Shonen anime represent some of the medium's biggest titles, and fans regularly laud the genre's Big Three and Dark Trio. Shonen's Big Three — Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach — were a trio of top titles that concurrently ran in Shonen Jump. A recent set of more mature shonen series dubbed the Dark Trio — Chainsaw Man, Jujutsu Kaisen, and Hell's Paradise — have become some of the decade's most talked about anime.
In many ways, the Dark Trio represents the turning trends in the shonen genre. However, there are still some important ways in which the more cheerful Big Three are their superior.
10 Stronger Comedy
One natural area in which Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach are superior to Chainsaw Man, Hell's Paradise, and JJK is in their use of comedy. The Dark Trio isn't totally bereft of laughs, but it's hardly their priority. Comedy isn't an essential ingredient for a shonen series' success, but a little levity goes a long way, and it's often an effective tool following intense combat.
Jujutsu Kaisen is the most comedic of the Dark Trio and even features regular "Juju Stroll" humorous epilogues. However, it's nowhere near the number of laughs that Luffy, Naruto, and Ichigo generate.
9 Incorporation Of Romance
Romance is another polarizing element that some audiences believe has no place in a battle-driven shonen series. Romance is hardly a mandatory ingredient, but it's an effective way to draw in a female audience and explore a more vulnerable side to these characters. The Dark Trio includes brief glimpses of romance, but it's typically in an estranged context or subverted in some tragic manner.
Alternatively, the central romances in Naruto and Bleach are responsible for some of the series' highlights. Romantic relationships are a natural aspect of life, and nothing is gained through the Dark Trio's compulsion to ignore growing love.
8 More Creative & Effective Antagonists
A good shonen story is sometimes only as strong as its villain. Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece cycle through dozens of formidable foes due to their lengthy runs. These villains are compelling enough to sustain dozens of episodes, but they're also prone to lengthy final fights that can feature copious transformations.
The Dark Trio is much more focused with their threats, lacking this appealing roster of progressively powerful enemies. Chainsaw Man comes the closest to this with its various devils, but none of them stick around for long enough to carry the same gravitas as any Big Three villain.
7 Significantly More Episodes
The Big Three were all so popular in Shonen Jump that it's only natural their anime would run indefinitely and keep audiences entertained for as long as possible. Bleach has 366 episodes, while One Piece's running total has surpassed 1,000 episodes, which is also true for Naruto if its Boruto spinoff is included.
These sprawling episode totals really create an epic sense of adventure. Chainsaw Man and Hell's Paradise only have a dozen episodes at this point, while Jujutsu Kaisen's two-cour seasons only reach 24 episodes apiece. They're significantly shorter than the Big Three.
6 More World-Building
Each Dark Trio anime is set in very distinct worlds wildly different from reality, but they largely adopt a cryptic approach where less is more. There are important rules that govern Chainsaw Man, Hell's Paradise, and Jujutsu Kaisen, but the specifics can be left to the audience's imagination.
The Big Three dig deep into their lore and really concentrate on gradual world-building. There are even time jumps that chronicle how much these characters and their worlds have evolved. The Dark Trio shonen series lack that luxury.
5 Movies & Extra Content
It's common for the most popular anime series to receive feature film adventures that capitalize on this success with bigger spectacles that wouldn't be possible on television. The Big Three's Naruto and Bleach each have a handful of movies to their name, while One Piece has celebrated 15 films.
The Dark Trio only has one feature film among them, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, which many even thought would be turned into a miniseries instead of a movie. The dark nature of these series makes it more difficult to indulge in standalone movies or OVA specials, while it feels natural for the Big Three to do so.
4 Believable Protagonist Development
There's a fantastic protagonist that leads the way in each Big Three and Dark Trio shonen series. These captivating main characters are major factors in their respective series' success, but there also needs to be a proper sense of progression with these figures. An anime isn't interesting if the protagonist never changes and grows.
Yuji Itadori, Gabimaru, and Denji certainly change by the end of the season, but it's minuscule in comparison to what Naruto, Luffy, and Ichigo experience. Furthermore, the Big Three protagonists undergo radical transformations as they tap into higher echelons of power.
3 Music & Background Score
When it comes to visual aesthetics, the Dark Trio has The Big Three beat due to the impeccable animation work from MAPPA. However, it's a different story when the anime's music is put under scrutiny. The Big Three showcase energetic, inspirational music that's just as popular as their anime.
Chainsaw Man makes the biggest impression with its music when it comes to the Dark Trio, but even then, it's more in reference to its creative and diverse ending songs as opposed to the background score that regularly accompanies episodes.
2 Video Game Expansions And Adaptations
There's a strong relationship between anime and video games, with shonen series being natural candidates. The Big Three have inspired dozens of video games between the lot, with some of them still receiving new entries to this day.
There's no reason why any of the Dark Trio couldn't become video games, but they've yet to receive such treatment. Even if Chainsaw Man or Hell's Paradise receive several video games in the coming years, they'll still lack the numbers and variety present in the library of One Piece and Naruto video games.
1 Playful Filler
Filler episodes are a necessary evil in long-running shonen series, and they're a helpful way for the manga source material to get a little further ahead in its story. Filler can lead to frustrating and meandering episodes, but it can also produce unexpected surprises that would otherwise be impossible.
The Big Three is dense in filler, a lot of which can feel like a waste of time, but there's still lots of satisfying material in there. The Dark Trio is so tight in construction that they're absent of filler, keeping them on track but preventing experimentation.