The expansion of the anime sector has experienced a surge in recent years, and its triumph in the global market is equally astonishing. Prosperity is flowing into the embrace of various media franchises annually, further augmenting their financial standing in the industry.
However, have you ever pondered the revenue generated by an anime series? Let me give you a hint, if you combine the top six highest-earning anime franchises revenue, it becomes 10 times more than the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Total Revenue: Approximately $29.55 Billion).
And now, you might be wondering which anime franchise has the highest revenue of all time. If you’re thinking about One Piece or Naruto being at the top, you might be surprised to learn that these beloved Shonen series aren’t even in the top six list.
Let’s take a look at the list of the top six highest-grossing anime franchises of all time (ranked).
6. Fist Of The North Star (Total Revenue: $22 Billion)
Fist of the North Star, which began in the 1980s, was a groundbreaking series that played a crucial role in advancing the global reach of anime. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it follows Kenshiro, a powerful martial artist dedicated to protecting innocent people from wicked adversaries.
Fist of the North Star remains a cherished intellectual property that continues to generate revenue. The bulk of its earnings from the anime come from pachinko machines, amassing an impressive $14 billion. Despite infrequent new Fist of the North Star releases, they still prove to be lucrative when they do emerge.
5. Dragon Ball (Total Revenue: $23 Billion)
Dragon Ball, a legendary and iconic anime series, was born in the 1980s and has maintained a lasting presence in the anime realm. It tells the shonen tale of Son Goku’s life, from childhood to adulthood, and takes its name from the mystical Dragon Balls, seven magical orbs capable of granting wishes when gathered.
A significant part of Dragon Ball’s income comes from video game sales and various merchandise. It’s noteworthy as the only shonen anime to rank among the top-grossing anime franchises. With ambitious plans for future releases, Dragon Ball demonstrates its steadfast dedication to the world of anime.
4. Mobile Suit Gundam (Total Revenue: $26 Billion)
Mobile Suit Gundam’s status as one of the highest-grossing anime franchises is primarily attributed to merchandise sales, particularly its model kits known as Gunplas. The classic Mobile Suit Gundam anime and its numerous adaptations also contribute significantly to the franchise’s success.
Gundam’s sustained prosperity can also be attributed to its ability to evolve with the times. While the fundamental themes and plotlines of Gundam remained consistent, each new Gundam anime was customized for the youth of its specific era. This ensured that a fresh Gundam story was introduced for each succeeding decade and generation.
3. Anpanman (Total Revenue: $60 Billion)
Anpanman may not be well-known to those outside of Japan, but it’s a beloved children’s anime series within the country. It tells the story of a hero with a face made of a Japanese confection called “Pan,” which is a cake filled with sweet red bean paste. This heroic character is devoted to protecting the world from the threat of Baikinman, the germ-themed antagonist.
Parents are familiar with the unwavering dedication children have for things they love. It’s no surprise that most of Anpanman’s revenue comes from children’s merchandise featuring the beloved character. Notably, nearly $14 billion of Anpanman’s earnings comes from ticket sales at the Yokohama Anpanman Children’s Museum.
2. Hello Kitty (Total Revenue: $80 Billion)
Hello Kitty is often seen more as a marketing icon than a central anime character for many people. It’s not surprising that merchandise sales are the primary, if not the sole, source of revenue for Hello Kitty.
In 2014, there was an estimate that Hello Kitty could generate an annual income of approximately $8 billion, highlighting the brand’s primary focus on merchandise rather than anime. Since then, this estimated figure has likely increased. While Hello Kitty’s anime and movies may not be the main sources of revenue, they were never the central focus of the franchise.
1. Pokémon (Total Revenue: $100 Billion)
It’s not surprising that Pokémon is the anime series with the highest revenue. In 2019, The Pokémon Company stopped disclosing the individual value of each Pokémon, but it was estimated that the Pokémon franchise was worth around $71 billion at that time. By 2022, this overall net worth was projected to have exceeded $100 billion.
While Pokémon’s anime, trading card games, and video games are substantial contributors to the franchise’s profitability, the primary source of income for the company comes from licensed merchandise. Sales of licensed Pokémon products like toys and books often surpass the sales of Pokémon series, manga, cards, and video games.