With 1000 episodes on the counter for its series, and soon 100 volumes for its manga, “One Piece” confirms its status as a major series. We went to meet the publisher Glénat to retrace this wonderful journey!
How One Piece arrived in France?
Benoît Huot (Manga editorial manager at Glénat): One Piece arrived in France in 2000, which means that negotiations began in 1998 and 1999, since the manga was released in 1997 in Japan. In France, the first manga arrived in the early 90s. Ten years later, we were going through a period of renewal where publishers were looking for new series, since all the emblematic series carried by the success of a cartoon (of which Dragon Ball) were already published.
Publishers were on a quest for new blood and since the internet was not as developed then as it is today, the logic was to consult the pre-publication magazine in which the most popular manga had been published, this i.e. the Weekly Shonen Jump. One Piece was one of the new series of this magazine.
At the time we weren’t in a snapshot consumption, where fans can have access to every new chapter as soon as it is released and this time has allowed us to observe the development of the series, to make sure that the promises of the first chapters were well and truly kept by the rest of the story. As the idea was to renew itself, One Piece offered the particularity of being an atypical series, already for its subject, since no other manga told the story of pirates at the time, but also for its humor and its quirky universe.
I often recall that One Piece is the story of Luffy, who wants to become the pirate king and has elastic powers, but who loses all of his powers when in contact with sea water! From this paradox was born all the originality of the manga, which caught our attention. And the following chapters only confirmed our initial opinion!
In France, One Piece was put in competition with Naruto, another flagship manga of the 2000s. How to explain this situation, specific to the French market?
This competition between the two series is explained, among other things, by the broadcast of the anime. From the moment an anime is broadcast on television, which is moreover on a terrestrial channel or TNT, the audience of the paper manga increases sharply. The spectators of the series who would find the rhythm too slow will fall back on the manga to know the continuation of the story; or some wish to explore the themes of the series more in depth through the manga, without forgetting those who adore the anime, and who wish to prolong the pleasure by reading the manga.
It is a recurring phenomenon: the dissemination of an anime significantly increases the visibility and popularity of the readership of the manga from which it comes. It is therefore an important indicator for publishers, and we generally expect that a manga will experience a new craze as soon as its adaptation is announced on a SVOD platform, whether generalist (Netflix, Amazon …) or specialized (DNA, Wakanim…).
So, it is true that Naruto got more visibility, simply because his animated series was airing, which was not the case with One Piece. From the moment the anime was broadcast on TNT channels (Virgin 17, Direct Star, MCM …), sales took off for good, especially since the publication of Naruto has since stopped, which is not yet the case with One Piece.
At the beginning, One Piece worked well, then better and better to the point of becoming the phenomenon we know today.
With 1000 episodes on the clock for the animated series, and 100 volumes for the manga, how can we be sure that the series can still be discovered by new viewers?
We have been designing for a while One Piece according to its narrative arcs: East Blue, Alabasta etc. To help booksellers, we had already published stack stops which classify the volumes according to these arcs. One Piece is a formidable maritime epic, and who says travel on the sea says stopovers. And each of these arcs corresponds more or less to a stopover. So we have Luffy’s crew accompanying him on each of his adventures, and other characters join him during these stopovers.
In addition, we see among the youngest that new fans of One Piece learn about the series through the anime, not the manga. So if a viewer has discovered this universe from an arc in the anime, and wants to read the rest, they can start from the first book, or from the arc he or she wants to read. These arcs therefore make it easier to access the manga, without necessarily having to start reading it from the very beginning.
What conclusions can we draw on the year 2021?
First of all, it must be noted – and not only at Glénat – that manga is an extremely dynamic sector. The year 2020 with the confinement was marked by doubt, due to the closure of bookstores; however, from the month of June, sales exploded considerably! In 2021, this dynamic was confirmed, and even amplified, throughout the manga sector because, in my opinion, we are now in a society of the image, whereas we were previously in a society of the written word.
Since the advent of social networks and platforms like Youtube, people consume more images than writing, and manga is logically part of this new trend. Regarding Glénat, the year was obviously marked by One Piece with normal and collector editions which have more exposed the series.
Regarding Tokyo Revengers, the streaming of the anime had a beneficial impact on sales and we were happy to see that this series was likely to appeal to a large audience, as well as a readership of equal numbers of readers. It is certainly a shonen, but with a mixed readership, which is very appreciable.
2021 was also marked by the tragic death of Kentaro Miura (Berserk), news that we obviously did not expect. We shared tributes from other artists as well as fans in the days following this announcement. It is quite rare for a manga writer to die during the publication of his work and it took us a while to hear the news.
In conclusion, 2021 has been a particularly eventful year for us, both for the good and the bad.
One Piece, who will play Luffy? The actors of the live series have been revealed!