Love them or hate them, the impact that every manga on this list has had is undeniable. Manga is a vast industry in Japan, even worldwide at this point: The lowest ranking manga on this list has sold over 100 million volumes. If you think about the fact that Japan has about 120 million inhabitants, that’s absolutely insane.
So what do all these titles have in common? You have manga of most genres: Slice of life, for kids, sports, mystery, even food manga! The answer is that most of these are either absolute classics of the medium, or they’re incredibly long running manga that started in the 80’s and are still ongoing as of today in 2017. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t recognize some of these — most manga buyers are Japanese people, the western fans barely make a dent on this list at all.
Without further ado, here are the 10 best selling manga of all time as of 2017.
By Tezuka Osamu
Copies sold: 100 million
Tezuka is often called the father of manga, and there’s a good reason for that. His most popular manga, Astroboy, was first published in1951, and almost 70 years later is one of the most sold manga ever! He’s also written timeless masterpieces such as Buddha or Phoenix.
Astroboy is iconic worldwide at this point. Most people can recognize him, and it’s still spawning anime adaptations (or at least inspiring anime enough for them to be named “Astroboy”, even if the story is different from the original). Set in the “distant year of 2003”, it’s a science fiction manga that stars a young robotic boy who is tasked with protecting the world from a wide variety of enemies.
9) Slam Dunk
By Inoue Takehiko
Copies sold: 121 million
When Inoue decided to write a basketball manga, he was told that it wouldn’t work, that it wasn’t an interesting enough sport and that Japanese people were not interested in it. He clearly proved them wrong, not only with the mind-boggling sales numbers, but also by making what I consider to be the best sports-themed manga of all time, making rank 1 in my Top 10 Best Sports Manga List.
This is a manga that almost every western manga fan loves as well. Most people have at least heard of this manga, and almost everyone that I know loves it, too. If you haven’t read it, you should definitely check it out even if you don’t like sports, because Inoue’s masterful storytelling and art transcends the sports genre.
By Kariya Tetsu & Hanasaki Akira
Copies sold: 130 million
Oishinbo is one of those manga that isn’t really that popular in the West, but has a huge fanbase in Japan. In fact, as you can see by the sales numbers, it’s one of the most beloved manga over there. It was published regularly between 1983 and 2008, resumed in 2009 and is now back in hiatus since 2014. Its main demographic is “casual” adults, meaning people who don’t really consider manga a hobby, but definitely enjoy reading a few of them weekly. Oishinbo is one of the go-to for these kind of people.
It tells the story of Yamaoka Shiro, a food critic known to be an all-around lazy person, but with an amazing talent to judge food and a vast knowledge of the culinary arts, who is tasked with coming up with the “Ultimate Menu” for his newspaper. It’s one of the longest running manga of all time, compiled in over 100 volumes.
7) Detective Conan
By Kariya Tetsu
Copies sold: 140 million
Detective Conan is one of the most influential manga/anime aimed at kids in Japan by a wide margin. Like Oishinbo, it got serialized in 1994 and hasn’t stopped since, being collected into close to 100 volumes. The anime adaptation is still in the top 10 most seen anime weekly in Japan.
Not many people out there don’t know about Detective Conan, published in English under the name “Case Closed”. It’s the story of Edogawa Conan, a genius child detective who is actually a high school student turned into a kid by an evil organization (not a spoiler!) who has to keep his identity a secret while he solves all kinds of mysteries and cases.
With a whopping 140 million copies sold, Detective Conan shows no signs of stopping, and will probably be one of the leaders of the industry for at least another decade.
6) Pokémon Adventures
By Kusaka Hidenori & Yamamoto Satoshi & Mato
Copies sold: 150 million
Pokémon is a worldwide phenomena. I bet that almost 100% of you have watched the Pokémon anime at least once (or religiously as kids, like me) and have played at least one Pokémon game. After all, not only is Pokemon one of the best selling manga of all time, but also one of the best selling videogames.
You might be surprised to learn that the manga follows an entirely different story from the anime. Ash doesn’t exist here, and the manga doesn’t “reset” every time a new region is introduced. Instead, each region stars a different protagonist, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure style, and the story is honestly way better than the anime.
Although the manga hasn’t made as big an impact in the West as the games or the anime, it’s definitely one of the most popular titles in Japan, as you can see from the sales numbers. If you’re into Pokemon and haven’t read the manga yet, I definitely recommend reading it.
