As anyone will tell you, Japan is home to many major manga “monthlies” and “weeklies,” and of course the can be bought virtually everywhere from convenience stores to train stations. Among these many titles, however, it is without a doubt that Weekly Shonen Jump reigns supreme.
In the 90s the popularity of Shonen Jump soared and the stories it put out captured the hearts of young Japanese boys and girls everywhere, resulting in peak of 6 million copies sold. Although those numbers have fallen to 3 million in recent years, the company has stuck to its tried and true formula. Popular titles such as Dragon Ball and One Piece get serialized weekly in the magazine and then 10 episodes are compiled into comic books.
In this article we’re going to show you the all-time sales ranking of these books – something that we’re sure will appeal to both manga fans and newbies alike.
Jump adheres to two editorial policies.
The stories should be centered on the themes of effort, friendship, and victory. Keeping these concepts in the hearts of the youth is the fundamental policy. Dragon Ball and One Piece are prime examples of these themes.
On the other hand, Jump employs a cutthroat “survey system” to decide which books stay alive. If any book, regardless of its notoriety, is not pleasing fans for a period of 10 weeks (one book), it is cut from the Jump line-up. Even legendary writers are not immune to this policy as a way for Jump to maintain its integrity.
Below you’ll find the 20 series that since 1968 have not only survived this survey system but have flourished under it, being adapted into anime, live action movies, and merchandise galore.
#20 Death Note
(12 Volumes 2003-2006)
27 million copies sold
Using the “Death Note” notebook which kills the person whose name is written the main character hopes to create a perfect world and get wrapped up in a battle of wits with a master detective. It’s been widely reviewed as a gritty story involving death “unlike a series from Jump” but good nonetheless.
Murders including one in Brussels, Belgium where the killer left a note saying “Watashi wa Kira dess [sic]” and jokes about idol Aki Higashihara’s blog which seems to magically create misfortune referring to it as “Death Blog” are examples of how strong this manga’s impact is.
(38 Volumes 1996-2004)
28 million copies sold
The main character was bullied as a child, but by obtaining a mysterious “millennium puzzle” from ancient Egypt, another dark personality emerged from him. In this dark fantasy story the guardian of darkness punishes the villains. The story revolves around Magic & Wizards a card game similar to Magic: The Gathering which has become more popular than the original series itself. In fact, Guinness World Records has awarded it the highest selling card game in the world.
＃18 BASTARD!! : Heavy Metal, Dark Fantasy
(27 volumes and counting 1998-present)
30 million copies sold
This dark comic fantasy was based on themes of mythology and the Bible. The protagonist, Dark Schneider continuously wages battle with demons and angels. The author and heavy metal fan, Kazushi Hagiwara put references to rock all over the series both jokingly and reverently. Its explicit sexuality became controversial due to its appearance in a magazine for youths.
Between hiatuses, the series is still ongoing but changed magazines.
＃17 City Hunter
(35 Volumes 1985-1991)
35 million copies sold
This hard-boiled comedy series follows the exploits of Ryo Saeba as he works as a bodyguard and detective in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Despite its adult oriented storyline which didn’t quite match a youth-oriented magazine, it sold very well in book form. Currently the series continues as Angel Heart.
#16 Dr. Slump
(18 Volumes 1980-1984)
35 million copies sold
A hit by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, it’s the story of Arale and the inhabitants of Penguin Village. Arale’s catch-phrases “ho-yo-yo” and “ncha” became popular with children at the time. The first-run printing of the sixth volume sold a record-setting 2.2 million copies and was the first first-edition to break 2 million copies.
#15 The Prince of Tennis
(42 Volumes, 1999-2008)
40 million copies sold
The story centers on Ryoma, a student at a prestigious tennis school who is striving to win the nation championships. The rules and strategies of tennis are well explained so that even those not familiar with the game can get into it. However, recently unrealistic special moves like unreturnable shots, a single person playing doubles by cloning, and supernatural glowing bodies have been appearing more and more since around half way through the series. It’s been treated somewhat as a joke because of this.
#14 Rokudenashi Blues
(42 Volumes 1988-1997)
43 million copies sold
In this comedic coming of age story a group of friends deepen their friendship while fighting and boxing. The series is set in Tokyo and features many famous places like, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Asakusa. The faces and names of characters who appear in it are jokingly modeled after famous musicians and athletes as some of the many jokes filling these stories.
#13 Yu Yu Hakusho
(19 Volumes 1990-1994)
47 million copies sold
Written by the author of Hunter X Hunter, Yoshihiro Togashi, the story follows the adventures of Yusuke Urameshi, but as the story progresses it falls into Jumps bread and butter of martial arts battle stories. The author’s mood swings are legendary. In the series some drawings seemed to be published in a state of near draft calling some to question his mental stability. Nevertheless, it was one of Jump signature works of the 90’s.
#12 Rurouni Kenshin
(28 Volumes 1994-1999)
50 million copies sold
This samurai story set in the Meji Era broke what some thought was jinx preventing Jump from making hits ever again. Although the characters and story are fictitious, real people and events such as the Shinsengumi were intertwined. Its popularity has endured from the end of the series resulting in a live action movie adaptation in 2012.
