I was reading a manga and it uses this term to describe someone I believe was 20-21

There age isn't mentioned but since this word was used to describe them does it mean they are for sure not that age and all?


  • Why do you say you "believe" they are 20-21. What reason did you have for that which would leave it vague like that.
    – Leebo
    Mar 24 at 12:17
  • @Leebo characters age is never said Mar 24 at 18:40
  • Okay, so that's why I'm asking what made you believe they were a certain age.
    – Leebo
    Mar 24 at 19:08
  • @Leebo There are 2 characters he hangs out with. Ones 17 at the start and the other's 18. Time passes and characters should be 19-20 or 20-21. The hero is around those ages at the end Mar 24 at 19:21
  • I'm confused. Do they explicitly say character ages or not?
    – Leebo
    Mar 24 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


Can shonen 少年 ever be used to refer to young adults 20-21?

I'd say basically no, just because of my tacit knowledge and experience as of today. If others referred to 21 as a 少年 I wouldn't argue. I'd simply accept it as their preference. I'd tolerate 少年 to be a maximum of age 22 just to be generous.

However, the perception of age depends on the context. If I was a 300-year-old guru, even a 30-year-old would be 少年 to me.

Some sources

少年法 is applicable for 19 and under.

児童福祉法 defines 少年 as 18 and under.

青少年が安全に安心してインターネットを利用できる環境の整備等に関する法律 defines 青年+少年 as 17 and under.

These are just regulations, so I suggest you search for dictionaries too. They tend to be stricter like until 16 or so.

There age isn't mentioned but since this word was used to describe them does it mean they are for sure not that age and all?

I'd expect a young boy no older than 18, but would accept until 22.

  • so does the usage mean the characters not 20/21? Mar 24 at 18:41
  • The usage means the characters are probably not 20/21 if you ask me. But my logic doesn't apply to their universe. Hal is closest to us, Natsu maybe like us, but Shiki is not even an earthling! God knows how they age.
    – dungarian
    Mar 24 at 23:15
  • I mean for Natsu. Does it mean he's probably not 20/21. You said it would be acceptable until 22 no? Mar 25 at 0:01
  • Yes a 少年 is probably not 20/21, but I'd also accept it until 22 only because I'm super generous. Everyone has different standards. In-depth analysis of Natsu's age should be done over at Anime & Manga or Scifi.
    – dungarian
    Mar 25 at 0:46

For some reason I don't really think that this 少年 here describes any specific person. Just a generic "boy", I am not sure if it is used to describe that person you have in mind.

That being said, 少年 is typically used for the younger age (like, up to 15-16) and is not typically applicable for anyone aged 20-21. In my opinion, 少年 does not necessarily emphasise his youth, so it could vaguely denote to any non-adult age, but an adult man aged 20 seems to be out of its bound.

does it mean they are for sure not that age

It does imply so, but in the context, there is nothing that puts any emphasis on the age of the person mentioned. So I doubt if you should feel that 少年 here is intended to have the reader understand his age.

  • Hello. So could a 19 year old be shonen then? Mar 24 at 11:26
  • als does it really imply the character is not 20/21? Mar 24 at 11:27

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