For anime connoisseurs who are well aware of the most popular series of the 2000s, they’ll surely know about the holy trinity of shonen anime: Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. Of these three, perhaps it is fair to say that Bleach lagged behind and that was mainly because the series went on an indefinite hiatus after 366 episodes. In comparison, the other two even longer shonen series never lost momentum in the same way.
Thankfully for fans, even though hope seemed slim at that point, the series made a return nearly a decade later. In November 2021, it was announced that the last story arc of Tite Kubo’s manga was to received an anime adaptation. The much-anticipated Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War, which is divided into four cours, premiered in the fall of 2022, an ambitious project that brings to the screen the epic climax of the story – a massive confrontation between the soul reapers of Soul Society and the Quincy.
Whether you’re waiting for more episodes of the Thousand-Year Blood War or just looking for something new that can evoke the same thrill of watching Bleach, this list might help you.
It is easy to tell that Jujutsu Kaisen creator Gege Akutami is a fan of Tite Kubo’s work and has drawn inspiration from Bleach. The curses in Jujutsu Kaisen are reminiscent of the hollows in Bleach, but instead of being souls that haven’t passed on, cursed spirits are born out of negative human emotions. Similarly, jujutsu sorcerers use cursed energy instead of reiryoku and their objective is to exorcise curses in opposition to purifying hollows. If you’re looking for a shonen series that perfectly balances the comedic and the serious, full of twists and turns and vibrant and enthralling fight sequences — which MAPPA beautifully animates — Jujutsu Kaisen is an optimal choice.
Also incredibly animated by Studio MAPPA, Chainsaw Man is currently shorter than the previous entry on this list, with only 12 episodes of season 1 out, which do not even encompass the whole of part 1 of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s manga. In this series, instead of hollows or curses, soul reapers or jujutsu sorcerers, there are devils, embodiments of people’s fears, and devil hunters. Chainsaw Man is probably gorier than the other shonen that have already been mentioned, its dark humor may be even edgier, sometimes downright shocking, and the main characters are definitely more morally ambiguous than in Bleach.
Like the two other titles above, Noragami is set in Japan and shares some of Bleach’s motifs in the way that it adapts and fictionalizes certain cultural aspects and mythological beliefs of Japanese culture. Unlike Bleach’s Kurosaki Ichigo — who is a mortal human despite his supernatural powers — Noragami’s main character, Yato, is a minor god who has lived for hundreds of years prior to the start of the story. There are two seasons of the anime as well as a handful of OVAs, but unfortunately, one of the downsides of the series is that the anime stopped before the manga’s end, leaving the story without a neatly wrapped-up conclusion and no season 3 announced.
Demon Slayer is yet another entry taking place in the Land of the Rising Sun, but during the Taishō era instead of the twenty-first century. Similarly to Bleach’s soul reapers, almost every member of the Demon Slayer Corps carries a katana as their weapon, which are distinguishable amongst themselves and particular to each swordsman. Like the strongest members of the 13 Divisions have a unique Bankai, the demon slayers use different breathing styles in order to be able to go toe-to-toe with the man-eating demons they hunt.
Set even further back in Japanese history during the Edo Period, the Hell’s Paradise anime adaptation is one of the most recent of the titles on this list, having aired its 13 episodes in the spring and summer of 2023. It’s also a series whose original manga — by mangaka Yuji Kaku — is on the shorter side comparatively to a few of the others on this list. The central plot of Hell’s Paradise revolves around Gabimaru, a highly skilled ninja whose repertoire of assassinations landed him on death row, and the woman in charge of executing him, Sagiri. Together, along with other criminals and their respective executioners, they travel to the magical island of Shinsenkyo in search of an elixir that grants immortality. Finding it is the only way Gabimaru, or any of the other convicts, can hope to receive a pardon.
Moving on from Japan to Death City — a fictional metropolis situated in the State of Nevada — Soul Eater follows a colorful group of students from the Death Weapon Meister Academy, some of whom are meisters and other hybrids that can transform into weapons. The meister/weapon duos are tasked with collecting souls, with their main goal being 99 evil human souls and one witch soul. Soul Eater was one of the most popular anime of its time. However, the buzz eventually dispersed, and unfortunately, at one point, the series strays from Atsushi Ohkubo manga into anime-original territory. Soul Eater is one of those anime that deserves the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood treatment and a modern reboot. Speaking of Fullmetal Alchemist...
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Recommending Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is almost a no-brainer. If you consider yourself someone who is well-versed in anime, chances are you’ve either already watched it or, at least, are planning to. Not only is this the highest-rated anime on MyAnimeList — and has been for quite a while — but this reboot is also better than the original 2003 series for the simple fact that it follows the manga’s plot all the way to the end, instead of diverging at one point. However, the first few episodes may be better in the original because Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood seems to presuppose viewers have already watched the older iteration. Other than that, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is, undoubtedly, a fantastic 64-episode-long journey worth going through.
Hunter x Hunter
This title is another no-brainer, as there are a significant number of anime fans for whom Hunter x Hunter is their favorite shonen. If there were a fourth spot in the aforementioned holy trinity of shonen – which would make it a quartet – it could’ve been occupied by this one. Based on the bestselling manga series by Yoshihiro Togashi, the story centers around four young men who aspire to become Hunters – an elite group that undertakes tasks normal humans are not able to – each for their own distinct reasons: be it revenge, boredom, money, or finding their father.
We’ve mentioned jujutsu sorcerers, devil hunters, demon slayers, soul reapers, alchemists, hunters, and now we have exorcists. Similarly to the soul reapers in Bleach, exorcists in D. Gray-man allow for the souls of the deceased who are trapped in the form of monstrous Akuma — which translates to Devils, much like the predominantly evil deities in Chainsaw Man — to pass on in peace. These Akuma are the cruel creations of the series’ main antagonist, the Millenium Earl, who ends up taking an interest in the mild-mannered protagonist – Allen Walker. The 103-episode-long series was followed in 2016 by a 13-episode sequel, D. Gray-man Hallow.
Seraph of the End
In this list, we’ve discussed devils, curses, demons, and we can’t forget vampires. Set on a dystopian Earth – after a mysterious virus killed every human being over 13 years old, a race of vampires emerged to force the remaining humans into submission, and what is left of humanity has to pay the vampires for “protection” with blood donations. The plot revolves around two orphan boys — Yu and Mika — who get separated after an attempt to flee from the orphanage where they were imprisoned, and later find themselves on the two opposing sides of the conflict. The Seraph of the End anime is split into two parts of 12 episodes each.