Definition: Fighting styles in Shonen manga or anime.
What You Need To Know: Fighting is a major element in Shonen stories. No matter the scope of a story, most plots boil down to the good guys punching the bad guys into submission. However, it’s important for the layman to know what exactly goes into all that punching.
In Shonen, a character’s fighting style can be divided into two factors: physical and spiritual. A character’s physical well-being is maintained through regular exercise and training. Their spiritual side, in turn, is maintained through mental discipline and experience. Thus, a character’s power is not based on superficial sources, but on personal improvement, another important aspect in Shonen. Both of these aspects are rooted in Taoist and Buddhist philosophies.
Whenever you see a character do some sort of “special attack,” they are actually manipulating and exerting a certain amount of spiritual energy. This internal energy source is generally finite, and varies from person to person. This energy could be called Ki, Chakra, Spiritual Pressure, or Magic, but it’s basically the same thing. In most cases, the protagonist will have the largest energy reserves.
Another important aspect of fighting in Shonen is the concept of Transformation. A transformation is when a person changes their appearance, weapon, or power set, and essentially become stronger. However, transformations tend to put a strain on a character’s spiritual reserves and physical state, and thus cannot be prolonged indefinitely. Character’s may also have trouble controlling themselves in such a state, as their power literally becomes too much to handle.
Also, for some reason, fighters in Shonen like to name and announce their attacks.
My Western Take: Generally speaking, fights in Shonen tend be more theatrical than in western fiction. Exaggerated attacks with names and people that transform into flashier beings all serves to draw your attention. Even comic book heroes don’t focus on punching the bad guy to such an extent. The closet analogous I can think of is Pro-Wresting. I mean, in retrospect, there is something very Shonen about Hulk Hogan “hulking-up” and dropping an “atomic leg drop” on a would-be challenger.