Previously we brought you the best of Weekly Shonen Jump titles chock-full of martial arts, magical battles, and gritty sports. This time we bring you the lighter side of manga with the best series from Weekly Shonen Sunday. Join us as we list the 15 best-selling romance, comedy, and drama comics from this top publisher.
Despite the name Sunday, this publication is released on Wednesday each week. It’s been said that the reason for the name is because reading it is like “spending a pleasant Sunday.” In contrast to Jump, Sunday doesn’t focus as much on fighting comics but tries to offer a wider variety of romance, comedy, drama and more. As a result, Sunday has attracted a larger group of female readers, but seems to be stuck in third place of the illustrious “big three” of the manga world (Shonen Jump, Shonen Magazine, Shonen Sunday). That’s still not a bad place to be, however. They put out over two million copies during the golden age circa 1983, even today they maintain a respectable weekly circulation of one million. The following are the titles that most helped Sunday achieve those impressive numbers.
15th – Rough (15 million copies)
12 Volumes (1987-1989)
Made in the late 80’s by Mitsuru Adachi, one of Sunday’s notable artists, it’s a romantic comedy based on swimming. Keisuke and Ami are the main characters whose families run rival candy shops. Still they gradually grow to like each other through their swimming training. Then a love triangle develops with Hiroki, a champion swimmer who holds feelings for Ami.
Although Adachi has other more famous titles, fans consider this to be his best work.
14th – Kekkaishi (16 million copies)
35 volumes (2003-2011)
A Japanese fantasy story by Yellow Tanabe, Kekkaishi’s main characters are Yoshimori and Tokine who use an ability called kekkai (barrier magic) to rid their school of monsters. While protecting the Karasumori, the two must battle a monster organization called Kokuboro. In 2007 an anime version was created, and Nintendo DS and Wii games were also made.
13th – Hayate the Combat Butler (17 million copies)
36 Volumes and counting (2004 – Present)
This manga by Kenjiro Hata has elements of comedy and martial arts. Hayate was just a mediocre high school student, but fell into trouble due to a debt by his gambling parents. Then Hayate meets a girl, Nagi, in a park and contemplates kidnapping her for the money he needs. After a misunderstanding, Nagi falls in love with Hayate and he becomes her butler in order to pay back the money his parents owe. This manga has gained popularity because of the various characters and their intertwining relationships.
12th – Mobile Police Patlabor (19 million)
22 Volumes (1988 – 1994)
This is a Sci-Fi comic set in near-future Tokyo, meaning the 1988 story is set in 1998. It features a world in which “labors”, robots which perform manual work, are widely used. The young members of the Patlabor police force mature while dealing with conflicts. It deals with concepts like youth struggle, heavy industry, and corporate conspiracies, which makes for an unusually mature story for its time. It was also a pioneer in the idea of an entire media franchise; the series produced manga, novels, videos, television and an up-coming movie.
11th – Zatch Bell! (22 million copies)
33 volumes (2001 – 2007)
Once in 1,000 years, 1,000 beings called “mamono” fight in order to determine the king of a land of magic. Mamono Zatch Bell teams up with boy genius, Kiyomaru Takamine, to fight his rivals. Despite the popularity of this series, pressure from the publishers, the stretching of the series, and incidents including lost manuscripts leading to a lawsuit soured the relationship between Raiku and Sunday’s publisher, Shogakukan.
10th Flame of Recca (25 million copies)
33 volumes (1995 – 2002)
Recca Hanabishi who has the ability to control flame, joins forces with Yanagi Sakoshita and others who also have special abilities. Together they take part in a superpower tournament to prevent elemental weapons from falling into the wrong hands. There is a ninja-like atmosphere which is a departure from the usual Sunday themes of romance, comedy and sports, which made this series a hit.
9th Ushio and Tora (26 million copies)
33 Volumes (1990 – 1996)
Young Ushio Aotsuki, armed with the monster killing spear “Beast Spear,” teams up with a reluctant monster tiger to battle a powerful demon called Hakumen No Mono. This comic was revived in the 2013 “Heroes Comeback” edition of Weekly Shonen Sunday to aid the reconstruction projects of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.
