The 15 Most Profitable Anime Series Of All Time, Ranked

The anime industry has seen a remarkable surge in growth since its inception. Thanks to the widespread availability of streaming platforms and traditional networks, anime has evolved into a global sensation. It stands as one of Japan’s most significant cultural exports, boasting a multibillion-dollar market that continues to thrive unabated.

Despite the plethora of shows and narratives available, even the most ardent enthusiasts find it challenging to keep pace with the constant stream of releases.

While there are various metrics to gauge the success of an anime franchise, commercial prosperity and financial earnings stand out as the most evident indicators.

The value of an anime franchise fluctuates in tandem with the prevailing cultural trends and the reception of its latest offerings or the absence thereof. In light of this, we have expanded our list to encompass five additional top-grossing anime series.

Pretty Cure and 14 Other Most Profitable Anime Series of All Time

Here is a list of the top 15 anime series that were way more profitable for the creators.

15. Pretty Cure

While Pretty Cure may not enjoy the same level of recognition globally as it does in Japan, it stands tall as one of the nation’s most lucrative anime franchises.

Despite emerging on the scene long after the magical girl craze had waned, Pretty Cure made an immediate impact upon its debut in 2004, swiftly asserting itself as the dominant force in magical girl anime throughout the 2000s.

The bulk of Pretty Cure’s revenue stemmed from its extensive range of merchandise, raking in an impressive sum of nearly $9 billion solely through sales. A key factor in its enduring success and dedicated fanbase lies in its accessibility.

Each new installment of Pretty Cure caters to a fresh generation of viewers, ensuring the franchise’s perpetual relevance in the high-grossing anime.

While its sales figures are certainly commendable, Pretty Cure finds itself at the lower end of the spectrum among the top earners despite amassing a substantial $8 billion in revenue.

14. Demon Slayer

Demon Slayer stands out as the lone contender from the 2010s to secure a spot among the highest-grossing anime of all time. A fusion of impeccable animation, gripping narrative, and fortuitous timing propelled this standout series from a surprise hit in 2019 to a powerhouse of profitability in the anime world.

The immense success of Demon Slayer not only raised its status but also catapulted the original manga by author Koyoharu Gotouge to the summit of best-seller lists.

Kyojuro Rengoku (Demon Slayer) | ufotable

At present, Demon Slayer boasts a staggering global sales figure exceeding 150 million manga volumes. Its formidable net worth is further augmented by stellar television and streaming ratings, while its cultural and political relevance only serves to enhance its already illustrious reputation.

With the anime adaptation still ongoing, Demon Slayer’s financial success is poised to ascend even higher before it reaches its much-anticipated end.

13. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

For many English-speaking enthusiasts, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure truly gained traction in 2012 with the release of its anime adaptation.

However, in Japan, the saga had already established itself as one of the highest-grossing anime franchises since its inception in 1987. Prior to its anime breakthrough, Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure enjoyed immense success as a manga, boasting sales exceeding 120 million copies.

Jonathan Joestar From Jojo | Hirohiko Araki

The franchise’s triumph in Japan transcended mere manga sales, as it ventured into worlds ranging from video games to live-action adaptations.

Yet, perhaps the most significant measure of its groundbreaking impact lies in its transformative influence on the shonen storytelling.

The innovative approach of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure reshaped the conventions of narrative delivery in the genre, leaving an indelible mark that continues to reverberate throughout contemporary anime.

12. Naruto

Given its profound cultural impact on audiences worldwide, it comes as no surprise that Naruto’s financial standing has propelled it to the ranks of the highest-grossing anime in history.

The martial arts odyssey of Naruto primarily owes its success to its manga roots, yet its anime adaptation, immortalized as one of Shonen Jump’s Big Three, undeniably played a pivotal role in solidifying its status as a household name.

Jiraiya (Naruto Shippuden) | Pierrot

Naruto’s triumph extended beyond animation, branching out into movies, video games, and collaborations with other equally iconic anime franchises. A key factor in its enduring prosperity lies in its sprawling narrative, which seems boundless in its scope.

Despite the divisive reception of Boruto: Naruto Next Generations as a legacy sequel, it undeniably contributed to sustaining Naruto’s profitability.

At its core, Naruto is a profoundly resonant tale centering around the indomitable spirit of its protagonist, Naruto Uzumaki.