#11 Dragon Quest: Dai’s Great Adventure
(37 Volumes 1989-1996)
50 million copies sold
This mega-hit was set in the same world as the Dragon Quest video games with a lot of the same spells and items. However, none of the game’s characters are connected. Although some might see it as simply a cash-grab on the name of Dragon Quest, the series received high acclaim from surveyed fans from the very start. Thanks to its Jump-friendly storyline it achieved great popularity and success.
#10 Hunter × Hunter
(32 Volumes and counting 1998-Present)
60 million copies sold
The main character, Gon, in order to meet his father whom he had never seen, becomes a Hunter which is a fictitious job set in the world of this story. A wide variety of enemies and allies with unique special abilities set in a vast yet detailed world have boosted the popularity of this series. However, the weekly magazine series is notorious for its excessively long hiatuses. Over its long run the series has taken breaks of up to two years, and much like in the author’s previous Yu Yu Hakusho drawings have been published in a seemingly unfinished state. On the Net, this apparently lackadaisical serialization has been chided with cries of “Work Togashi!”
#9 Fist of the North Star
(27 Volumes 1983-1988)
60 million copies sold
Set in 199X the world was destroyed by nuclear war, the story develops as Kenshiro employs the Hokuto Shinken fighting style to battle a variety of powerful foes. The series’ style and world were said to have been influenced by Mad Max and The Killing Fields.
From its inception the series was hugely popular and steered Jump toward the martial arts action genre. Also, over twenty years since it ended publication the franchise has endured with spin-offs and anime adaptations.
#8 Captain Tsubasa
(37 Volumes 1981-1988)
70 million copies sold
The hero of this story, Tsubasa Ozora, grew up with dreams of becoming a pro-soccer player in Brazil. It features superhuman acrobatic skills that would probably get you a yellow card in real life. The impact of this work can be seen in the countless fans around the world including most Japanese professional players, Fernando Torres, and Zinedine Zidane. Tsubasa’s fame has even reached the Middle East where he could be seen drawn on the side of trucks delivering water.
#7 JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
(107 Volumes and counting, 1987-present)
77 million copies sold
The Joestar family is handed down from parent to child in this series. Each chapter focuses on a different character in the family and often jumps from one country to the next. This series takes the familiar superhuman fighting genre and mixes it up by constantly changing the main character’s skills and wits. Author, Hirohiko Araki’s collaborations such as the one with Gucci has helped to boost its popularity and style for each of its long line of cast members.
(57 Volumes and counting 2001-Present)
78 million copies sold
This story by Tite Kubo takes place in the world of the occult. It’s a world in the style of a Japanese Exorcist. This ongoing popular series follows Ichigo Kurosaki as he gains powers of a shinigami and fights evil. While this story deals with Asian mythology it has gained an audience in other countries as well. Although Jump is often seen as a boys’ magazine, this series has become very popular with female readers too.
#5 Slam Dunk
(31 Volumes, 1990-1996)
117 million copies sold
In this basketball manga by Takehiko Inoue, delinquent high school student, Hanamichi Sakuragi is advised to join the school basketball team by Haruko Akagi. It’s a coming-of-age story which deals with the relationships between the teammates and rivals. This manga has had a big impact on basketball programs in middle schools and high schools across Japan. Even in Taiwan some students made a tribute video to the series. There have been rumors of a sequel but nothing has materialized yet.
(63 Volumes and counting, 1999-Present)
135.5 million copies sold
Naruto is a martial arts manga which deals with aspiring ninjas. It’s been popular from the get-go and can often be seen alongside One Piece as the current signature series. For a story revolving around oriental subjects it has found success in more than 30 countries around the world and its anime adaptation can be found in over 80 countries. It was also independently made into a live action short film which got attention worldwide.
#3 Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kōen Mae Hashutsujo
(184 Volumes and counting, 1976-Present)
155.3 million copies sold
This goofy comic by Osamu Akimoto stars a police officer in downtown Tokyo. Referred to affectionately as Kochikame it’s a testament to longevity as it has continuously run from 1976 to 2013 along 184 volumes. It’s an episodic series that focuses on slapstick humor but mixes in pop-culture references and some dramatic elements. Not taking a single hiatus in over 30 years, Kochikame has earned a Guinness World Record for longest running series in a youth magazine.
＃2 Dragon Ball
(42 Volumes 1984-1995)
230 million copies sold
This comic masterpiece was based on the classical Chinese tale Journey to the West, but with an emphasis on fighting. It contains all the three elements of a Jump comic; victory, friendship, and effort.
The series’ creator Akira Toriyama had said that among the series characters, Vegeta, Piccolo, Krillin and Mr. Satan were his favorites.
One criticism of the series was that it could seem like and endless series of increasingly stronger enemies to fight. This eventually led to the ending of the series even though it meant discontinuing a series that brought endless revenue from magazines, merchandise, animated series, etc.
Its wholesome and positive storytelling is the main reason for the peak sales of 6 million copies for Weekly Shonen Jump.
＃1 One Piece
(68 Volumes and counting 1997-Present)
270 million copies sold
This action adventure series follows the pirate Luffy and was created by Eiichiro Oda. When the popular works of the 90s like Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk ended, Jump found itself out of mega-hits. It needed something to escape the post-Dragon Ball depression. Despite its satirizing of complex issues like territorial disputes, religion, and war, it refrains from murder or graphic death, explicit sex, and the main hero doesn’t talk of killing. This allowed it to be well received as a young readers’ comic.