‘One Piece’: the band of the best-selling manga in history, to the conquest of Spanish cinemas

In mid-September one of those news stories that delight the curious went around the world. the japanese manga one piece it had just been collected into a single volume. The curiosity came because, taking into account that the work began to be published in 1997, it was a copy of more than 21,500 pages and 17 kilos in weight, only 50 copies were published and, obviously, the object was intended more to be exhibited than to be read. The gargantuan volume was but a reflection of the size of the franchise itself: the adventures of the superpowered pirates of one piece have become, since that 1997 in which the mangaka (writer and manga artist) Eiichiro Oda publish the first issuein the best-selling manga in history (516 million copies sold, well above the second, dragon ball, with 350) and over time has become a global phenomenon with millions of followers around the world. This Friday opens in Spain One Piece Film: Reda complete success that in Japan has grossed 17,300,000 million yen (more than 116 million euros) since August, which has made it the ninth film of anime most successful in history.

“We wanted to make a more general film. And higher. People who do not follow the series will be able to see the film and enter its world, ”says Goro Taniguchi, the director of the film, via Zoom. That is, in part, the key to its success. Despite one piece It has more than a dozen films, many of which were continuations or compilations of the series. This is 100% enjoyable for the layman, in addition to incorporating songs (through the character of the diva Uta, who conveys the plot), in the purest Disney style, which changes the general tone of the narration. That is to say: it is not necessary to know in detail the adventures of the rubber pirate Luffy Straw hathis crew and the seas that sail in search of the greatest and most mysterious treasure in the world, the One Piece, to enter the film and enjoy it.

Taniguchi began working with the franchise in 1998, with one of those films. What has changed since then? “The main difference is the relationship I have with Eiichiro Oda, the creator. In 1998 he was a mangaka beginner, it was easy to meet him, have a drink to discuss some aspect of the series”, laughs the director. “Now it is very difficult, there are always press people, someone who accompanies him… He has become quite a respected teacher”. The figure of mangaka It’s hard to fit in in the West, but in Japan they are real stars.

one piecefilm and series, are produced by Toei Animation, the animation studio of the almighty Japanese corporation Toei. “one piece It is fundamental for us”, recognizes Ryuji Kochi, director of Toei Animation in Europe, who confesses that the pressure to adapt “the most famous manga in the world is felt in all parts of the chain, from the animation to the commercial part”. Kochi (who confesses that his anime favorite is slam dunka basketball manga published from 1990 to 1996 with an adaptation by Toei between 1993 and 1996) has been with the company for 20 years and at that time the anime One Piece It has been sold to more than 30 countries. This internalization exemplifies the cultural expansion that Japanese popular culture has experienced in recent years.

Uta and Luffy, at one point in the movie.

One Piece Film: Red comes to sign the recent success of the anime in Spanish cinemas. Last year my hero academia raised half a million euros, and Night Watch: Infinity Train exceeded one million. this 2022, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 has also exceeded one million euros and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero close to two million. “From Toei we feel how the hunger for Japanese culture grows in the new generations,” explains Kochi, who is convinced that the European public “is already used to manga and anime. Even more: he knows about manga and anime. That is to say, what triumphs in Japan triumphs in Europe; there is more and more a clear reflection, a trend of assimilation that is accelerating between the two audiences”. East and West go hand in hand.

Last July, the mangaka Oda made an announcement that made fans of the manga tremble and the anime: was about to start the final stage of one piece. “I wonder if I am up to the task. All preparations are finished. It’s taken me 25 years!” she would say. The future of the franchise is a mystery and the deadlines are not concrete. The last saga, known as that of the four emperorshas lasted eight years, so everything seems to indicate that there is one piece for a while. What future awaits Luffy and his gang? “They will accept whatever comes their way,” says director Taniguchi. “They will stay together no matter what, until they reach their ultimate goal.” That is, to get the greatest treasure of all, the One Piece. And, incidentally, conquer the bookstores and cinemas of our world.

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