Amazon Prime Video is a haven for anime fans. The service hosts many anime, from hot new titles to older anime classics. However, scrolling through the titles reveals something of an oddity. Nestled between Blade Of The Immortal and Pokémon sits season two of Aardman Animations' stop-motion classic, Shaun The Sheep. At first, this might seem like a mistake on Amazon's part, likely due to a simple tagging error. But the more you think about it, the more it becomes clear: Shaun The Sheep really is an anime.
Shaun, the titular sheep, is a classic shōnen protagonist. Despite being very young, Shaun is amazingly powerful, easily outclassing every other animal in the farmyard. Throughout the series we see him master hundreds of skills often within minutes. Shaun's also capable of understanding difficult concepts and using them to create amazing gadgets and pull off complex plans, like in one episode where he uses the equations for the Biot–Savart law to design a powerful electromagnet. This would be complicated enough for a human, but for a sheep, it is positively god-like. Especially considering Shaun, being a sheep, never got a formal education, meaning he's a natural genius, much like many "chosen one" shōnen heroes.
Like many shōnen series, Shaun The Sheep is focused on several warring factions. But rather than the factions being Lands or Nations like those found in Naruto or Avatar: The Last Airbender, Shaun's factions are mostly divided by species. Shaun and his motley crew of sheep contend with the farm's pigs and, in one special, a gang of evil llamas. The only faction that isn't made of a single species is the farmer and Bitzer the dog who act as a unit, forcing Shaun and his woolly pals to work to overcome them and reign chaos down on the farm.
Bitzer's relationship with Shaun is also shōnen-like. While Shaun and Bitzer obviously respect each other and don't want the other to come to harm, their positions in the farm hierarchy often put them at odds, turning their relationship into a friendly rivalry as both of them work to support their farmyard faction. However, like many early-arc anime antagonists, Bitzer and Shaun find themselves working together more often as other foes are introduced. Until, by the later series, they're effectively teammates.
Shaun The Sheep doesn't just have an anime plot. It also follows a lot of anime marketing practices. For instance, the latest season of Shaun The Sheep received a subtitle, designating it as a new arc. This season, entitled Shaun The Sheep: Adventures From Mossy Bottom, introduces several new characters including two new antagonists in the form of Ben, a rival farmer, and his dog Lexi. Much like a shōnen, Ben and Lexi are stronger and more competent antagonists than the farmer and Bitzer, forcing Shaun to up his game to survive.
In the same way that Boruto: Naruto Next Generations spun off from Naruto, Shaun The Sheep received a spin-off called Timmy Time. Both spin-offs focus on a younger character related to the original protagonist. However, rather than spending his time on the farm, Timmy goes to an animal pre-school. This animal school is more advanced than the farmyard Shaun inhabits and has a lot of technology specifically designed for animal use. Because of this, you could say that Timmy Time is the Legend Of Korra to Shaun's Last Airbender. As, while both shows share characters and concepts, their settings feature vastly different technology and focus on a new generation.
It seems that Japanese audiences agree with this idea, as Shaun The Sheep was a big hit when it debuted on Japanese TV, to the point that the country has received a few exclusive Shaun themed events. He's appeared in crossovers with characters from Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy and has several themed locations dedicated to him, including Shaun the Sheep Farm Garden at the English Garden Rosa & Berry Tawada in Maibara, Shaun the Sheep Family Farm at the indoor theme park inside of The Mall Sendai Nagamachi and even a pop-up cafe called Shaun the Sheep Sunday Brunch Café in Musashino.
Amazon is right to classify Shaun The Sheep as an anime. It perfectly follows the format and uses the tropes we've come to expect from the genre. While he might not look it at first glance, Shaun really is the best (and woolliest) shōnen hero to grace our screens.