Best-Selling Manga in Japan 1996 to 2022
1996-1999: The classics
The late 90’s are full of classics that could never get old and we can always appreciate, such as Slam dunk that was top 1 selling in 1996 and is till this day very popular, which actually is getting a new movie that will be released on December 2022 called “the first slam dunk”. (https://slamdunk-movie.jp/)
“The red head” Sakuragi and his team will give their first place to the detective Hjime Kindaichi who will be followed by the one and only detective Conan. The mystery genre was always liked by the Japanese people. Conan is still going on with over 900 episodes and in our present time also the 4th highest selling manga series of all time. (animegalaxyofficial/ Top 10 Best-Selling Manga Of All Time In Terms Of Number Of Sale.)
By the same time, a street racing manga was topping the selling in japan called “Initial D”. Since car racing and drifting was actually first made popular in japan then got adopted by the west in the 90s it is evident manga cars theme would be popular by the Japanese public. The manga is inspired from the man known as the drift king (ドリキン, Dorikin) the one and only Keiichi Tsuchiya, even though it was another japanese man called Kunimitsu Takahashi who actually invented it in the 1970s, Keiichi made it extremely popular by making VHS of him drifting in public space in the mountain roads. The manga may not be about him but he assisted with technical accuracies such as the movement and behavior of the cars, drifting, and explanations on the technical side of racing. His car the Toyota A86 and the real sound of his drifting would also be used later in the anime adaptation.
Before the arrival of the one manga that would take the 1st place for 6 years. The furyo manga about our favorite teacher, former delinquent and gang membre: “Eikichi Onizuka, 22 years old, single, Yoroshiku!” Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) was in top 10 selling from 1998 til 2002. The story of GTO follows the antics of the titular teacher as he tries to outsmart and defeat the crafty Class 3–4 that is trying to get him expelled from the school. In a very comedic and sometimes emotional way, Eikichi battles everything while attempting to help his students no matter how crazy the situation is. (myanimelist) Stealing our hearts and is til this day considered by many a model that grew up reading his “lessons”.▲
The new decade begin and came along with it manga that would blow the ranks. The early 2000s will always be remembered by “The Big Three”.
What is “the big three”?
You probably have heard of this nickname and probably already know these big three manga which are: One piece, Naruto and Bleach. It is a result of these series phenomenal popularity in Weekly Shōnen Jump manga (A Japanese manga mangazine for shonen, world famous and the best-selling in its category) Even if, in the same years, the manga Hunter X Hunter was selling more volumes then bleach and being top 2 for three years, it kept their position on the covers due to their overall popularity. The three of them being Shonen series that concentrates on the theme of action, characters growth & development, and adventure. A multitude of subplots and one major, overarching plot are typical in this genre. (fandom) The heroes Luffy, Naruto and Ishigo loved character for their funny and friendly personality, not being the smartest but with their strong will to achieve their dreams and also the love they hold for their friends who would wwith no hesitation put them first and help and protect them no matter the situation and their hard work to be the strongest character made them the favorite MC for a lot of people.
One piece number one in japan for 5 years
“One Piece” would be one step ahead to the other two, even if they are equivalently popular, the pirates tops them in the selling in Japan with over 2 millions sells. With 103 Volumes of 1063 chapters and 1035 episodes, that it is still going on till this day. Written by Eiichiro Oda who dedicated his life to this work, it would top the charts for the 5 upcoming years, and it will remain in the top 10. The adventures of “the future pirates king” Luffy and his “Nakamas” on finding the one piece just getting better and more intriguing with the marines trying to stop the crew and the rivalry with other pirates, the strawhats are not going to back down and keeping their way to achieve their goal with their own odd way. With a reindeer, a Skelton, a cyborg and a fishman and the other members the crew goes on new adventure every arc discovering new islands, “the greatest story ever told” is still going on!
