For a few years now anime has been becoming more mainstream in western countries and with that, the ranking of the big three anime has become more prominent. The consensus is that these three anime are Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. All of them have huge followings and a lot of episodes per show. Before we get into the ranking of these shows, first, a little insight into them
Like most anime, Naruto started as a manga series that was written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto. It tells the story of a young ninja, Naruto Uzumaki whose dream is to seek recognition from his peers and become the Hokage. It’s told in two parts. The first part follows his pre-teen years when he first becomes a ninja and the second part, Naruto: Shippuden follows him through his teen years. Naruto’s first series was 220 episodes and aired between 2002 and 2007. Naruto: Shippuden aired in 2007 until 2015 and had an impressive 500 episodes. In total there are 720 episodes of Naruto to binge. There were also a few different spin-offs and films that went with this popular series and at the moment Boruto is the next instalment of this series, which follows Naruto’s son.
One Piece began as a manga series that was written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. This story follows Monkey D. Luffy, a boy who gained the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating devil fruit. It is with his crew of pirates that Luffy explores the Grand Line in search for the world’s ultimate treasure, known as ‘One Piece,’ to become the next king of pirates. One Piece is one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time, estimated to have generated more than $21 billion in total franchise revenue. In August of 2020, it announced that One Piece was approaching its final arc. At the moment there are 921 episodes of One Piece with more still to come.
Bleach is a manga series that was written and illustrated by Tite Kubo. Bleach follows teenager Ichigo Kurosaki, who inherits his parents’ destiny after he obtains the power of a Soul Reaper – which is a version of the Grim Reaper – from another Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki. His new powers force him to take on the duties of defending humans from evil spirits and guiding desperate souls to the afterlife. The anime series compared to the other two is relatively short, coming in at a total of 366 episodes and ending in 2012. In March of 2020, it was announced that the manga’s final arc ‘Thousand-Year Blood War’ would receive an anime adaptation.
Why these Anime are so loved
This can be broken up into a few different reasons. Each was published roughly around the same time and gained a massive following. These were the three animes to hit mainstream television at the time so they gained more exposure before the likes of streaming sites became popular.
If you were to look at all three of them together there are a lot of similarities. They all fall within the same genre. They all began as shounen manga – which is a manga that is marketed towards male teens between 12 and 18. The anime tends to be around action and adventure with enough backstory and character development to keep you hooked. The main characters all share similar traits such as being slightly stupid but extremely powerful and goodhearted. They all start as the underdog which has you rooting for them to win, and their enemies just get more and more powerful. There are also constant antagonists which toe the line between good and bad within the shows.
Some consider them to be following in the Dragonball Z footsteps. These anime are how a lot of people from western countries get into anime and fall in love with it in the first place. There are many discussion threads online regarding these three animes that will keep you entertained for days and in general, the fandoms are very welcoming. There is an issue with the One Piece fandom though.
Like with anything, if you are a new fan a lot the ‘original’ fans believe you are not a real fan, or that you are joining a trend. Gatekeeping is an issue when you like anything but from personal experience of watching all three of these animes and being part of these fandoms, One Piece fans were the worst. Sure, you will get extreme fans everywhere but with One Piece it was next level. There was a recent Twitter thread with many of the comments stating that you were not allowed to have an opinion if you didn’t watch every single episode. Let’s be real here; there are 921 episodes at the moment which equates to roughly 332 hours of watch time. As a show’s job is to hook you within the first few episodes this gatekeeping seems a bit ridiculous. It is for this reason alone that many stay away from One Piece. It doesn’t mean it is not a good show, but the fans, unfortunately, do mar the experience for some.
Which of the big 3 is the best?
Everyone has their own opinion on this but from watching all three of these animes, the order I would put them in is Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece. Now there is reasoning for this! The first one I watched out of these three was Bleach and while I loved it and all the subplots and characters, it did get a bit heavy after a while. Watching a serious anime in small spurts is fine but trying to watch all of them can often lead you to lose interest after a while. I did finish it but by the end, I was watching just because I was close to the end. One Piece, I will admit I did not watch all 921 episodes and that was because after around 250 of them I still didn’t find myself as interested in it as I wanted to be. I was watching Fairytale at the same time and found myself drawn towards their characters a lot more than the ones in One Piece.
For me, Naruto has it all. The first 220 episodes are not extremely serious but they do set up Shippuden nicely and once you begin Shippuden you find that the series has the perfect balance of humour and seriousness, interspersed with amazing fight scenes that I still go back to re-watch. Naruto hooks you straight away and the last arc in the series was simply amazing. If you were to try any anime to get into first I would recommend Naruto every time. This is just my opinion on the matter though, let me know which order you would put them in and why!
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