The Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Manga Series - #5 through #1
Last week we took a look at the Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Manga Series - #10 through #6, a list that consisted of a few buried treasures such as Samurai Deeper Kyo and Chibi Vampire to popular series that have retained their relevance today such as Cardcaptor Sakura and Kingdom Hearts. This week we finish off the remainder of TokyoPop’s list of best-sellers with #5 through #1.
# 5 - DN Angel
DN Angel is a shojo manga about a boy named Daisuke who at the age of 14 finds himself transforming into a famous phantom thief named Dark, a transformation that happens to all males in his family once they come of age. The twist to this already strange premise is that Daisuke transforms into Dark whenever he sees his crush Risa, but his alter ego Dark transforms back into Daisuke whenever he sees his crush Riku...a girl who happens to be Risa’s twin sister!
Of the manga series that have fallen under TokyoPop’s Top 10 Best-seller list DN Angel is the one that I was the least familiar with. After reading a bit of the supernatural comedy I have found it to be quite a treat, a beautiful old school treat. DN Angel’s trope of transforming characters is a throwback to anime and manga from the 90s and 2000s such as Ranma ½ and the similarly named DNA2, a trope that I feel saw less use in manga as time went on. In addition to feeling nostalgic for a classic trope that was popular during my formative years as a manga fan, I find that I also enjoy the cute romance portrayed in the series, a romance that tells the story of a boy’s unrequited love but with shojo sensibilities. I feel that the period in which DN Angel was created was one in which there were many great works of romantic manga that appealed to both genders equally. What we have with DN Angel is an excellent example.
Unfortunately this once popular shojo series is one that had been put on hiatus a couple of times. The first hiatus occurred in August 2005. The series later came back into publication in April 2008 and continued long enough for a few volumes worth of content, but it unfortunately went back into hiatus and has yet to come back. There are fans to this day who wish for a satisfying end to DN Angel, but with creator Yukiru Sugisaki seeming ambivalent to continue it seems the ending will remain a mystery.
The thirteen volumes of DN Angel that TokyoPop published are available digitally from VIZ Media.
#4 - Sailor Moon
If there is one series in the Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Series list that needs no introduction it would be Sailor Moon. Along with Dragon Ball and Naruto, Sailor Moon has been one of the most well known and well loved manga and anime properties in the United States. While Sailor Moon has retained its relevance to this day, its current popularity pales in comparison to the mainstream level of success that it enjoyed in the 90s when the iconic magical girl anime aired on American television. It was in that era that TokyoPop released their edition of the Sailor Moon manga, and in that era it thrived.
If VIZ Media is the “House that Pokémon Built” (and Shonen Jump built a skyscraper on top of), then TokyoPop is the “House that Sailor Moon Built.” Before TokyoPop was ever known as TokyoPop it was a small company called Mixx Entertainment publishing a magazine titled MixxZine. MixxZine was a manga magazine that began in 1997 and featured series such as Magic Knight Reayearth, Parasyte, Ice Blade (yeah...I didn’t know what this was either) and, of course, Sailor Moon. The first three arcs of Sailor Moon ran in MixxZine, and simultaneously the third and fourth arcs were published in another TokyoPop magazine known as Smile. TokyoPop began their publication of the graphic novel edition of Sailor Moon in December 1998, a graphic novel that ended up being the earliest of TokyoPop’s best-selling series.
Taking into account the popularity and cultural significance of Sailor Moon it may seem odd that it is not higher on the list. One key reason why that is the case is the fact that TokyoPop lost the print rights to Sailor Moon in 2005. With the peak of the Manga Boom taking place from around 2006 to 2008 it was unfortunate that TokyoPop did not have print copies of one of their best-selling series available at a time in which fans wanted it the most. Had TokyoPop had volumes available towards the end of the decade it is possible that Sailor Moon would have been their best-selling series.
#3 - Chobits
Chobits is a unique and beautiful manga that falls into the rare category of science fiction romance. Created by CLAMP, Chobits is a manga that tells the story of a man named Hideki who stumbles upon an abandoned persocom, a personal computer with a human form, who he names Chi. Hideki notices very quickly that Chi is unlike other persocoms, and after seeking help finds out that she may be a Chobit, a legendary series of persocoms custom made to have free will and emotions. From there the series explores the origin and mystery of Chi, the complex experiences that Hideki’s friends and acquaintances have had with persocoms and the relationship between humans and persocoms.
While most notable works by CLAMP are shojo manga, Chobits is considered a seinen manga due to the fact that it ran in Weekly Young Magazine, a magazine known for series such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Initial D. Though Chobits is technically a seinen manga it retains CLAMP’s beautiful shojo influenced art style which attracted many fans of shojo manga. Additionally the sexuality portrayed in the series has a certain shojo sensibility about it, and the strange and forbidden relationships of many of the characters have shojo appeal as well. The beautiful art and intriguing love stories are top notch and are definitely a few of the most appealing factors of the classic CLAMP series, but what truly set Chobits apart was its unique exploration of artificial intelligence, the relationship between people and computers as well as reflections of human existence. Of the notable love stories involving a man and his machine, Chobits remains one of the best and most beautiful as well as one of the most philosophical and inquisitive.
