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.