Anime has three top animes fans call “The Big Three.” One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. There is an anime war currently taking place among fans who are divided among these top three. Me? I adore One Piece and Naruto almost equally. I love One Piece more than Naruto only because One Piece was my first anime ever.
I have watched all of One Piece and Naruto. Both are still running. I have not yet started Bleach. *gasp* goes the anime fans. I know! I’m bad! I will start Bleach when Naruto ends. Most animes run anywhere between 12 and 26 episodes. One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach don’t break this rule. They obliterate it.
Bleach ended at 366 episodes total. Naruto ran for 135 episodes while Naruto Shippuden is at its 394th episode and is winding down. I predict it has another 20 episodes to go. Together, Naruto is at its 529th episode. One Piece is currently on its 652 episode and is 17 seasons long! It is the longest running anime ever and is no where near done.
So my top three recommendations have to be the Big Three in no particular order. Which one you end up favoring is purely based on your style and tastes.
One Piece is about pirates and a treasure hunt. It is Pirates of the Caribbean meets The Avengers. Literally! Characters can gain “super powers” by eating something called a “devil fruit.” The captain of this crazy crew is Monkey D. Luffy who ate the gum gum fruit and now has rubber powers. He has one goal: to find the infamous pirate treasure called “One Piece” and become king of the pirates. Luffy is not bright…okay, Luffy is down right stupid most of the times, but he is determined, loyal, and everyone he meets respects him and loves him despite the fact that he is a pirate. One Piece is as crazy as Captain Jack Sparrow, hilarious, and will rip your heart out over and over and over again.
One of my favorite moments is when Luffy, as captain, must stand against one of his “heart brothers”. He is forced to fight his brother to establish his role as captain. Luffy’s win means the devastation to his comrade, but Luffy has no choice. He is captain and must stand his ground. After the fight, Luffy cries and says, “It’s so heavy,” referring to the burden he must carry. His first mate, who is older and wiser, says, “This is the burden you have chosen as captain. Stay strong. Do not falter. For if you fail, who can we look to for strength?” Beautiful episode that encompasses everything One Piece stands for.
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Naruto is about ninjas. Naruto has two parts to it: Naruto and Naruto Shippuden. Both are named for the main character. Naruto introduces a crazy little orphan—a juvenile delinquent—with a nine-tailed demon fox sealed inside of him. He is misunderstood and hated by everyone he meets because of the demon fox that Naruto doesn’t even know he has. Naruto faces hate, ridicule, and failure. The boy is ostracized by the adults and his classmates inherit that hate, but Naruto never gives up.
Naruto Shippuden takes place two years later and is worth the wait. The animation is stunning, the story is phenomenal, and viewers are given more twists and turns than you can keep up with. Naruto is not too bright (he’s almost as daft as Luffy). He is obnoxious and alone. So…so very alone. The story revolves around his love and conflict for his friend and “heart brother,” Sasuke. When Sasuke turns down a dark path to pursue vengeance, Naruto stops at nothing to get him back.
My favorite part is when Naruto fights Pain and the demon fox begins to take Naruto over. Naruto loses control and the fox begins to break the seal that keeps the fox in check. During the havoc, a reanimation of Naruto’s father returns to seal the fox one last time and Naruto, at long last, meets his father. The boy is just 16 years old and all the hate, the hurt, the loneliness pours out of Naruto who finally gets to speak to the father who died the day he was born.
“I was so lonely, but I kept it inside and everyone hated me.”
Watch this scene and not cry. I dare you! Naruto sobs while quickly telling his father about all the hell he had to endure alone. And he does this all within a matter of minutes before his father leaves him again. You see this strong 16 year-old finally, FINALLY crumble and, for the first time in his life, he leans on someone for support—his father. I can only say so much about this anime. Here. Watch the scene. It is stunning! This scene captures the artwork, the quality, the music, the emotion, the story, and the performance you can expect from anime.
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Bleach is about ghosts, grim reapers, and the supernatural. The main character is a teenager, Ichigo, who becomes a grim reaper and also must protect humans from rogue spirits (I looked up the plot on Wikipedia). I can say very little about Bleach at this time because I have not seen it, but I assure you, if it is one of the Big Three and 1/3 of anime fans say that “Bleach is better than One Piece and Naruto,” then it’s got to be good!
That takes care of the top three.