As we pause to reflect on the year gone by, you also have to wonder about the year ahead and what it holds for us in terms of anime and manga. Something we know to expect are the ends to two super-popular shonen series: BLEACH and NARUTO. Together with Eiichiro Oda's ONE PIECE they form the Holy Shonen Trinity, delighting fans in both their manga and anime forms (and reaping the benefits of being the most popular franchises around).
So when those two seminal series end, what will step up to take their places? There are a few candidates in the running, but do they have what it takes to reach the divinity of the Trinity?
The brawling gourmet Toriko has been devouring the competition, doing quite well with sales of collected tankoban volumes and toys based off the franchise and the anime is going strong. But I can't help but think something's holding it back... perhaps it's the paint by numbers story, or the bizarre worshipful relationship that Komatsu has with Toriko. It may just be a power trip for younger boys, and that's ok, but does it have the mass appeal to be on top?
FAIRY TAIL operates as a sort of fusion between ONE PIECE and NARUTO. Take the visual style that could have been taken straight from Oda's pen and throw in sword n' sorcery combat centered around individual powers like the shinobi in NARUTO and you're getting close to FAIRY TALE. While telling stories neither of the other two stories do, FT might just be a little too familiar to the old guard to really stand out from the pack. We'll just have to see what happens when the anime starts up again in April, and in the meantime gorge on the 175 previous episodes of the first series.
Having restarted the anime in 2011, the adventures of Gon and his pals have now almost doubled the episode count of the original 1999 series and earned themselves a lot of love from Tom Pinchuk and Sam Weller in The Vice Pit. With over 30 volumes of manga to draw stories from, hopefully the dreaded specter of filler plot will be kept far away. This might have been the strongest contender for the crown if there wasn't a more massive, nay, titanic show that premiered this year...
While aimed at an older crowd, TITAN has been so well received it's impossible to ignore. I've heard people calling it "transcendent" in the way that it resonates with people who don't even watch anime. It's got action, pathos, intrigue, tactics... all that and a bag of chips. The only thing really keeping it away from the top slot is the fact that the anime studio is actually taking their time to tell the story faithfully with the manga, which means taking break for it to catch up. While this is great because that means there'll be no filler, the fact that it doesn't air each week could be a wall this titan can't kick down.
What other shows are in contention to join the Trinity? Give us a shout in the talkback below and let us know!
Matt Murphy is a freelance nerd who has contributed to many nerd websites. You can reach him by going to where the light meets the shadow, by sending out zeta-brainwaves or by following him on Twitter @Murphix.