While manga is well-established as a booming industry in Japan, there's no denying its popularity the West is bigger than ever. Big bookstores like Barnes and Noble down to smaller, local bookstores struggle to keep popular manga series on the shelves, with some titles out of stock for weeks, even months. The statistics only solidify this, as manga saw its biggest year to date.
An analysis by ICv2 shows sales of manga hit an all-time high in 2020, with North American manga sales near $250 million. The number surpasses totals from previous years, including 2007, which was the last peak for manga sales in recent history. This is due to the popularity surge in anime and manga during the pandemic as well as sales of backlists and box sets from the best-selling series.
Anime's prevalence on cable and American media as a whole was largely responsible for the popularity of manga in 2007. The year saw each of the "Big Three" in manga (Naruto, One Piece and Bleach) on air and on shelves at the same time, as well as big titles like Death Note and Gurren Lagann.
Following this successful year, however, manga saw a dip in sales for a number of reasons. Manga's decline the following year and until 2012 can be traced to the global financial crisis, which resulted in the bankruptcy of Borders in 2011, a book retailer that carried support for the category for years. The popularity of American television also contributed to manga's decline, as more cable channels were funding American titles and other interests, largely putting anime on the back-burner.
Ten years later, manga's resurgence and record popularity are thanks to increased streaming of anime on services in tandem with the global pandemic, which resulted in larger streaming numbers than normal. It's only natural that manga sales would follow popularity in anime, as it gives those same viewers an opportunity to catch some of their favorite moments from an anime in its original form. It also allows those same viewers to get ahead of the anime, as manga stories are often further along than their televised counterparts.
Titles for popular anime have become increasingly abundant on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. With Funimation and Crunchyroll soon to become one, competition among streaming services over bigger anime titles only further demonstrates that its popularity is here to say, and manga sales behind it.
2020's most popular manga include Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba at the top spot, with a record-breaking 82 million copies sold, a feat no other title came close to that year. Behind it are series such as Kingdom, One Piece, Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan, all with figures in the millions. Current popular titles like Chainsaw Man and Komi Can't Communicate are expected to receive anime adaptions in the fall, so it's likely readers can expect to see those titles on a future year-end list as well.