2014 was somewhat tame in terms of anime; sure, there were some decent releases, but nothing really exploded on screen like in previous years.
That isn't a bad thing, but sometimes, as an otaku, it is nice to have that one anime which is so thrilling to watch that you cannot wait to devour every last episode in your possession.
Manga never disappoints; every new year has a star or two that shines above the rest, whether new or old. And in 2014 the Big Three were fairly popular talking points for different reasons- Naruto for its finale and Bleach for what some people viewed as a leap in quality, others as a continued slump in this final arc.
The One Piece conversation however didn't change much, with the same old issue arising no matter the forum you frequent: the decline of One Piece.
For most One Piece fans, discussions of One Piece declining are just bitterness and jealousy manifesting from manga fans that simply cannot help but whine about the popularity of a manga they cannot stand in light of poorer performances from their own favorite titles.
Yet, being a mild One Piece fan myself, I don’t think this issue should be dismissed so casually, especially in light of recent sales figures.
And I have chosen to use Naruto and Attack on Titan to answer this question.
So, Is One Piece Declining in Popularity?
Well, a better question is:+DOES IT MATTER?
Whether or not we are willing to admit it, the simple answer is: yes. It is a naturally reaction of the typical individual; if you like something, you want everyone else to like it just as much, or at least so much more than what someone else likes and which you aren’t very keen on.
Practically it doesn’t matter; if One Piece suddenly dropped to the bottom of the sales list in 2015, I highly doubt that would compel any fan of the Manga to actually drop One Piece, not unless the only reason they read it was to keep up with popular trends in the industry.
Technically, people do care how well their favorite series are doing.
And that leads back to the primary question of this post: Is One Piece Declining in Popularity? Has this emperor of Manga began to witness its last days at the top?
The simple answer is YES
, and I will argue these two points briefly by contrasting One Piece against Naruto and SNK.+ONE PIECE VS ATTACK ON TITAN
Let’s look at this practically; has One Piece began its decline? Take away all the bias and all the figures seem to be pointing towards a resounding YES
Think about this; all the hullabaloo revolving around 2014’s Top 30 Manga List
seemed to emanate from the fact that One Piece had somehow come out ahead and continued to reign even over Attack on Titan as the biggest manga in the world.
But let’s be realistic here; One Piece might have sold more copies in 2014 than any other manga but it isn’t reigning over Attack on Titan, not when both of them sold approximately 11 Million copies.
The 200,000 copies that One Piece sold more than AOT allowed the manga to maintain its top position, but One Piece hardly destroyed the competition.
In which case you could argue that both titles tied in the top place, more or less, right? Well, not quite.
An interesting point to note; Attack on Titan sold 13 Million copies in 2013, which means a drop of 2 Million between those two years.
A damning decline, right? Not really, not in comparison to One Piece which sold roughly 18 Million copies in 2013.Yes, 18 Million, that is a drop of 7 Million copies in sales. Yes, 7 BLOODY MILLION copies.
You might be wondering why this topic, all this talk about One Piece finally falling, will not die.
Well, no one would be talking about it if both AOT and One Piece were only separated by 200,000 copies but still managed to squeeze out 20 Million copies each; even 15 million copies would have been an acceptable drop.
7 MILLION! Say what you want about the fickle nature of otaku, you cannot ignore that drop in figures.
So, YES, One Piece is most definitely declining in popularity. And this is in comparison to Tokyo Ghoul which leaped forward by a whopping 5 Million copies, skipping from number 23 to 3 on the table.
When it comes to retaining its crown at the top, One Piece should be worried. If we are talking about the real winners of 2014, that would have to be Attack on Titan followed by Tokyo Ghoul and then One Piece.+ONE PIECE VS. NARUTO
Study Naruto over the last few years and the first thing you notice is the manga rarely falls out of the top five ranked titles of each year; more important however are its figures.
Naruto is one of the more stable series on this list, sometimes hitting 6 Million and even 7 Million but mainly standing around the 5 Million mark. Its position on the list might change but that is largely due to series either rising or falling around it.
Naruto itself rarely undergoes drastic changes.
And why is that? After all, as so many otaku like to phrase it on the internet, Naruto has been ‘Shit’ for a very long time. So who buys the volumes?
Well, it’s simple really.
