The Pirate King of Shonen
Guest writer: Maxim#0001
You would be hard-pressed to find an avid fan of manga & anime that hasn’t heard of One Piece before. The record breaking cult status series centers around the quest of a boy named Luffy who’s set on becoming Pirate King and finding the greatest treasure, the legendary “One Piece.” The full series follows his journey, alongside his crew, the Strawhat Pirates.
One Piece has and continues to receive rave reviews due to its storytelling, world building, unpredictability, foreshadowing, touching character flashbacks & humor. We move on from island to island where each one has its own rules and unique concepts. Oda (the mangaka) sprinkles bits of important information in each arc that you only discover as relevant much later on in the story. This only fuels the countless Youtubers theorizing on what happens next. The series is mainly focused on characterization, more so than character development; but even then, every Nakama of Luffy’s is unique, has a touching backstory, and adds to the overall series with their quirks and personalities.
If you’re into manga and anime you surely came across One Piece fans that at some point recommended it to you as you were hesitant to start the long running series. The start seems daunting, despite how most One Piece fans can vouch that this long and unique journey more than pays off in the long run.
The part of One Piece that resonates with its fans so much is probably the core theme. There are various themes of regret, racism, corruption, friendship and adventure, but the one theme that stands out most and that the series continues to come back to is chasing after your dreams.
Almost every character in the story is pursuing a larger goal of some kind. For some it’s marriage, for others atoning for past sins, becoming the greatest swordsman ever, keeping a promise with an old friend, bettering the relationship between different races, trying to reach the moon, and of course, becoming the pirate king.
Even if this pirate shonen series is one of a kind, people unfamiliar with the series are hesitant to catch up to nearly 900 episodes as it takes a lot of time but would you rather watch seasonal anime instead of watching an ongoing classic anime/manga that already made history? I can’t stress enough how much people are missing out on. I have yet to come across an individual that’s up to date and can’t vouch for One Piece being a journey you should follow and invest time in to get up to date.
The manga series was created in 1997 by Eiichiro Oda and has since become a prominent name in the culture with more than 900 manga chapters out as well as over 880 Episodes of the anime adaptation.
Oda has set a Guinness World Record for the most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author. It is the best selling comic series as well as the best selling manga of all time. It currently has 92 volumes out and was adapted into an anime in 1999 which also gained a lot of success.
It was recently stated by Oda that the long running manga series will end at a little bit over 100 volumes, which translates into a few more years before the journey will reach its conclusion. It’s been over 20 years since One Piece has been created and Oda is still writing and drawing with the same passion as when he started putting his soul into his work. You can definitely say One Piece is Oda.
Oda tends to avoid interviews with his face revealed as he doesn’t like the attention and he is highly respected by people that know him as well as his peers.
Eiichiro Oda, Oda-sensei or even Goda, as many fans call him, has had many inspirations for his series throughout the years that are noticeable when reading, starting with the children’s cartoon known as “Vicky The Viking” which he watched as a kid and later led him to grow to like pirates.
At 4 years of age, Oda had already decided to pursue a career in Manga because “You don’t have to get a real job”, yet now he spends 3 days a week drawing and 3 days a week writing to get a manga chapter out to release for the popular weekly Shonen Jump magazine with some occasional breaks now and then.
As a big fan of Dragon Ball’s creator Akira Toriyama, Oda also mirrored many traits and tropes off of Dragon Ball’s hero Son Goku for his own main character Monkey D. Luffy. He’s also made various crossover episodes combining One Piece with Dragon Ball characters.
Oda started his professional career as an assistant at the age of 17 in 1992 working for three different mangaka in the famous Shonen Jump magazine. He released his first work of art in the same year called Wanted! which earned him second place at the Tezuka Award. He first worked with Masaya Tokuhiro on Jungle King Ta-Chan in the same year. In 1994 Oda briefly worked with Shinobu Kaitani on Suizan Police Gang before going back to working with Tokuhiro. Later that year, Oda left college as a freshman. After Jungle King finished in 1995, Oda and Tokuhiro went and created Mizu no Tomodachi Kappaman, which ran from 1995 to 1996.
Also in 1996, Oda moved on to work with Nobuhiro Watsuki on Rurouni Kenshin where Oda drew scenes in his own art style. He also met Hiroyuki Takei during that time. Oda was without a doubt making a name for himself in the industry with the samurai-themed manga Rurouni Kenshin selling over 70 million copies and becoming one of the most watched Japanese TV-Shows after adaptation as well as gaining cult status.
During the years of 1993 and 1994 Oda created various other works such as God’s Gift for the Future (1993), Ikki Yako (1994) and Monsters (1994) the last of which elements would later be referenced in One Piece.
In late 1996, still working with Watsuki, Oda created two one-shots called Romance Dawn, Version 1 & 2 which became the prototypes for One Piece. In 1997 he quit working with Nobuhiro to start on One Piece, doing many sketches that appeared in Color Walk 1. Oda planned out the early stages of One Piece (chapters 1-8) before he officially began.
He has made many changes early on, such as changing Boogie to his character Buggy, having Zoro be a wandering swordsman instead of Buggy’s henchman and making Morgan not look like a Sumo, which his editor convinced him to do.
One idea that never made it into the series from the One Shot “Romance Dawn” was not so much an actual detail of the world of One Piece, but rather a thematic aspect where there were two types of pirates. As this is a series aimed at and not just for teenage boys, the image of many pirates should differ from the ones portrayed historically. As a result, violent, looting pirates that aimed to pillage were called “Morgania” and the pirates that fought those and went on adventures were known as “Peace Mains”. Even if those terms didn’t make it into the actual series, the core concept still did.
Nobuhiro later paid tribute to his former editor by drawing The Strawhat Pirates Jolly Roger as a One Piece reference on a bomb in one of Rurouni Kenshin’s manga chapters.
1997 is when Oda himself finally became a mangaka, drawing and releasing the first chapter of his dream work One Piece through Shonen Jump. The manga series got an anime adaptation by Toei Animation in 1999. To this day, people from Toei would often discuss with Oda how the anime should be handled. One Piece has 13 television specials out and 14 movies with the latest one called “One Piece Stampede” released on August 9th 2019. He was also involved in writing the scripts or contributing in some type of way for those movies.
“ONE PIECE STAMPEDE” | Official Trailer
One Piece was also never intended to be as long as it is now. Oda stated in the 23rd One Piece Log Book (A One Piece magazine), that the series was meant to conclude after 5 years and the main reason it hasn’t, is the creation of the Shichibukai, literally translating to “Royal Seven Warriors of the sea.”
It has a huge media franchise with 47 video games out, musicals, plays, as well as a variety of literature based on the series. There’s even a theme park in the Tokyo One Piece Tower which offers several games and attractions as well as entertainment and merchandise shops, restaurants, seasonal events and campaigns.
The series even received a tribute by the creator of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto, whom Oda described as a “friend and rival” by symbolically passing the torch to Oda’s ongoing series by drawing the Strawhat’s Jolly Roger on the final panel of the last chapter of Naruto.
One Piece is currently in the Wano arc and was applauded by it’s great animation. The series is something every Otaku should be a part of. The number of people starting One Piece increases each year even if it takes a long time to get up to date with the series.
Crowning One Piece the King of Shonen is a bold thing to do as that title depends on various things but it will surely go down in history with many records already broken, the loyal fanbase and surpassing its peers in many ways.