Manga Sales in Japan – Does One Piece Rule them All?

Besides watching anime, one of my other hobbies I spend quite an extensive time on is reading manga. I started doing that since primary school (with the likes of Conan and Jojo) and still keep up with quite a few series down the years. I still prefer the paperback version over reading any scanlation online personally. Recently, I came across oricon’s annual list of manga sales in Japan by series and volumes, so I just can’t help but try to put together some analysis on this to see what I might find. Maybe it will be some other cools series that I did not know before for me to get addicted on! Unfortunately, I can only find raw data that goes back to 2008 so I can’t analyze anything older. Anyway, 6 years of data is still relatively decent and I can still draw some substantial conclusion from it.

One Piece does rule them all.
In recent years in the West, we always talk about the holy trinity of Shounen series (series aimed towards young male demographic) to be One Piece, Naruto and Bleach, with more attention really on the latter two. In Japan, at least on the manga front, One Piece blows past everyone, including both Naruto and Bleach. Here are some interesting facts to emphasize One Piece’s dominance:

Table 1: Ranking of series by total sales volume per year


As shown below, Attack of the Titan came closest to One Piece in 2013.  Previously, Naruto came relatively close in 2008 before One Piece pulled away from the competition in the next 4 years (2009-12), with its popularity peaking immensely in 2011 (selling nearly 5 times more than number 2 and 7 times more than the top 10 average (I use median instead of mean because mean is completely spoiled by how dominant One Piece is in its sales). It is on its decline though over the last 2 years so maybe another series will ovetake it in the next few years.

Table 2: Interesting ratios by year

  2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Top 10 sales median (mn) 3.1 4.2 5.2 4.5 4.1 5.2
Ratio of #1-to-#2 1.40 2.15 4.37 5.53 2.91 1.14
Ratio of #1-to-top 10 avg 1.90 3.49 6.24 8.37 5.75 3.49

18 of 20 top selling volumes of manga over this time period are One Piece (the remaining two are Attack on Titan]. 23 of top 30

In this very top-heavy list, only 4 series are featured in the top 30 sales by volumes. Surprisingly (to me at least), the highest ranking volume sale for Naruto is all the way down to number 32 on the list

Table 3: Ranking of series volume by total sales

Volume sales2

One Piece dominates the chart so much that each volume on average sold 40% more than number 2 on the list (NANA). And One Piece releases 30 volumes over these 6 years, more than any other series in the top 10, showing its lasting power.

Table 4: Top 10 series according to volume sales

Rank Name Total volume sales (2008-13) Volume
1 One Piece 2,168,216 30
2 NANA 1,527,346 3
3 Fullmetal Alchemist 1,211,052 9
4 Nodame Cantabile 1,134,915 6
5 Attack on Titan 1,122,814 19
6 Naruto 1,109,648 26
7 Hunter X Hunter 1,020,999 8
8 Kimi ni Todoke 1,014,380 15
9 I’m Sakamoto, you know. 896,968 1
10 Hana Yori Dango 815,648 1

At the peak of its popularity in 2011, One Piece actually sold more copies than Number 2 to 8 in the list combined

Chart 1: Sales volume by series in 2011


Shounen series predictably dominates the chart

On demographics, unsurprisingly, Shounen dominates, though Shounen series make up half of the top ten. All four demographics actually are present in the top ten, though Josei’s Nodame Cantabile seems to be an outlier, considering that the next Josei manga on the list is Chihayafuru at #47 (436,084 sales per volume)Series ranking by sales per volume

Table 5: Top 20 volume sales with demographic information

Demographic infoOn a year by year basis, over ~87% of top 10 series by sales are shounen, as shown below:

Chart 2: Total volume sales by demographics

Demographic chart

Attack of Titan may yet overthrow One Piece in the next few years

As dominant as One Piece has been, it is on the 30% decline over the last 2 years from 2011 to 2013 (38mn to 18mn). On the other and, Attack on Titan is on a very sharp trend upward and is the title most likely to dethrone One Piece on its 6-year supremacy. No other titles are coming close as seen below.

