Splitting up in a horror movie is never a good idea, but it’s usually a moment of character development and growth in a shonen series.

The shonen genre of anime and manga continues to be one of the most popular, with their high-octane action sequences inspiring countless online debates and discussions. Whether from the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump or as an animated series, the genre has been defined by franchises new and old that sometimes add to existing tropes while also reinvigorating old ones. One trope, in particular, is especially persistent, and it shares a commonality with a cliche found in another medium entirely.

Having their heyday in the 1980s, slasher horror movies are full of their own generic storytelling conventions. For example, one horror trope is to split up a group of teenagers and have them picked off one by one. This trend, strangely enough, is one shared with shonen, too. Here’s how shonen stories replicate the fear of horror movies, all while doing so differently and in a more heroic way.

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How Shonen Incorporates Slasher Movie Cliches

A common element in movies like the Friday the 13th franchise is to have a group of teenagers hunted by the slasher killer. They present more of a threat and a chance at survival when they’re together as a united front, but the films all slowly but surely whittle away at their unity. The characters will split off to search for clues or other people who had already gone missing one by one. With their group now splintered, the killer will find them individually, making their deaths and screams known only to them. This all happens despite the protagonists themselves knowing how foolish it is to split up.

Similar events take place in many shonen stories. For instance, in the Chunin Exams of Naruto, Sakura has to face an opposing team pretty much on her own, with Naruto away and Sasuke having been knocked out. Other examples include the introduction of the Ginyu Force in Dragon Ball Z. There, several of the weaker Z Fighters have to take on Frieza’s enforcers, all without the aid of the venerable Goku. Goku’s absence turns the series of fights into a near slaughter, and it’s when he shows up that they’re saved.

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A Shonen Hero’s Horror

7 sakura fights during chunin exams

Slasher movies simply use this as a way to logically kill off characters and increase the fear factor. After all, even the most bloodthirsty of killers is a lot less scary if faced by a united group of likely relatively in shape teenagers. Thus, killing off the most vital members of the group becomes both a necessity and a way to ramp up the scares. It usually results in the group’s most timid and unassuming female member being the “final girl” who survives or even takes out the killer.

This homicidal form of character development is similar to how the trope is used in shonen, with the singled-out warrior having to prove themselves without the aid of their teammates. In the aforementioned example of the Chunin Exams, the theretofore weak Sakura had to fend off against several attackers, proving herself to be a formidable fighter. However, there also lies the difference between the two genres since characters in shonen series who find themselves in this situation are typically strong enough to fend for themselves — turning the experience into a moment of growth rather than death (usually).

The recent trend of shonen series becoming more horror-focused makes the surprising relationship even more interesting. It’s all a bit more direct and obvious than the survival-based exposition of slasher movies, making the mutual trope a bit better done in shonen action anime than in ’80s bloodbath.

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