Did Demon Slayer Really Outsell the Entire Comics Industry in 2020?

There is no denying the popularity of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. The franchise has broken almost every record there is when it comes to sales whether they be manga, anime, or film. The hit series remains an unprecedented success, so you can see why industry leaders have been comparing sales of manga to North American comics. But now, the question is being asked whether Demon Slayer really outsold the entire comic industry stateside last year.

And the answer to that question? Well, it is not clear at the moment. If sales trends in the U.S. remained untouched in 2020, the truth would lead fans to a tie, but there is a slight issue of the pandemic to consider. Let's investigate, shall we?

Demon Slayer Records
(Photo: Shueisha)

There is no doubt that 2020 put a major bust on industries globally in light of the pandemic. This was no different for manga or comic books, but production delays with the former were solved rather quickly. According to financial reports and various sales charts, manga exploded in popularity in 2020 with major gains year-over-year despite the pandemic. In Japan, this boost was all thanks to Demon Slayer, but those same stats aren't clear in the United States.

According to Chomicron, the site has yet to pull together sales info for 2020 when it comes to comic sales. The issue comes down to a rift between Diamond as the distributor was once the only vendor for retailers to order comics from. The pandemic prompted several major publishers like Marvel and DC to begin distributions of their own when Diamond had to shut down operations temporarily in light of COVID-19. All of this means data reporting is massively inconsistent for 2020, but we do have trends to look at.

At best, we can assume no change in trends happened in comics this past year despite the pandemic. In that case, total units sold in 2019 numbed 83.2 million after dropping 1.2 million year-over-year. If that exact same scenario repeated in 2020, there were roughly 82 million comics sold in 2020 regardless of distributor at the absolute best.

Now, let's compare that figure to Demon Slayer. This one series alone is published through Shueisha who keeps records of sales from each region distributor. This means we know exactly how many copies of this manga were sold in 2020, and it is a lot. A total of 82.34 million copies of Demon Slayer were sold last year. This figure does outperform the best case estimate of the U.S. comics industry, and that is nuts in and of itself.

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However, there is no knowing whether Demon Slayer won hands down or not. It is safe to say the manga industry overall sold more than the U.S. comics industry considering just one series may have toppled it alone. But without the hard data from Diamond and other distributors, we can only guess at how divided the two industries are.

What do you make of this debate? Are you shocked by how well Demon Slayer sold last year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or hit me up on Twitter @MeganPetersCB.