By Akimoto Osamu
Copies sold: 156 million
“Kochikame” is short for “Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo”, meaning “This is the police station in front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward”. Yeah, this is the manga that popularized those super long titles that a lot of Light Novels and manga have these days.
This manga is legendary in Japan. It was published from 1976 to 2016 (that’s 40 years!) and was compiled into 200 volumes, the most of any manga in history so far.
1960 chapters! That would take a very long time to read: At a very fast pace of 3 minutes per chapter, it would take 98 hours, slightly over 4 days of continuous reading, to get through the whole thing.
The manga has an episodic gag format, with the main character Ryo-san getting himself into weird situations while trying to make extra money outside of his policeman job and it backfiring or going awry in crazy ways. It’s a very light-hearted read that can be enjoyed by people of any gender and any age, and it managed to evolve with the times (it wasn’t permanently set in the 1970’s), which explains its crazy popularity.
4) Golgo 13
By Saito Takao
Copies sold: 200 million
If I had to compare it with something, Golgo 13 would be the Japanese James Bond franchise. It’s the longest running manga still ongoing as of 2017, as it started in 1968! To give you a sense of scale, Tezuka was still publishing his works back then.
It stars Duke Togo (also known by his codename Golgo 13), a professional hitman for hire, who will hunt down and kill anyone that he’s hired to kill. His identity is a mystery and almost nothing is known about him — not even where he’s from. The story is episodic with each arc being a new mission Golgo 13 has to do, or him escaping from some global organization like the CIA, you know, typical James Bond stuff.
Including other formats such as compilation books, this manga has sold over 280 million copies, which would make it the 2nd most sold manga of all time if we were taking those formats into account.
By Kishimoto Masashi
Copies sold: 220 million
For over a decade now, Naruto has been the gateway anime and/or manga for people outside Japan to get into the medium. I’d bet good money on at least 95% of all foreign manga fans having at least read the first volume of Naruto, and a good chunk has probably read most of it too.
No matter how much people like to hate on it, the impact Naruto has had is undeniable. It has become one of the quintessential battle shounen, the most popular genre/demographic combination out there. The main characters have become iconic, and even if Naruto dips pretty hard in quality, the first several volumes are actually very good, in my opinion, having a vibe similar to the popular manga Hunter x Hunter.
If you haven’t read Naruto in a long time, I recommend re-reading it, at least the first volume. You might be surprised! In any case, this manga, part of the famous “Big 3”, will continue to be one of the most well-known manga for many years.
2) Dragon Ball
By Toriyama Akira
Copies sold: 240 million
There’s a good case to be made for Dragon Ball being the most influential manga of all time (in my opinion, Astroboy is still ahead), having shaped the entire industry and inspiring many successful manga. For example, Naruto, One Piece, and basically every modern battle shounen is clearly inspired by Dragon Ball.
It’s also another one of those global phenomena, in the same way that Pokémon is. The manga is, as per usual, much more popular in Japan than in the rest of the world, which prefers the anime. However, just how huge Dragon Ball is can be seen in the fact that the manga alone has sold 240 million copies! The size of this franchise is hard to comprehend, and anybody who knows even a little about manga history will tell you that Dragon Ball is one of the pivotal manga that have shaped and defined the medium.
1) One Piece
By Oda Eiichiro
Copies sold: 416 million!
Let that number sink in for a minute. 416 million copies. 126 million Japanese people. Without taking foreign buyers into account, that would be 3.3 volumes of One Piece bought per Japanese person! That’s completely crazy.
I won’t bother introducing One Piece as almost everyone out there has heard about it. It’s one of the manga with the best world-building ever done, so if you haven’t read One Piece yet for some reason and like that kind of thing, you definitely should. To anyone who has seen the One Piece anime but hasn’t read the manga: Please, please, please read it. It’s infinitely better than the anime in every way.
176 million copies ahead of Dragon Ball, One Piece has cemented itself as one of the most important manga ever made, and it has definitely been main cause of the spread of the medium into western cultures. Even people who don’t really like anime or manga watch and read One Piece. It most certainly is the best selling manga of all time.
Honorable mentions: Doraemon, Fist of the North Star, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Touch (all with 100 million sales).