The Big Three refers to the three most popular weekly series from Shonen Jump Magazine. It was usually determined by the magazine editorial team and whichever character was seen on the front cover. The 90s had DragonBall, Inuyasha and Togashi’s Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter, and in the following decade, Naruto, One Piece and Bleach took the reigns. Sure, there were other series out there but the Big Three dominated otaku culture.
However, this trend is changing. Following the end of Naruto in 2014 and the Bleach finale last year, the power dynamics of the Shonen market have changed. Sure, "Shonen Jump" confirmed My Hero Academia was a successful replacement to Naruto in a one shot comic showing Naruto passing the torch to Midoriya after Goku passed it to him, Luffy and Ichigo; but there’s a wider range of adventure manga now than ever before.
Very few of what could be considered one of the three most popular franchises aren’t actually published by "Shonen Jump." The hilarious parody of overpowered abilities in the genre and western superheroes, One Punch Man, is a webcomic published independently. Fairy Tail is, while inconsistently written, a fun action series that, like the medieval adventure, Seven Deadly Sins, is published by one of Jump’s competitors, Weekly Shonen Magazine.
These modern series are also refreshingly different in their choice of setting, art style and tone. One Punch Man’s art style is hyperbolic with exaggerated lines and shading with a close appeal to comedy parodying the western superhero genre. My Hero Academia combines motifs of both western and Japanese styles, acting as an engaging deconstruction of the two. Attack on Titan is intense and mature, both in its art style and tone; exploring the human condition and how we deal with conflict, loss and fear.
Of course, One Piece is still the most popular shonen series. In fact, after Manga Creator Eiichiro Oda confirmed the 15 year long franchise was only 70 per cent done in an interview last year, it doesn’t look like it's ending anytime soon.
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