Of the Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop series Chobits is one of the two that is nearest and dearest to my heart. It is a series that I borrowed from a girl I carpooled with as a freshman in high school, a time which I consider the start of my love of manga. I was also a big fan of the Chobits anime. To this day I still listen to the opening song, Let Me Be With You by Round Table, with some regularity. When I was fourteen years old I would watch the Chobits opening wishing I could enjoy the beautiful song and animation while sharing a blanket with a cute girl. It seems some things don’t change even after close to two decades.
Chobits is currently available in two bind-up volumes published by Dark Horse.
#2 - Love Hina
At #2 we have an ancient specimen of harem manga with Love Hina. This romantic comedy manga tells the story of Keitaro Urashima who has ambitions to enter Tokyo University in order to fulfill a childhood promise with a girl, one who was his first love but who he also has forgotten the name of. Unfortunately for Keitaro he has failed the entrance exam twice and finds that his parents no longer wish to support him. Fortunately for Keitaro his grandmother has given him the deeds to her hotel and has given him the duty of manager. However Keitaro finds that the so-called hotel is actually an all girls’ dormitory, and it is there that Keitaro finds himself with the challenge of balancing his studies, managerial duties and romantic drama all at the same time.
While Love Hina is far from being the first harem manga in existence it was definitely one of the first to become a big hit in America. With so many works of harem manga and anime available today it is easy to take for granted that there was a time in which the many tropes and themes common to harem manga, such as an irredeemable male protagonist who has trouble with women, a tsundere love interest and instances of accidental nudity, felt fresh. A time in which these harem tropes and themes were relatively fresh was back in May 2002, the time in which Love Hina made its English language debut. As a series that was already finished in Japan by the time it reached American shores, TokyoPop was able to release volumes on a monthly basis for majority of Love Hina’s run. As such the fourteen volume harem classic was a best-seller from start to finish and retained solid sales until TokyoPop lost the license to all of their Kodansha properties in 2009.
Like Chobits, Love Hina is one of the series that I read in my high school carpool and one that I consider one of my first manga series. While I have much fondness and nostalgia for Love Hina I recognize that it doesn’t really stand out from other harem manga. As such it has slowly but surely lost significance as time went on. Today’s generation of manga and anime fans have very low recognition for Love Hina or other works by creator Ken Akamatsu. In fact when taking a look at the sales for the Kodansha Comics’ 2011 omnibus release of Love Hina the sales were quite a bit lower than their omnibus release of Tokyo Mew Mew published at the same time. While Tokyo Mew Mew was also a best-selling series for TokyoPop (it ranks as their #11 best-selling series) its sales were less than half of Love Hina’s, however today Tokyo Mew Mew definitely stands out as a more unique series. In comparison Love Hina seems like many other currently available harem anime and manga except with an “older” art style. Who needs Love Hina when you have Nisekoi?
Love Hina is currently available in an omnibus edition that wraps up the classic harem manga in five volumes through Kodansha Comics.
#1 - Fruits Basket
As anyone who bought manga in the 2000s could have guessed, the top selling manga series published by TokyoPop was Fruits Basket. The iconic shojo reverse-harem manga tells the story of a girl named Tohru Honda who is homeless until she stumbles upon the house where her classmate Yuki Sohma, a boy considered to be the most popular in her class, lives with his uncle. It is there that Yuki finds a home but where she also finds that every member of the Sohma family is under a curse in which if they come in contact with a member of the opposite sex they transform into a different animal of the Chinese zodiac. It is from there that Yuki decides to help the Sohma family by figuring out a way to save them from their curse.
To say the least Fruits Basket was a megahit in the 2000s. If you liked anime, manga or anything Japanese you knew what Fruits Basket was. The anime adaptation of Fruits Basket was undeniably popular, but the popularity of the anime was far overshadowed by the amazing success of TokyoPop’s edition of the manga. The first volume of the iconic series released in February 2004 was TokyoPop’s single best-selling title, but what might be even more impressive are the volume sales that followed. Fruits Basket remained a best-seller until TokyoPop released the final volume in July 2009, each volume selling at a quantity higher than most manga series’ cumulative sales. Sales of TokyoPop’s edition of Fruits Basket sold more than their total sales of Love Hina, Chobits and Sailor Moon, their #2-4 top-selling series, combined. The success of Fruits Basket ran from the moment the iconic manga was released until end of TokyoPop’s North American operation.
Though Fruits Basket once reigned as one of the most significant and successful manga properties in the 2000s, it has slowly lost its significance in the same way that Love Hina has lost its significance. Yen Press re-released Fruits Basket in June 2016. It debuted as one of the most successful shojo launches of the year, but as successful as its re-release was it was a small fraction of the megahit success that helped carry TokyoPop through the 2000s. Fans of Fruits Basket from the 2000s still seem to have fondness for the classic shojo manga, but the series has had trouble attracting new fans. One possible reason this is the case is that shojo manga is not quite as successful in North America as it was in the days of TokyoPop. Another reason is that as popular as Fruits Basket was it was not unique enough to stand out as time went on. There have been recent works of supernatural reverse-harem romance such as Kamisama Kiss and The Demon Prince of Momochi House with the similar themes and art styles that are more appealing to today’s fans. Though Fruits Basket may not be a major player in today’s market, it will forever be remembered as one of the most popular manga series released in English and one that helped establish manga as the successful bookstore category that it is known as today.
The Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition by Yen Press finishes the iconic shojo manga in twelve volumes.