His journey, marked by unwavering determination and a commitment to surmounting prejudice and enmity, resonates deeply as a timeless saga of perseverance, redemption, and the pursuit of global harmony.

11. Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon chronicles the valiant efforts of Usagi Tsukino to safeguard Earth as the eponymous magical girl. Beyond its amazing narrative, Sailor Moon holds a distinguished position as a trailblazer within the anime.

Breaking barriers in a predominantly male-dominated world, it emerged as one of the pioneering blockbuster shojo anime and soared to become one of the highest-grossing anime franchises of all time.

Sailor Moon | Netflix

Debuting in 1992, Sailor Moon swiftly ascended to the zenith as the quintessential shojo and magical girl series, a title it has retained ever since. While the original Sailor Moon anime ended its main storyline years ago, its enduring legacy continues to thrive primarily through merchandise sales.

Nevertheless, Sailor Moon’s journey is far from over, with new movies and other ventures slated for the future, ensuring its enduring presence in the annals of anime history.

10. KochiKame: Tokyo Beat Police

KochiKame: Tokyo Beat Police may not ring a bell for most audiences outside of Japan, yet within its home country, it holds an esteemed position as one of the highest-grossing anime in history.

More than just a cultural footnote, KochiKame stands as a veritable institution within both the anime industry and Japanese society at large.

KochiKame | Gallop

Commencing its serialization in 1976 and ending a remarkable four decades later in 2016, KochiKame remains a financial powerhouse, generating revenue through reprints, merchandise sales, and commemorative reruns of its anime and movies.

While new content may be scarce, KochiKame persists as an enduring sitcom and cultural touchstone, solidifying its status as one of the premier anime series in terms of financial success despite its relative obscurity in the Western hemisphere compared to the juggernauts of shonen anime.

9. Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion revolutionized the mecha genre by offering a groundbreaking portrayal of the darker aspects of piloting giant robots, subverting traditional anime tropes.

Through its depiction of teenagers compelled to combat monsters with their Evangelion, the series introduced a level of gravitas previously unseen in mecha anime, earning it acclaim as one of the greatest anime of all time.

Neon Genesis Evangelion | Tatsunoko Production

Despite its enduring legacy and status as one of the highest-grossing anime franchises, a significant portion of Evangelion’s revenue stems from pachinko machines.

Additionally, the franchise garners substantial profits from the royalties of its iconic music. In total, Evangelion’s sales have surpassed nearly $9 billion, cementing its position as a financial juggernaut in the anime.

8. Yu-Gi-Oh!

Yu-Gi-Oh! stood out in the anime with its focus on a card game, providing it with a distinct advantage over its counterparts.

While ostensibly centered around Yugi Muto’s journey to become a legendary card duelist, the series’ true priority lay in serving as a promotional platform for its titular card game.

Yu-Gi-Oh! | Netflix

Unsurprisingly, Yu-Gi-Oh!’s advertising strategy proved highly effective. Sales from the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game alone soared to over $11 billion, emerging as the franchise’s primary and most lucrative revenue stream.

Meanwhile, the anime series and movies of Yu-Gi-Oh! Enjoying financial success, their earnings pale in comparison to the staggering profits generated by the cards themselves.

7. One Piece

One Piece stands as one of the longest-running anime series of all time, boasting an impressive tally of over 1,087 episodes. Its enduring popularity can be attributed to its vast and devoted fanbase, as well as a narrative that seems boundless in its scope.

The anime chronicles the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his crew as they begin on a quest to discover the fabled One Piece treasure and secure Luffy’s title as the King of the Pirates.

Luffy In Gear 5 From One Piece (Credits: Eiichiro Oda)

Since its debut in 1999, One Piece has maintained unwavering ratings and earnings.

While the anime series and movies have achieved blockbuster success, the bulk of One Piece’s net worth is derived from merchandise and video game sales.

As the series progresses into its final arc, it is anticipated to continue its financial ascent, further solidifying its status as one of the most lucrative franchises in anime history.

6. First Of The North Star

Fist of the North Star emerged as a revolutionary franchise during the 1980s, playing a pivotal role in establishing anime’s presence overseas. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the narrative revolves around Kenshiro, a formidable martial artist on a quest to safeguard the innocent and vulnerable from various adversaries.

