Source: Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul 24, 2018)
Interview by Yayoi Kawatoko
Its popularity, the number of volumes it has in circulation, and the scale of its story are all overwhelming. When the momentum of One Piece—now celebrating its 21st anniversary of being serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump—will stop, no one knows. We sat down with author Eiichiro Oda to reflect on the series and talk about Luffy and his crew. This grand voyage to become King of the Pirates is finally reaching its climax.
The Yomiuri Shimbun and One Piece are collaborating on a project called “
3D2Y to 2020 KISEKI.” For more details, click here.
What are your thoughts on this long voyage that has spanned 21 years and more than 900 chapters?
I’m surprised whenever the recipients of Jump’s Newcomer Manga Awards or the staff at our office tell me, “I was born after One Piece started.” I’m slowly getting used to it, though.
Why does the story keep chugging along without a moment’s rest?
Because the characters simply do as they please, I guess… Initially, I thought about making the crewmate-gathering process like those video games where the villains join your party once you defeat them. But after serious consideration, I realized that if some kid were to come up to me out of nowhere and say, “Let’s become pirates,” I wouldn’t just agree. Unless he had a compelling story, I wouldn’t join his crew. My original plan was to assemble a crew of ten within the first year and a half. After 20 years, the story’s about 80% complete, yet there are still only nine crew members.
Mr. Oda, what kind of existence is Luffy to you?
Luffy is my ideal child. I wish all children could be like him. He may say some inspirational lines from time to time, but I want him to stay a kid forever. There are parts of him that remain a mystery to me, for better or worse. It’d be boring for both the readers and me if I knew everything about him.
Please tell us your favorite characters.
I like big-sister types like Ivankov and Bon Clay, who saved Luffy and his allies in Impel Down. There’s always a funny dichotomy between their actions and their appearance, which makes me want to draw them more. I also adore Buggy, who’s annoying yet cunning.
While I’m grateful that my characters are so popular among women, at the end of the day, I just want to draw things that young boys will find cool and interesting. For example, Sanji’s not only suave, he’s perverted as well. That’s what makes him beloved and trusted by other men.
The death of Luffy’s brother Ace hit readers hard.
I was really worried about that. To push Luffy forward, I needed him to experience a major ordeal. But the response from the readers exceeded my expectations. Ace’s death was something Luffy and I had to get over together. If the series was all fun and games, it wouldn’t have lasted this long.
Not many enemies or allies had died previously, which made it even more devastating.
I don’t want to draw people dying—I just want to draw more post-battle feasts. I mean, how are you supposed to have a good time after someone just died? Those feasts are my ideal image of friendship. In fact, I’d like to end the series with a massive feast.
3D2Y” message that Luffy sent out following Ace’s death marked a huge turning point in the story.
17-year-old Luffy didn’t stand a chance of beating powerful threats like the Four Emperors. So I gave him and his crew two much-needed years to grow physically and mentally. Their reunion took place after only two years because I didn’t want Luffy to become too much of an adult. I had to uphold this series’ integrity as a shonen manga, after all.
What does Luffy’s dream of becoming King of the Pirates entail?
On one hand, Luffy believes that the King of the Pirates is “the most free person in the world.” On the other hand, Luffy always acts on behalf of others. It’s neat how he helps everyone he meets; making others happy makes him happy. And then, those he helped return the favor. I believe that this samurai spirit—a chivalrous heart that beats for others—should be passed down to future generations.
That’s why I love old yakuza films, to the point where I think Bunta Sugawara (a movie star who’s the model for Fleet Admiral Akainu) is the handsomest man on the planet.
What would you like to tell all the children to help them achieve their dreams?
My rule is to never put any messages in my manga. That said, if watching Luffy and his crew makes you feel a certain way, then you should react accordingly. Among 100 different people, there should be 100 different reactions.
Serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine since July 1997. Follows the adventures of Luffy, a boy who dreams of becoming the next King of the Pirates, as he sails across the open seas with his Straw Hat Crew in search of the ultimate hidden treasure known as “One Piece.” 89 volumes have been published, with over 440 million copies in circulation around the globe. In 2015, it was certified by Guinness World Records for having the most copies published for the same comic book series by a single author. A Hollywood live-action project is in the works.
After Luffy’s older brother Ace, 2nd Division Commander of the Whitebeard Pirates, is captured by the Navy, the summit war between Whitebeard and the Navy breaks out. Although Luffy rescues him right before his execution, Ace is killed in action. Deciding to get stronger, Luffy schedules a reunion with the scattered Straw Hats two years in the future. He sends a message through a newspaper photo that only his crew can decipher: “
3D2Y” (not 3 days later, but 2 years later).
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture on January 1, 1975. Received an honorable mention for the Tezuka Award while still in high school. One Piece is his first serialized work.