Aside from the shonens, Shojos are always present; people love some romance to change from the action. In the early 00’s “Hana Yori Dango and NANA would be the most selling in their categories. And with nana getting an anime adaptation at the same time that would lead to the increase of its manga selling. Nana also being in the category of music genre which attracts not only the shojo fans, following the story of two heroines having the same name and being best friends in their 20’s with complete opposite personalities making an original plot, that just make it more popular among people. On the other hand slam dunk may have left the charts by the end of 90’s but the mangaka inoue takehiko still managed to make two other manga that would go very popular in japan. One of them being inspired by a real historical samurai in japan named “musashi miyamoto” portrayed in his work called “Vagabond”. The story goes in 16th century, following the "Sword Saint" Musashi Miyamoto's ascent from a swordsman with just one goal in mind—to become "Invincible Under the Heavens”—to an enlightened warrior who gradually realizes the value of close relationships, introspection, and life itself. (myanimelist) Considered with one of the best art graphic, and being a part of Japan history, with great written and character development, no wonder that vagabond would be bought and read by most Japanese and it is actually still very popular till this day, even though it have been on hiatus the fans are still waiting for sensei Inoue to release a new chapter. By the same time Takhiko second manga would also be on the list, called “REAL” portraying the touching story of three young guys as they battle to get above their obstacles and internal problems to pursue their aspirations while igniting a passion that will bind them together that’s is basketball. (Myanimelist). By touching different topics, that young boys can relate to, a sport manga that owns an amazing art with great and entraining scenes, “REAL” became instantly a success among Japanese people and even around the world. The genre sport will always be well sold in japan, aside from Takehiko’s manga “tennis no ouiji-sama” would go over the one million sells having an original story about a tennis prodigy, that get more deep each chapter by revealing complex characters. The Prince of Tennis would keep its fans captivated till the end despite being a long serie with 42 Volumes.
After 5 year of reigning in the top selling, one piece will be topped by one that would be considered later a classic in the manga/anime world: “Death note” a brilliant blend between psychological and thriller, a shonen that made people stuck in their seats trying to figure what would be the character next move, watching a complex conflict between a young genius man with a god complex using a supernatural notebook the “death note” that kills whoever has its name written in it, and a high skilled detective who keeps his identity anonymous. An amazing storyline with memorable written, full of plot twists and unexpected events it would obviously have a huge success, being top 1 selling for 2 years and still to this day a famed classic manga.
By 2007 and when death note was over and got out of the top 10, the Mugiwaras took right back their first place.
It would be followed in the second place by “Nodame Cantabile” a josei with music theme that got hugely popular in Japan, a manga that’s transports you into the enthralling realm of classical music, full of freshness, with an aesthetic design and devastating humor. At the same time nana would be back in the list. It is clear how popular the music theme in manga is in japan. Alongside the sport genre with manga like Eyeshield, Major and Rookies. Watching the struggles that the main character must endure in order to achieve their goal of being the best in his field Japanese people can easily relate to that because it's a reality of daily life.
Another genre that is liked by the Nippon public is the mystery and psychological one. As seen in every period of time there would be at least one that would be trending and go popular, in the late 00’s the release of a new manga called “20th century boys” by Urasawa Naoki was top 3 best selling a mysterious thriller Seinen, following the story of a group of boy who in their youth used to make up stories in the “book of prophecy” creating their symbol, they would imagine were the world would be in danger attacked by a villain and how they will be their saviors. Who would have thought that in a near future where all of them are adults, there will be a certain danger known as “Friend” who would threaten humanity just the way they describe it in their book holding their symbol? An intriguing storyline with unexpected plot twist, an excellent written it is obvious that it would meet such a big success, unfortunately the manga wouldn’t get an anime adaptation but instead a trilogy of live-action films which released in Japan between August 30, 2008 and August 29, 2009. (my anime list) The big three would remain on the top alongside with “HxH”, even with the arrival of new great Shonen like Full Metal Alchemist, Fairy Tail, Katekyo Hitman Reborn and Gintama. FMA and Fairy Tail would later know a worldwide popularity, FMA over 80 million copies of the series would be distributed globally. A wonderful story about two brothers who after a tragic accident on trying to revive their recently deceased mother the brothers Ed and Al are stuck in a terrible reality. The story follows the journey on facing their sins, their growth and suffering and trying to find a way to fix their mistakes, a plot that readers can easily sympathies with.
On the other hand Fiary tail a fairly well-liked manga having a lot of similarity with the big three in terms of adventure and action, with great world building and characters designs filled with comedy and emotional scenes, and new arcs where the characters go on quests making it a classic shonen. Another comedy shonen that was well sold by that same period of time in Japan was “Gintama” written by Hideaki Sorachi despite being underrated in other countries it is considered a classic among Japanese people. But why was “Gintama” it is so popular in Japan?
The story of the manga follows the handyman Gintoki a samurai who disregards the law established by the invaders (the aliens) and is willing to do any task in order to survive. As a perfect combination of historical and comedy focused on the Japanese public, making parodies and jokes about not only other mangas but their TV shows, artists, even politician everything related to their culture: kotatsu, ninja, historical leaders… And it contains even puns that are specific in the Japanese language. They would transform any of it into an entertaining and hilarious comedy making it a very enjoyable manga.▲
2011-2015: The new decade and the new generation manga:
With the start of the new decade, manga like the big three remains on the list and one piece still undefeated, its only on 2013 that new manga will arrive and blow the ranks and they will be known as the new gen manga.
