Original: The Grand Line
This was a moderated discussion between Eiichiro Oda, Kounosuke Uda and Shinji Shimizu. All three gentlemen are essential to the animated One Piece program. It would be remiss to say these men are solely responsible for bringing the work together as it depends on many individuals who work very hard to bring fans the continuing adventures of Luffy and his crew. However, without these individuals, the One Piece animated program would never have come to be and in anyone else's hands may not have become the success that it is today. This interview was originally contained within the One Piece Animation Logbook which went on sale February 28th, 2002. The information is accurate as of publishing, but no date was provided for the interview. To my knowledge this is the first time this has appeared in English anywhere so I would appreciate your cooperation in not spreading a copied and pasted version for posting on other websites. I do, however, strongly encourage anyone to use this as a source or as a starting point to create their own translation. To make the sometimes subtle Japanese language easier to understand, I have added some clarifications in brackets. Anything in brackets was not written in the original document. I also have added some foot notes. They were originally included in the interview. Thank you all and please enjoy.
As Producer, Mr. Shimizu helps the One Piece animation off the ground. In the past he has worked on such pieces as GeGeGe no Kitarou and Kindaichi Shounen no Jikenbo.
Passing over the entire body of work, as Director, Mr. Uda makes sure the series comes to completion. His main work as Director has been on series such as Sailor Moon and Kindaichi Shounen Jikenbo.
The original work from which the animation comes, the manga One Piece's author.
'One Piece should be made by a young staff.'-Shimizu
- Well first of all, I wonder if you'd let me ask exactly why Mr. Shimizu appointed Mr. Uda as the Series Director?
Shimizu: Ah yes! I felt that this work known as One Piece was a very young and powerful manga. Thus I thought that the Director and Staff should also be young people. I tried to think about making the company up of veterans but when I listened to the One Piece story, his (Mr. Uda's) face just came right to mind. Anyway, I thought I would really need to persuade him! So just around that time, by chance, Uda-kun's family had a baby. On the night of the birth, at just past 11PM, I gave him a call to say, "Congratulations on the birth." And then I said, "From here on it's going to be quite difficult for you, oh by the way!"!!
Shimizu: "To tell the truth, just like your child, a new work is being born into this world. This work is also going to set sail. Will you ride that boat too?" is what I said.
Uda: His congratulatory speech was only 30 seconds long!!
Shimizu: I told you, what I really wanted to say was about this !
- So after a series of events like that which led to the decision of the Staff, Sensei and Mr. Shimizu, how were preliminary arrangements conducted through Mr. Uda?
Shimizu: The setting up of the voice actors, well, actually it was while drinking sake, that's how we exchanged ideas.
Oda: That was a pretty wild one wasn't it (laughs)
Shimizu: Yeah but in that kind of meeting we were able to say, "Mr. Oda is going to speak his own opinion, but he's a person that respects our opinions too."
Oda: I don't know anything about the world of animation and I also had no idea about how to go about putting out animation so back then, in the start, I was really nervous too. First, I had no idea how far people were willing to think about the project for me... So at first I just had an attitude like, "I'll just say what I can.", and I was pretty nervous.
Actually, everyone was really great and I'm so happy.
'So long as you love the piece, I don't mind what you do.'- Oda
-With respect to the animation's scenario, how do you arrange it working from the original story and has Sensei been present for any of that?
Oda: For the time being yes. But, in the manga I draw scenarios which are agreed upon, after that in the animation I don't really mind how any part is handled. So long as the people really think about the characters and love One Piece, then I think they can do anything.
Shimizu: Regarding the scenarios, the Station Producer's* intent is also in there. Anyway, the start of the anime is crucial. If you believe that, we say that right from Episode 1 you should have a distinct villain. And so Episode 1 doesn't start off about Shanks, it began from Alvida.
Oda: As expected you wanna see Luffy. You could say we want to have Luffy wow-em'first.
Shimizu: But before it came around to Buggy (Episode 5) we wanted to make sure Shanks' tale was in there. It was precisely because of his promise with Shanks that Luffy set out on the adventure. So we put it in Episode 4 as a flashback and in that way I think it was quite skillfully done.
-For Oda Sensei, do you ever watch or check for parts , "This whole part was changed."
Oda: Hmmm, I guess, for me, those are the times I truly enjoy the most. But beyond how this or that part is, seeing a world where my own manga is moving and talking is what I enjoy. When the animation begins, the words 'Original Creator Eiichiro Oda' come up right? When I saw that I gave myself a round of applause.
