With a long history of fantastical settings and great action, shounen anime has brought some of the best and most unique stories to action/adventure fiction. However, whether it’s due to over-reliance on genre formulas, production issues with the anime, or even just one strange idea, fans tend to hold contempt for a certain few shounen arcs.
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Despite this, no matter how one might feel about a particular story, a creator still puts their heart and soul into manifesting every arc. While some are more beloved than others, there are plenty with redeeming qualities that certainly don’t deserve the hate.
10 Fairy Tail – Alvarez Empire Arc
Fairy Tail’s Alvarez Empire Arc is seen as one if not the main offender of many of the series’ main criticisms, which center around random, inconsequential characters, a mix of fantasy and sci-fi gibberish, and a lot of convenient power-ups.
These points, however, overlook some genuinely interesting points of this story such as Erza’s ties with her mother, Zeref and Mavis’ love story, and the conclusion to a lot of central character arcs. Even for Fairy Tail’s most loyal fans, there’s a lot to enjoy in terms of intense action, quirky characters, and, of course, the confirmation of a lot of romances.
9 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders – Part 1
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s third story, particularly its first half, is not necessarily hated, though it is, at the very least, controversial. Compared to the cross-country vampires battles before it and the magical zipper battles after it, “Stardust Crusaders: Part 1” is a very typical shounen story that has the main characters overcoming seemingly inconsequential, villains of the week.
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However, it’s likely because of the story’s traditional storytelling and especially Jotaro Kujo that Stardust Crusaders is one of the most popular and celebrated JoJo arcs in Japan. At a technical level, Stardust Crusaders’ fight sequences are still spectacular for shounen standards, and there’s always some heart going into every battle and adventure from arguably one of the series’ best teams yet.
8 Blue Exorcist – Season 1’s Final Arc
The ending arc for Blue Exorcist’s first season is loathed for a variety of reasons, and they primarily center around the fact that the Blue Exorcist anime eventually caught up with the material in the series’ manga.
Anime studios don’t like to put their productions on hold for the manga in fear that they may lose their viewers, so, for Blue Exorcist, the studio just made up the entire final arc and its ending. While this inherently ensured that this portion wouldn’t line up with the rest of the story, this anime-only arc did well for what the animators had, including some interesting action sequences and the tease for Satan’s greater intention.
7 Death Note – Final Arc
While Death Note as a whole is beloved as being one of the strongest shounen/mystery stories in anime, its legacy often comes at the caveat of its ending. After Light seemingly won his rivalry against L, the Death Note story introduced two new main characters whose abilities and personalities have been pretty controversial among the fans.
That’s just on top of a lot of debates over how Light was finally caught. Logistics aside, the final arc was the catharsis for a long line of wrongdoing from Light Yagami. It was always going to be tough creating a satisfying way to catch him, but, when they finally did, his final laugh and monologue became hauntingly memorable.
6 Future Diary – Final Arc
Future Diary is regarded as a love-it-or-hate-it series, and its ending doesn’t do much to change that. In summary, the entire story was already rigged, one of the characters wasn’t who they said they were, Yukiteru becomes a murderer, and the world starts collapsing as a narrative clock.
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There are weaknesses that have kept some fans away; but, for the series’ most loyal fans, there’s so much to love in the spectacle of the final episodes, and especially in the conclusion for Yuki and Yuno’s relationship. For anime-only fans, they get a melancholic resolution that has Yuki save Yuno from her abuse. In the OVA, the two reunite in a magical romance that literally defies all of space and time.
5 Katekyo Hitman Reborn! – The Beginning
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! became one of Shonen Jump’s best success stories towards its end. Through constant story pivots, the series managed to stay for several years while touching on a variety of interesting storylines such as the central fight for leadership of the Vongola Family, the entire time-travel arc, and the battle against the Vindice.
However, just to get to any of these parts, a lot of fans have to get through the series’ very humble roots as a gag manga/anime that had its main character get pushed around by babies to do well in school. However, this portion did lay the groundwork for KHR’s overall magic system, and it’s worth seeing just for how charming and funny the original direction was.
4 One Piece – Skypeia Arc
One Piece’s Skypeia Arc is often criticized for its length and lack of any plot connection with the rest of the story. This is probably due to the fact that Eiichiro Oda didn’t initially intend to have the story go past the Alabasta Arc, making Skypeia his first arc to help keep the story going. While it’s fair to say that Skypeia hasn’t been the most plot-important arc, it’s still a fun story within its own right.
It has Oda returning to his adventure roots with one of his most fantastical settings to date, it features some great fights between the Straw Hats and Skypeian priests, and it tells a surprising story of friendship that spans cultures and centuries.
3 Naruto: Shippuden – 4th Shinobi World War Arc
Naruto: Shippuden’s final arc was the point where a lot of fans fell out of the story. For the anime, this is primarily because of the gratuitous amount of filler episodes that made keeping up with the story in real-time frustrating.
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However, even for manga fans, the 4th Shinobi World War Arc still had some issues regarding its length, pacing, overuse of anime power-ups, and the seemingly random plot by Princess Kaguya. Despite this, many fans love to return to this arc for its strong showcase of Naruto principles, i.e. touching stories of friendship, cool powers, and some of the best fights ever seen in shounen anime. That’s not even touching on Madara Uchiha, one of Naruto’s most devious villains yet.
2 Bleach – Bount Arc
Bleach’s Bount Arc gets a lot of flack for being an anime-only arc in a series already filled with arguably formulaic storytelling. Many will loathe it for being inconsequential, while those still pretty generous towards filler arcs may still criticize it for the worldbuilding around the Bounts and the writing.
However, many fans can still leave this arc satisfied given that the Bounts as a concept and as disgruntled characters fit in well as powerful Bleach villains, and they helped deliver even more iconic fights that people came to the series for anyway.
1 Dragon Ball – Majin Buu Saga
Out of all of Dragon Ball’s various storylines, the Majin Buu Saga is easily one of the most criticized. For some, it was a poor follow-up to the Cell Saga, and it reversed some of what made that arc great such as keeping Gohan as the new protector of Earth or Son Goku’s death. Others despise this arc just because of Majin Buu.
Buu was never seen as a serious villain, and it didn’t help that his main power was turning people into candy. Even with this in mind, the Majin Buu Saga is still a really entertaining arc within its own right, and, because of Buu, has some of the most personality seen in the series. This includes some inventive fights against Buu, the introduction of Gotenks, and, as comic-book-esque as it seemed, the celebrated return for Son Goku.
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