First Of The North Star | Tetsuo Hara

Despite its vintage origins, Fist of the North Star remains among the highest-grossing anime franchises to date. Surprisingly, a significant portion of its financial success stems from pachinko machines, which have generated a staggering $14 billion in sales.

While the quintessentially ’80s Fist of the North Star may have fewer releases in recent years, each new installment continues to command a respectable sum upon its release.

5. The Dragon Ball 

Dragon Ball stands as an enduring icon among the highest-grossing anime of all time, with amazing audiences since its inception in the ’80s, and continues to thrive to this day.

A beloved shonen classic, the series traces the journey of Son Goku from his youth to adulthood, with its title derived from the mystical Dragon Balls that possess wish-granting powers when collected in full.

A significant portion of Dragon Ball’s revenue stems from video games and merchandise sales, underscoring its immense commercial success.

Goku | Dragon Ball (Credits Akira Toriyama)

Recent blockbuster movies have further solidified its status as a titan in the anime industry. With its impeccable animation and unwavering popularity, Dragon Ball shows no signs of slowing down, with plans for future releases already in the pipeline.

Renowned for its broad appeal among action enthusiasts worldwide, Dragon Ball ranks among the highest-grossing anime of all time.

Its enduring legacy is a witness to its unparalleled resonance and cultural significance, placing it among the elite few in the anime that have achieved such monumental success.

4. Mobile Suit Gundam

It’s widely recognized that Mobile Suit Gundam soared to become one of the highest-grossing anime franchises in history, largely due to its toy sales.

While the classic Mobile Suit Gundam anime and its numerous retellings enjoyed success, the franchise owes its very existence to its model kits, known as Gunplas, which consistently outsell all other merchandise.

Mobile Suit Gundam | Yoshiyuki Tomino

A pivotal factor in Gundam’s enduring prosperity lies in its ability to adapt to contemporary trends. Despite maintaining its core themes and narratives, each new Gundam anime installment is tailored to resonate with the sensibilities of its respective era’s youth.

This deliberate approach ensures that a fresh Gundam tale is crafted for every decade and generation, further solidifying its relevance and appeal across diverse audiences.

3. Anpanman

Anpanman may not be a household name beyond Japan, but within the country, it reigns as a beloved children’s anime. The series revolves around a superhero whose head is a delectable cake filled with red bean paste—a traditional Japanese treat known as “anpan”—who defends the world against the villainous germ, Baikinman.

Anpanman | TMS Entertainment

Parents understand the unwavering dedication children have to the things they love. It’s no surprise then that nearly all of Anpanman’s revenue stems from retail sales of Anpanman-themed merchandise for kids.

Additionally, a significant portion of its earnings, amounting to nearly $14 billion, can be attributed to ticket sales for the Yokohama Anpanman Children’s Museum.

2. Hello Kitty

To many, Hello Kitty epitomizes a merchandising icon rather than a prominent anime character. Notably, Hello Kitty’s revenue stream is predominantly fueled by merchandise sales, prompting some to view its numerous, albeit often overlooked, anime as little more than promotional vehicles for licensed goods and apparel.

Hello Kitty | Yuko Shimizu

This perception gained validation in 2014 when estimates suggested that Hello Kitty could rake in a staggering $8 billion annually. It’s reasonable to assume that this figure has only escalated in the years since.

While Hello Kitty’s cartoons and movies may not serve as lucrative cash cows, it appears that maximizing profits through media ventures was never the primary focus of this franchise.

1. Pokémon

It comes as no surprise that Pokémon reigns as the highest-grossing anime franchise in history. While The Pokémon Company ceased publicizing Pokémon’s total worth in 2019, estimations placed its value at approximately $71 billion at that time. By 2022, this figure purportedly surged to surpass $100 billion.

Despite boasting an immensely successful anime, trading card game, and video game lineup, licensed merchandising emerges as Pokémon’s primary revenue driver.

Pokémon | Satoshi Tajiri

Sales of licensed merchandise, including toys and books, consistently surpass those of Pokémon’s video games, manga, cards, and anime combined.

With its formidable presence across various mediums, this juggernaut franchise has solidified its status as the highest-grossing anime of all time and shows no signs of relinquishing its title in the foreseeable future.