2013 is well remembered with the start of “Attack On Titans” it was and still is a huge success, the manga was actually released back in 2009 but the anime came out in 2013 which made the increase of the manga selling. Written by Hajime Isayama “Shingeki no kyojin” is a shonen who like others follows the story of the protagonist Eren who after his village was attacked by titans and was incapable of doing anything except running for his life, we will witness his growth and determination to become stronger to defeat the titan by joining the survey corps along side with his two best friends Mikasa and Armin. The plot may seem like the usual shonen genre but the story is full of unexpected events with unique characters and their unbelievable developments, with an original art that’s just got the right amount of gore not making it an unbearable read and which differentiate it from the typical Shonen manga. “SNK” would come directly to the second position right after “OP” with almost same number of selling, almost a tie but the Mugiwaras won’t give their place in 2015 they will once again surpass other mangas and leave them behind with a huge gap of 4M sells.
“AOT” would let his second place to “The seven deadly sins” another new quality yet classic Shonen manga. “Nanatsu no taizai” uses the standard Shonen rules flawlessly, directly, and without many surprises. With funny and very likeable characters and a really personal design, as we often say, are what make a story successful. Meanwhile, the release of Assassination Classroom was also going popular in Japan and even in the world, an original plot following the class of outcasts who decide to become assassins in order to carry out their mission of killing their new teacher. a capricious hen who decided to destroy the planet. It begins off being lighthearted and humorous before becoming increasingly serious. It also does a great job of explaining many subjects. Koro-sensei the teacher displays many of the qualities that most of us would want in an educator. He takes an interest in each student and is concerned enough about their welfare to meddle in their private life. The humour and the attachment toward the characters that it develops as you watch the show is incredible, you may even learn from it in certain ways. Although it is a funny story of development, be ready when it gets all emotional by the end of the series.
As always, besides the classic shonens there would be at least one sports themed manga in the top 10: In the early 2010 “koruko no basket” also known as koruko’s basketball was selling very well. An exciting and action-packed sports series. The characters are drawn with dramatic facial expressions as they passionately want to win; “Fujimaki Tadatoshi” the mangaka did a fantastic job of depicting the exciting in-game moments. A new manga with the same theme would arrive and take its place in the fourth position in the top: Haikyuu!! The storyline is pretty simple the usual teen boy who overcomes obstacles and succeeds through willpower. Along the road, he meets friends, and every member of the team excels in their respective specialties. A good aspect about it is the realistic game play, no over the board plays, and super moves, which made it relatable to the young reader.
Koruko no basket vs haikyuu!!
Due to their popularity and since they came one after another, KnB and haikyuu are often compared but each one has its own quality. Kuruko’s basket concentrates on special talents, the type that every young player teen dream of possessing, the theme of the manga is the main character koruko battles other "powers" with a unique one of his own, using his deception and other skills, making it an interesting series the kind that will let you captivated till the end. On the other hand, haikyuu!! Its main focus is on character development and self-improvement via labor and hard work, which makes it inspiring yet relatable character. People have different opinion on them but at the end, each has its strong points and they are both great manga their success is proof of it.
OP remains yet again, leader of the best selling manga. Right after him “Ansatsu Kyoushitsu” aka Assassination Classroom, and on the 3rd position “Kingdom”.
The popularity of the manga Kingdom in Japan
Kingdom is a huge success in japan even if they failed to give him a good anime adaptation, and is even unknown to most of the western manga fans; the manga is selling very well and is still known in his country till this day. The historical drama centers on the life of orphan Xin and is set during the Warring States era in China. When Xin's companion inexplicably vanishes and then reappears critically wounded, Xin learns that he had previously met the current monarch of their realm. Xin dedicates himself to the king and the mission of putting an end to China's endless conflicts because he is determined to achieve their shared childhood dream of becoming a great military general. (cbr) the historical themes are always liked by japans public, plus the world building and pacing that the author successes in its making.
The new big three?
It is from 2016 that the changes begun in the manga world, with the arrival of shonens that some consider the new big three and the end with of some legendary ones.
The 15-year run of the manga series Naruto in the monthly Shonen
Jump came to an end on November 10, 2014.
