Shōnen (少年), shonen, or shounen, is a Kanji word literally meaning few years and generally referring to a typical boy, from elementary school through high school age. It is used in everyday conversation when referring to the period of youth, including in legal wording referencing youth, without regard to gender. Shōnen manga is a popular genre of Japanese comics, generally about action/fighting but often contains a sense of humor and strong growing friendship-bonds between the characters.
The term shōnen, shonen, or shounen manga (少年漫画, shōnen manga) refers to manga marketed to a male audience roughly between the ages of 10 and 18. The Kanji characters (少年) literally mean "few" and "year", respectively, where the characters (漫画) generally mean "comic". The complete phrase literally means "young person's comic." Examples include Dragon Ball, Naruto, Bleach, Hunter X Hunter, One Piece, Saint Seiya, Rurouni Kenshin, InuYasha, YuYu Hakusho, Flame of Recca, Detective Conan, Yu-Gi-Oh and Fullmetal Alchemist.
Shōnen (少年) manga (漫画) is typically characterized by high-action, often humorous plots featuring male protagonists. The camaraderie between boys or men on sports teams, fighting squads and the like is often emphasized. Attractive female characters with exaggerated features are also common (see fan service), but are not a requirement; Dragon Ball, for example, has only a few such characters. After the case of Tsutomu Miyazaki, depictions of violence and sexual matters became more highly regulated in manga in general, but especially in shonen manga. The art style of shōnen is generally less flowery than that of shōjo manga, although this varies greatly from artist to artist, and some artists draw both shōnen and shōjo manga.
Beyond shōnen manga, manga for men (university age and up) is called seinen manga. Despite a number of significant differences, many Western fans do not make a distinction between shōnen manga and seinen manga. This may be because very few seinen manga have been published outside of Japan. In Japan, many older men read shōnen magazines because of their ease in reading during commutes to and from work on trains. Consequently, in Japan, shōnen manga magazines are the most popular manga magazines.
Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama is credited for shaping the shōnen genre we see today. With notable authors of other shōnen manga such as Yoshihiro Togashi, Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, Tite Kubo and Yusuke Murata paying homage to his impact and influence on their work.