Why shouldn’t new anime watchers start with the Big Three?

A College of Posters of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece - Why shouldn't new anime watchers start with the Big Three

The Big Three – Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece – dominated the anime landscape in the 2000s as mega-popular battle shounen series. However, while nostalgic fans recommend the Big Three classics to newcomers, they may not actually be the best entry point for those new to anime.

Tastes have changed, and the qualities that allowed the Big Three to thrive don’t necessarily appeal to today’s audiences. So, why shouldn’t new anime watchers start with the Big Three? Let’s find out.

Length of the Big Three

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Image Courtesy of Toei Animation

A key factor is length. With hundreds of 20-minute episodes, the Big Three represent a massive time investment. More streamlined 12-13 episode anime better suit our faster-paced modern viewing habits. The intimidating length of the Big Three could turn off newcomers expecting more concise stories. Binge-watching culture also lessens the need for lots of episodic content.

Pacing and structure have also evolved since the Big Three’s heyday. Modern anime often feature tighter, more focused narrative arcs absent the frequent filler common in long-running shounen. Plots meander less today, with higher production values and animation quality overall. The simplicity and formulaic structure of the Big Three conflicts with rising expectations.

The Appeal of Shounen Tropes

Modern sensibilities have also shifted away from certain prevalent shounen tropes. Extended power-up sequences, overloaded reaction shots, and black-white Good vs. Evil dynamics can frustrate viewers accustomed to more nuance. Female characters tend to play more substantive roles in today’s shows compared to the male-oriented Big Three.

That’s not to say the classics have no appeal. But they flourished by expertly utilizing formulas tailored to their era. The tastes they cultivated now take that storytelling for granted. For those not already invested in battle shounen, the Big Three’s retro tropes and pacing may underwhelm. However, fans might appreciate the Big Three more once they figure out what the shounen genre/demographic is all about and what to expect from it.

Alternatives for Newcomers

Ichigo Kurosaki in season 1 episode 1 of Bleach Thousand year blood war anime (Image via Pierrot Studio)
Ichigo Kurosaki in season 1 episode 1 of Bleach Thousand year blood war anime (Image via Pierrot Studio)

None of this makes the Big Three bad. Their imagination, worldbuilding, and emotional highs still entertain devoted fans. But they succeeded on their own terms, not due to universal timelessness. Newcomers lack the context to appreciate their impact. Just as new music fans don’t start with the Beatles, anime’s classics may not be the ideal gateway.

Instead, new anime viewers should explore based on modern sensibilities, seeking out critically-acclaimed series like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Bungou Stray Dogs, Attack on Titan, or Jujutsu Kaisen that better reflect current conventions. Sampling shorter 12-13 episode anime or ones with season breaks also allows efficient testing of genres and tropes to learn preferences.

Conclusion

Big Three established the manga-to-anime pipeline and inspired a generation of artists. Their shadow remains long. But their era has passed. While still rewarding, their appeal relies heavily on nostalgia now. They paved the way, but newcomers to anime should look to fresh series that build on their legacy using modern aesthetics and storytelling sensibilities. The classics will still be there to discover later as tastes develop.

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