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Literally means "boy" in Japanese, but is also used to refer to Japan's biggest manga demographic: pre-teen and teenage boys.
Shōnen, shounen or shonen, literally means "few years" in Japanese and is often used to refer to boys, but in otaku parlance often refers to Japan's biggest manga demographic: pre-teen and teenage boys. The world's most popular anime and manga franchises are usually shōnen series, such as Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, InuYasha, and Death Note. These series usually involve some kind of ongoing battle or regular battles, usually of the fighting type (as in DBZ, Bleach) but sometimes sports-related ( Eyeshield 21, Prince of Tennis) or intellectual (Death Note, Hikaru no Go).
Although shōnen series are primarily geared towards a male audience, they have always been a big draw for female readers as well--the most popular mangabon among Japanese women is the same as for men: Weekly Shōnen Jump.