The "big three" are giants in the world of shonen anime, and viewers are accustomed to seeing each of the three protagonists tower above the opposition with their intricate plots and powerful abilities. For instance, Naruto Uzumaki's Sage Mode and Hokage status are well-known to anime viewers, Luffy recently earned Gear Fifth, and Ichigo Kurosaki is the renowned hero of the Soul Society. Nevertheless, everyone has to begin somewhere.
In their respective anime series, all three of these shonen heroes had modest origins. Chronologically, Naruto, Luffy, and Ichigo were presented as outcasts who hardly grasped their own talents and had a long way to go before becoming a pirate king or a hokage in Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece. However, when all things are taken into account, it is quickly apparent which hero had the best introduction as a shonen star when these origin stories are compared.
In Bleach, Ichigo Kurosaki Slaughtered Fishbone D One Night After Becoming a Soul Reaper
The first episode of Bleach portrayed protagonist Ichigo Kurosaki as a good-hearted punk high schooler similar to Yusuke Urameshi, but he was born with the ability to sense spirits. Ichigo, on the other hand, didn't give it much thought until the reverse-isekai Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki arrived in Karakura Town one night to murder a Hollow. Fishbone D, the Hollow, went on a rampage and endangered the Kurosaki residence, and not even Rukia was powerful enough to fend it off. Rukia's eagerness to lend her Soul Reaper skills to Ichigo triggered Ichigo's dormant potential as a Soul Reaper himself. Ichigo defeated Fishbone D with his new zanpakuto, or soul-cutting sword, and assumed the role of Soul Reaper. This sparked his monster hunting profession, which saw him combat Hollows all throughout Karakura Town., and he would soon cross paths with other spiritually inclined beings, including the Quincy archer Uryu Ishida.
Naruto Uzumaki Graduated from the Ninja Academy and Acquired a Forbidden Jutsu
Naruto's premiere episode introduced the troublemaker and prankster Naruto Uzumaki, a 12-year-old trainee ninja who was desperate for attention and validation after years of prejudice and intolerance, this due to being a jinchuriki with Kurama inside him. He also failed his final exams at the ninja academy, so Naruto felt like he'd hit rock bottom. Then a chunin named Mizuki tricked the vulnerable Naruto into stealing a special scroll, only for Mizuki to turn on Naruto and nearly kill him in the forest. Naruto's teacher, Iruka Umino, also failed to stop Mizuki, so it fell to Naruto to learn the shadow clone jutsu and defeat Mizuki with an army of himself. This triumph prompted Iruka to graduate Naruto from the academy and even give him his Leaf village headband to make it official.
Monkey D. Luffy ate a fruit and received Shanks' straw hat in one piece.
One Piece's anime switched things around, moving Chapter 1's events to a flashback in Episode 4 of the anime. Chronologically, anime fans can therefore refer to Episode 4 instead of Episode 1 to witness Monkey D. Luffy's true introduction as a legendary shonen hero. Luffy was introduced as an excitable, stubborn and proud kid who longed to prove himself, only to get in over his head with red-haired Shanks, the thuggish Higuma the Bear and the ocean's true nature. Luffy only narrowly survived despite having eaten the Gum-Gum Fruit to become a Devil Fruit user, and he owed Shanks his life. Instead of mocking the boy, Shanks gave Luffy his treasure, his straw hat, as a gesture of good faith in Luffy to become a great pirate captain one day. This helped launch Luffy's adventure and established a loving foster father-son relationship between the pair.
Who Had the Best Introduction: Ichigo, Naruto, or Luffy?
All three shonen heroes had memorable and stylish introductions, but when everything is factored in, Naruto Uzumaki had the best. Everything that makes Naruto compelling was showcased in Episode 1, from his miserable loneliness and lack of validation to his trademark shadow clone jutsu, desire to become Hokage and goofy troublemaker side. Naruto also had more experience despite his youth when compared to Ichigo and Luffy, since the latter two had barely acquired their powers while Naruto already had years of training under his belt. Moreover, Naruto made a wild impression with his shadow clone army, which compares well to Ichigo's generic sword-based battle in Bleach Episode 1 and Luffy's lack of action in One Piece's first chronological scene.
Aside from that, Naruto's origin story had a stronger emotional impact, helping to explain why Naruto was so driven to become Hokage and prove himself as a shinobi. True, viewers could sympathize with Ichigo fighting to defend his family and Luffy's desire to live up to Shanks' example, but Naruto's dark yet hopeful personal arc hit much harder in Naruto Episode 1. Not many anime can make viewers cry in the first episode, but Naruto can do it when it introduces an emotionally charged underdog like Naruto Uzumaki, immature prankster or not.