Original: The Grand Line
From the December 21st 2010 issue of Asahi Shimbun Weekly AERA. Unlike many interviews with One Piece author Eiichiro Oda that are presented verbatim, this was handled as an article describing One Piece and exploring Oda’s thoughts on approaching his job. Without conversation there are times when the author presents statements or generalizations about comics that may or may not have been stated by Oda.
One Piece Author Interview
Vicky* the Pirate,
The Origin of an Adventure Comic
He laughs and eats for his own fun. He rages and fights for his friends. When the battle is over he laughs and eats some more. written honestly about ‘courage’, the author speaks with us about his mammoth** comic.
*Although several spellings exist, Vicky was used for the English adaptation.
DO~N!, the sound of two million eight hundred fifty thousand copies. All of them the 56th Volume of the comic ‘One Piece’ which hit stores on December 4th. A new record for the highest initial (release) printing of a comic book.
Twelve years since its release in 1997 on the pages of ‘Weekly Shonen JUMP’, having surpassed even the likes of ‘Dragon Ball’ with total printings over 176 million, it stands beside ‘Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Kouen-mae Hasutsujo’ as the longest comic currently being published in JUMP. “Story-wise I’m about halfway.”, the author Eiichiro Oda-san tells us.
‘Highlighting each member of the gang’
It’s the tale of a flourishing age of pirates set in a fantastic world. He wears a straw hat and ragged shorts. Perhaps less a pirate than he is a ‘Tom Sawyer’*, the young hero is Luffy. Leader of the Straw Hat Gang, their sights on ‘The One Great Hidden Treasure’ (One Piece) they lead adventures on the ‘The Great Course’ (Grand Line).
*Actual term is ‘gakidaishou’. Literally ‘General (ground forces) Brat.’
Moving through each volume the ever-growing circle of friends is now at nine members. Not only Luffy, each one of the gang has his or her own unique story or moment in the spotlight. The story is bound to grow longer but the hearts of fans don’t wander. If you’re wondering why it’s because at any given time One Piece is on ‘fire’. From SMAP’s Takuya Kimura to gold medal swimmer Kousuke Kitajima and even a former Morning Musume. Mari Yaguchi… Without regard to gender, famous individuals stating their fandom are plentiful. A ‘nationally renowned comic’ that can be enjoyed by children and adults, that’s One Piece. Someone who would raise an objection to that is none other than the author Oda-san himself. He says that One Piece is for boys. Since the serialization began he’s been drawing with that in mind. “Having so many different readers is beyond anything I imagined.”
When readers grow up it means they will turn to young adult comics or novels. And yet such a broad age group reading One Piece must mean, “Men and women young and old carry the spirit of a boy. I think it makes them feel nostalgic.”
But why pirates? “I wanted to draw an adventure comic. And drawing adventure can only mean pirates. In my mind the two are directly connected.” He says the pirate cartoon ‘Vicky the Viking’ was the start of his interest in pirates.
‘Luffy is a ‘strong-willed boy*’ ’
Pirates = evil; not exactly suited for a boys’ comic. Such a thought never entered his head. As the, “…prime example of a boy**…”, Luffy blows away the dark sides of a pirate’s trade such as pillaging or violence with a *DO~N* (an onomatopoeia used extensively in the series). He’s simply self-indulgent with a ravenous appetite and does what he wants when he wants. “There are lots of things children want to do but can’t, I think they feel better when they see Luffy.” (Oda-san)
*strong-willed- In Japanese Oda describes him as ‘nikushokukei danshi’ literally translated ‘carnivorous type boy’ which means ‘aggressive boy’, however the adjective ‘aggressive’ tends to have negative connotations in English so I chose ‘strong-willed’.
**Literally ‘child’ but given his tendency to infer to the male nature of the comic and character, probably closer to ‘boy’.
He might be a boy but as the leader of a pirate crew, Luffy stands up for his friends by facing off against enemies when the odds are clearly stacked against him. He’s said more than a few times, “I can’t do anything without my crew.”* “That kind of masculine courage is something strong-willed women and even men are attracted to. Luffy is something you rarely see these days, a strong-willed boy.” (Oda-san)
For the One Piece movie ‘Strong World’ released this month, it was a first to be in charge of the story. Going to rescue a crew member taken from them, the scene where Luffy and gang enter the enemy’s palace used the film ‘Jirocho of Shimizu’* for the motif. “I wanted to bring that world of heroic chivalry into modern day.” That courageous spirit is the key to stirring up children’s hearts. In order to succeed in drawing he limits himself.
*Full title: The Life and Times of Jirocho of Shimizu. The film includes a performance by Torazo Hirosawa, a rokyoku performer whom Oda has mentioned several times. Once in the author’s comment corner or JUMP (12/24/2007) and in his podcast interview with Toshio Suzuki of Studio Ghibli.
One of those limits, avoiding a love story. Simply because they aren’t interested in it. “There are a lot of female fans too and I get requests for romantic scenes but I won’t respond to that call.”
‘This is my last long-term’
Another , he tries to avoid drawing scenes of death or killing. He also refrains from depicting brutality. “Even if I draw a sword cutting someone, I try not to draw scenes where the blade is in a gaping wound.”
That’s why he gave Luffy the ability to stretch or contract his body at will (in exchange for that he can’t swim). The battle scenes where he uses his elasticity for special attacks to fire a barrage of punches like ‘Gomu Gomu Gatling’ or to repel enemy attacks by blowing up his body, those are what Oda-san considers ideal compositions. “If you compare him to an action star he’s not Bruce Lee, he’s Jackie Chan. Whatever cool reason there is for his clashing with an enemy, it’s much more interesting if he’s a dimwit.”
After the battle is over there’s sure to be a celebration with his crew or the local islanders. It’s a scene Oda-san wants to draw. “If a close friend or enemy died I probably couldn’t draw a fun party scene.” His favorite crewmate is the timid liar and sniper, Usopp. “He’s got the lovability of a klutz, but if I don’t think about how to use him he drops in popularity really fast.”
has had the ending of the story drawn in his mind since the serialization began so doesn’t have the problems that plague many long-term series like unwinding or growing muddled. Luffy’s grandfather, father and even his big brother have all appeared onstage and the story is progressing towards the ending Oda-san has imagined.
He works on the story for three days and draws for three days. There are no days off for him. He has already decided not to draw any other long-term works beyond One Piece. “I don’t think it’s possible for me to make another long-term serialization, my body couldn’t physically handle it.”, that’s why he’s pitching this one with all of his strength. It’s that strength that has captured the ‘childlike spirit’ in hearts all over Japan, no, hearts all over the world.
But even for Oda-san, there’s one heart he just can’t seem to capture. His daughter’s. “She likes ‘Pretty Cure’ (a cartoon popular with elementary school girls) better than my comic.”