Table 6: 2013 sales and 2-year CAGR (2011-13) of selected manga series

Title 2013 sales 2-year CAGR
One Piece 18,151,599 -31%
Attack on Titan 15,933,801 106%
Naruto 5,553,933 -10%
Kuroko’s Basketball 8,761,081 126%
Kimi ni Todoke 3,428,352 -9%
Fairy Tail 3,790,151 -10%
Bleach 2,752,588 -19%
Gintama 2,864,734 -19%
Hunter X Hunter 4,231,475 20%
Toriko 2,844,248 -22%
Blue Exorcist 2,329,721 -33%
Space Brothers 2,543,140 19%
Sket Dance 1,783,098 -25%
Saint Young Men (Saint O-nii-san) 2,487,751 -2%
Detective Conan (Case Closed) 1,966,206 -4%
Chihayafuru 2,311,857 18%
Black Butler 1,562,863 5%

Other notes of interest:

  • Only 6 series actually made appearances in the list throughout the 6 years period: One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, Gintama, Hunter X Hunter and Conan
  • Attack of the Titan kept improving over the last 3 years. We shall see if it may be able to dethrone One Piece next year finally.
  • Out of this list of the top 20, I have read (or watched anime of) 11, including none of the three Shoujo series on the list. I probably should check out Blue Exorcist, Silver Spoon and Kuroko’s Basketball at some point though

I will be interested to see if Attack on Titan can sustain the meteoric rise and overtake One Piece. There are also a few series I will pick up to read next time I visit the manga shop nearby.

8 Comments on “Manga Sales in Japan – Does One Piece Rule them All?”

  1. Brandon Roger says:

    No, dude, not at all. Analyzing the sales is not enough by simply reading and comparing the yearly stats. You should know the reason behind those numbers. It all matters to sales.

    Why did AoT get astronomical boost last year? The anime was a high success. It was so hyped and made people bought all those 1-11 volumes released which made the sales improved as well. And since everyone has done buying the backlog, 2013 was it’s peak. AoT won’t get such high number anymore, at least until it gets second season in, probably, 2015. It’s like what happened to KuroBas in 2012, but more hyped.

    And One Piece sales has dropped but the manga sales in general has declined as well. One Piece also got lots of boost from movie in the past made people bought previous volume. But no movie released in 2013 which made the sales kind of plummeting. But, if you look at the sales per volume each year, you will see that the sales didn’t drop that much. All four One Piece volumes always managed to take the top four manga sales per volume with 2-3 millions copies.

    AoT, on the other hand, didn’t do much will all those 11 volumes is in top 15, none of those volumes reached 2 million copies. Even after backlogging that much (all the volumes it has got anime boost and got into the top 15 chart), AoT still failed to reach number one spot. I very much doubt it will overtake One Piece.

    • Thanks for your comment! That makes a lot of sense. Looking at the latest volume, AoT #13 sold around 1.4 mn in its first week vs. One Piece #73 which still tops 2 million copies. Still a respectable amount of sales for both. Even though it may not catch up One Piece without the help of another season, AoT is probably going to be the closest one to One Piece in the forseeable future. Will be interesting to map timing of movie and series release vs. manga sales to see the boost the other medium gives to the manga!

      • kera says:

        I had to reply to this. Please don’t listen to Brandon Roger, he’s the same as the other people that say that since the anime ends, everyone will automatically stop buying the manga.

        Attack on titan is leading the manga sales at the moment and will take first place come June, when the first half sales comes out.

        Reason 1. Attack on titan has release 2 volumes for this first half sales. Volume 12 in Dec 2013, and volume 13 in April 2014. Volume 12 has over 2 million sales volume 13 has about 1.5 million sales. I’ve been checking the back back log and all attack on titan volumes are consistently in the top 100 weekly manga sales. While I could only find 3 volumes of one piece in the top 500 weekly manga sales.

        Now for one piece, Volume 72 came out in November, so that means most of the sales went towards the top selling manga of 2013 ranking. Volume 73 came out in March and that made over 2 million in manga sales.

        The truth is one piece is declining, while attack on titan is improving. take a look at this. ( Snk will at least be leading the first half manga sales.

      • Interesting find and thank you for sharing. Of course, the conjecture above by Brandon Roger assumes that the future sales of AoT and One Piece are based on 2013 numbers, of which One Piece (over 2.3m) still leads AoT (~2m in sales). However, when I go back and see the number the trend is definitely going towards what you are saying that AoT actually have the upward momentum vs. One Piece and this data shows that 2014 would probably be the year that AoT can potentially overtake One Piece (One Piece volume sales- #69: 3.15, #70: 3.04, #71: 2.89, #72: 2.35 & AoT- #8: 1.33, #9: 1.95, #10: 1.92, #11: 1.45 (as of 2013)).

        But who knows about One Piece. I wouldn’t doubt it’s ability to maintain its sales lead the way it’s been tearing the competition over the last decade!

  2. starhallow says:

    Aot is only interesting for like 45 chapters as you go deeper you realise all there is sobs stories and the art is relatively bad. And pretty much just a hopeless situation I think it can’t get anymore popular it’s already starting to lose fans

  3. Hasan says:

    7 years in a row now buddy 😀

  4. apparently one piece will lead the manga till the series end.

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