In the past few years, the horror genre has been quite successful in both the manga and anime world. Horror-tinged Shonen like Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, and Chainsaw Man has been all the rage. Wildly popular series like Bleach, which was focused on monster-hunting, didn’t rely on gore or spookiness in its storytelling. However, the recent Shonen Jump horror series have been paradigm-shifting as they are completely changing the manga world.
Most well-known Shonen Jump series have protagonists who are dedicated to their family and friends. They work hard, and in spite of all the odds against them, they come out on top. They undergo emotional maturity as they gain more power and become responsible. Finally, they face the antagonist as they reach their goals and achieve all they have ever wished for. Watching underdogs overcome challenges and hardships makes it easier to root for them. Series such as One Piece, Bleach, Dragon Ball, and Naruto all have such protagonists and similar character development. If one looks closely, the storyline is also similar in several aspects.
It would be wrong to say that earlier Shonen titles were not dark. The Chimera Ant arc of Hunter x Hunter was shockingly dark as the story took an unanticipated turn. The twisted horror and silliness of Jojo Bizarre Adventure can be categorized as a predecessor for Chainsaw Man. However, the recent dark Shonen Jump titles have become mainstream and are no longer an outlier.
Despite there being a demand for more horror anime, unfortunately, they are hard to find for the fans. The problem with the horror genre is that they are difficult to perfect. They have a unique tone that is drastically different from any other anime, making it tougher for the creators to come up with convincing plot and animation. Horror is a combination of psychological and mysterious elements with the supernatural. Since most fans know that Shonen protagonists are ultimately going to win, it is harder to make the threat of death convincing for the viewers. Without such a threat, the horror atmosphere, which is the genre’s backbone, is very tough to pull off.
The rise of the horror genre started with the worldwide success of Attack on Titan, which was surprisingly rejected by Shonen Jump initially. However, they regretted their decision later when it went on to become so popular. Death Note and Attack on Titan were proof that the audience loved horror anime/manga, and Shonen Jump realized that they might have been wrong. In recent years, Shonen Jump has welcomed such a series, and they have been massively benefitted from it.
Series like Chainsaw Man and Jujutsu Kaisen has successfully integrated tension of horror with the action of traditional battle Shonen. This mix of genres creates several intriguing and unexpected scenarios that most fans might not have imagined. Even the powerups in these series come up with their consequences, like Itadori, who was granted immense powers after eating Sukuna’s fingers. Still, the danger of Sukuna taking over his consciousness is ever-present.
The successful Shonen-horror knows how to get the best out of both genres and create a series that resonates with the fans. The power system and worldbuilding in such series are unique and therefore interesting to watch. Typical Shonen Jump manga is safer in comparison to the Shonen-horror genre. With its fascinating battles and horrifying twists, the latter can help the audience know more about the characters and their struggles. Despite having a horror setting, a positive and optimistic protagonist can still set across uplifting messages and leave a lasting impression on the viewers.