Manga are comics that are made in Japan, conforming with a style that was developed in the country in the late 19th century. As a term it refers to both comics and cartoons. Outside of Japan the word refers to comics that were produced in Japan. The comics are incredibly popular and include a wide range of genres, from action and adventure to business, romance, science fiction, horror and sports.
They have widespread appeal, both in the Far East and elsewhere in the world. Indeed, in 2012 the market in the Middle East and Europe was worth US$250 million to the Japanese economy. Manga is therefore a major publishing wing in Japan. This list takes a look at the ten best selling manga of all time. It only refers to Japanese manga and does not include any original English language manga. Their sales are estimated to the nearest million copies.
10. Doraemon – $100 million
Written and illustrated by Fujiko F Fujio, Doraemon ran between December 1969 and finally ended in 1996. It is now just as well known as a successful anime series. Doraemon is the main character in the tale who is a robotic cat who can travel back in time from the 22nd century to help a teenage boy called Nobita Nobi. A total of 1345 stories were created over the course of the series and they extended to 45 volumes.
The manga has received many awards through the years, including a special acknowledgement in 2008 when Japan’s Foreign Ministry appointed Doraemon as the country’s first ‘anime ambassador’, to help deep the interest of people abroad in Japanese culture, to encourage them to visit the country. In the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Doraemon appeared to help the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe plant a water pipe from Shibuya Crossing to the Maracana Stadium.
9. Astro Boy (Mighty Atom) – $100 million
Known around the world as Astro Boy, but in Japan as its original, Mighty Atom, this science fiction manga was written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka between 1952 and 1968. There are a number of characters in the comic but the main character is Astro Boy (Mighty Atom). The manga has been a popular inspiration for a run of film and television series. Indeed, when it was first adapted for television it became the first Japanese animated TV series that embodied what later became anime. The plot principally follows a world where robots live alongside humans. Between 1972 and 1973 and then between 1980 and 1981 the anime was serialized in two newspapers, adding to its popularity.
8. Slam Dunk – $120 million
Exemplifying how manga can involve all genres, Slam Dunk is a sports themed manga that was written by Takehiki Inoue about a basketball team from Shohoku High School. The theme can be recogised by kids around the world which is partly why it has been so popular. Its original run as a manga was between October 1990 and June 1996 but it was also turned into an anime television series, running for 101 episodes between October 1993 and March 1996. It has been particularly popular in Japan and other Asian countries but has also sold well in Europe.
The plot follows Hanamichi Sakuragi who is at first the leader of a gang who is shunned by the rest of his schoolmates. He meets the girl of his dreams, Haruko Akagi and she introduces him to the school basketball team, as she thinks he would make a really good player. At first, he is no keen on the idea as he doesn’t think basketball is a cool game. However, it comes to be a passion of his. The plot follows his dream (along with the rest of the team) of winning the national championship. Numerous video games have been made, based on the series.
7. Oishinbo – $130 million
Oishinbo literally means ‘the gourmet’ and this manga is based on cookery, albeit being a drama. It is a long running cooking manga written by Tetsu Kariya and drawn by Akira Hanasaki. It is still being published today and started its run in October 1983. The comic depicts the life of cookery journalist Shiro Yamaoka and his partner and wife Yuko Kurita. It is the 8th longest manga ever released.
6. Case Closed – $150 million
Still running today, this detective fiction manga started its run in January 1994. It is also known as Detective Conan and from the outset it has been written and drawn by Gosho Aoyama. The plot follows an amateur detective who has been transformed to a child while investigating some strange organization. He solves a huge number of cases through the years, while impersonating a friend of his father’s. It was license in the US for an anime series in 2003 and finally began screening it in 2013.
5. Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen-mae Hashutsujo – $156.5 million
A comedy policy manga that has recently stopped (running from September 1976 to September 2016), this manga is written and illustrated by Osamu Akimoto. It is set in downtown Tokyo and the main character is middle aged cop Kankichi Ryotsu. It has the highest number of volumes published of any manga series, with a total of 1960 chapters.
4. Naruto – $220 million
An action and fantasy anime written by Masashi Kishimoto and published in 1997. Naruto Uzamaki is the main character in the series. He is a teenage ninja who dreams of becoming the Hokage, the the strongest ninja in his village. It has the simple elements that are enough for it to become highly popular in Japan.
3. Dragon Ball – $240 million
Dragon Ball is written and illustrated by Akira Toriyama and was originally serialized between 1984 and 1995, across 45 volumes. The protagonist is Son Goku, and it follows his life from childhood to adulthood as he trains in martial arts and explores the world, searching for the ‘Dragon Balls’, seven orbs which summon a wish granting dragon when all brought together. It has become one of the most successful manga and anime series of all time.
2. Golgo 13 – $280 million
Written and illustrated by Takao Saito, this action manga has been published since October 1968. The comic follows the title character, who is a professional assassin. It was mad into a TV series in 2008. Partly due to it having run for such a long time, it is no wonder that it has sold so many copies.
1. One Piece – $380 million
One Piece only began its print run in July 1997 (still in print today) but it has smashed forward to become a hit manga. It is an action comedy drama, written by Eichiro Oda. It follows the adventures of Monkey D Luffy, a man whose body gained the properties of rubber after eating a Devil Fruit by mistake. He has a group of pirates called the Straw Hat pirates. Together, they explore the Grand Line in search of the ‘One Piece’; whoever holds this becomes the next King of the Pirates. In 1998 it was turned into an anime series which boosted its popularity even more.