How the Biggest Unauthorized Manga Avoided Copyright Controversy

A giant volume collecting over twenty thousand pages of Straw Hat Pirates history arrived earlier this year. The One Piece collection has not been authorized by Shueisha, the company behind Weekly Shonen Jump which prints the works of Eiichiro Oda. With only fifty copies sold for this massive collection, a recent Guardian article explains how JBE Books was able to sell this compilation and avoid copyright controversy for now.

A comic ? No, a work of art!

How did JBE Books manage to evade any copyright claims from Shueisha when it comes to printing a book with a total of 21,450 pages? Artist Ilan Manouach, who created the edition, said it was not meant to be seen as a comic and/or a book, but rather as “sculptural material“, making it a work of art. Manouach describes the volume to the Guardian as a ” unreadable sculpture that takes the form of a book – the largest to date in terms of number of pages and spine width – which materializes the ecosystem of the online distribution of comics. The artist was apparently commenting on the current state of digital comics and their effect on the art form, while JBE Books issued the following statement:

The wealth of content available online and the digitization of the comics industry challenges the current state of comics. Ilan Manouach’s work One Piece proposes to shift the ‘appreciation’ of digital comics from a qualitative examination of the conventional possibilities of digital comics to a quantitative reassessment of ‘comics as Big Data’.

The Guardian interviewed Keita Murano, a member of Shueisha’s international rights team, to find out his position on this giant corpus:

The product you mention is not official. We don’t give permission. Our licensee in France which publishes One Piece is the publisher Glénat. »

When One Piece ends the story of the Straw Hat Pirates, we imagine that creating a single volume collecting all of Eiichiro Oda’s Shonen masterpiece will be truly impossible, as it would be far larger than the twenty-thousand-page version that JBE Books helped create.