Recently, a thread appeared on Japan's largest net forum attempting to point out that the One Piece juggernaut was ending. Not sure about that, though.
Bandai releases various items, such as plush toys, figurines, notebooks, bento boxes, cups, t-shirts, video games, etc. Those licenses include Gundam, Power Rangers, Dragon Ball, Yokai Watch, and One Piece. Some of them are Bandai's properties, others, like Yokai Watch, are not.
Below, you can see how Bandai's total net sales for One Piece compare over the course of the 2012, 2013, and 2014 financial years. While One Piece did rebound in 2013, net character sales dropped in financial year 2014. Currently, Bandai is in the 2015 financial year and forecasting a future net sales slide for One Piece goods.
To break it down even further, here are the "toys and hobby business" net sales for each franchise. This focuses strictly on things like figurines, little statues, models, and the like.
And as you can see One Piece takes quite a big dive over the past three years. It is expected to decline even further.
But, does this mean that One Piece isn't popular anymore in Japan? It might mean that One Piece as a thing is less popular than the fever pitch it reached a few years back, but the manga itself is still going strong.
As Oricon pointed out this past July, One Piece was the second biggest selling manga series in Japan, right behind Attack on Titan, for the first half of this year. Now, a contrarian might say, well, One Piece used to be the biggest selling manga in Japan every year until it was knocked out of first place by Attack on Titan.
But it was the biggest selling manga for four years straight and is the biggest selling manga ever. So, what's your point? And for those doomsayers, One Piece vol. 73, which was released in March, sold 2.8 million copies, making it the only single volume manga to surpass the magic two million mark during the first half of this year and continue One Piece's six-year streak of the biggest selling single volume manga.
Eventually, yes, One Piece will be completely eclipsed by another manga series. All of its records will be shattered. Is Bandai selling less One Piece stuff? Oh yes. It is. This could be more generational than anything else. Kids today are buying other character goods, and that should not be confused with the anime and the manga's following.
So is Bandai selling more Yokai Watch stuff? You betcha—it's posting record-breaking numbers.
This is not a judgment on One Piece's quality, nor is an attempt to say One Piece doesn't have fans in Japan. However, it does appear that the One Piece juggernaut is winding down, with the juggernaut being more of a trend unto itself than a reflection of the actual work or the people who enjoy it. So let's not start calling the end of One Piece's popularity just yet. That ship hasn't yet sailed, and let's judge One Piece the best way we always have: By the work itself.
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