The Most Popular Anime by decade

The big three anime of all time

The most popular anime of all time: 1990 – 2022

In this article, we’ll surf among the most popular anime of all time starting from 1990’s. For each decade we are going to highlight the big 3 anime which reached the peak of popularity. In case you can’t find your favourite anime in this article, it doesn’t mean that it is bad. In fact, the anime which are enrolled by Big 3 nomination are those which achieved the pinnacle of popularity among the fanbase. There are a lot of amazing animes like Steins Gate and Fullmetal Alchemist which are not properly classified as Big 3 but are one of the most interesting workpiece of anime world (see also The Best Anime Ever: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)



The most popular anime of 1990’s: The first generation.

  • Dragon Ball Z

  • Yu Yu Hakusho

  • Rurouni Kenshin

We all know the popularity of Dragon Ball and Dragon Z. Goku is certainly one of the heroes of 90’s born guys. Goku and Vegeta constituted the springboard for that generation to the anime world. The success of the saga and of Dragon Ball merchandise has allowed the continuation of the story with the recent Dragon Ball Super (we’ll discuss the disappointing quality if this one in this article). For this reason no introduction to the ‘Super Sayan‘ guy is need here. So let’s focus on the other two titles which may be less famous than Goku and his friends.

Why you should watch Yu Yu Hakusho.

Yu Yu Hakusho can be considered the precursor of Hunter x Hunter as was written by the same person. For this reason, quality and storytelling is guarateed. Few other reason why is worth watching Yu Yu Hakusho are reported below:

  • No filler

  • The 2nd arc is called the Dark Tournament:  series of incredible fights as the main character and his team are put in different situations.

  • Has one of the greatest villains in any anime. A strong amount of depth is really put into the main villains.

  • All of the main character’s team members are awesome.

Should you watch Rurouni Kenshin?

It depends. I would rather introduce them to the manga first because the story is well composed and the ideas and concepts and characters are well-thought out. Theres a lot of gross motor movement, people running up and back flipping off walls or leap from a near prone position into the air to avoid a sword strike—there’s other things but I won’t go too in-depth for those who haven’t watched them yet. But it’s honestly a hard toss up. Theres a lot of techniques you don’t see in the movies that are in the anime and the movies don’t follow character arcs very well either. On the other hand seeing someone portray a beloved character is always satisfying if it’s done right and I think the actor for Kenshin played him well enough.


The best anime of 2000’s: “The Big Three”.

  • One Piece
  • Naruto
  • Bleach

The Big Three was a term used to describe the three most popular running series during their golden age in Jump’s mid 2000s period – One Piece, Naruto and Bleach. While the three series weren’t the biggest sellers in the magazine, Hunter x Hunter sold more per volume than Bleach for example, they kept their position on the covers due to their overall popularity. These three manga have each received long running anime series, Bleach has 366 episodes, Naruto (+Shippuden) has 720 episodes, and One Piece has 1000 episodes as of November 2021, with One Piece and Boruto, Naruto Shippuden’s sequel, still airing.

Is Bleach the worst of the Big Three anime?

Bleach is centered around a highschooler named Ichigo Kurosaki who obtains the power of a Shinigami from a soul reaper named Rukia. … Bleach is generally considered the worst out of the big 3 shonen, the others being One Piece and Naruto, two other shonens I enjoy very much. If your’re looking for the complete filler list of Naruto, Bleach and One Piece, we’ve covered that topic on our ANIME FILLER section. Ah, do you know that Bleach is upcoming with a new fantastic adaptation in 2022? Check our article “The Best Upcoming Anime Releases in 2022

The so-called middle generation 2009-2018: Fullmetal Alchemist, HxH and Attack on Titan

  • Attack on Titan
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
  • Hunter x Hunter (2011)

These three anime are responsible for a massive breach on fan’s heart. In fact, FullMetal Alchemist, Hunter x Hunter (2011) and Attack on Titan are more than classical shonen anime. For this very reason, these three titles are not usually embedded on the big three nomination as their structure, storytelling and character development depart from the original view of the big three. However, the anime fanbase has greatly appreciated FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Hunter x Hunter and Attack on Titan as they stands on TOP position on ranking charts (i.e my Anime List) and also in our personal anime ranking (see our TOP RATED ANIME).

Most popular anime: Hunter x Hunter

Hunter X Hunter is a 165-episode gift. But look beyond the fact that I can’t describe this series in a way that will convince my friends to watch it. Hunter x Hunter is the pinnacle of shonen anime. There’s not a shred of filler in it. A particular arc that involves Gon and pals fighting in the 251-floor Heavens Arena is the perfect example of Hunter x Hunter’s economy of storytelling: they only spend ten episodes there, and the narrative payoff is so good.

Honorable mention for AoT.

With the anime coming to a close, it didn’t make this list in particular, but it will go down as one of the most popular and influential anime ever. We’ve written a contribution about the philosophy of Attack on Titan (season 1-3) here. It broke streaming number records and even broke some streaming services due to the sheer volume of fans trying to watch the show. Despite long hiatuses and studio changes, Attack on Titan persevered and maintained the Titan-like grip it had on the community at large.


The New Big Three Shonen 2020-now: MHA, Demon Slayer & Jujutsu Kaisen

  • My Hero Academia
  • Demon Slayer
  • Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen, My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer have a lot of competition out there, from the recently-concluded Attack on Titan to the time-traveling delinquent drama of Tokyo Revengers. However, the former titles are closest to the original big three in spirit and can be considered direct spiritual successors. Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen are both clearly evolutions of Bleach, with Jujutsu Kaisen‘s author confirming that the series is modeled after Tite Kubo’s storytelling and art style. In terms of character design, setting, storytelling and combat systems, these three are more akin to Naruto, Bleach and One Piece than series such as Attack on Titan, and that makes them more obvious candidates to become the next big three.

Why Jujutsu Kaisen is considered one of the most popular anime.

With an explosive first season, almost every major streaming service with access to this anime made it a point to advertise and sell it because audiences everywhere were going crazy to watch it. While the author has stated that he wants the story to be short, the manga is still going strong with complicated, interwoven storylines, brutal deaths, and fight scenes that can’t be undersold. Knowing this, the anime should be around for at least the next 5 years and audiences are going to look at Jujutsu Kaisen’s cast very similarly to how they looked at Naruto’s.

The popularity of Demon Slayer: superb animation.

With some of the best-animated fight sequences ever seen, opening songs sung by anime fans across the globe, and heroes who embody the underdog spirit, Demon Slayer is here to stay. With now 2 seasons and a movie under its belt, fans can be sure that studio Ufotable are going to continue to do this show justice.

Does My Hero Academia deserve the nomination as one the new big three anime?

My Hero Academia (MHA) is probably the weakest product in term of storytelling compared to Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen. Someone considers it a less ‘mature’ shonen compared to the other two. However, kids and adults around the globe have flocked to this anime to debate fights, character motivations, theories, best boy, best girl, and the list goes on and on. With a few movies and several seasons of anime, My Hero continues to be a staple in this generation’s “Big 3.”


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