Bleach manga ended in 2016;
Gintama would end in 2018;
only one piece from the old ones remained and still reigning some last time before it gets dethroned. “My hero academia” aka “Boku No Hero academia” in its original name, a new generation shonen, some call it like that due to it similarity to Naruto and other classic shonen, the plot follows the typical rules of shonen: a young boy who dreams to be a super hero like his model and who is the number one hero in the world, with great determination and ambition to achieve his goal, he will train and gain superpower “quircks” and enter the “hero academia” to be the best. The main character “Midoriya” a kind young boy with a big heart who struggles a lot being the only one who wasn’t born with a quirck, some even find him ridiculous to try and get in the Hero academia without any power, which will lead him to gain it in a much unexpected way. His story and character makes the readers attached to him even more. And as in every shonen, the MC needs a rival: Bakugo a rival but also a childhood friend to Midoriya they will grow together in the hero academia both struggling with their own difficulties, not to mention that the school is full of other young people with fantastic quircks. Making interesting to follow the adventures and the growth of “Midoriya” especially for the today’s gen who haven’t read or seen old shonens like Dragon ball, naruto.. etc.
“BNHA” would be evidently a huge success, positioned 2nd in 2017 in the top, and it will also be very well sold and popular around the world. It will remain in the top best selling in japan till the present day. The manga though will lose it second position to kingdom and the new manga series the promised neverland.
The promised neverland got in the top till it was finished in 2021, a shonen partly unique compared to others, having a female main character and it’s a psychological mystery themed plot, it got an anime adaptation by the same period of time it was also a success until the second season were it flopped completely due to the mangaka who decided to change it from the manga and cutting liked characters which lead to the dislike from the fans.
2019 the end of the one piece reign
The most read manga, after 2 decades of being in the best selling manga in japan and 12 years being top 1 leaving every other manga behind. One piece will be defeated by the new shonen manga: Demon Slayer.
Why is one piece so popular in japan?
Since 1997 one piece had been read,
watched and loved by 61 countries and regions worldwide.
(according to Wikipédia) but as seen it is even more popular in its country of origins but why is that ?
In fact, some professors have gone so far as to study the plot and publish a book on it to
understand why the serie is so well-liked. According to Professor Yasuda of Kansai University,
the strength of the characters' relationships with one another is what makes One Piece special,
and Luffy in particular exhibits a leadership style that other real-world organizations may learn from.
(kotaku.com “Japan Tries To Figure Out Why Everybody Loves One Piece” By Toshitaka Tachibana.)
oda’s storytelling style, the storyline the character development,
the attention to details and emotional attachment with not just the main
characters sometimes the villains and even objects! The best exemple for it which is pretty known,
is the boat “going merry” the very first pirate boat that the crew owned and rode,
after several damage to it and having to get separated with it they would burn it and say their
last goodbyes to it a popular sad scene filled with emotion with the whole crew crying with
the soul’s boat last words “I’m sorry, I wanted to bring everyone a little further.”
This just an example of how Oda gives every detail its importance how he keeps his audience
engaged in the story with the characters and every aspect.
Another point to note the strawhats crew characters or personalities especially Luffy that always put the others needs first, he would with no hesitation put his main goal in a hold and sacrifice himself for his team or help anyone in need this, this is a really important quality in Japan, people there always put them self second, it is considered a sign of politeness and kindness. It is a feature that people look up to and it part of their culture. If you ever go “the country of cherry blossom” you’ll find stores, clothing, food, drinks, concerts… all dedicated to one piece and that’s just how much OP is loved by its country.
Who is the anime that dethroned one piece?
After all these years and even with the arrival of many new manga and none of them could take its place till 2019 and the release of Demon slayer aka “kimetsu no yaiba” in its original name.
You may ask yourself what was so special about demon slayer.
“KnY” came out in 2016 and was serialized in shueisha’s Shonen manga
magazine Weekly shonen jump, the largest manga magazine,
it is known how hard it is to get in the magazine and the enormous
amount of influence that it commands, so the manga right by its
release made it place and started selling but its only in 2019 when
the anime came out that the manga selling explodes and got the first
spot in Japan charts.
The anime played a role in increasing the numbers of sells since it was animated by Ufotable who is known for its high quality and really detailed animation which some even say that KnY is so popular due to this reason, but it’s not just that, it’s also the engaging story that follows the boy’s fight into saving his young sister which is truly emotional after losing all the members of his family and only his sister remains half demon, the protagonist “Tanjiro” hope and perseverance into helping his sibling make it relatable and engaging to the audience.
On the other hand, other main characters in shonens most of the time strives to be stronger or have revenge but in this case tanjiro had to be put in such situation just for the sake of his loved one.
