Why there can never be a “new Big Three”

Anime and manga fans often get into heated discussions on various topics: which anime is the best, which is the most influential, which anime is supposedly “average”, and which shows are so-called “top fiction”? These questions are common and lead to productive and interesting conversations, but they sometimes lead to misunderstandings, as is the case with conversations surrounding a phenomenon known as “The Big Three.”

In short, “The Big Three” refers to three titles that emerged after an era of immense success in Shueisha’s Weekly Shounen Jump magazine. These three titles are and will always be from Oda Eiichiro One piece, Kishimoto Masashi naruto, and Tite Kubo Bleach; however, most fans carry with them the misunderstanding that “The Big Three” exists as a title, one that can be won or lost, and not as a reference to a point in history.


Related: How Weekly Shonen Jump Became Japan’s Most Popular Manga Publication

Origins of “The Big Three”


Most fans listen to “The Big Three” and immediately consider the top three anime shows they’ve ever seen and try to shoehorn them into “Big Three” status. However, “The Big Three” is a shorthand way of referring to a very specific moment in the history of a particular company known for publishing books and magazines: Shueisha Inc. Shueisha’s journey to becoming a leading publisher in Japan after splitting from Shogakukan is not complete without mentioning Weekly Shounen Jump magazine.

Debuting in 1968, Weekly Shounen Jump (“Shonen Jump” from now on) quickly became Shueisha’s leading magazine for its blockbuster manga titles and also became Japan’s best-selling magazine of all time. Shonen Jump is the magazine where the great titles of influence saw their life end and spread to the rest of the world. Jump’s greatest glory comes in its “Golden Age”, a period of immense influence and the magazine enjoyed a legion of blockbuster manga titles as well as worldwide recognition and success.

the golden age

Split image of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Dragon Ball Shonen Jump covers.

The Golden Age of Shonen Jump refers to a period in Shonen Jump from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, when the magazine was at its peak. This period from 1984 to 1995, in which Goto Hiroki was appointed editor-in-chief, saw the rise of several heavyweight manga titles that would influence an entire generation globally. titles like Fist of the North Star (1983), dragon ball (1984), City Hunter (1985), Saint Seiya (1986), Y Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (1987) they all shared the same stage, and soon after came Yu Yu Hakusho (1990), Slam Dunk (1990) and Rurouni Kenshin (1994). These are all titles that garnered a massive following, leading Weekly Shonen Jump to see its highest circulation figures to date: 6.53 million in 1995.

Shonen Jump’s golden age was so immensely successful that the demise of some of its major intellectual properties caused weekly sales of the magazine to decline. the end of dunk Y Dragon Ball it created a huge vacuum in the magazine which led to a huge drop in the magazine’s circulation numbers. This void left by the mass exodus of long-running major serializations would not have been filled had it not been for the appearance of three titles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, titles that would go on to achieve similar levels. of worldwide acclaim and attention like its predecessors. These titles were One Piece (1997), Naruto (1997), Y bleach (2001), whose arrival saw a resurgence of interest in Weekly Shounen Jump magazine specifically.

These titles, just like their predecessors, continue to captivate and attract the attention of the anime and manga community to this day. They were dubbed “The Big Three” within Shonen Jump as they stood out as the new group of long-running serializations to replace the assorted heavyweights that had once dominated the magazine for nearly a generation. However, the term has been misunderstood, in part due to the high level of influence and popularity these titles have had for a generation, but also due to the ambiguity inherent in the term itself.

the big three

Shonen Jump cover featuring Luffy singing from One Piece.

“The Big Three” are thus the trinity of Shonen Jump magazine’s long-standing “saviors” after interest in the magazine plummeted to a point where it could have led to the end of Shonen Jump’s dominance. Shonen Jump as the best selling magazine in Japan. related to the manga or otherwise. The Big Three are so named because through their influence and direct inspiration from previous dominant titles within Shonen Jump, they managed to rescue and maintain the magazine’s privileged position in the industry, at least in terms of sales and circulation.

Due to how the phenomenon came about and what the context surrounding the term was, “The Big Three” can only refer to titles that; a) arose after the end of Dragon Ball, dunk, Yuyu Hakusho, and others from the Golden Age; b) are/were actually published in Shonen Jump; and c) enjoyed periods of immense success as best-selling titles within Shonen Jump. The specificity of Shonen Jump as a magazine needs to be emphasized here, because a phenomenon and description that was used specifically for Jump by Jump ended up becoming an immovable marker of quality and influence for the entirety of anime and manga as a medium, rather than just inside them. a private Shonen media publisher.

These criteria leave room for a very specific set of titles: naruto, BleachY One piece. It was never about which are the “best” three, or the most influential, or the most inspiring, or even about embodying the quintessential aspects of Shonen – the concept of the Big Three was always about Shonen Jump and their own dominance. as a magazine that continues as a result of the almost simultaneous appearance of the three titles. “The Big Three” is not a title that can be passed around, it is effectively an epithet given to single those titles. Naturally, various other types of “Big Three” can still be considered based on different criteria, but such discussions have no bearing on what “The Big Three” is referred to in the anime and manga.

The Big Three can only be these three titles because they are the titles that filled the void left after some of the best manga published in Shonen Jump came to an end. Consequently, there can be no “New Big Three” because that would imply a new set of titles that have achieved the aforementioned: maintaining the dominance of Shonen Jump after the end of its Golden Age. The Golden Age of Weekly Shonen Magazine Jump only happened once and as such there simply can’t be three new big ones, unless we travel back in time and change the course of history. Context is important, always.

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