Oda: Even more than the construct of the tale, the production of it are what moved me. The episodes that are directed by Uda are just fantastic. Essentially, I believe that in manga and animation, the importance lies not in the story, but in how it is directed.
'Episode 86 is the piece where Uda-kun's strong will was born.'- Shimizu
-Oda Sensei, as you actually viewed the animation, what was, for you, the number one surprising or moving thing?
Oda: Yeah that'd be hearing sound added to it, it's mortifying. Music too. It's such an dirty trick. In manga, no matter what you do, it just can't beat animation.
Uda: With respect to the success of how we use the sound, I also worry about it a great deal.
Oda: For the parts that get used, to put it one way, they've got to use what they have to work with. The higher your degree of freedom is as a creator, the more difficult it gets, that's how it is right.
Shimizu: That's why there's Sound Experts for the sound. Everyone naturally goes about their individual fields making what good parts they can, and so we make a great effort. Engaging in all of that is terribly difficult but that's Uda-kun's job. For one episode to be completed without a hitch, his strong will is essential. Recently in episode 86, there was the part where Hiruruk blew himself up; because of the Director's powerful feeling of, 'I want to do it like this.' that part really hit home with everyone. Using the hymn successfully as music also made it work. That makes a good sample of when a director puts out a definite method and it makes a great piece.
Oda: Talking about using the hymn, I'd heard it beforehand but when I listened to it I just shouted out, "Woah, is that what it sounded like!" That was a fantastic expression of music. You might think that using a hymn at a time of death is an obvious expression, but for a creator to actually use that is an amazing power. When you sum it all up, I think it's that kind of thing which is the power in beauty.
Uda: We've got the creator's model so it's no problem. I think it must be such a hassle for Mr. Oda! I mean, he's gotta start from a pure white sheet of paper!
Oda: That's because it's really nothing. You could go anywhere and have someone that could put it out.
Shimizu: I personally think Mr. Oda has incredible balance. In places in the story like where he deals with Chopper's background, it is very emotional but he still managed to get some gags in there. That particular part had a broad spectrum which made it interesting.
Oda: Oh well that, that's because I'm so capricious. It's exhausting. An emotional story is just tremendously tiring! Before I make people cry I'm the one who has to cry alone. When I arrive at thinking about of the story and I think, "Wow that's what I call a good story!", at that moment the tears just start pouring out. So if I think about that moving story for as long as 30 minutes, it just gets to be that I won't be able to do anything for a day. If I actually have to draw one of those emotional stories all day, it's just impossible. It just all hits at once. A bull's-eye.
Uda: Oh yeah when it rains it pours. Even when just drawing the storyboards that happens. At the time when Bellmere passed away (Episode 36) the scene where she was shot was indeed right to the end, very difficult to draw.
Shimizu: Did you look at Bellmere objectively and draw that? Or did you take a subjective stance, that is to say, did you end up throwing yourself into Bellemere's position?
Uda: Yeah, I put myself in there. Made me agonize two-fold, or three-fold. Should I show her getting shot to Nami and Nojiko, or maybe it would be best if I just tried to conceal it well?
Shimizu: I see, you really ended up putting yourself in her place.
Uda: I think that real people about to be shot would think about many things. At the very last moments, you would want to express your thoughts to someone of great importance to you and meanwhile helplessly being seen the instant you’re shot are all involved. I guess I just kind of thought, in this world at that period, this is just another one of the many circumstances. The moment you're being shot is cruel so considering the impact it would have on the mental health of children like Nami and Nojiko who were about ten years old, even if you break down your ego, it wouldn't be unusual to be in shock, however, "Before even riding out beyond that, there's something else.", is what I think Bellemere's true message probably is. The instant she was thinking that is what I drew with all my might.
Oda: Because this is a world that's a little different from real present day. When thinking about the tale, it's to move the characters along but actually one has to endlessly be grasping for what each character would be thinking in each circumstance. Do that and when you step into that character's emotions you play right into their hands.
Uda: Frankly giving the characters emotion, that is the most painful technique. To cry, to laugh, to get angry, when you say so it is so, you think about why that person is angry and you have to bring it out in yourself.
Oda: Right? Someone who does this and thinks on my behalf, it's really great isn't it?
'Before you know it, the characters just move about on their own'- Oda
- Speaking of Mr. Uda, when you read the manga, is there a certain point to pay special attention to?
Uda: For One Piece, isn't there always something like a highlight in each chapter? First I try to find that part.
Oda: As for my storytelling method, I call to mind that highlight and so I can make it hit home with the readers while creating it I think to myself, "What kind of story is important ", Then finally I make certain the highlight ends up as a story, and after that I think about how it should move along best.