Kishimoto has, for several years now, been writing specifically for his fans, and those fans like what he’s been creating; it is odd that so many people would raise their voices to complain about the direction Naruto has taken over the last five years, only for Kishimoto to continue along his pre-determined story, with no attempt to make any major alterations (that we know of).
And why would he? For all the complaints, Naruto is still pretty popular; Kishimoto has always known the Naruto story he’s always wanted to tell, and those people that have continued to purchase Naruto over the last four years, they like what Naruto has become.
They are what one would call true Naruto fans; they would have continued to purchase those Naruto volumes had the manga continued for another ten years. And that’s because that so called ‘shit’ is what they like. Kishimoto found his core fan base a few years ago and he hooked them, those few million people that were ready to stick with him till the end.
And how does that apply to One Piece? Naruto is the future that One Piece is eventually going to become.
Consider how One Piece came to reign over the manga industry. How exactly did that explosion of popularity happen? Someone is most likely going to say something about One Piece’s consistently quality story line.
And I would disagree. Here’s why One Piece became the best selling manga in history: Hype.
There was a point in time during the latter stages of the Sabody Archipelago arc when the One Piece hype train first began picking up; that point where One Piece became that hushed whisper no manga reader could avoid.
Then the story hit Impel Down and the Hype train picked up tremendous speed; by the time Marine Ford came around, One Piece was on fire; it was that manga trend you simply had to try your hand at if only to figure out what all the fuss was about.
And that is when a massive portion of new readers made the jump to One Piece; we are talking about otaku who had consistently refused to give Oda’s masterpiece a chance finally giving in, flicking through these massive arcs and becoming immediate converts to a manga that proved to be everything everyone said it would be and more.
You can follow this trend with Attack on Titan, a flea of a manga that became a giant simply because of hype; the difference here, though, is Attack on Titan can actually sustain its hype.
Fans jumped onboard because of the cool action complimented by the shocking gore and unpredictability of the story; and that is what we have been getting from Shingeki no Kyojin for the last few years.
That is what we can expect the manga to keep generating for the foreseeable future; Attack on Titan is here to stay, and who knows what will happen when the second anime season premiers in 2016.
You cannot say the same thing for One Piece; the Marineford crowd came bursting out of One Piece’s greatest arc expecting Oda to not only maintain that pace but possibly even build upon the scope.
What they instead got was a very mediocre fish man island; Punk Hazard picked up the pace but even the few highlights didn’t make the arc anything special, and the current Dressrossa arc might boast some really explosive moments, but it also had some of the slowest chapters in a while.
Observe this trend and a rational pattern emerges; you have a new horde of One Piece fans, largely enamored by three of One Piece’s greatest arcs, exiting the Marionford story, expecting Marioneford2.0 at the other end.
Oda doesn’t deliver in this regard, and they start to slip away one by one.
It might not make sense if you consider the fact that these three arcs, including Fishman Island, where largely decent during their run; why would a few dissatisfying chapters and some slow pacing alienate so many people?
And the answer is simple: it wouldn’t, if they were One Piece fans; except that this isn’t a crowd of One Piece fans that I am talking about, but Marineford fans.
So, the question: Is One Piece declining?
Well, technically, No. Rather the chaff is simply falling away, those persons for whom the highs of One Piece were Marineford and Impel down. It is these buyers for whom the current One Piece has become an unworthy investment. This same crowd is simply waiting for the next big One Piece arc to arrive to jump on board once more.+CONCLUSION
Let me just say that the One Piece anime hasn't done any favors for the manga; as so many people have suggested, we need to get Madhouse on this project.
One Piece is just at its halfway point; and as it progresses, it is going to fluctuate, with different arcs attracting fans in the millions, while others might alienate an even bigger number.
Eventually it is bound to create that core fan base, for whom One Piece is perfect as it is and who will stick with the show for the next 10 to 20 years.
You cannot really predict where One Piece will eventually stabilize; it might be at 2 Million; it might be at 30 Million. One thing’s for sure.
Nothing lasts forever and no king can remain unchallenged.
One Piece will be dethroned, eventually; and that should be a good thing, because by the time a new manga takes that top spot, it will have proven its worth in terms of quality characters and storytelling, hopefully in a manner that blows One Piece out of the water.
And that can only work in the favor of us manga fans who only want to read great manga stories.