Dragon Ball's Goku is the archetypical shonen hero. His slate of ever-improving abilities, powerful forms and general attitude to saving the world has become the template that many other shonen series follow. Over the years, different series have used this blueprint to great success, applying it to loads of different characters and settings. So many leads are either totally or in part inspired by Goku or a persona built on his. However, despite this, there is one thing yet to be seen: a mainstream battle shonen series with a female lead.
Female characters in shonen have improved a lot since the '80s and '90s. Gone are the days when they were merely a background love interest or a chance for the writer to show off their range of panty jokes and sexual innuendo. Today, shonen anime is packed full of strong female characters who kick butt and take names. From Erza Scarlet in Fairy Tail to One Piece's Nami, female Shonen characters are more developed and varied than ever. These female characters are often fan-favorites despite their secondary status, selling tonnes of merchandise and developing dedicated fandoms.
However, despite this, they rarely rise to the role of protagonist. At best, they become co-protagonist or get to lead short one-off episodes or spin-offs. But they always surrender the spotlight to the male character in the main series or when something important happens. The perfect example of this is Attack On Titan's Mikasa Ackerman. Who, despite being a fantastic character, is always overshadowed by Eren Yeager. This is shown best by the Attack on Titan: Lost Girls spin-off, where Mikasa gets the chance to be a focus character and shows how fascinating she is when she's given time as the lead character in a story all her own.
On top of this, the idea that boys can only empathize with male characters is outdated. The old notion that shonen is just for boys and shojo is just for girls has always been untrue, but it's more obvious now than ever before. Many series are finding massive success across all demographics, regardless of gender. Shonen series like Attack On Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen are just as popular with female audiences as they are with male ones, and a good chunk of the fandom is made up of women.
The next logical step of this growth is to have a woman take the lead in a shonen series. Put a girl center stage and let her shine as Goku has for years, by giving her epic battles and an ever-growing list of powers as she faces down foes and saves the world. In fact, being woman-led would be a massive boon for a new shonen manga, allowing it to stand out amongst the slew of other titles that are launching every month. Series like Candy Flurry prove that the free press alone helps draw readers in and gives a good chance for success and mainstream appeal. More series with women at the fore would be a chance to push the beloved battle shonen format in a fresh new direction.
The argument for more women-led shonen becomes even more apparent when you consider that Dragon Ball was inspired by Journey To The West, with Goku being based on Sun Wukong. History is packed with mythical female heroes who would make an excellent base for a series. Ones that could involve all the excitement and action you would expect while standing out amongst the crowd.
It is only a matter of time until there's a boom in female-led shonen series. The demand is there, and the audience is ready for it, and the current generation of manga and anime writers are finding new ways to push the medium in new directions. On top of this, anime and manga companies are not the types to leave money on the table. Hopefully, when we finally get a female Goku, she'll get the success she deserves and spawns a whole new wave of series led by engaging and fun female characters.