Shimizu: The characters just move by themselves don't they?
Oda: YEAH! So, since they move about of their own will there are some who just end up popping up without even being caused by my own thoughts! Man, it was around the time of Drum, everyone was so moving about by themselves! Originally that whole Drum part was in a fixed position linked to Alabasta as an introduction. It was a symbol that showed the good king of Alabasta in contrast to an evil king. It proposes a question, even in the same country, if only the king changes, can this or that be different too?
Uda: I generally think the theme of One Piece is teamwork, or perhaps that the meaning of acting in a group carries some nuance doesn't it? How the Luffy Pirate Crew came to be, it's all about who Luffy selects or doesn't select as a member, that evaluation process is all a part of it. After all, I think this was true in Alabasta, in Drum, a 'country' is the personification of the concept of a group. That plus, including this so-called Luffy Pirate Crew, what really is this thing we call a group? I have always thought that this is the biggest theme in One Piece.
Oda: A group is influenced by the waves of the times. After all, if people swarm together, it will bring birth to an unstoppable force... That is actually one big part of the theme. I uh, I write in pretty minute detail when someone makes a certain action, how the people around that individual will respond. Normally when making a story move along it's fine to simply draw the main characters. But rather than just that, I want to write about what the townspeople think by putting all feelings in their place within a scene.
Shimizu: Uda-kun you also had something like that right? Around the Arlong arc's 'business meeting' you really emphasized the reactions of the townspeople who were opposed to Arlong and his gang to show how they might act quite a lot. (laughs)
Uda: Well I really like theater. When I go see a show, when the main character takes the spotlight and performs, on the side where the spotlight isn't hitting, I love to see in what way the supporting actors on the side respond. That response's action is completely different depending on the actor, "Well ain't that something! Even though it's the same scenario it can be this different I guess."
Oda: That's just how it is isn't it. When you film a location on camera, you take the biggest reaction which comes from the lead actor, but opposed to that is the response of some kind of opinion, there's synchronization too. So if I don't gather everything together and draw it out, I can't fully express the situation or the background of the period.
Shimizu: Normally if we thought about doing something like that ourselves, it would end up being either too simple or so fake that it couldn't even come together, however, in the case of One Piece each individual character stands up in the face of an emergency so there's a need for that, you don't normally do that kind of thing.
Uda: I talk with Character Designer Koizumi** about stuff like, "One Piece is really a 'Work of Characters' isn't it?" What I mean by 'Work of Characters' is that each character as an individual. That is the absolute most important point right?
- Even though you're making an animation, have you ever felt the characters moving on their own?
Uda: Yes definitely, of course. I think it's simply that the direction of the manga and animation are now naturally coming to be one in the same.
Oda: In other animation, if you take the original work and the animated one then look at them side by side, there are so many that are polarized in opposite directions. I think that among all of them, only this one consistently moves along in that fashion and it is just fantastic.
Shimizu: But if you want to know where that comes from it's because of the animation staff, every single one of them loves One Piece! Everyone is gathered underneath that pirate flag. Of course in the beginning there were probably some guys not even planning on getting that far into it but slowly everyone began to hold the same feelings and they became able to make it like this!
'In just one piece of work we slip in 3 themes.'- Uda
- Well then, in conclusion, would each of you please give a message to the readers!
Uda: Ah yes! Things like the messages or themes that we want to express, each time we sneak them as is into the show. Within just one story we try to slip in at least three themes. Of course you don't have to catch all of them, but I think you can feel at least one of them.
Shimizu: At any rate we'll keep on making it as cheerfully and energetically as we can. Oh, that's right I just remembered. "Let's make One Piece as brightly and full of life as we can.", is all I've told the staff from the very beginning! So I want everyone to enjoy that cheerfulness and please keep watching with that energy!!
Oda: I uh, I'm enjoying making something with these wonderful people so I think if I can express just that to everyone I'd be very happy. Yeah. (laughs)
*Mr. Shimizu is referring to the Fuji Television Producer who at the time was Mr. Yoshihiro Suzuki. Mr. Shimizu is a Toei Animation Producer.
** The gentleman in charge of character design for the animation, Noboru Koizumi. He also creates the animation's original characters.
Oda is and always has been extremely respectful for everyone that he works with. It's nice to see how well this trio got along which is exactly why the original episodes are a perfect reflection of the manga. Even despite their bickering, they can just laugh about it. Money drives the production ever since, but Oda still goes out of his way to be in communication with all of the animation teams.