We Can’t Have a Big Three Anymore

I feel like I am writing a lot of “I am old and this how I feel about anime right now” posts recently, but I can’t help it. That is just where my mind has been for a while. This time, I feel like it’s time to discuss the big three. I feel like most anime fans knows what that is. If you don’t, the big three is a rather simple idea. In the Early 2000’s, they were the three most popular, long running series from shonen jump. Since the three appeared around the same time, I think you can get why One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto were called the Big Three. That’s it. That’s all she wrote about all of that. You must remember that this was the era that the internet service providers weren’t as big or fast as today’s DSL Internet. Most people saw these shows either on tv when the dubs premiered or watched YouTube videos in three parts after watching the videos buffer for an extended amount of time as more episodes on the internet. The 2000’s were such a crazy time.

What made the Big three as popular back in the day? The fact that not many people know about all the series that were being produced so much back in the day. These three series were where a lot of fans during my generation started their anime runs. Maybe that isn’t true for everybody, because there were some other popular series that started around the same time like Full Metal Alchemist which drew people’s attention as well, but people at least touched one of these big three. I sort of count as one of those people. I may have started watching anime doing toonami, but I became a more legitimate and main stay fan from watching Bleach. Yes that’s right, I used to be a Bleachtard.  That was the big show that everyone was watching at my school, so I was a follower. I never watched the other two, so this was my little window into those series.

The Big Three were popular because of what I would call the MASH affect. Encase any of you ever don’t know what the is, MASH was an insanely popular comedy/war drama show that aired in the 1970’s. It lasted for years and the finale of that still holds the record of the amount of views in TV history. During that time period, there wasn’t as many channels and TV shows airing back then so you can see why this happened. I feel like the same thing happened with the Big Three. Yes, there were shows and anime fans before One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach appeared on television, but these three broke through the pop culture air because their appearance was timed right with the evolution of the internet. These were the huge tent pole shows that never ended and came with separate arcs so new fans could jump in whenever they felt like it. Besides Dragon Ball that was also insanely popular and lasted forever, that was almost the expectation for it all. The early 2000’s was a crazy time.

Notice how I said that television shows never got the same amount of viewership since then? I feel that I can talk about anime in the same way right now. Why? Because there are tons and tons of anime series out there on many different legal streaming services these days. That means the viewership behind all popular shows that have gone past the weeb realm won’t affect the anime medium as much as they could have. Especially since anime studios are producing as much shows as possible with that rate of shows appearing at a faster rate. It’s just the reality. More shows for people to watch means a lot more varieties of shows to people investigate. I have a feeling that shows that last forever are not going to be on the top of people’s lists to watch as often. Why would someone watch a show that can go on forever when you can watch many shows of different varieties of genres and characters in the same amount of time? The time doesn’t make as much sense here. Shows that garner that sort of attention need to be special and good, based on everyone’s perception and tastes, for that to happen.

Besides series more and more series produced, there is also the fact that most shows today get only a cour or two produced these days. Maybe Detective Conan, One Piece, and maybe Boruto will run until the end of time because they are insanely popular, but they are remnants from another era. I mean, do you notice how things like My Hero Academia, Sword Art Online, and Attack on Titan are shows that are as popular as they could be in this current anime landscape haven’t had a constant spread of episodes that never end these days. Studios are now playing everything safe. When My Hero Academia isn’t as popular anymore, Studio Bones could just pull the plug on production and move onto something else. Sword Art Online and Attack on Titan took years for them to have follow up seasons. It’s crazy but it’s realistic in today’s landscape. This production method allows for a stronger production in each tv series too at the same time. So there are plusses and minuses to this whole experience. I mean, live action tv shows are doing the same thing because those have been looking great as well while also suffering from not having as much world expansion as many good shows from the past.

In Conclusion, I don’t think it’s possible for series to ever reach the Big Three level of popularity again. One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach were more than just popular series that aired during a certain time period, they were a life style. These were shows that aired one episode a week for years on end to the point where you would know that their lives synced with our realities. It’s not a question of quality. My Hero Academia has aired two cours per year and while the show is a more then good series, the fact that it’s not always here with us is a reminder that it’s merely a tv show. The Big Three is not a thing that is going to happen anymore. That era is gone. We can’t suddenly call some random shows that have gotten some attention and praise three shows that are popular right now. That’s not how any of this works. Let’s come up with a new name for those shows now other than over hyped.


  1. You’re not alone in thinking this. I really think that (particularly in the last 10 years I’ve been paying attention) the way anime is consumed has really changed (and I mean beyond the changes from VHS to YouTube videos split in 3 parts of extremely questionable quality to dedicated *legal* websites).

    Every time I hear someone say stuff like “Boku no Hero Academia is the next Naruto!” I want to scream (and I don’t even have a particular care for either). It isn’t and never will be. The anime culture of the ’00s is never going to come back (as much as I kind of want it to).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh yeah, I agree. The way we consume it in regards to watching multiple things a season, get enamored with them, then move on to something else with out regards to anything is kind of difficult. Then again, I’m one of the people involved in that and I’m not ashamed of that because I like watching seasonal shows too.