8th – Urusei Yatsura (26 to 35 million copies)
34 volumes (1978 – 1987)
Sunday’s premier artist, Rumiko Takahashi, did this piece in 1978. This Takahashi hit in particular was considered a masterpiece by many. It’s a romance comedy that stars an alien named Lum who comes to Earth for an invasion and a high school student, Ataru. Various other out-of-this-world characters make appearances. The anime was also a record-setting hit. Currently the work is well-respected by this generation of manga artists who grew up reading it. Below are interpretations of the main character, Lum, drawn by manga artists such as Tetsuo Hara (Fist of the North Star), Mine Yoshizaki (Keroro / Sgt. Frog), and Gosho Aoyama (Detective Conan).
Fans spread beyond Japan as well. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Icarus Factor” there is a scene where Riker is competing with his father and the names of Ataru and Lum were spotted by fans of the series.
7th – Kyo Kara Ore Wa!! (40 million copies)
38 volumes (1988 – 1997)
The two protagonists, Takashi and Shinji, spend their high school days fighting in this comic. However, the violence is modest and an emphasis is put on comedy. After changing high schools, the pair comes out as “delinquents” and get into fights. They also get mixed up in a whole range of events. A live action film adaptation has also been done.
6th – InuYasha (45 million copies)
56 volumes (1996- 2008)
It’s another long running series from the writer of Urusei Yatsura, Rumiko Takahashi. Although she’s known for her many comedic stories, this one has a more serious tone featuring InuYasha who was born between a human mother and a monster dog father. It was a hit in both Asia and the USA.
5th – Major (50 million copies)
78 volumes (1994 to 2010)
A baseball-themed work, this long running series follows the main character, Goro. We follow him as a pitcher for the kindergarten, and watch as he continues on to little league, middle school, high school, minor league, Major League Baseball, and finally Japanese pro baseball. As a result we watch our hero from age 5 to 34. In the comic he gets a sponsorship from sporting goods maker Mizuno and uses their equipment throughout the latter half of the series.
4th – Ranma 1/2 (53 million)
38 volumes (1987-1996)
Ranma 1/2 was yet another major series for Rumiko Takahashi. Accidentally falling into a pond in China causes the people in this story to change forms when exposed to hot or cold water, creating wild situations such as a guy changing into a panda. This was also a big anime hit due to its combination of martial arts, romance, and comedy.
3rd – H2 (55 million)
34 volumes (1992 – 1999)
Mitsuru Adachi’s baseball manga, deals with the paths of injured rubber arm pitcher, Hiro Kunimi, and talented hitter, Hideo Tachibana. Initially playing on the same team, the two dealt a huge twist of fate in this story. Elements of love and romance are strong as well. This along with Touch was also considered Adachi’s greatest work.
2nd – Touch (60 to 100 million copies)
26 volumes (1981 – 1986)
Kazuya was a baseball player aiming for the school championships at Koshien but dies in a car accident just before fulfilling it. His talented twin brother Tatsuya steps into his role and tries to go further in baseball in the name of his brother.
The title, Touch, comes from the sense of passing the baton from one brother to the next. Childhood friend of the brothers, Minami Asakura provides a strong love interest bringing a romantic angle to the story. This helps readers who are not into baseball identify with the story. Although, until then, major baseball manga covered manly themes of “guts” and “effort”, Touch breathes an air of sensitivity into the genre. The anime’s theme song was a hit as well.
1st Detective Conan / Case Closed (140 million copies)
80 volumes and counting (1994 – present)
This manga follows Kudo Shinichi, a genius high school detective who was transformed into a small child by a mysterious organization. To conceal his identity, he renames himself Edogawa Conan after an old mystery writer in Japan, Edogawa Rampo (a tribute in itself to the name, Edgar Allen Poe) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The mystery elements have made the comic a hit with all ages, even though there are many violent murders and complicated tricks explained by dialog in this manga that may be too mature for children. So many murders seem to happen around Conan that it has become a running joke on the net. Movie versions of the series have also been produced in Japan, with a recent collaboration with Lupin III generating a lot of buzz in particular. The popularity of this hit has spread well beyond Japan.
This title could be considered the Dragon Ball Z of Weekly Shonen Sunday and has the same problems. Partly because the circulation of Sunday itself has declined, it’s rumored that they never want to complete this series. This creates the paradox that the longer it goes on the worse Conan will become at solving mysteries in an attempt to prolong the series.
It just goes to show that no matter how popular a Weekly Shonen publication is, writers have to introduce fresh ideas to get ahead.