Tokyo Revengers is still rising in the ranks among international anime fans but it may have already found its niche in Japan. The manga is currently one of the best-selling titles in Japan, ranking alongside such mega-hits as Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer. In fact, according to Oricon's half-year rankings for this year, its immense sales mean that the once-obscure title is now outselling both One Piece and the final volumes of Attack on Titan.
Combining science fiction with the somewhat more esoteric world of gangster manga, Tokyo Revengers easily stands out among its more otherworldly competition. This sense of originality and the launch of its currently airing anime adaptation may be the key behind the series finally finding its footing in the world of Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine.
Tokyo Revengers' Success Over One Piece
Tokyo Revengers tells the story of Takemichi Hanagaki, a 20-something loser whose friends are killed by a local gang. When Takemichi is seemingly killed himself, he instead winds up going back in time 12 years. Upon returning to the present, he and his friend's brother, Naoto, discover that Takemichi can now travel through time, and hope to use the ability to save Naoto's sister. Likewise, they run afoul of local Japanese delinquent gangs, whose actions become even more violent the more Takemichi travels.
The series was created by Ken Wakui and began in 2017. Though it's gone under the radar for quite a while, it's now become quite popular in Japan, resulting in the aforementioned anime adaptation this year. The sales of the collected manga volumes have also shot up through the roof, making the book one of 2021's best-selling manga so far in the country -- ranking in Oricon's top five, while the almighty One Piece did not. In fact, Tokyo Revengers has sold over five million units so far this year, while One Piece has only sold slightly over one million. One Piece, despite its reputation, isn't untouchable, but is there more to the success being had by Wakui's gangster sci-fi story than just a dip in popularity for Eiichiro Oda's epic?
What Makes Tokyo Revengers So Good?
It's easy to scoff at and shrug off the current success of Tokyo Revengers as being derived a newer anime adaptation. The show of the same name is also currently airing, and this almost always drives huge demand for a series' original manga while driving the readership of its current chapters.
There's more to it than that, though; especially for it to be beating One Piece, of all books. Some of what Tokyo Revengers does so well is derived both from what it is and what it isn't. The science-fiction elements are fairly mundane, with the time-travel motif being conducted in a way that moves past many of that concept's more tired tropes. It's is a huge breath of fresh air within the current shonen landscape, itself starved for more grounded and realistic books. Though pure battle shonen manga are not as widespread in the genre as they once were, Shonen Jump still hosts several outlandish and fantastical books -- many of which are filled with supernatural elements of horror or science fiction. It's particularly similar to the series Steins;Gate, which was very popular a few years ago.
Tokyo Revengers' more realistic plot points also evoke the gangster and delinquent manga genres, both of which have been particularly glossed over in recent decades, owing to the rise in popularity of the aforementioned battle shonen, which feature increasingly exaggerated and unrealistic characters, concepts and circumstances. This, at one point, made street-level manga seem old-hat, but with the manga delinquent more scarce than ever, what once was old is now new again.
It might explain why it was crowned Best Shonen in Kodansha's 2020 Manga Awards, as the infusion of genres makes the action in Tokyo Revengers more exciting than most -- it's not yet another situation involving endless power-ups and ridiculous attacks. The still airing anime will likely result in only more exposure for the manga as the year goes on. Tokyo Revengers may be one time-travel and fistfight away from taking even more of the spotlight away from more shonen stalwarts.