      And yeah, there is a lot of things wrong with that statement. If I can pick and choose elements of both of today’s and 00’s culture to combine, that would be best. The 00’s weren’t flawless either.


      1. Yeah, I have to watch newer things because panelist life. I get tons of questions on the newer shows, I have to be prepared but often times you can hear my exhaustion when I have to answer a question about Attack on Titan or My Hero Academia. Can’t I just talk about Cowboy Bebop all day until I die?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Longer series are harder to get into for a lot of reasons, but I don’t think I can agree with that last sentence. Especially when there after things like Natsume’s Book of Friends and Space Brothers to get into still.


  2. Well as I am now 42, I can relate to this…and in other ways I can’t. There was a long period of time where I did not watch anime. At all…I know crazy huh? As such I kind of missed out on the big three..and now they are so big that I just can’t watch them because of the sheer number of episodes. I really don’t know where I would be able to find the time. But I do really understand what you are saying here though. One of the things that does bother me at times though is that there is hardly talk about some of the classics anymore. I have often thought of writing one post a month about a classic anime. I haven’t yet, but I am hopeful that in September I will have much more time on my hands. So maybe I will start that.
    This was a great post by the way! You will have a lot of trouble when deciding which post you want to sent in to the showcase for next month 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharing retro anime is hard. I do my best of having a good balance between older and newer series and I’m still working on that. Seeing you cover older series would be a lot of fun too. 😁

      I’m not worrying about next month’s showcase for now. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Things have definitely changed in both production and viewing of anime and while there will certainly be exciting shows that come out and capture people’s interest, I don’t think we’re ever going back to a time where a handful of titles dominate the industry or the discussion. That said, Bleach is awesome and I’ll love it forever, it certainly is a large part of how I came back to anime as an adult along with Evangelion and Death Note, so I’m glad the big 3 happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, all that exactly. I just got tired of people wondering what the new one is and had to write something like this.

      I like a lot of Bleach too, even if I don’t talk about it that often. I will never stop being grateful that it happened also.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think such comparisons like “the next..” just miss the mark. A series can best can be a spiritual successor or at worst a blatant copy but they can never be the same as an older show for the reasons you mentioned mainly different cultures at the time and the context of when the series the released. I was not a fan at the time the big three aired, so I can’t speak to that particular scenario myself but I have encountered similar scenarios in other things. Comparing something to past glory periods is always a tricky matter and is something that really does neither thing justice in the end.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As streaming technology grows along side with the fandom the magic of having a big three will die. Kinda sucks, since there were so much hype about getting involved with a big 3 show and waiting for it to broadcast on Western TV each week.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Can’t agree more with this. The whole idea of The Big Three was a product of its time and there’s no way it’ll ever be a thing again – It never even was a thing in Japan to begin with and was mostly a product of the Western Anime fandom who weren’t getting a lot of Anime at the time compared to what we get these days.

    I feel that a lot of people cling to the idea of The Big Three these days out of nostalgia for “the good ol’ days”, but it just isn’t a thing any more. Long-running Anime is barely a thing now and a shows popularity tends to drop significantly in between seasonal breaks or after they end.

    The Big Three was a cool phenomenon to be a part of back then, but we can’t have and don’t need one any more. It’s a little sad, but it’s also a sign that things are better than ever before in a lot of ways too, I guess.

    Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly, though I’m not sad about that. I like the way things are today a lot more. Still annoys me when Crunchyroll or whoever writes about the new big three. It’s almost like they don’t know what it means.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can certainly agree with this. I remember anime fan culture being huge back in the 00s. Granted, I’m guilty of following some of those shows when I was younger even though I grew out of them. Shoot, I remember watching the original Hunter X Hunter when no one cared abut it because they were busy watching Naruto and Bleach. Oh, how irony has set in once it got to this decade…

    You’re not alone in those thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Gotcha. I definitely dropped Bleach when I got frustrated with how long the heroes were trying to save Rukia and for realizing how much of a Villain Stu Aizen was when his power was revealed. Hahaha!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Definitely can agree here. I do think it’s better that studios let popular series air for short bursts of time instead of running them continuously. It keeps viewers on their toes, waiting for the announcement of a continuation, which can be better than an anime you know will continue for quite some time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d say the only downside is when it comes to smaller, more niche anime. Series are more likely to get sequels in today’s time, but rarely is it guaranteed to get more than 2 unless your very popular – MHA and AoT for example.

        It’s a blessing and a curse. Where’s my season 2 of Sweetness and Lightning dammit!?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. i still remember when i thought natsu from fairy tail should have been there with the four kings of ‘shoounen’, but then i realize i was wrong. fast forward, the four kings of shonen lost one of its wing, but the three still keeping up with current anime franchises. and now, the time has come for the other titles to sit under this crown.

    personally, i still want to go backwards and enjoy again the old times, or at least bring the classic vibe to the present.

    Liked by 2 people

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