaks to the anime’s continued influence, even after so many decades have passed since 1986.

There’s no comparison in Shonen when it comes to these accomplishments (except Demon Slayer) but that’s not heavily DBZ influenced. If at all.

In spite of that though, it’s just another reason why Dragon Ball as a franchise is the father of Shonen…. Based on statistics, success, sales, and observable facts.

Relevant: 13+ Shonen Female Writers Who Made Some Of The BEST Anime

 

What about Fist Of The North Star?

Fist Of The North Star character moments

This series along with Dragon Ball aired pretty much around the same time, and are original for their influence.

The martial arts fighting style and things of that nature come back to these anime (and manga).

I don’t think many fans, especially old school or those who are aware of these anime would deny it.

That said, Fist Of The North Star just didn’t cut it the way DBZ did. And that’s been proven out by time.

The difference in popularity, success, and influence is undeniable and obvious.

The Fist Of The North Star is one of few Shonen that played a role in Shonen, but that doesn’t takeaway from DBZ’s father status.

That also doesn’t downplay Fist Of The North Star’s relevance.

 

Being the father of Shonen doesn’t mean it’s the best

goku kid dragon ball anime manga panel

It doesn’t mean it’s the best, which is the mistake people make when they talk about this topic.

Were there “Shonen” anime/manga before Dragon Ball? Yep.

But that’s irrelevant.

The fact is Shonen as we know it would NOT exist without Dragon Ball’s involvement.

I can’t understand why people get so salty about this fact as if that makes other Shonen inferior (it doesn’t).

Dragon Ball’s role in making anime BIG outside of Japan shouldn’t be underestimated. Or even within Japan.

If we’re talking about Shonen in particular, it paved the way for all the anime and manga you’re seeing today that are:

  • Successful
  • Well known
  • Loved
  • Respected

Because the most notable ones got some of their ideas (and inspiration) from dragon ball.

It’s just like GUNDAM is a big deal for Mecha, but isn’t necessarily the most famous one.

vegeta anime manga panel over 9000

There were other anime and manga before DB even came about. Anime and manga that didn’t become famous like DB and make waves like it did.

But that’s how it always plays out.

  • Music
  • Video Games
  • Films
  • Technology

It all works the same way.

Apple Music (iTunes) changed the music industry online more than people today are aware. They were NOT the first to do it.

Their impact is why they get so much credit.

The “lesser” known music services before iTunes are why it was possible.

Dragon Ball Z as a franchise is the same.

We can still shout out the underground classics and other anime that made Dragon Ball possible years prior, without downplaying its impact on the Shonen genre.

 

Featured image: Deviant Art.

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