The shonen genre is to Japanese manga what superheroes are to American comics. While there are genres catering to every conceivable demographic in Japan, most people think shonen is the lifeblood of the manga machine. The connection speaks to shonen's ubiquity and ability to resonate with fans of all ages. And for a genre that literally translates to "young boy," that's quite a feat.
Despite shonen's connection to the medium of manga, the roots of the genre trace back to the 1800s. Again, mirroring superhero comics' relation to the pulp magazines of the 20s and 30s—and the grand myths of antiquity—the shonen genre we know is the contemporary variant of a timeless concept.
In the video embedded above, the defunct YouTube channel Get in the Robot explores the intriguing history of shonen. If you dig the video, check out the resurrected version of Get in the Robot on the team's new channel Beyond the bot.