Not only are almost 90% of One Piece readers adult, most of the adult readership is at or past middle-age and quickly getting older, a far cry from the kiddy image stereotypically associated with many shonen manga titles.
According to Kinokuniya statistics recently highlighted by NHK, One Piece reader demographics are almost 90% adult, and a majority of those are past 30:
1-12 – 3.0%
13-18 – 10.5%
19-29 – 37.4%
30-49 – 36.9%
50+ – 12.2%
Although NHK’s broadcast highlights “bonds of camaraderie” as being one of the secrets to One Piece’s success, there is a certain amount of suspicion that these answers are merely because “kizuna” (“bonds”) was proclaimed 2011 “kanji of the year” in the wake of the tsunami.
Unsurprisingly, the irony of a work romanticising wholesale piracy receiving such wholesome praise escapes comment.
Having run for some 15 years, there is also some suspicion that the mature character of One Piece’s readership is as much due to the ageing of readers as it is the title’s undeniably broad appeal – the last time TV trotted out these statistics, readers were apparently significantly younger: