Dragon Ball is most certainly one of the most popular anime shows and also one of the longest-standing franchises in anime, which is why it may be strange that Dragon Ball is not among the “Shonen Big Three.” The Shonen Big Three are considered to be One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach, which are some of the top Shonen series and also among the most popular. The concept of the Shonen Big Three was crafted among the western anime fandom in the early 2000s and ever since the fandom is debating on which of the three is the best Shonen series ever.
The fans don’t often agree which fantasy world is the best and which characters are the most compelling, but they do agree that Dragon Ball, although as popular as the above-mentioned anime and manga series, can’t be a part of the top three. Why is that the case?
This is the case only because the western fandom claims so – the trope “Shonen Big Three” doesn’t have to do anything with anime sales, but reflects the overall popularity of Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach, making this verdict subjective and subject to debates. Dragon Ball is likewise a long-running show as well as Naruto, One Piece or Bleach, and has an equally faithful fandom, so its popularity can’t be denied.
The true reason why Dragon Ball is not a part of the Shonen Big Three is the fact that One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach launched in the west around the same time, making these extremely popular anime present in the public consciousness around the same time. Dragon Ball was first published earlier than the Shonen Big Three, starting in 1985 and ending the manga in 1995, whereas Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach all launched in the early 2000s.
Despite the fact that Dragon Ball is not considered a part of the Shonen Big Three, it is still evident that the show has amassed great popularity over the years, while still keeping its relevance in the anime fandom.