Not all of the finest shonen arcs are suspenseful, and not all the best shonen arcs are suspenseful.
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Shaken-anime can be either incredibly suspenseful or very poorly-paced, depending on who you ask! Due to their length and “dragging on” nature, shonen conflicts often span many or more episodes, and this is one of their primary weaknesses. Even still, even the most drawn-out conflicts have the ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
To be sure, the most suspenseful shonen arcs aren’t always better, but neither are the best. Even shonen, on rare occasions, succeeds to satisfy both of these criteria, thanks to excellent literature or an outstanding production.
1. Pain’s Assault Proves Riveting (Naruto Shippuden)
Shippuden wasn’t a show known for its excellent pacing, but it occasionally offered some truly gripping storytelling. A frontal attack on Naruto’s home by Pain, one of the most intriguing Akatsuki, is a bold move. As a result of Pain’s attack on Konoha, Konoha’s residents are put in danger, and the admirers who have come to consider it as a safe haven are put in danger as well
When Naruto returns home to a demolished village, believing that Hinata has been dead, he loses his composure and loses control of himself in an epic duel with the demon Pain. The question is, can Naruto tame his inner monster long enough to save Konoha?
2. The Dark Tournament Elevates Yu Yu Hakusho To New Heights
To Shonen, a tournament structure provides the perfect opportunity to pit characters against one another. A successful tournament arc should have high stakes, plenty of opportunities for character growth, and prove more relevant towards the end than it does at the beginning of the arc. As far as I’m concerned, it ticks all the boxes.
Kurama, Hiei, and Yusuke all show true character development, and Yusuke is humbled by Toguro. Even the side characters are well-developed and the battles are well-balanced in this series. As soon as people think the competition is over, a bomb detonates in the stadium, reigniting the excitement.
3. The Hideout Raid Arc Finally Raises The Stakes (My Hero Academia)
In the shonen world, My Hero Academia has been a constant presence for several years now. Bones has done a fantastic job with the characters, their powers, and the fight scenes. Still, the show’s speed isn’t one of its best assets.
As a result, things take a dramatic turn when Bakugo is kidnapped. In the face of the potential murder of a classmate, even if few viewers believe Bakugo will join the evil guys, the heroes must decide whether or not to join them. Students disregard the cautions of Pro Heroes and take matters into their own hands, even if the stakes are larger than they were during school tournaments.
4. Enies Lobby Is One Piece In Peak Form
The pacing of One Piece isn’t great. In fact, the exact reverse is true. Enies Lobby, on the other hand, was an anomaly. It’s not unusual for Robin to be the most level-headed member of the ensemble, but she’s now consumed by her own past and believes she’s due some sort of punishment. As a result, the most trustworthy hero has become the one in need of rescue.
Robin losing her temper, Luffy’s Gear Second reveal in the Tower of Justice, breaking into the Tower of Justice, losing the Going Merry only help ratchet up the excitement. In terms of plot and character development, it’s a giant leap forward.
5. YorkNew City Helps Hunter x Hunter Grow Up
Chimera Ant Arc scuppers things up slightly in the first several episodes of Hunter x Hunter (2011-2012).
Until then, the New YorkNew City Arc and Kurapika’s desire for vengeance remain on display for fans.
Because of the gritty surroundings and the numerous players involved, including Chrollo, Hisoka, and the phantom troupe that devastated Kurapika’s clan, the shadow creatures, and the Mafia, the danger is ever-present. The slaughter at an underground auction is just the beginning of the show’s most violent narrative.
6. Disaster Feels Inevitable During The Grace Field House Escape (The Promised Neverland)
The Promised Neverland’s second season was a disappointment for many, and with good cause. When compared to the first season, the storytelling was crisper and more vivid while also being more engaging. Exiting GraceField House is the only choice left once the truth of what is going on outside becomes clear and further information about the main cast members (including Mama’s role in this operation) is revealed.
Waiting to see which orphans are arrested makes every episode much more suspenseful for those who haven’t seen it yet.
7. Short & Perfectly-Paced, Gurren Lagann Deserves The Hype
The thrilling pace of shorter shonen is an advantage. Still, Gurren Lagann is a no-brainer when it comes to tense storytelling.
Gurren Lagann has only twenty-seven episodes, so there isn’t much in the way of filler, and the writers did their best to make each episode feel important to the larger tale. A significant character dies in episode eight, and fans know that the program will go to whatever extent to raise stakes for the audience. While the cosmos is at stake, Gurren Lagann keeps getting larger and larger.
8. Re: Zero’s Time Loop Episodes Are A Real Nail-Biter
There is a lot of potential for Groundhog Day to be a nail-biting thriller, but it isn’t generally known for that. A true fridge-horror purgatory, Re: Zero shows audiences how the protagonist fails to save his companions or himself in a variety of different scenarios.
One of the most nerve-wracking stretches of the game is when Subaru dies and reappears over and over again, never being able to figure out what or why is causing his death. After a while, the audience, like Subaru, becomes accustomed to seeing death lurking around every corner.
9. Shiratorizawa vs. Karasuno Keeps Audiences On Their Feet
Haikyuu!! knows how to get the most out of every fight, serve, spike, and miss by perfectly blending character development, opportune flashbacks, and stressful and difficult gameplay.
Because even the opposing teams have been written with care and personality, this helps.
Shiratorizawa may be the cutest squad in the series, but Ushiwaka is one of the most fearsome players there is. Intense and satisfying, the match between Karasuno and Shiratorizawa was given an entire season and never lost its footing.
10. Return to Shinganshina Is A Return To Form (Attack on Titan)
This anime depends on suspense greatly to keep its audience engaged. It doesn’t matter if certain characters think they’re exempt from death; they’re still vulnerable to bodily and psychological harm. It’s only a matter of time before fans stop being surprised by the worst-case scenario.
The Return to Shinganshina arc, which occurs three seasons into a long-running series, is one of the most difficult arcs in anime history. The mini-arc formed by “Perfect Game,” “Hero,” and “Midnight Sun,” culminates in people being forced to make an unthinkable choice: should they save Erwin or Armin?
11. Part One of Death Note Remains One For the Books
One must give Death Note credit for nailing suspense even fifteen years later. In order to maintain an eerie mood over the show’s full run leading up to L’s demise, it is no easy task. What matters is the writing, especially when it comes to details like how Light’s life and the dying note are governed.
Because the Death Note can only be used by someone who knows their true identity and has seen their face, Light is forced to reveal all the circumstances of their death in order to prevent them from passing away of a heart attack as originally intended.
Without these controlling laws, the story would not be as intricate and satisfying as it is.