Shonen manga, stories often celebrated for their authentic feeling of excitement and fun, are a staple in today’s marketplace. These stories, enriched with excellent and intricately crafted worlds of fun and adventure, are only amazing with excellent protagonist leads that complement stories of friendship and bonds and pursuing ones dreams. The times of the past had characters who made many manga unique and creative, for example, Syaoran in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles or Mashiro and Takagi in Bakuman, and even Ikki in the recently concluded Air Gear.
For some currently serialized shonen manga — both up-and-coming and established and long-running (with no end in sight) — they’re home to protagonists who are currently the most memorable and unique.
Read on to find out who these five definitive protagonists are in my opinion.
5. Tsunayoshi Sawada (Katekyo Hitman Reborn!)
No Good Tsuna, Loser Tsuna, he next leader of the Vongola family; he may have many nicknames but he is still unique among all the protagonists thus far. He was a loser from day one and still may be but when the time counts he’s able to rally up and get himself and his family into position and tackle any and all challenges. He doesn’t even like fighting but still does what he must.
Perhaps that’s what makes him unique. While other characters want to show people just how strong they are or want to have fun in fighting, he prefers a more peaceful laid back life of spending times with friends while just seeing them have fun doing normal things teenagers would do. Maybe it is this reason alone why he has so many peopled united with him and why they can all respect him even if he isn’t physically or at times mentally strong.
4. Astro (Barrage)
For new manga, Astro gets a spot on the list for being one of the only protagonists who is in the leader position. Facing hard times, he sacrified eating and money to support those orphans who make up his family. This sacrifice is usually not seen in most series today and earns him a spot here.
He also embraces the idea of wanting to at least make the kingdom a place for them to feel safe and taken care of as well for others. His family mentality, as well as the embrace of the circumstances he’s put in from orphan to prince with a new power, makes him interesting and unique.
3. Naruto Uzumaki (Naruto)
Konoha’s number one knuckle-headed ninja, Naruto, is a memorable protagonist. Unlike most other protagonists that are born gifted from the start, Naruto shows that normal people can rise to become powerful through sheer dedication, determination, and training. Oftentimes he has been shown to have skills that paled in comparison to his rivals, but through just constantly sizing himself up to others and using them as role models he was able to get better.
His most important skill is that he is dedicated to no end to his friends, willing to go to the ends of the Earth to bring them back home — in this case Sasuke. Even when they try to turn him away, Naruto knows exactly what’s in their heart and still pursues them with the faith that they will finally see the light, admit their true feelings, and come back to him. This drive for friendship and ability to inspire all characters he meets through just talking and being an example, set him apart from all other characters.
2. Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail)
Natsu is the protagonist that every series needs. While other series have the typical hot-blooded, cool-looking, explosive protagonist, they also have their protagonists lose against opponents, even after receiving power-ups. Natsu differs in that you won’t ever find him losing. He actually proves that he is a protagonist that means business. If he faces you, you know for a fact that you will be defeated.
Beyond fighting skill he also delivers some of the best speeches to empower his friends in the time of need, as well as to empower himself so that he can protect and defeat others who threaten and harm his friends. It’s really great with how pure and dedicated he is. He’s also pretty silly.
1. Prince Lucas (Antimagia)
Lucas is possibly my favorite one of the year. The manga may have just started but I think he shows that he has the most promise out of current protagonists in seralized shonen manga. His powers stem from the powers of the occult, but enable him to use such epic creative creatures; for example, turning his cat into a towering powerful ally.
However, he shows that he would save his kingdom or even his partners at all costs—the cost being that he has to sacrifice some of his memories every time he uses antimagia. That is an intense price to pay but not even equivalent to loss of loved ones. He also has a unique design that leads to hilarious faces and at times really cool serious expressions.