Another point to note is that KnY have a feudal style something that the Japanese likes lot a touch of their history, and especially since the art is well-done, the Katanas have a beautiful and sometimes original design. People may have different opinion for the real reason why it got so popular but it is undeniable that it is a great manga and anime and some even consider it one of the new big three.
DS would sell over 80 million copies in Japan in a year even if it lost it first place and will remain in the top.
It would be a manga called “Jujutsu Kaisen” that would take the lead in 2021,
a new shonen written by the young mangaka “Gege Akutami” with an interesting
plot and a dark fantasy and mystery theme the same way as Death Note or The
Promised Neverland, it follows the team of two teen boys and a girl and their
sensei with the goal of becoming strong sorceries to defeat monsters and lift
the curse that the protagonist “Itadori” himself is victim of after being possessed
by the famous and most powerful demon “Sukuna”.
the rules of shonen are transcended by the mangaka in terms of fights and the character development, along with unexpected event and plot twist, the manga got its anime adaption very quick and even got it done b a great studio “MAPPA”, which had done a great job in making it with great quality, an amazing soundtrack and a well chosen casting for the voices.
The anime helped raising the numbers of the manga selling.
JJK would still be on the top list and till this day he has over 70 million copies in circulation, which made it the best selling manga series in the country in 2021.
Another new manga that would come and take the second spot right after JJK with a
very close numbers is “Tokyo Manji Revengers” following by SPYxFAMILY.
These 3 would be on the top for almost the whole ear of 2022 and would know a worldwide fame. These two new manga would be quiet different than the usual shonens, Tokyo revengers a blend of shonen and furyo manga with a “time traveling” theme, away from the adventure supernatural genre; TR bring back the old school furyo manga with a story of a young man who goes back in the past to his teenage years when he was a delinquent and a member of a gang in order to save his cherished one who’d lose her life in the future due to having some kind of liaison with the gang.
The fights the growth of the MC and other characters, the suspense in the story is very much present making a great shonen. But the touch of time traveling makes the story engaging and captivating.
With amazing and loveable side characters who knew a great popularity and a protagonist who have determination and perseverance into going back again and again in the past in order to save everyone it is something people can relate to and have an emotional attachment. The bonus point is that the manga represents perfectl the gangs it is known that there was a period of time in japan precisely in the 90’s and the early 00’s the gangs and Yakuza (Japan mafia) were very much present in their society, and the author himself Ken wakui declared that he was part of gang in his youth back in 2000 and he took inspiration from it to craft the amazing stor we have here, it also explains the realistic side of the delinquent life represented in the manga with the cool uniforms each gang have the flag the hold and wave while riding motorcycle, and the battles that would trigger between gangs these are part from Japan and it may be seems as an illegal thing, but the relation, the attachment the members hold for each other and the way they are always ready to help and protect each other and to be in the top without getting innocent people involved is what makes the beauty of it “the true delinquent path” as said from the vice-president of the Toman gang Draken.
This is an aspect that the Japan public can definitely find themselves and which made it fascinating to the western world.
By the same time SPYxFAMILY was getting an anime
adaptation and so the manga selling increased and so
it was the most watched anime in Netflix japan and also
the top 3 best selling. It is no real surprise the manga
was such a big success it have everything it needs for a good shonen,
the action the adventure and a lot of comedy, it follows the story of
a spy “TWILIGHT” who for the sake of his new mission have to make a family
and infiltrate society as an ordinary father.
He will adopt a little girl Anya who appears to be a telepath
and marry a young woman who is an assassin, an absolute chaotic
family but none of them is aware of what the true self is the other
making an absolute fun and thrilling story to read full of suspense
and accompanied by the lovely Anya who gives us the lovely and emotional scenes.
The manga series will release its second season by the end of this year and is very much waited by the fans not only and its country.
The sales would be owned by JJK, demon slayer,
and my hero academia one piece not even intimidated still got its spot in the top.
But these are that some call the new big three.
But is it really true to say such a thing? Technically, it is hard and almost impossible to have a new big three simply because the chances of the release of three new manga and having them be on the shonen jump magazine by THE SAME PERIODE OF TIME is the real challenge.
It was a great luck coincidence that happened in the early 2000 three amazing shonens with potential and popularity assured that came out and knew their fame by the same time. Who knows if it can happen again? But by this time even if the current shonens came one after another, their popularity and the fact that they represent the new gen is undeniable.
With arrival of Kaiju No 8, chainsaw man rising shonens with already big popularity and great number of sales maybe we will see them next year as the new face of big three.